Trail Cooking: 35 Essential Ingredients

trail cooking essential ingredients, trail recipes

When I started hiking, the basic foods for backpacking trips were pasta, rice, and canned foods such as fish in tomato sauce or stewed meat. Nowadays, the variety of ingredients for trail cooking is truly impressive. By mixing and matching them, you can create lightweight backpacking meals that taste just as good as restaurant dishes.

Here is a list of 35 essential ingredients that I use to create my recipes:

Dairy and Eggs:

1. Egg powder – made from whole eggs, it can be used to replace eggs in recipes, and works well in baking mixes and for making scrambled eggs.

2. Whole Milk Powder – staple ingredient of trail cooking. Can be used in dozens of recipes from a bowl of cereal, to fish chowder or creamy Carbonara sauce.

3. Freeze-Dried Cheese – does not require refrigeration and can be stored for years, which makes it an ideal companion for on-the-go trips. Cheddar, Red Leicester, Parmesan and Mozzarella are some of varieties to choose from.

4. Ghee – a clarified cow butter that is very high in calories and can last for months without refrigeration. It can be used for frying or just added to food for extra calories.

Recipe ideas:

Peach Cobbler Smoothie
3 Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Kabanos Sausages

Grains and Grain Products:

5. Rice – one of the best carb sources for hikers. It acts as fuel for the body and aids in the normal functioning of the brain. Makes an ideal base for a satisfying backpacking meal.

6. Bulgur – whole-wheat grain that has been cracked and partially pre-cooked. It is low in fat, high in minerals like manganese, magnesium and iron. Bulgur is a good source of plant-based protein and dietary fiber.

7. Couscous – made from steamed and dried durum wheat; it is a great alternative to rice and pasta. Couscous is readily available from supermarkets and is very quick and convenient to cook. All you need to do is add some boiling water.

8. Quinoa – nutty and earthy, quinoa is a healthy and very versatile product. It can be eaten on its own as a side dish or can be added to soups, salads, baked goodsand even desserts. It also makes a great breakfast cereal or porridge mixed with dried fruit, milk, and nuts.

9. Instant Oats – most popular as a breakfast meal, quick oats can also be used in a variety of other backpacking recipes such as soups, stews, breads or desserts.

Recipe ideas:

Bulgur Chili
Quinoa, Lentil and Kale Stew
Moroccan Spiced Tuna Couscous
5 Backpacking Oatmeal Variations

Pasta and Noodles

10. Ramen Noodles – a mainstay of outdoor cooking. Forget the seasoning packet they come with and make your own healthy ramen. As alternative, look for curly Japanese ramen without seasoning packets.

11. Pasta – comes in wide range of shapes from small ears to large tubes. Mix it with dried meat, fish, vegetables and creamy sauces for gourmet backpacking meals.

12. Udon Noodles – a type of Japanese wheat flour noodle. Can be used in soups or main meals.

13. Soba Noodles – made from buckwheat and some wheat flour. Pure buckwheat soba can also be found — it’s stronger in flavor and really delicious, and of course, gluten-free.

Recipe ideas:

Jerky Ramen
Good Old Mac N Cheese
Udon Miso
Soba and Veggie Stir Fry

Beans and Lentils

14. Dehydrated Beans – an excellent source of low fat protein and dietary fiber. Whether making chili, soup, stew, or other dishes, just put dehydrated beans directly into your cooking dish, and they are ready in 10-15 minutes!

15. Dried Lentils – a good source of minerals, fiber, and protein. If you’re looking for a healthy staple that will fill you up and fuel you through your day, dried legumes are a great choice.

Fruits, Vegetables and Mushrooms

16. Freeze Dried Fruits – including apples, peaches, pineapple, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries are available in supermarkets and through online stores.

17. Freeze Dried Vegetables – makes a crunchy and delicious snack or can be mixed in soup, chili, rice or pasta dishes.

18. Fruit and Veg Powders – Fruits and vegetables bring color, flavor, taste and nutrition to any meal. Their powdered form makes them very convenient to store, pack and use on-the-go.

19. Dried Mushrooms – an essential hiker’s pantry. Even just a small amount of dried mushrooms can add enormous flavor to a backpacking meals. They’re terrific in everything from soups to pancakes.

20. Instant Mashed Potatoes – a great base for a satisfying backpacking meal. Goes well with minced meat, sausages, vegetables and brown gravy sauce.

Recipe ideas:

Blueberry Chocolate Smoothie
Blackberry Peach Cobbler
Pancakes with Mushrooms
Creamy Mushroom Soup

Meat and Seafood

Freeze-dried meat and fish are expensive, but if you want to save weight, space and time when cooking on the trail, it’s worth to try.

21. Freeze Dried Diced Chicken – rehydrates better than home dried chicken or turkey. Can be used in soups, stews and curries.

22. Freeze Dried Diced Beef – a perfect addition to any backpacking meal. Delicious in chili, pasta or in vegetable stew.

23. Freeze Dried or Dehydrated Ground Beef – a great option for cooking on the trail. It goes well with instant mashed potatoes, rice, polenta and pasta dishes.

24. Dried Seafood – as shrimp, mussels and imitation crabmeat are wonderful, delightful to eat and easy to make at home. They rehydrate quickly in hot water and have the taste and feel of real seafood.

Recipe ideas:

Tomato Seafood Chowder
Honolulu Curry
Unstuffed Peppers

Condiments and Seasonings

 25. Brown Gravy Mix – made with natural herbs and spices, this gravy adds hearty and savory flavor to poultry, vegetables, meats and potatoes.

26. Pesto – a fresh green sauce usually made from basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. It’s perfect with pasta and gnocchi.

27. Teriyaki – a Japanese sauce typically made from mirin, soy sauce and sake. It’s a great addition to Asian-style dishes.

28. Soy Sauce – a condiment made from a fermented paste of soybeans. Soy sauce can vary wildly in color, flavor and texture. Some popular varieties that you might find in grocery stores are: light, dark, low sodium, and tamari.

29. Peanut Butter – one of the best hiking foods. It’s tasty, nourishing and relatively inexpensive. Can be used as spread, or as a piquant addition to oatmeal, spicy noodles or hot trail drinks.

30. Miso Paste – a salty paste made from a mixture of soybeans, rice or barley. It’s super versatile and works well in soups, as a rub for meat and as a sauce thickener.

31. Curry Powder – a spice mix of widely varying composition based on South Asian cuisine. It’s perfect for dishes like soups, stews and curries.

32. Thai Curry Paste – comes in 3 varieties: yellow, red and green. Available in supermarkets, Asian stores and online.

33. Wasabi Powder – the dried form of Japanese horseradish. Can be used in fish dishes, mashed potatoes and sauces.

34. Mexican Seasoning – adds authentic flavor to Mexican dishes. Use for rice, quinoa, bulgur, and potato dishes.

35. Coconut Milk (Cream) Powder – a delicious dairy-free alternative for those who are lactose intolerant. Coconut milk powder is also a great base for exotic curries and other South Asian dishes. It can be found in supermarkets, health food stores and online.

Recipe ideas:

Teriyaki Salmon Rice Bowl
Spicy Peanut Butter Ramen
Wasabi Mash with Tuna
Vegetable Yellow Curry
Orzo al Pesto

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  1. Jeanne on July 23, 2019 at 4:33 am

    Many of the links for ingredients are to Amazon. I no longer use Amazon. Can you include other sources?

  2. Tomas on May 21, 2019 at 12:14 am

    How about Soy curls? I just found them and they will be a game changer for me.

    • Tanya Krezevska on May 22, 2019 at 3:41 pm

      I do use soy products or TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) in my recipes. You can find some ideas here:

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