Learning to cook in the wild takes a little trial by fire—and plenty of advance prep. But TLP is here to guide you through camping recipes till you feel like a gourmand in the woods.
I didn’t grow up camping, let alone preparing camping food. My family’s version of “outdoorsy” was a cabin on the lake. Plenty of time around a bonfire or out on the water, but the closest we came to roughing it was not having air conditioning—which, in Northern Michigan, isn’t exactly a hardship.
My husband Connor, however, has a long family-history of camping, be it in a tent or a camper. My father-in-law, Randy, is one of five kids and when he was growing up, family vacations meant piling into a tent for an affordable excursion away from home. Connor was in Boy Scouts for years, and he and Randy still reminisce frequently about their trip to Northern Tier. This was a ten day canoeing trip through the wilderness and boundary waters of Minnesota and Ontario.
No one wants to be the princess who’s afraid to get their hands dirty. However, to fit in with this new side of my family, I needed to embrace outdoor adventure.
Determined to prove I could handle the outdoors, I bought as much gear as I could get my hands on—a pair of blankets, inflatable pillows, LifeStraws, a first aid kit. I scoured blogs for the best suggestions and recommendations, and read every Wirecutter article on camping-related equipment. I was determined to be prepared.
Yet, I hardly thought about the one thing that would connect me with the outdoors more than anything else: the camping recipes. I had a small mess kit, a camp stove, and my trusty cast-iron pan. But I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to what I’d be cooking in the woods—I just wanted to get out there to prove that I could, both to my admittedly hesitant husband and to myself.
Last year, I found a last-minute campsite at a state park near Columbia, South Carolina, for Memorial Day weekend and spent two days unpacking and repacking the large plastic totes holding our gear, running through list after list of everything we could possibly need. It turned out to be one of the hottest Memorial Day weekends on record.
But I loved it.
Even though we were only eating hot dogs, cans of baked beans, and premade peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, I was filled with inspiration for prepping and eating meals made for the outdoors.
Connor poked fun at me for the impracticality of wanting to cook everything over fire. But to me, there’s something deeply alluring about cooking by flame. After soggy breakfast burritos, burnt skillet cinnamon rolls, and a lackluster foil-packet dinner, I was determined to translate the kinds of food I made at home into camping recipes that brought out the best of the surroundings. I swore to take my food prep game to a new level.
Tried and True Camp Cooking Tips:
- Mix spice blends ahead of time
- Pack portable
- Pre-make sauces and sides
- Invest in a high-quality cooler
- Gather twice the amount of firewood you think you’ll need
- Don’t be afraid to just get out there and try!
Sophisticated Camping Recipes to Follow
These snack bites are easy to throw together ahead of time and make a great alternative to prepackaged protein bars. It’s easy to adjust to your liking as well—fold in cranberries, coarsely chopped nuts, or mini chocolate chips in place of the dried cherries; use a different nut butter or swap in coconut oil.
If there’s one quintessential camp food, it’s trail mix. The blend of salty, sweet, crunchy, and chewy is endlessly customizable when you make it yourself. The key is to get an appropriate balance of protein, carbs, and sugar while also putting together flavors you enjoy eating. A good rule of thumb is a 1:2:4 ratio—one part sweet treats, two parts dried fruit, four parts salty.
What could be better than summery vegetables and flaky pie crust? Making it portable! Hand pies are an easy way to bring fresh-baked flavor to your hike. This version of tomato pie is tangy, cheesy, and hearty enough to keep you fueled. It’s also a great way to use up overripe tomatoes that are past their salad-worthy prime.
This is an easy make-ahead option: Dressing the kale leaves and letting them sit overnight helps soften up the leaves. Once fireside, just add the remaining ingredients for a quick, healthy starter.
A great way to use a skillet, this hash combines bell peppers, onions, and flavorful potatoes. Crack a few eggs on top, and you’re ready to go. While intended for outdoor grilling and cooking, you can easily adapt this breakfast hash recipe for the stove to enjoy indoors or out.
This is one of the first “gourmet” camping recipes I successfully made and it’s become part of our regular rotation. By chopping peppers and combining seasonings in advance, it’s as easy as pouring everything into the pot at the proper times. We like it for a hearty breakfast, but it can work for any meal.
Tacos are one of the easiest camping meals, but this fire-roasted salsa verde takes things up a notch. The light char and tangy tomatillos provide acid to complement a hearty steak, but this can also work with chicken or fish.
Take the ultimate summer fruit to the next level with this sweet-spicy combination. The kick of quick-pickled jalapeños and chile-lime salt, balanced with the sweetness of a honey-lime dressing make this a perfect side dish for any grilled meats or lunchtime sandwiches. Add as little or as much of the cooling feta and mint as needed to adjust the spiciness.
We all know how to make a s’more—a fundamental childhood treat, and those three simple ingredients can bring back all sorts of nostalgic memories. But there’s a world full of variations out there ready to be explored! Love Reese’s peanut butter cups? Put them on a s’more. Girl Scout cookies? Swap the graham crackers and you’re ready to go. The sky’s the limit—especially when it comes to double- and triple-stacking. My go-to? Ghirardelli raspberry-filled dark chocolate squares.
With nearly 50 state parks and forests, West Virginia’s great outdoors offer something for everyone from hiking and biking to scenic train rides and snow sports
- by Erin Byers Murray