Why is it that food tastes so much better when you’re camping? Is it the clean air? Being around friends and family? The smell of the fire and the sounds of the wilderness? Or perhaps it’s a combination of everything.
Whatever it is, we love it! And I’m guessing you’re here because you love it too! Below we will give you a basic introduction to campfire cooking and some delicious recipes to get you started on your next trip.
There are a lot of things to consider when planning out your meals for your camping trip: What equipment do I have? How many people am I cooking for? How long will I be gone? (For more general advice on what to pack, check out our post on what to take camping and our ultimate camping checklist!)
One of the first things you may want to decide is how much work you want to do while camping. Big, extravagant meals can be enjoyable but don’t forget that you have to clean up afterwards! Simple, one-pan meals can taste just as great and you’ll have less to do after.
Another thing to consider is how much pre-preparations you want to do before you get to the site. One of my favorite things to do is cook something at home, freeze it, then thaw and eat at the campground. This is great because you can use the frozen food as an ice-block in your cooler.
Do you ever camp with a large group of people? Have a meal with them and put them to work! When my family goes camping, we always have a big pancake breakfast with other families. Depending on how many people come, we make assignments such as who cooks the bacon and sausage, who bring butter and syrup, and who brings orange juice and fruit.
A very important thing to remember is wildlife. You must make sure your food is secure when you’re not looking. Are there bears where you’re camping? You do not want one of those guys tearing up your campsite while you (try to) sleep, so put your food in a bear canister. Even if there are no bears, it’s a good idea to clean up after yourself before you go to bed. Raccoons can make a large mess too.
And finally, if you’re trying a new recipe, don’t forget to print it out!
There are a few important questions to ask when choosing the type of food you want to bring.
How much weight can you carry?
If you’re car camping, this question comes down to how much room you have in the car. If you can fit a larger cooler in the back, you will be able to get away with more. If you have to carry the food on your back, you obviously can’t bring a big cooler, so you will need to plan accordingly.
How much energy will I be using?
When you’re camping, you’ll likely be moving around much more than normal: setting up camp, going on hikes, etc. Make sure you bring enough food and snacks to get you through the trip.
Can’t I just have S’Mores for every meal?
Sure you could – but you’ll probably regret it. If you eat smart by incorporating some fruits, vegetables, and protein into your meals, you’ll be able to enjoy more of the trip.
Where am I camping?
Remember that at higher altitudes water boils at a lower temperature. This means that boiled food will take longer to cook, so maybe pass on that big bag of pasta.
Open fire cooking
Using a campfire to cook your meals is lot of fun, but you have to be prepared. The first thing you need to ask yourself is am I allowed to have an open flame at the campsite I am going to? You can find this information by checking out campground websites or calling the campground ranger. If you are unsure, I would suggest bringing a stove as a backup way to cook your food.
Another thing to consider is what equipment you have – over-fire grills, skewers, cast iron skillets, pie irons, Dutch ovens (covered in the next section). You will also see that you can do quite a lot with only aluminum foil. Just make sure you have a safe way to get your food out of the fire!
19 Awesome open fire recipes
1. Campfire Bacon (zestuous.com)
This may not be the fastest way to cook your bacon, but its fun, unique, and will give it a nice, smoky taste.
2. Foil Packet Blueberry Breakfast Bake (terrafirmaadventures.com)
There are quite a lot recipes you can make with the use of aluminum foil and fire. This is our first one.
3. Campfire Orange Blueberry Muffins (apronstringsblog.com)
I know, I know – two blueberry muffin recipes in a row, but these look so good!
4. Lumberjack Breakfast (echoesoflaughter.ca)
Customization is a great way to make camping meals fun for everyone. Here is our first recipe that each person can add his or her own special touch to
5. Campfire Breakfast Burrito (alaskafromscratch.com)
I’m a big fan of Mexican food, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it
6. Campfire Sandwiches (foodloversrecipes.com)
As the author of this recipe puts it, “plenty of people eat homemade macaroni and cheese while camping, but how many make it over a campfire?”
7. Camp Cooker Pizza (twindragonflydesigns.com)
This one requires a camp cooker, a tool that can add some fun to cooking your meals. It’s always so relaxing to cook while staring into a fire
8. Campfire Pizza Nachos (cookingwithjanica.com)
What more do you need in life than a campfire to sit around and a plate of nachos?
9. Campfire Spinach Dip (twindragonflydesigns.com)
Sometimes at lunch, you just want to snack on chips and dips. Try this
10. Baked Potatoes (echoesoflaughter.ca)
This recipe is similar to the campfire sandwich, but uses a baked potato rather than a loaf of bread
11. Campfire Paella (zestuous.com)
Another great, customizable, aluminum-foil recipe
12. Shish Kebab (reserveamerica.com)
This link offers six shish kebab recipes and tips on cooking preparations
13. Ember Roasted Corn and Leaks (bonappetit.com)
This is one of the most straightforward campfire recipes, as you can put the corn and leeks directly on the coals without even aluminum foil
14. Campfire S’Mores Granola (thebigmansworld.com)
There are a lot of S’Mores recipes out there, such using peanut butter cups as your chocolate source. Here’s one that uses aluminum foil and granola
15. Banana Boat (tasteofhome.com)
If you’re new to campfire cooking, I think banana boats are a great place to start
16. Campfire Cones (hip2save.com)
This is another variation on s’mores, just make sure you pack the cones carefully so you don’t break them!
17. Camp Fire Monkey Bread (saynotsweetanne.com)
A nice treat for dessert or breakfast
18. Campfire Breadsticks (shockmunch.com)
Add cinnamon and sugar if you like it sweet!
19. Campfire Pies (andreasrecipes.com)
If you’re bringing your camp cooker, you’ve got to make this!
Cooking with a Dutch Oven
The Dutch oven is an excellent camping tool because you can cook almost anything in it, there isn’t much cleanup, and it doesn’t require much work. The thickness of the cast iron decreases heat loss and ensures even cooking.
One thing that can be frustrating about a Dutch oven is not knowing what temperature the oven is at. According to dutchovendude.com, a good way to estimate the temperature is to remove the lid and place your hand over the top until it is too hot to keep it there. He states that, “it is about 50 degrees per second counting down from 550, so I just count – “550, and 500, and 450…”
If you’re new to using Dutch ovens, I suggest checking out this helpful video from CampCookingTV:
Our top 13 Dutch Oven recipes
1. Gooey Caramel Cinnamon Rolls (http://50campfires.com)
I wouldn’t recommend this the morning of a hike, but it certainty is delicious!
2. Dutch Oven Breakfast Bars (http://50campfires.com)
This recipe is much more suited for a hiker.
3. Campfire Breakfast (http://www.legendsofamerica.com)
A straight forward breakfast that covers all the basics: eggs, potatoes, and bacon.
4. Dutch Oven Pizza (http://whatscookingamerica.net)
Whatscookingamerica.com recommends using pre-made crust rather than doing it yourself.
5. Dutch Oven Sweet Honey Corn Bread (http://www.theironflame.com)
Eat as a snack, or if you are using multiple Dutch ovens, pair with one of our recommended dinners.
6. Easy Dutch Oven Sloppy Joes (http://50campfires.com)
This recipe is great for lunch or dinner.
7. Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup in Dutch Oven (http://50campfires.com)
Soups are the perfect things to cook in a Dutch oven – throw in whatever you want!
8. Campfire Beans (http://patch.com)
Channel your inner cowboy with this Dutch oven bean recipe:
9. Dutch Oven Pork Chops and Potatoes (http://50campfires.com)
Another meal that will fill you up after a long day of hiking and fun.
10. Chicken Pot Pie (http://www.legendsofamerica.com)
This website has several Dutch oven recipes. Check out the chicken potpie!
11. Peach & Berry Cobbler (http://50campfires.com)
Unwind with this easy and delicious cobbler recipe.
12. Dutch Oven Cheesecake Recipe (http://50campfires.com)
Cheesecake while camping? Why not?
13. Dutch Oven Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Bars (http://50campfires.com)
Nothing goes together better than chocolate and peanut butter.
Working with a stove, in my opinion, is the easiest and most reliable option. You’re able to control the amount of heat and don’t have to take the time building up a fire. The only downside is that you can end up having more parts to bring: fuel, stove, stove stand, pots, pans, etc…
You can of course get away with just having a one-burner stove with one pot and fuel, but you can get creative with the more tools you have. I highly recommend bringing at least one two-burner stove. If you get a griddle that covers the length of both burners, you’ll be able to cook for everyone faster and get back to enjoying the outdoors.
Top 15 stovetop cooking recipes
1. Oatmeal (http://www.myrecipes.com)
Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast if you’re planning on doing a big day hike, or other taxing activity. According to livestrong.com, “[it] supplies you with the calories, protein, and fat needed to fuel your day.”
2. Pancakes (https://countdowntothecampout.wordpress.com)
I can’t go camping without having a big pancake breakfast one morning. I usually go plain or blueberry, but here’s a recipe that uses beer:
3. Scrambled Eggs and English Muffins
This is fairly straight forward, but it always tastes so good. Simply scramble and cook your eggs in a pan. Butter your English muffins and place face down on your griddle until golden brown.
4. No Mess Camping Omelets in a Bag (http://www.beyerbeware.net)
I haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks pretty good. Each person fills a plastic bag with their own omelet ingredients and then throws the bags into a boiling pot of water. Easy and very little cleanup.
5. French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese (http://joythebaker.com)
I cooked this on my last camping trip, and man-o-man was it delicious. You can of course do your basic grilled cheese, but why not take it to the next level?
6. Quesadillas (http://www.bettycrocker.com/)
Quesadillas are another quick camping meal. I like to use precooked, canned chicken to save time.
Don’t forget that even when you’re camping, you can still eat leftovers! This will save you a lot of time rather than coming up with another recipe to prepare. When I stop to eat on the way to a campsite, occasionally I will use my leftovers as dinner so I don’t have to cook the first night.
8. Hot Dogs
Most people like to cook hotdogs over the fire when they’re camping, but I don’t always like to build a fire during the middle of the day. Instead I just heat the hotdogs up on my griddle.
9. Pastas (http://allrecipes.com)
Pasta is another quick and easy meal as long as you’re not at too high of an altitude (see “What Types of Food Should I Bring?”). To save time you can use a basic jar of sauce or prepare and freeze your own sauce ahead of time. Just don’t forget to thaw beforehand.
10. Chili Mac (http://www.sixsistersstuff.com)
While it is a pasta dish, I wanted to highlight this recipe. Rather than adding sauce to your pasta, add a can of chili. This will really fill you up after a long day of hiking.
11. Frozen Soups(http://www.countryliving.com)
You could try to make soup from scratch while camping, but why not just freeze your favorite recipe before you leave?
12. Frozen Chicken for Street Tacos (https://www.pillsbury.com/)
Are you seeing a pattern yet? This recipe is always a crowd favorite. To make it even better, heat your tortillas on the griddle while the chicken heats up.
13. S’mores Pancakes (http://www.pastryaffair.com)
This recipe combines two of my favorite camping foods: s’mores and pancakes. You could eat them for breakfast, but they’re pretty sweet, so I prefer them for dessert.
14. Honey-Rum Grilled Bananas (http://www.tasteofhome.com)
The ice cream part of this recipe may be a little difficult for camping, but the bananas sound great.
15. Camp Tiramisu (http://www.mnn.com/food)
We’ve made our cheesecake in the Dutch oven. Now let’s make Tiramisu on the stove. This recipe requires some pre-preparations.
There are definitely times while I’m camping when I don’t feel like building a fire or even turning on the stove to eat. That’s what this section is for! It may be silly to say, but there is no reason you have to cook every meal!
Simple meal ideas
Eager to get onto the trails? Just pour yourself a bowl of cereal.
Quick, easy, delicious. I enjoy using pita bread. Add celery and/or relish to your liking.
Another quick, no-hassle lunch that you can pack on a day hike.
Even quicker than cold cuts and just as easy to bring with you on a hike.
Salads can take time to make, but they’re great for a meal or paired with something else. Do some chopping at home to save some time.
You can buy from the store or make your own.
Granola Bars (http://www.rockyforkranchresort.com/snacks-for-camping/)
Try this recipe if you’re sick of the normal brands.
A classic for a reason.
Fuel up on your hike with some protein.
Prairie Paté (http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/prairie-pat)
Make your own snacks before you get to the campsite.
Chips and Salsa
A must have snack in my opinion.
This is a really fun thing to have while you’re socializing, playing cards, etc. There are lots of different types of alcohols you can get such as whiskey or tequila.
There you have it! We’ve provided you with a bunch of tips and recipes to get you started. You’re next step? Get out there and try these meals!