10 Healthy and Delicious Vegan Camping MealsPublished on 04/13/2023 · 8 min readLooking for some exciting new vegan camping meals? Look no further! Camping and Hiking Expert Nicole O. breaks down her top ten favorites!
Staying properly fueled makes camping a much better experience! Photo by Nicole O.
I've been vegan for over a decade and backpacking, day hiking, and camping for nearly a decade, so I have plenty of experience keeping camp foods animal friendly in the backcountry. Vegan camping/backpacking food is way easier than you'd think! A lot of camping/backpacking staples are already vegan due to the nature of shelf-stable foods.
In this article, I will list my ten favorite vegan camping/backpacking meals. Almost all of this list is gluten-free too. As a lazy cook, all of these are very simple to make/don't require much prep ahead of time. I'm not expecting you to follow a long recipe and dehydrate a bunch of ingredients for days to go on a backpacking/camping trip.
1. Rice and Beans
Rice and beans are by far the meal I've eaten the most on backpacking trips! It is healthy with complete proteins, tastes delicious, and is inexpensive and lightweight to pack for longer trips. All you have to do is buy Knorr's Spanish Rice Side and combine it with dehydrated refried beans. Dehydrated refried beans and Knorr's Rice Sides are common to find in stores. If you can't find Knorr's Rice Sides, you can make instant rice and add taco seasoning/spice. This meal is already pretty tasty on its own, but you can add nutritional yeast, hot sauce, salt, sundried tomatoes, or fried onions.
2. Vegan Mac and Cheese
Vegan mac and cheese is a great comfort food while you're backpacking. I get so excited finding this in stores while on a thru-hike. It's a filling, high-calorie meal that's easy to make. All you have to do is boil some water in your camp pot, cook the pasta, and add the powder. I recommend adding a bit of olive oil to this to replace the fat you'd normally have from nondairy butter or packing out vegan cheese to top it off with! Vegan parmesan in a shaker tends to pack out pretty well, and you can sometimes even find shelf-stable versions of it!
3. Bagged Salads
Nothing is better than eating healthy, fresh produce in the backcountry! Almost all grocery stores sell salad kits. However, be sure to check the labels since many kits include cheese or a non-vegan dressing. I’ve noticed that the Asian sesame flavor tends to be vegan regardless of the brand, which is lucky for us vegans cause it is very tasty!
This meal is a great option for a quick lunch since it doesn't even require a camp stove. All you have to do is open the bag, fish out the dressing and toppings packets, dump those in, and simply eat it straight out of the bag. You don't even have to get your pot/pan/bowl dirty! However, this is meal weighs a fair bit for the number of calories compared to other backpacking meals and doesn't last very long, so I recommend this as a first-night dinner or a lunch on the first or second day!
Ramen is the cheapest, simplest meal we all know and love. Nissin Top Ramen has two vegan flavors: soy sauce and chili. Koyo is another brand that makes delicious ramen with fun flavors like lemongrass ginger and shitake mushroom. Not only is ramen tasty, but it's also a cheap meal, making it great if you're going out on a longer trip. I sometimes add dehydrated veggies, soy sauce packets, duck sauce packets, hot sauce, or textured vegetable protein (TVP) to spruce it up.
5. Backpacker Meals
Backpacker meals are the most expensive option on the list. Still, many brands make lovely, vegan, dehydrated meals for backpacking, such as Patagonia Provisions, Backpacker's Pantry, Good-To-Go, and many others! In addition, it'll usually be labeled on the front of the package, so you don’t have to waste time reading the nutrition label on the back.
All you have to do is add hot water, reseal the bag, and bam, you have a practically zero-effort meal that's delicious in the backcountry! My personal favorites are the pad thai and the mango sticky rice dessert by Backpacker's Pantry. Again, it's a bit more expensive than rice and beans, but it's nice to treat yourself occasionally.
6. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter isn't exactly a meal on its own, but it can be used to make many meals happen. You can add peanut butter to bananas, graham crackers, tortillas, bagels, English muffins, granola bars, vegan marshmallows, or anything else you desire to make it a filling meal! Peanut butter is super popular and loved by almost all hikers of any diet cause it is pretty much the best bang for your buck when you're trying to buy high-calorie foods.
Buying a small jar of peanut butter is a great idea if you're worried about being hungry on a trip. You can make meals out of it, add it to snacks if you're very hungry, or just eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon! Sometimes when I get sick of peanut butter or want some variety, I splurge for almond butter, cookie butter, sunflower butter, or chocolate peanut butter. Sunflower butter is more calorically dense than peanut butter but costs about three times as much and is harder to find.
Oatmeal is a staple of backpackers for a reason. It's easy carbs, cheap, filling, and with enough sugar added, a tasty breakfast. In addition, oatmeal is versatile since you can cold-soak it in just a few minutes or heat some water in the morning, depending on if you want a warm or cold breakfast. Some great ways to spruce up oatmeal in the backcountry is by adding vegan protein powder, bananas, maple syrup (think of the single-serving packets), chia seeds, or if you feel up to carrying a little extra weight, berries like blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries!
Couscous is a great vegan backpacking meal idea that’s popular with backpackers regardless of their diet. The Near East brand is easy to find in pretty much any grocery store, with awesome flavors like garlic and olive oil, Mediterranean curry, and toasted pine nut. A great way to spice up these meals is by adding lemon juice (you can find single-serving packets sometimes), packing out spices, chopped bell pepper or cherry tomatoes, salt, hot sauce, textured vegetable protein, or nutritional yeast.
Hummus is a well-loved staple in my diet, both on and off the trail. It can be a little heavier than other options on the trail, but it's delicious, versatile, full of healthy fats, and a great protein source. Aren't chickpeas amazing? You can pack out chips, bags of vegetables (like baby carrots or broccoli florets), tortillas, tortilla chips, bagels, Triscuits, or anything else you desire to be a vessel for your hummus! If you want to save weight, buy dehydrated hummus at some grocery stores like Winco, or order it online!
10. Protein Bars/Meal Replacements
Like I said at the beginning of this article, I am lazy, so I appreciate options such as protein bars and other meal replacements that are easy to open up the package and eat! My personal favorites are Clif Builders bars, Lenny and Larry's Complete Cookies, and Kind bars. Chocolate chip and snickerdoodle are my favorite Complete Cookies flavors, but there are a ton out there for you to try to find your favorites. Another fun option is making a "sandwich" out of granola bars (Nature Valley bars and Kind bars come in packs of two, making them perfect for this) and filling the middle with peanut butter or your favorite nut butter.
Bonus Round: Snacks
Snacks are extremely important for an enjoyable time outside, whether you're out backpacking, hiking, or camping. Some popular options are trail mix, chips, dairy-free dark chocolate, nuts, vegan jerky, Oreos, and Nutter Butters. If you're looking for healthier options, fruit is great in the backcountry. Apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and clementines pack out really well; make sure to pack out peels and cores with you to make sure you leave no trace. Another healthier option is veggie chips.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, peanut butter or hummus can be combined with many of these snacks to get some well-deserved calories into your hard-working body! One of my all-time favorite snacks is Hippeas. They’re very light and a great source of fiber and protein compared to chips. Hippeas are easy to find and come in fun flavors like vegan white cheddar or nacho vibes.
These are all tried and tested meals that have brought me joy in the backcountry. I hope this article helps you find healthy, tasty vegan camp foods to pack on your next trip! And don’t forget to treat yourself to your favorite vegan meal or dessert when you get back to civilization.
If you need any help finding a solid camp stove, pot or pan, or any other backpacking gear, please reach out to me or another Curated Camping and Hiking Expert for free, personalized advice!