Our 8 favorite campground meals

When you have a two-burner propane stove — and the occasional campfire — what are your meal options?

We struggled with this when we first started van-dwelling. Most camping recipes involve preparing something in a full kitchen in a house, then reheating it at the campground. Or food for 8-year-olds who only eat hot dogs and hate vegetables. Regular cookbooks don’t help either, because they call for ovens or fully stocked pantries.



If you need some inspiration, these are the dishes we find ourselves coming back to time and time again. Note that we skipped the obvious things like PB&J, turkey sandwiches and mac ‘n’ cheese because you already know to make those. And we kept the recipes fairly loose so you can substitute items as desired!


1. Egg, Spinach & Polenta Bowl

  • Regular or instant polenta
  • Olive oil
  • Chopped garlic (3 large cloves)
  • Fresh spinach
  • Canned beans (we suggest cannellini or black)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Eggs
  • Cheese, shredded or sliced into small pieces (we suggest cheddar or parmesan)
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and saute the garlic and spinach until greens are wilted. Add red pepper flakes to your desired level of spiciness. Add beans to mixture until they’re warm, then set it all aside. Begin cooking the polenta according to the instructions on the package, adding as much cheese, salt and pepper as you like. In another pan, fry up the eggs. Dish out the polenta, then add the greens and beans, and put the fried egg(s) on top.

Variations: If you can’t find quick-cooking polenta, try instant grits. You could also do rice or couscous, but you might want to skip the cheese. You could also add a can of green peas or sliced green onions to the polenta. Honestly, there are tons of ways to do this one!

Modified from Good & Cheap

2. Salad + Fried Egg

  • Bagged, complete salad kit (we love the kale or southwest salads from Taylor Farms)
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Fry up your egg(s) in the olive oil, seasoning them as desired. Mix up the salad separately, adding in sliced avocado, then put the eggs on top!

Variations: Warm up some canned beans, like garbanzos, and add them to the salad. You can make your own stove-top croutons by chopping up some bread and frying it up in olive oil. You can also serve this over a bed of couscous.

3. Garlicky Pasta with Broccoli

  • Lots of garlic (we use 4-5 cloves for half a pound of pasta)
  • Olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Pasta (we recommend linguine or spaghetti)
  • Chopped broccoli
  • Salt and pepper
  • Good quality parmesan, grated/shaved/chopped

Finely slice or chop up the garlic. Get your pasta water boiling and salt it well. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. When you have a minute or so left, add the broccoli to the boiling water and pasta, then drain it all together. Heat up the olive oil (enough to coat your pasta) on medium/medium-low so you can cook the garlic and red pepper flakes, but not burn the garlic. Once the garlic starts to brown, take it off the heat and mix it into the drained pasta and broccoli. Salt and pepper it liberally. Serve with parmesan on top and a good glass of wine on the side!

Variations: Add other types of vegetables, like zucchini or chopped asparagus. Meatlovers can cook up sausage on the side and put it on top.

4. Stovetop Pizza

  • Pre-made pizza crusts that fit in your frying pan (we use the mini-Bobolis)
  • Olive oil
  • Jar of pizza sauce
  • Finely sliced mozzarella cheese (you can use pre-shredded, but it’s tougher to melt)
  • Toppings of choice (I like cooked broccoli, but I’m weird I guess)

This is a great way to use up random items you have left over as toppings. Warm up the pizza crust upside down in a small bit of olive oil in your frying pan. Make sure your pizza sauce and toppings are hot (or warm, at least) too. Then, flip over the crust right-side up. Spread on some sauce, then finely-sliced cheese, then your toppings. Keep the heat on low and cover the pan to allow the cheese to melt.

Variations: You can use pesto sauce or plain olive oil instead of tomato sauce. You can also wrap it in foil and heat it over a campfire instead. If you’re having trouble finding pre-made pizza crusts or don’t like them, you could use pita bread or tortillas too.

5. Bean & Chicken Sausage Stew

  • Olive oil
  • 1 package of fully cooked chicken sausage links, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of kale leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bread

Heat the oil in your biggest pot. Add the sausage slices and brown them. Stir in garlic and cook for a little longer, then add the beans, broth and tomatoes. Bring it to a boil. Then, add the kale and some salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes, then enjoy with bread on the side.

Variations: We like to add onion and carrot at the beginning, cooking it with the sausage. You can add other veggies too. Make it vegetarian by using Tofurkey sausages and vegetable broth. You can also use different types of beans or greens.

Modified from Real Simple

6. Southwestern Chicken Soup

  • 12 oz. jar of salsa verde (pick your spiciness)
  • 3 cups cooked chicken (we use a whole grocery store rotisserie chicken, chopped up)
  • 1 can of beans (we suggest black or white)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Toppings: Chopped green onions, sour cream, avocado, tortilla chips, cilantro, lime

Empty the salsa into a big pot. Heat it up, then add the chicken, beans, broth and cumin. Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer on lower heat for about 10 minutes. Add toppings as desired!

Variations: Make it vegetarian by using hominy, sliced up poblano peppers and vegetable broth. You could also serve it over a bed of rice. And I’m sure you could do it with salsa roja, though we haven’t tried it.

Modified from Real Simple

7. Spinach + Egg Burritos

  • Big flour tortillas
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Spinach
  • Can of refried or drained whole beans (pinto or black)
  • Package of Mexican rice
  • Avocado
  • Salsa

Scramble the eggs and add cheese and spinach. Cook the Mexican rice according to the instructions on the package. Assemble your burrito with the egg mixture, beans and rice. Add avocado and salsa, then roll it up. Pack it up for later for a calorie-filled, mid-hike snack.

Variations: Replace the eggs with cut up pieces of rotisserie chicken, or use all veggies (like onions, bell peppers, poblano peppers, etc.) and cheese. Or you could add chorizo to the eggs.

8. BBQ Couscous Bowl

  • Couscous
  • Curry powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Broccoli
  • Extra firm tofu
  • BBQ sauce
  • Lime

Heat the water for the couscous, then add in some olive oil, salt and pepper and curry powder. Once the water is boiling, add in the couscous, stir, cover and turn off the heat. Saute the broccoli in olive oil, covering it so it steams and softens a little bit. Cut the tofu into triangles, then pan fry it olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper. Fluff the couscous and add it to a bowl with the broccoli and tofu. Squeeze lime over everything, then top with BBQ sauce as desired.

Variations: You could use rice instead of couscous and whatever other types of veggies you’d like. You can use a different protein other than tofu, but make sure it pairs well with BBQ sauce!

Modified from Elephantastic Vegan


What are your favorite campground meals? Please share ideas for other van-dwellers in need of culinary inspiration!



A couple other resources:


  9 comments for “Our 8 favorite campground meals

  1. Sarah Trenschel
    2017-04-05 at 3:12 pm

    So cool! I’m seeing a LOT of beans here but it all looks good (besides the beans.) Yum!

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-04-05 at 3:19 pm

      Beans, beans the magical fruit…

  2. ysabellaw
    2017-04-06 at 10:45 am

    Great options here. I’ve found that focusing on camper’s kitchen basics (dry staples + fresh produce + frozen proteins) gives you almost unlimited variety. Since I’m visiting the grocery store on an average of every three days (to replenish frozen goods since I don’t buy ice), I love switching up recipes between one pot, skillet, and foil pocket meals (like sweet potato + store bought turkey + seasonings).

    I’ve also found ways to adjust recipes from sites like Paleo Leap and Dirty Gourmet to cooking and dining al fresco.

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-04-06 at 10:53 am

      All awesome ideas! Thanks for sharing

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-04-06 at 10:53 am

      PS: To clarify, do you only use frozen items as your ice?

      • ysabellaw
        2017-04-06 at 11:05 am

        Yes, frozen foods and combo of blue ice packs or frozen water bottles lining my cooler. Since I keep must-stay-dry items in my insulated or large zipped bags (thanks Dollar store!) in the cooler as well, I can extend the life of my cold stuff. In a pitch, I can always fill a 1 quart storage container with left over ice from a purchased drink.

      • ysabellaw
        2017-04-06 at 11:07 am

        Opps, I meant to type “no” frozen foods aren’t my sole option to ice.

  3. 2017-04-06 at 2:31 pm

    Hi Tamara,

    These are all great ideas and I can’t wait to see if we can adapt a couple of them for bike camping.

    One of our staples at home that might work for you is rice (or sweet potato) with lentils, stir fried veggies, and peanut sauce. We’ve been using this peanut sauce recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/peanut-sauce-51149020

    I wonder if it could work without a blender by using finely minced garlic and ginger (or garlic and ginger powders?) and just stirring it all together really well. If you like peanut sauce, it’s a super tasty recipe and much more affordable than the sauces that are sold in jars.

    Also – have you tried pita bread for your stovetop pizzas? I love broccoli or any leftover veggies on the pita pizza that we have almost every Friday. :o)

    Thanks for sharing these great ideas for healthy, easy, and affordable camping meals!

    • Tamara & Chris
      2017-04-07 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks for these great ideas, Mrs. Grumby! The peanut sauce recipe looks great. Can’t wait to see how you adapt recipes for bike camping when you’ll only have those tiny stoves for boiling water. But if hikers can do it, so can you!

Leave a Reply