No-Cook Meal Ideas for Camping Trips

Planning a fire-free camping trip? Here are a few of our favorite no-cook meals.

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Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Camping can be a joy but sometimes cooking at a camp site isn’t, especially when little ones are around. Open fires can be tough to use for precision cooking, and some campsites don’t allow them at all. Thankfully there are plenty of no-cook ideas that are quick, easy and tasty and fun to make. As always, be sure to keep perishables properly stored, and when in doubt, play it safe and skip meat and dairy. Here are some favorite no-cook camping meals.

Overnight Oats

A quick and easy breakfast, these can be prepared ahead of time and they should last for up to four days (closer to two days if you add bananas). You can follow this recipe that calls for 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, 2/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup plain yogurt, 2 teaspoons brown sugar or maple syrup and a pinch each of salt and cinnamon and then add in your favorite mix-ins from there. You can use dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, pomegranate seeds, cocoa powder and other spices to create your own.

Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a great no-cook lunch or dinner for any campsite. Cook the noodles before you leave (or opt for preparing the entire dish at home). If you want to make the meal onsite, you can chop fresh herbs veggies and add in cheese and dressing right there. Anything goes, from this simple 5-star Mediterranean-style pasta salad with sundried tomatoes, black olives and feta, or this healthy summer pasta which calls for corn and zucchini and tomatoes, but is made to easily swap in whatever you have leftover at home or are growing in your garden. Pasta salads are easy enough for choose-your-own adventure meals, so use up whatever noodle shape, veggies and cheese you have in your house. The possibilities are endless.

Sandwiches

A sandwich may be an obvious choice, but you can go well beyond the standard peanut butter and jelly or turkey and cheese. This camping Muffuletta (pictured) is a good choice, because the longer it sits in your cooler, the more the relish of the olives, roasted red peppers, giardiniera and capers will soften the bread and meld with the cold cuts and cheese. Pinwheels are another fun pick. They can be made ahead of time with different meats and cheeses and are easy to pop-in-your-mouth at the campsite or on-the-go.

Trail Mix

What’s a camping trip without GORP? This is especially great if you’ll be hiking because most trail mixes contain nuts which are full of fiber and healthy fats. You can buy premade, but it’s more fun to dream up your own concoctions with your favorite variety of nuts, dried fruit and other fun add-ins. This makes a great snack (or even dessert!)

Here are a few ideas:

  • Mixed nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, M&Ms, and granola (or try this version with honey oatmeal clusters)
  • There is no rule book that you have to have nuts, so turn it into a fun cheesy crunchy snack mix with pretzels, cheese crackers and cereal like in this recipe.
  • Go tropical with dried mango, dried coconut, cashews, almonds and banana chips
  • Make a movie mix (especially great for nut-free) with popcorn, M&Ms, raisins, pretzels and your other favorite movie treats

Grain Bowls

A grain bowl is another dish that can easily be made ahead of time, similar to the pasta salad. Have your grains — farro, barley, quinoa and rice are popular picks — ready to go and bring along cans of beans, chopped veggies, herbs and other add-ins like nuts and seeds from your trail mix, for added crunch. If you need help brainstorming this Buddha bowl will get you started. Wait to make and add the dressing until right before you eat.

Thermos Tipples

Just because you are in the woods doesn’t mean you can’t whip up a beverage. This raspberry lemonade cocktail is perfect for the campsite. You’ll whip up lemonade ice cubes in advance (which as a bonus can help cool the rest of the stuff in your cooler) and when you are ready to drink, just add water and frozen raspberries and vodka. You can also leave out the spirits and have this be a fun raspberry lemonade for all to enjoy.

If You Do Cook Over Fire

Don't miss a few favorites, like hearty chorizo-packed campfire breakfast burritos that are ideal fuel for a day of hiking, and, of course, gooey unbeatable campfire s'mores.

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