There are plenty of ways to eat a “no-cook” camping meal. There are many creative, flavorful, and healthy meal options to try while camping that don’t require you to break out a stove, start a fire, or boil water. Although these recipes are intended for car-campers, they can be assembled with nothing other than a bowl, can opener, and fork.
21 no-cook camping meal ideas:
This recipe is a healthier and easier take on the classic American breakfast. Layer an English muffin with sliced cheese, Canadian bacon or salami, and pre-boiled eggs. This is also customizable, depending on the preferences of the group. For example, you could make it vegetarian by omitting the meat and adding cucumbers and tomatoes.
Or, for an Italian flare, you could spread pesto on the English muffin and throw in some prosciutto and parmesan. However you construct your McMuffin, using meats like salami, prosciutto, or Canadian bacon eliminates the need for cooking.
2. Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats
The night before, combine rolled oats, milk (or any non-dairy milk), fresh apples, cinnamon, and maple syrup in a mason jar or other container. The next morning, your oats will have absorbed the milk and leave you with a tasty breakfast perfect for a warm day.
3. Kimchi and Egg Wrap
For a more savory breakfast, fill a tortilla with sliced hard boiled eggs, kimchi, and some arugula. This flavor profile is traditionally Asian, but the concept of a hard-boiled egg burrito can easily be applied to other ideas. You can throw in canned beans and salsa instead of the kimchi, or mix in spinach instead.
4. Almond Butter Raspberry Toast
Take a slice of cinnamon swirl bread, spread a thick layer of almond butter, and top with raspberries. This is simplest breakfast that looks incredibly fancy. Make this on your first morning, and you will convince your camping party that they are staying at a five star hotel instead of a tent.
5. Bagels and Lox
This breakfast staple is perfect for a no-cook breakfast. Packed with protein yet deceivingly easy to assemble, it is a great meal that typically doesn’t wander beyond bagel shops. Slice a bagel in half, coat with cream cheese, and top with smoked salmon. If you are feeling classy (and have the space in your cooler for it), garnish with capers and arugula.
6. Curry Chickpea Wraps
In one bowl, mix a can of chickpeas with curry powder, salt, pepper, and a small amount of olive oil. On top of your tortilla, layer the chickpeas, thinly sliced cucumber, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. These curried chickpeas are also delicious eaten alone or on top of lettuce for a chickpea salad.
7. Moroccan Mint Chicken Pitas
In a bowl, combine canned chicken with fresh mint leaves, dried basil, paprika, salt and pepper. Open a pita and stuff it with the chicken and fresh chopped tomatoes. You can easily make this meal vegan by substituting chickpeas or pre-cooked lentils for the chicken.
8. Avocado Toast
A millennial classic. Take a slice of bread, and top with slices of fresh avocado. There are many ways to spice up this recipe. Try adding sliced tomatoes, dollops of goat cheese, fresh lemon, or sunflower seeds.
Charcuterie is essentially a fancy sounding word for a spread of uncooked foods. Try laying out a board with crackers, cheese, salami, grapes, and some nuts. This meal is truly created with the intent of personalization.
It can consist of any combination of food. However, a well-rounded charcuterie has something carb-heavy (think crackers or bread), something salty (olives or nuts), a creamy cheese or dip (brie or hummus), a hard cheese (parmesan or cheddar), and something sweet (dried fruit or chocolate).
10. Sun-dried tomato, hummus, spinach wraps
Spread a thin layer of hummus on top of a wheat tortilla. Top with a hearty amount of spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, and roll into a delicious Greek-inspired burrito.
This traditional cold Spanish soup is perfect as a light lunch or accompaniment to any no-cook camping meal. Chop up red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and red bell peppers. Top with tomato juice, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Top with cubes of bread or croutons.
12. Poke Bowl
Fill a bowl with pre-cooked rice, and top with canned tuna, radishes, carrots, avocado, and cabbage. This meal is easiest if you cook the rice ahead of time, and simply pack it in a container to store in your cooler. However, this is not always possible or desirable. An alternative is to replace the rice with chopped lettuce for an easier and lighter meal.
13. Mandarin Chicken Salad
Top a bowl of chopped lettuce with canned mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, and dried Ramen noodles. Top with a sesame salad dressing, or make your own with sesame oil, maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper.
14. Sushi Burrito
Take a sheet of seaweed, and fill with pre-cooked rice, canned tuna, avocado, and cucumbers. Roll and cut into slices for traditional sushi, or eat with your hands as a sushi burrito. Just like the poke bowl, if you don’t want to deal with having to cook rice ahead of time, feel free to omit it entirely. This is also delicious filled with avocado, thinly sliced cucumbers, and shredded carrots.
15. Vegan Taco Salad
Top chopped lettuce with canned black beans, salsa, avocado, crushed corn chips, cilantro, and lime. If you are surrounded by meat lovers, try cooking ground beef at home to bring along. Since this salad is best served cold, there is no issue with topping the lettuce with chilled beef and shredded cheese. If you prefer a dressing, try making one using olive oil, lime juice, garlic powder, and salt.
16. Pita Pizzas
Spread a layer of tomato sauce on a piece of pita bread. Top with shredded cheese and any desired toppings. Some ideas include pepperoni, olives, spinach, peppers, or onions. Feel free to get creative with this one! Good for big groups with lots of different appetites.
17. Peanut Butter and Banana Pin Wheels
Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on top of a tortilla. Peel a banana and lay it on top of the peanut butter. Roll up the tortilla and slice into small pinwheels. If you really have a sweet tooth, this recipe can be used with Nutella instead of peanut butter.
18. Maple Cinnamon No Bake Cookies
Combine oats, maple syrup, cinnamon, and almond butter. Roll into small balls. This four ingredient recipe is simple, healthy, and delightfully satisfying. They can be prepared ahead of time, but preparing them at the campsite makes for a fun (and messy) afternoon activity.
19. Nutella Fruit Dip
Mix equal parts Greek yogurt and Nutella. Try dipping apples, bananas, strawberries, or pretzels into this protein-packed chocolate dip. This recipe is also quite customizable. Another popular variation would be to replace the Nutella with peanut butter. Alternatively, you can mix the Nutella and peanut butter together, to attain a classic favor combination.
20. Tropical Muesli
Combine rolled oats, dried mango, coconut flakes, macadamia nuts, and cashews. Muesli is slightly different than granola in that the oats are unbaked, giving it a chewier consistency. Therefore, most people prefer to eat muesli with milk or yogurt as opposed to as a dry snack. However, since this recipe contains a lot of dried fruits and nuts, it is still as delightful eaten dry as it is eaten with milk.
21. Chocolate Cranberry Energy Bites
Combine peanut butter, chocolate chips, honey, rolled oats, dried cranberries, vanilla, cocoa powder, and shredded coconut (optional). Mix until the ingredients combine, and then shape into balls and flatten into no-bake cookies.
No stove AND no cooler ideas:
Want to go even more minimalist? Below are some tips on how to ditch both your stove and cooler.
Buy Heartier Fruit
While produce like berries and tomatoes might need refrigeration to last more than one or two days, fruits like bananas, oranges, pineapple, apricots, apples, dates, and mangoes can go without refrigeration.
Also Buy Heartier Vegetables
As for vegetables, opt for carrots, beets, cabbage, onions, and peppers. Greens like lettuce and spinach become wilted quite fast without refrigeration. However, collard greens and kale are great replacements that are significantly sturdier in terms of refrigeration.
Ditch the Dairy
The main source of refrigeration is typically dairy products like milk and cheese. Replace dairy milk with almond or coconut milk which does not need refrigeration. If you must eat cheese, try options such as aged parmesan, which can go longer without refrigeration.
Make Smaller Portions
Another primary use of refrigeration comes from leftover storage. Instead of making large portions to save for later, make only what you can eat in order to avoid having to deal with leftovers.
Adjust Your Eggs
Many of the breakfast ideas on this list call for pre-hard boiled eggs. However, boiled eggs definitely require a cooler. Therefore, if you decide to ditch your cooler, you might think about ditching your eggs as well. However, the above mentioned recipes can be equally delicious without them.
To add extra protein that does not require refrigeration, try adding slices of aged parmesan. Or, bulk up egg sandwiches and burritos with extra vegetables instead.
Choose Your Meat Wisely
There are plenty of meats that do not require refrigeration. Try purchasing meats like summer sausage and bacon bits. Bacon bits can replace ground meat or Canadian bacon in most meals, and summer sausage retains its flavor without needing a cooler.
Also read: What Meats can you Take Backpacking?
Looking for even more minimalist camping food ideas?
While the above ideas might be great for reducing your need for a cooler and stove, there are ways to simplify the assortment of food necessary to bring without sacrificing flavor. Here are ideas on simplifying the above recipes to make for easier planning and preparation:
- Choose your spices wisely – The recipes above include a variety of different spices. You might not have access to all of these, or want to bring all of them with you. At some supermarkets, you can find a multi-spice container. These are great for camping, because they are relatively small, yet have approximately eight spices to choose from. However, if you are unable to find one of these, there are really only three spices you should prioritize: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. These are the most versatile spices that have the greatest flavor enhancing possibility.
- Get creative with one item – If you are looking to purchase the smallest amount of food items, then be intentional about which one you pick. If you pick tortillas, you can do kimchi burritos, Nutella pin wheels, and sun-dried tomato, hummus, and spinach wraps. Those are three distinctly different meals using one ingredient as the basis. Using this mentality, you can prevent purchasing both tortillas and bread, but instead pick one ingredient and truly explore its possibilities.
- Find alternative uses for vegetables – Collard greens are not only a delicious replacement for spinach, but also a wonderful base for a salad, and a replacement for a tortilla. Cauliflower is both a crunchy snack and also a great vegetable to crumble on top of pita pizzas for an interesting texture. Don’t be afraid to experiment with using your vegetables in non-traditional ways.
- Pick one meal a day to focus on – Instead of trying to impress your campmates three times a day, focus on one meal a day to really prepare, and settle for simpler meals for the other two. You will be able to cut down on the amount of food you purchase, and no one will be left hungry. One incredible meal a day is all people need to be convinced of your competence in the camp kitchen.
Cooking outdoors does not need to be daunting. Sharing a meal while camping is one of the best aspects about being outside. There are plenty of ways to eat healthy and delicious food without having to worry about starting a fire or making sure you have enough propane for a camp stove. Good food and the outdoors are both about bringing people together.
When both are brought together at the same time, great things happen.
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As a solo female traveler, Katie is passionate about exploring outdoor spaces, involving others in the fight against climate change, and being a student of the world. She has traveled the U.S. in her van in order to film a documentary on solo female travel, and is currently on a mission to travel the world armed with nothing but a backpack and a fierce desire to taste the best local dessert in as many places as possible.