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Ask a Pro: How To Cook Gourmet Backcountry Meals

Traci Salisbury | Oboz Ambassador

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Welcome to our third installation of Ask a Pro, where guides from Wildland Trekking, offer professional advice for life on the trail.  

When you think of food for a multi-day backpacking trip, dismal visions of re-hydrating pouch meals come to mind. But who said backcountry camping food needed to be boring and tasteless? With a little bit of planning and some pro-tips on how to carry fresh ingredients, you could be cooking gourmet in the backcountry in no time! 

I’ve got recipes for you below, but first a few tips:

Plan—Think about your recipes and what you want to cook before shopping for trail food.

Prepare—Prep much of your meal at home before you head out.

Come equipped—All recipes call for either a large based pot, such as the MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot, or a backpacking frying pan, my favorite is the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Fry Pan.

Honey Sesame Tofu and Basmati Rice Bowl

This is one of those meals that seems complicated but isn't at all. It takes a little prep the night before you head out on your trip, but it is totally worth it. For this recipe, you will marinate the tofu in a Ziploc bag and carry this bag with you. I suggest a double bag and carrying the tofu in the top of your pack, so it does not get crushed. Since this meal has very fresh ingredients, plan to cook up the tofu on night one. For added gourmet effect pack in a small garnish of scallions and sesame seeds. Once you get to camp you can brown the tofu in your pot/pan before cooking your rice. Brown the marinated tofu, then set aside and reserve the marinade. Cook your rice. Top the tofu and rice with the marinade. If you want the marinade to thicken you will need to heat it up. 

Marinade:

  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained 
  • 1 TBS low sodium soy sauce 
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 TBS honey 
  • ½ tsp sea salt/salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper 
  • 1 TBS rice wine vinegar 
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 TBS sesame seeds
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Salmon Pesto Pasta

This is a favorite of mine to cook for my guests on multi-day backpacking trips as it is easy and packs well. The pro-tip on this meal would be to hike in some coconut milk. Adding this to your pesto pasta will lend a moist, velvety taste and extra calories to help you sleep warm. The only challenging part about adding the coconut milk is that it makes for a hard clean up.  Make sure to clean you pot by heating up water on this one! 

Cook up your pasta and mix up the olive oil and pesto packets in a bowl. Use the pesto packets as your mixing bowl if you only have one pot. As the pasta is boiling, add in dried spinach and tomatoes to rehydrate them.  Add some water to the packets as well. Once the pasta has been cooked and drained, add in the pesto and salmon, stirring the mixture together. If you brought in fresh tomatoes or spinach add them now. Add some salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • Dried pesto packet (1 creamy and 1 regular)
  • Salmon pouches
  • Pine Nuts
  • Fresh or dried tomatoes
  • Fresh or dried spinach
  • Salt and Pepper 

Backcountry Pizzas

If you are craving a pizza night in the backcountry you have to try this recipe. All the cookware you need is either a backpacking frying pan or a pot with a lid. I use the GSI frying pan and a plastic plate as my lid. Use garlic and herb naan bread as it is full of flavor, packs well, and stays moist and tasty for 2-3 days. Start by making your pizza sauce. Mix up tomato powder, water, and whatever dried spices you decided to pack in. Be sure to measure out some tomato powder and spices in a bag prior to hiking in, rather than carrying each small bottle of spice.  Once the sauce is made, put it on the naan and then add your cheese and whichever toppings you brought. Place the pizza in your pan or the bottom of your pot. Let it cook for about 4-6 mins, make sure to hover the pan over the flame as they will burn on the bottom if placed directly on top of your stove. Put a lid on top so the cheese melts. The only other advice I have is to hike in some red wine for this meal!

Ingredients:

  • Garlic Herb Naan
  • Tomato Powder
  • Water
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Summer Sausage
  • Mushrooms

Breakfast Power Bowl

A backcountry breakfast does not  have to mean boring oatmeal and a spoonful of peanut butter. Enter the breakfast power bowl. Pro tip: hike in fresh eggs. Impossible you say? No way!  Using a small extra Nalgene water bottle, crack eggs into the bottle the night before you depart.  I carry in fresh spinach for this as well and make it the first or second morning. All the ingredients combine to form a lean and energy-packed breakfast. This meal is rather self-explanatory; you cook the quinoa, brown the pre-cooked sausage, and scramble the eggs. This meal definitely requires two pots or pans, so use the meal when you are hiking with a friend or loved one. Assemble the bowl as follows: quinoa, turkey sausage, spinach, eggs, cheese, hot sauce. Make sure to take a picture of this glorious wilderness breakfast. 

Ingredients:

  • Quinoa
  • Pre-cooked Turkey Sausage
  • Olive Oil
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • 3-cheese Mexican Blend
  • Hot Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper

All of these recipes will ensure you are thought of as the newest wilderness god/goddess on your next multi-day trip! Taking time to meal plan and pre-prep some of your meal ingredients is a wonderful way to make sure you are eating healthy, delicious food in the backcountry. Most of these meals are much easier to make with two or more people as you utilize both backcountry cookware vessels. So, invite some friends and after going over your maps, go over your meal plan!

Traci Salisbury is a hiking and backpacking guide for the Wildland Trekking Company.

Traci Salisbury

Name: Traci Salisbury

Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

Where I’ve Been: I have many memorable great hikes, and one of my favorite is completing California's Lost Coast Trail with my best friend. There was also the time I led Wildland Trekking clients on a 6-day llama trekking trip into the backcountry of Yellowstone during a rogue September snowstorm.

Why I Hike: The beauty and the mystery. The first time I camped out west, in Colorado at 9,000 feet, the view of the Milky Way was something I had never seen before when I was growing up on the east coast.

Lead The Way: I'm a guide with Wildland Trekking and I live #vanlife; my home is a converted Chevy E250 van.

 I solo hike and explore with others; my favorite memories are formed around camaraderie and a shared experience. 

Ambassador Focus: #protip

Find Me:

Instagram: @wildlandtrekking

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