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Camping food can either taste like the best thing you've ever eaten or be added to the list of foods you never want to eat again.
The good news is that camping food doesn't only mean subsisting on dehydrated beef stroganoff, granola bars, ramen, and instant oatmeal.
There's nothing quite like having nature right outside your door. With all that fresh air, it's only natural that you also want a healthy, home-cooked style meal that feels fancier than prepackaged food, but is easy enough to prepare.
With a little menu planning and make ahead prep, you'll be slinging these gourmet meals like it's your job and wondering why you didn't stray from the beef stroganoff sooner.
Gourmet Food Ideas for Breakfast
French Toast with Fresh Berries, Sausage, & Real Maple Syrup
Make ahead: add the eggs, milk, and seasonings to a tightly sealed jar.
French toast is so easy to make but tastes way fancier than pancakes. Top with fresh berries and real maple syrup. Optional: serve with bacon or grass-fed sausage.
Yogurt Parfaits with Seasonal Fruit & Granola
Make ahead: maple tahini granola (nut-free) or 5-ingredient peanut butter granola (you can make either recipe days or even weeks ahead).
If you didn't have a chance to make granola, store-bought is also great. Just layer it with your favorite yogurt, and slice up some seasonal fruit (see what's in season right now).
You've now created a fresh and healthy breakfast that feels fancy, but took little time to prepare.
Make ahead: cut up any leftover odds and ins in your fridge and pantry, and add them to a mason jar. For ideas, see this healthy breakfast hash post.
When you get to the campsite, cook it all up in a pan on your grill. You'll have a colorful, homecooked meal in a short amount of time thanks to your meal prep.
Chia Seed Pudding With Strawberry Compote
Make ahead: strawberry compote and chia seed pudding or get fancy and make Matcha chia pudding.
This healthy breakfast is packed with plant-based protein and fruit that will keep you full and energized until lunch.
Gourmet Food Ideas for Lunch or Dinner
Make ahead: dragon sauce.
Making the dragon bowls themselves are super easy. They're a great way to use up any leftover veg (cooked or raw), rice, beans, or protein. Plus, they're delicious!
Pesto Chicken Sandwiches with Marinated Mushrooms
Make ahead: a batch of arugula pesto or red pesto and also marinate your mushrooms and chicken (in two separate containers or bags).
When you get to the campsite, you can cook the marinated chicken and the mushrooms on the grill. Spread the pesto on your bread and layer on the cooked marinated mushrooms and chicken along with a little slaw or mixed greens.
Fish Tostadas with Slaw
Make ahead: homemade coleslaw (no mayo!).
Frozen fish is a great camping food because it has two purposes: acts as an ice pack and a meal. Bring a batch of DIY taco seasoning to flavor it.
Cook it up by adding your fish to a hot pan with a little oil. Then, break up the fish with a spatula, sprinkle it with taco seasoning, and serve it up on a crunchy tostada shell and top with the coleslaw.
Plant-based option: use black beans instead of fish.
Noodles with 'Peanut' Sauce
Make ahead: 'peanut sauce'.
Cook your pasta (you could also use rice), add vegetables, and a protein of choice (optional), mix in the sauce, and enjoy.
Pasta with fresh herbs
Make ahead: peel the shrimp (if using).
Using fragrant, fresh, hard-stemmed herbs like rosemary or thyme is a great way to add a lot of flavor to a seemingly simple meal.
A really delicious pasta dish is using sauteed carrots, onions, and garlic with fresh rosemary, a drizzle of raw honey, salt, and pepper plus sauteed shrimp.
Gourmet Dessert Ideas
Elevated Strawberry S'mores
Make ahead: none if you've already made the strawberry compote for the chia pudding.
No camping is complete without s'mores. There's little that compares to the warm chocolate, gooey marshmallows, and crunchy graham crackers.
However, you can take it up a notch by adding some of the leftover strawberry compote. If you love s'mores, you've gotta try this combo!
Grilled Fruit with Honey & Ricotta
Make ahead: make dairy-free ricotta (optional) or get store-bought.
Stone-fruits work really well: plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines. Cut the fruit in half, remove the pit, and grill for 1-2 minutes on each side. Serve with a dollop of ricotta, a drizzle of honey, and a few chopped nuts.
Super Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate
Make ahead: combine all the ingredients at home in a tightly sealed jar and mix well. Grab my 5-minute dairy-free hot chocolate recipe.
When you're ready for a warm sweet treat, add the contents of the jar to a pan to warm up, and top with marshmallows.
Gourmet Snack Food Ideas
Make ahead: none.
Make popcorn on the grill by adding popcorn kernels to a pot with oil and a lid. Season with the leftover taco seasoning (it's incredible on popcorn).
Make ahead: Homemade Trail Mix.
Whip up a batch of homemade trail mix with all your favorite ingredients to snack on when you're on a hike. It's super easy to make and is the best satiating snack.
Repurpose Your Ingredients
Bringing vegetables, spices, and other ingredients that can be used for several different dishes makes it much easier and also helps keep it cost-effective.
If you plan to do a lot of car camping, getting a Coleman grill is a great investment. Other helpful tools are a cast iron pan (10-inch pan is ideal), metal spatula, knife, cutting board, and tongs.
Reusable plates, cups, and silverware work well. Avoid single-use plastics to cut down on unnecessary environmental waste.
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