DIY Dehydrated Camping Meals

I’m not a fan of shop-bought dehydrated camping meals. They’re expensive. They look like they’ve come out of a dog’s behind. Sometimes they taste like it too. But their biggest crime is the amount of waste they produce. I know some companies use compostable packaging. In the main, however, you’ll find single-use plastic pouches lining the shelves. Once you’ve chowed down the contents, there’s nothing left but throw the packet in the nearest trash can.

As someone who loves spending time in nature, and thus wants to preserve the environment as best as possible, this seems like an abomination. Which is why I’ve converted to homemade ‘do it yourself’ dehydrated camping meals. If you have good dispensaries in your local area, you can even make them entirely zero waste. The DIY approach also ensures there’s no added salt, sugar or other weird preservatives in your camping meals. Just tasty, healthy ingredients – which is exactly what you need after a day on the trails.

How to make your own dehydrated meals

To make your own dehydrated meals, you’ll need two things – a dehydrator and time.

If you don’t have a friend willing to lend you a dehydrator on a semi-permanent basis, you can pick one up second-hand. If you want to buy one new, then remember you don’t need a state-of-the-art device! Any old dehydrator with a few tiers will do.

As for time, well, we all know that can’t be bought. Unfortunately, dehydrated meals can take hours to prepare, as each element of your meal must be 100% dry. Even so, it’s simply a case of sticking ingredients in a dehydrator and leaving it alone. So, not exactly labour intensive.

The basic steps of making a homemade dehydrated camping meal are –

  1. Cook all the ingredients that usually require cooking, but cook them separately
  2. Dehydrate all the ingredients needed to create your meal
  3. Place all the dehydrated ingredients in a bag (which can be later reused!)
  4. Head out and enjoy your adventures

When you’re ready to eat, all you need to do is –

  1. Boil enough water to cover the ingredients
  2. Add the contents of your bag to the boiled water
  3. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to soak for 15 minutes
  4. Place back on the heat and cook until everything is rehydrated, stirring regularly
  5. Enjoy!

Rather than throw the bag away, keep it for a future dehydrated meal.

Easy to make DIY dehydrated meals

Once you’ve got the hang of homemade dehydrated meals, the culinary world really is your oyster. Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Orzo with tomato and parsley

Serves 2

What you’ll need:

  • 250g orzo (can often be found in dispensaries)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of chopped parsley
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil
  • Baking parchment
Pasta, tomato sauce and parsley
Before going in the dehydrator – cooked orzo, tomato sauce and parsley

Instructions:

  1. Cook the orzo as per packet instructions
  2. Dice the onion and garlic. Fry them until golden using as little oil as possible
  3. Dice the tomatoes and add to the pan with the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat and reduce until you have a thick sauce (approx one to two hours)
  4. Line each tier of your dehydrator with baking parchment
  5. Place a thin layer of orzo on one tier of your dehydrator
  6. Place a thin layer of the onion, garlic and tomato mixture on another tier of your dehydrator
  7. Place a thin layer of parsley on another tier of your dehydrator
  8. Dehydrate all the ingredients until they are completely dry. This may require some juggling. Some of the ingredients will dehydrate faster than others, so you can swap them in and out. You should only spread a thin layer on each tier, meaning each ingredient may require two or more tiers
  9. Once everything is ready, place all the dehydrated ingredients in a bag and mix together
  10. Pop a stock cube in the bag, ready to be used when you cook the meal
Wooden chopping board with food on top
After coming out the dehydrator – orzo, parsley and tomato sauce

How to cook:

  1. Boil water in a saucepan. This should be just enough water to cover the ingredients. If you’re not sure, start conservatively and add more water later
  2. Add the stock cube and stir until dissolved
  3. Add the contents of the bag
  4. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to soak for 15 minutes
  5. Return to the heat and cook until the orzo is rehydrated, stirring regularly. You can always add more water at this stage if you need
  6. Eat! Grate some cheese over the top for added luxury
Bowl of food cooks over a campfire
Orzo with tomato and parsley

Black beans and rice or macaroni

Serves 2

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of rice or 2 cups of macaroni pasta
  • 1 400g tin of black beans (or buy from a dispensary, soak and cook)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • Seasoning mix – 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp of coriander seeds, 1 tsp of smoked paprika, salt, pepper
  • 1 tin of sweetcorn
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 1 bunch of coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil
  • Baking parchment
Dehydrated macaroni and black beans
Dehydrated macaroni and black beans

Instructions:

  1. If you buy dry black beans, soak them in water overnight and cook until soft. If you buy tinned black beans, drain and rinse
  2. Cook the rice/macaroni as per packet instructions
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (Gas mark 4/160 C)
  4. Dice the onion, red pepper and jalapenos. Lightly drizzle with oil and coat in the seasoning mix. Roast in the oven until soft (approx 30 minutes)
  5. Dice the tomatoes. Fry them off in a saucepan using as little oil as possible. Turn down the heat and reduce until you have a thick sauce (approx 1 hour)
  6. Drain the tin of sweetcorn
  7. Line each tier of your dehydrator with baking parchment
  8. Place a thin layer of rice/macaroni on one tier of your dehydrator
  9. Place a thin layer of the onion and pepper mixture on another tier of your dehydrator
  10. Place a thin layer of sweetcorn on another tier of your dehydrator
  11. Place a thin layer of black beans on another tier of your dehydrator
  12. Place a thin layer of the tomato mixture on another tier of your dehydrator
  13. Place a thin layer of coriander (cilantro) on another tier of your dehydrator, along with the tomato puree (can be squeezed straight out of the tube)
  14. Dehydrate all the ingredients until they are completely dry. This may require some juggling. Some of the ingredients will dehydrate faster than others, so you can swap them in and out. You should only spread a thin layer on each tier, meaning each ingredient may require two or more tiers
  15. Once everything is ready, place all the dehydrated ingredients in a bag and mix together
  16. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper

How to cook:

  1. Boil water in a saucepan. This should be just enough water to cover the ingredients. If you’re not sure, start conservatively and add more water later
  2. Add the contents of the bag
  3. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to soak for 15 minutes
  4. Return to the heat and cook until the rice/macaroni is rehydrated, stirring regularly. You can always add more water at this stage if you need
  5. Eat! Grate some cheese over the top for added luxury
Bowl of food cooks over a campfire
Mexican style black bean and macaroni pasta

Making your own dehydrated camping meals does require a little bit more effort, and a fair amount of forward planning. But once you’re in the groove, you’ll never look back. Soon you’ll be dehydrating everything. Dehydrated banana chips are a personal favourite and make a great snack while you’re out adventuring.

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