So, you’ve decided on a family camping trip. You’ve thought about all the exciting things you’ll do with the kids: where you’ll take them, the things you’ll see, how connected you’ll feel as a family; you’ve thought of everything. Camp site? Booked. Packing list? Check. Excitement level? High. Camping food and recipes? Okay, maybe you haven’t thought that one through, you’re not even sure what’s for dinner tonight. Don’t worry we’ve got some ideas for you.
We know you’ll want easy foods to make while camping, so we’ve compiled a list of easy camping recipe ideas that won’t use a lot of ingredients or time. But first a word on food safety.
Camping food safety
Since you won’t be packing your home refrigerator, keep an extra-close eye on the temperature of your foods to prevent food-borne illness. Use a reliable, insulated cooler to store perishables. Pre-cooked food should be stored at a temperature of 40°F (4.4°C) or below. This will slow bacteria growth. Use an appliance thermometer to monitor your cooler’s thermal reading.
When it’s time to cook, be sure that your food, especially meat, is cooked through. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meats. Internal temperatures of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops) should be at least 145°F (62.8°C) internally (after resting for three minutes), 160°F (71.1°C) for ground meat (beef, pork, lamb, and veal), and 165°F (73.9°C) for poultry (whole or ground).
Camp cooking rules
Keep these camping time-savers under your belt as you read.
- Cut your veggies ahead of time. Add to recipes for easy camping meals or share with hungry campers who have appetites at inopportune times.
- Prepare ingredients and freeze, uncooked, in foil or freezer-safe containers at least 24 hours in advance. Voila! No meals to make while camping.
- Precook foods and casseroles. Pack cold. Reheat and eat!
Best camping meals for kids
Camping food, for kids, can be really memorable. With limited heat sources and cooking appliances, the kids will be excited by the rustic cooking methods (or if you have a camper, they’ll be thrilled that the kitchen has wheels.)
Here are different camping meals and recipes to try for your kids:
Around the campfire
When you think of campfires, you can’t help but think about s’mores and hot dogs, but you’d be surprised at what you can cook on the campfire!
Mountain pies are sandwiches made over the fire in a cast iron press, and like a roasting stick, the iron has a metal rod with a handle. It can sit directly into the coals or rest above the fire and the outer layer of the sandwich, usually buttered bread, gets crispy while the inside toppings get melty and gooey.
There’s a camping recipe to meet every appetite with this type of sandwich.
- Traditional sandwiches: Grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, lunch meat. Make sandwiches as usual. You’ll be impressed with the flavors that emerge when made into a mountain pie.
- Pizza sandwiches: Layer sauce, cheese, and pizza toppings between slices of bread.
- Breakfast sandwiches: French toast, egg sandwich. Make sure eggs are cooked completely. For French toast, soak bread in a mixture of egg, cinnamon, and sugar.
- Dessert sandwiches: Apple, cherry, berry, or other fruit pie. To make easy fruit pies, add canned pie filling between slices of buttered bread.
Butter outsides of bread or insides of pie iron to prevent sandwiches from sticking. Try this incredible Mountain Pie dessert that uses biscuits instead of bread.
Aluminum foil camping recipes for kids can be made the old-fashioned way in the fire, on the grill, or in the oven. Fold the ingredients from a kid-friendly recipe, like a hamburger with vegetables or bacon ranch chicken with potatoes in foil and cook. Kids will like picking out ingredients and adding them to their personal foil.
As far as camping dinner ideas go, foil packets are pretty great. You can seal an entire meal in one packet, freeze them in advance if you wish, the foil can be used as a plate, and you won’t have to do the dishes! Try these combinations.
- Fajitas: Chicken or steak strips, bell peppers, onions, and lime.
- Shrimp and vegetables: Shrimp, butter, garlic, zucchini, onions, herbs and seasoning.
- Sausage and riced cauliflower: Sausage, broccoli, parmesan cheese, riced cauliflower, and salt and pepper.
A Dutch oven, a heavy pot made to cook over flames and excellent for an outdoor camping trip, will be your best friend if you plan to cook many of your meals onsite. You’ll be able to boil, steam, sauté, fry, and bake in this one piece of cookware.
Some easy Dutch oven camping recipes that kids will love include macaroni and cheese, soups and stews, chicken and dumplings, tacos, egg casseroles, and even desserts like peach cobbler and oversized chocolate chip cookies.
You can use the Dutch oven to make camping recipes for kids directly in the coals of the fire or you can use a campfire grate. Not only will a grate keep metal cookware, including foil, just above the flames, but you can grill food directly on the surface of the grate.
An over-the-fire griddle is ideal, as you can imagine, for breakfast foods like griddle cakes, eggs, and bacon, but it also serves as a wonderful way to fry your fresh catch, stir fry vegetables, and flip steaks, shrimp, chicken, and burgers. And fits right on top of the campfire grate.
Reveille (for the morning wake up call)
If you’re not ready to cook eggs and pancakes over the fire bright and early in the morning then these camping breakfast ideas that don’t involve cooking are for you.
- Yogurt parfaits: Layer fruit, granola, nuts, or other toppings with yogurt (recipe below).
- Overnight oats: Combine oats, almond milk, yogurt, maple syrup, and nut butter or chia seeds for a quick and protein-filled breakfast.
- Tuna salad: Add mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and celery to canned tuna. Serve alone or on a bagel.
Trail mix fix
These snack foods will tie kids over between meals.
- Trail mix: An assortment of dried fruit, nuts, and pretzels or snack crackers are nutritious snacks that are long-lasting and keep kids’ energy up.
- Popcorn: Pop kernels in a Dutch oven or heat Jiffy Pop (which can be quite the entertainment) over the flames.
- Kid’s charcuterie: Set out an assortment of healthy snacks like cheese, crackers, fruit, and raw veggies for kids to graze on as a snack or light meal. Get creative with this camp-themed charcuterie.
Take a dip
Some of the best camping recipes can be eaten straight out of the cooler. Who doesn’t love a great dip?
Try one of these kid-approved recipe ideas (that double as motivation for eating more fruits and veggies):
- Taco dip: cream cheese, sour cream, refried beans, shredded cheese, lettuce, onions, olives, and tomatoes (if kids bristle at any of the ingredients, prepare a section of the dip without them and eat with chips or fresh veggies).
- Yogurt dip: Yogurt, honey, and vanilla (pair with fresh fruit or graham crackers).
- Spinach dip: Mayonnaise, sour cream, spinach, water chestnuts, and soup mix (dig in using veggies, bread, pretzels, or pita chips).
- Guacamole: Avocado, tomato, onion, garlic, salt, and lime (yummy on tortilla or pita chips).
If you’re camping in a group, a potluck-style meal where each group brings a dish to share, is a good way to add variety to everyone’s plates and share the responsibility of providing a meal. Contribute camping food recipes that can be made in large quantities, without too much difficulty, and appeal to both kids and adults.
Easy camping potluck recipes, like these are crowd-pleasers.
- Campfire nachos: Using your choice of nacho toppings and ingredients, bake a family-style pan of this tasty dish over the fire (see the recipe below)
- Confetti bean salad: A combination of beans, onions, corn, peppers, and spices with a sweet vinegar tang makes for a fantastic dip or side dish.
- Asian slaw: Kids will want to sample the crunchy ramen noodles added to the cabbage mix and ramen seasoning dressing in this recipe.
- Sloppy joes: This sweet and smoky ground meat can be added to a sandwich, salad, or eaten alone.
Now that you have some recipe ideas, you will be able to plan your meals in advance, know which ingredients to pack, and know how much cooking to do ahead of your trip. Keep it simple, make it tasty, and get creative!
Do you go camping with your kids? Tell us your favorite way to cook or prepare food while camping in the comments below.