Whether you’re a sweet-toothed sugar-lover or a thrill-seeking chili fiend, there are plenty of ways to spice up your campfire cooking.
It’s an unfortunate truth that, when it comes to camp foods and MRE kits, compromises are often made. These products tend to be created with simplicity and practicality in mind, meaning that 5-star, yummy, umami taste is often not there. However, with just a little extra planning and pack space, you can prepare meals that are tasty as well as practical and nutritious!
Whether exploring the farthest reaches of nature or on a casual camping trip with friends, there’s no excuse for serving dull food, so here are eight ingredients to make it a great culinary camping experience.
Custom Spice Blends
Spices are a great place to start. They’re used all over the world for the sole purpose of providing intense flavors. They’re also lightweight, versatile, and easy to pack. (Yes, you could buy blends already on the market — like this fantastic herby salt blend — but making your own tends to be cheaper and a lot more fun.)
It’s worth doing a little experimentation and creating your own spice blend. All you need is an airtight container and a few basic ingredients that can be found in most kitchens.
The real joy is in devising and customizing your own mix, but a great place to start is with a combination of salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne, a pinch of brown sugar, and some chili flakes (if that’s your thing).
The mighty mustard is a favorite of many, and it’s the ideal accompaniment to campfire-grilled meats, either in a wet rub or simple condiment form.
For a serious amount of flavor-per-gram, consider mustard powder. It often comes in a durable, pack-friendly tin, and you can use it to mix your own mustard with water once out of doors.
Alternatively, consider this artisan jalapeño mustard. It’s all-natural, organic, vegan, and has high nutritional value.
For the carnivores among us, dried meats are a great way to bring both flavor and substance, as well as plenty of sustaining and calorific proteins, without adding too much weight to our packs.
For example, many Spanish-style cured sausages are packed full of paprika, which works its way out during cooking, meaning that the flavor of just a few slices can permeate entire stews and pasta dishes. (Add some dried jerky to your next cup of ramen while camping and you won’t be disappointed.)
Many outdoor gear stores also sell great jerky products, which are a good option for those looking to add proteins and hydration-regulating sodium to their diet.
Most of us are aware that vegetables lose some nutritional content when preserved, but they actually retain a substantial amount of goodness too!
Because of this, dehydrated veg (think the sort you get in instant noodles) can represent a valuable component of a healthy diet. Dehydrated onion is one of our personal favorites.
Readily available, easily added to stews and soups, extremely lightweight, and with a potential shelf life of several years, dehydrated vegetables are a great choice for longer adventures.
Most of us are familiar with sriracha and Tabasco sauces but, for many people, hot sauce is nothing less than a way of life.
With a whole world of spicy sauces to explore, it may be difficult for newcomers to know where to start. Consider Yellowbird’s organic sauces, which come in handy travel-sized bottles.
Or, if you already have a favorite, take a look at refillable hot sauce keychains for unrivaled portability. Ultralight-travel approved!
Sugar gets a bad rap from time to time, but it provides us with much of the energy we need to keep going.
You might have sugar with you already, and just a pinch can add flavor to practically any dish, sweet or savory. In moderation, sugar is a worthy condiment and a vital source of energy.
We recommend stocking up on handy little sugar sachets, which you can buy online. Or, snag a few for free in your local café!
Bouillon stock cubes and powders are the very definition of concentrated flavor. They’re tiny but intense, weigh practically nothing, and are often individually wrapped for optimal freshness and convenience.
Both meat and veg boullions are capable of packing a powerful umami punch. Simply mix into hot water for a broth, use to enhance soups and stews, or even incorporate into your personal spice blend!
Last but not least, for when the après hour arrives, these cocktail boxes are the perfect way to prepare a few classy tipples, no matter where you are.
These hard-wearing, pocket-sized tins contain interesting ingredients, unique garnishes, dressings, and mixers. All you need to do is choose your favorite cocktail and make room in your bag for a bottle! If the tin package varieties are too heavy for your trip of choice (say, backpacking), there are others on market like the ultralight 21g Pocket Cocktails.
It’s only fair to state that not all camp foods are dull — we’ve taken a look at some great camping provisions and sustaining snacks in the past. But if you’re looking to add an extra dose of flavor to your food, then this list is a great place to start!