My Top 3 Favorite Healthy Backpacking Dinners

After a long day of arduous backpacking, there is absolutely nothing better than refueling with a warm, delicious meal.

I almost never “cook” when I’m backpacking because I’m usually completely exhausted by the end of the day.

For this reason, I only eat pre-made, dehydrated or freeze-dried backpacking meals when I’m in the backcountry.

I am sometimes in shock how good many freeze-dried backpacking meals are today, especially compared to the ones I ate over 15 years ago while backpacking as a kid.

My criteria for what makes the “best” backpacking meal include:

  • amazing taste
  • made with whole food, minimally processed, clean ingredients
  • dairy and meat free
  • vitamin and nutrient dense
  • lightweight and compact
  • high in calories and protein
  • just add boiling water (or sometimes a few extra ingredients)
  • comes in a single or two serving pouch or container that you cook inside
  • cooks in 20 minutes or less
  • made in the USA by an ethical company

All three of the meals on this list meet this criteria.

My Top 3 Favorite Meals

1. Good To-Go Herbed Mushroom Risotto

This might be my all-time favorite backpacking meal. Maybe it’s the Italian in me, but there is something incredibly comforting and nourishing about warm risotto after a long day on the trail.

Cooking method: Pouch

Calories per serving: 410

Protein per serving: 13

Best Backcountry Addition: top with sliced avocado and/or blue corn tortilla chips. You can even put its meal inside a tortilla and turn it into a burrito.

Cook time: about 20 minutes

Company Ethics: Good To-Go partners with and donates meals to the Redwood Empire Food Band, a Feeding America member food bank, in order to help fight hunger.

What I love the most:

  • Amazing flavor - I could eat these at home instead of "real" food because they are so good.
  • Clean, healthy ingredients

Check prices here.

2. Backpacker's Pantry Cuban Coconut Rice and Black Beans

Beans and rice are staples for backpackers because they are easy to cook and high in protein, low-glycemic carbs, fiber, and other healthy nutrients important for recovery. But the problem with beans and rice is that they can get old quickly. This meal is anything but bland and boring. It makes the classic beans and rice combo taste so good you will never get tired of it.

Cooking method: Pouch

Calories per serving: 420

Protein per serving: 14

Best Backcountry Addition: top with sliced avocado and/or blue corn tortilla chips. You can even put its meal inside a tortilla and turn it into a burrito.

Cook time: about 15-20 minutes

Company Ethics: Backpacker's Pantry is part of 1% for the Planet, which means they donate 1% of their sales to nonprofits dedicated to protecting the environment.

What I love the most:

  • Tastes great
  • Very filling
  • Dehydrated, which retains more nutrients than freeze dried meals.
  • Clean, healthy ingredients

Check prices here.

Pro Tips

  • Make sure you take the oxygen absorber out of your meals before you add water! There are little pouches that you will find in your bag that keeps the food fresh, but they will ruin your meal if you leave them in while cooking.
  • Add nuts, whole grain bread, and/or olive oil to a meal to easily add nutrient dense calories.
  • Choose a different theme for every night so that you don't get tired or sick of particular meal. For example, I usually rotate through Italian, Latin, and Asian meals.
  • If you buy single serving pouches for each meal, you don’t have to go to the trouble of washing any dishes or cookware. Remember to pack out all trash though!

3. Food for the Sole Triple Peanut Slaw

One thing that I love in particular about Food for the Sole meals is how nutritious they are. Packed with dehydrated veggies, you really can't find healthier backpacking meals than the ones they make. If you are a nutrition nerd like me, you will love every Food for the Sole meal. This is my favorite meal they make, but I recommend you try them all.

Cooking method: Pouch

Calories per serving: 570

Protein per serving: 21

Best Backcountry Addition: top with sliced avocado, mix with brown rice,

Cook time: about 20 minutes

What I love the most:

  • Dehydrated, which retains more nutrients than freeze dried meals.
  • High in nutrients and clean ingredients - this company has the most health-nut friendly meals
  • Vegan
  • Only requires cold water to rehydrate

Check prices here.