Easy Dehydrated Backpacking Meal Recipes

When planning a backpacking trip, you must carefully consider the food you will bring on your adventure. There are no refrigerators or microwaves in the backcountry. You will need healthy, nutritious meals to replenish the energy you use daily on the trail. The following five homemade dehydrated recipes are easy and simple meals, perfect for a backpacking adventure.

Dehydrating Meals

The process of dehydrating food removes all water and moisture from it. As a result, it extends its shelf life, meaning the meal, even vegetables and meat, will be good for an extended period without being refrigerated. This is why dehydrated meals are popular in the backcountry.

The recipes in this article can be dehydrated in an oven or a dehydrator. Both work. Plan to dehydrate the food for about 10 hours between 135 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I like to prepare the meal and let it dry in my dehydrator overnight. The recipes below specify how to dehydrate and rehydrate the meal before eating it.

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Dehydrated Backpacking Meal Recipe #1: Mexican Beef Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can of corn
  • ¼ cup of chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of dried cilantro
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1 ½ cup minute rice
  • 3 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 3 tsp ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 3 tsp hemp hearts (optional)
  • 3 freezer Ziploc bags (or similar sealable bags)

Directions 

  1. Cook onion and bell pepper in a pan with olive oil.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned.
  3. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, cilantro and garlic powder and mix well. 
  4. Once the meat is cooked through, add in the corn and mix well.

Dehydrate this homemade backpacking meal

In the oven: Set oven to 145o Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the Mexican beef in a thin layer on the sheet. I suggest using two baking sheets. The thinner the layer is, the better the dehydration. Let bake (or dehydrate) for 8-10 hours. 

In a dehydrator: Spread the meal in a thin layer on each tray. If your dehydrator has a temperature setting, set it at 145o Fahrenheit. Let it sit overnight or for 8-10 hours.

You will know the meal is entirely dehydrated once dry and breaks into hard clumps. The meat will feel similar to gravel when rubbing it between your fingers.

This recipe should make 2-3 meals. Remember, once dehydrated, the meal takes much less space, and it will seem like it is not enough, but once rehydrated, it will return to its original size, texture and taste.

Prepare the meal for backpacking

  1. Once the meal is dehydrated, separate it into three equal portions. 
  2. Put each portion in a freezer Ziploc bag. 
  3. Add ½ cup of minute rice, chia seeds, ground flax seeds and hemp hearts in each bag.
  4. Seal the bag properly.
simple homemade dehydrated backpacking meal in a ziplock bag

Rehydrate the backpacking meal

I pour the contents of the dehydrated meal into my WindBurner, pour water over it until it is covered with water, and turn on the burner. Once the water is hot (boiling), I turn it off and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. I stir the meal and ensure there is enough water to rehydrate the meat thoroughly. I’ve had to add a bit of water mid-way if I did not use enough at the start. The meal rehydrates faster when the water is hot, but that might just be me. Either way, I still want to eat it hot.

Some hikers will prefer to eat the meal from the Ziploc bag. This is possible if you use a freezer Ziploc bag. They are thicker and able to withstand hot water. I  like doing it this way as it keeps my WindBurner clean. No dishes are needed. If you choose this method, boil about 1.5-2 cups of water, and once boiling, add it to the bag, reseal and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Again, rehydrate the meat entirely to its original look and texture.

Dehydrated Backpacking Meal Recipe #2: Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 cup of spinach, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup of chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 freezer Ziploc bags (or similar sealable bags)

Directions 

  1. Cook onion and green pepper in a pan with olive oil.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned.
  3. Add spinach and mix well.
  4. Add the can of diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, paprika and garlic powder. Add cayenne pepper (optional). Mix well.
  5. Let simmer for half an hour, stirring often.
  6. Add the can of kidney beans.

Dehydrate this homemade backpacking meal

In the oven: Set oven to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the chili has cooled, spread the chili in thin layers on trays lined with parchment paper. Let bake (or dehydrate) in the oven for 8-10 hours. 

In a dehydrator: Spread the chili in a thin layer on each tray. If your dehydrator has a temperature setting, set it at 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it sit overnight or for 8-10 hours.

dehydrating an easy backpacking chili recipe

Prepare the meal for backpacking

  1. Once the chili is dehydrated, break it up into chunks. 
  2. Separate the chunks into three equal portions. 
  3. Put each portion in a freezer Ziploc bag. 
  4. Seal the bag properly.

Rehydrate the backpacking meal

I pour the contents of the dehydrated chili into my WindBurner, pour water over it until it is covered with water, and turn on the burner. Once the water is boiling, I turn it off and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. I stir the chili often and ensure enough water to rehydrate the meat completely. I sometimes have to add a bit of water mid-way when I do not use enough at the start.

Some hikers will prefer to eat the meal from the Ziploc bag. This is possible using a freezer Ziploc bag; they are thicker and can withstand hot water. No dishes are needed. Boil about 1.5-2 cups of water; once boiling, add it to the bag, reseal, and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Again, completely rehydrate the meat to its original look and texture.


Dehydrated Backpacking Meal Recipe #3: Chicken curry with couscous

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup freeze-dried chopped chicken
  • ¼ cup dehydrated mixed vegetables
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 2 tsp powdered chicken bone broth (or chicken flavour base)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ cup uncooked couscous
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • ½ tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground flaxseed (optional)
  • ½ tsp hemp hearts (optional)
  • 1 freezer Ziploc bag (or similar sealable bag)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in the freezer bag and seal.
  2. To rehydrate the meal, boil 1.5 to 2 cups of water.
  3. Add water to the meal and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

*This recipe makes one portion.

Dehydrated Backpacking Meal Recipe #4: Chicken Alfredo with egg noodles

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup freeze-dried chopped chicken
  • ¼ cup freeze-dried chopped mushrooms
  • 2 tsp powdered chicken bone broth (or chicken flavour base)
  • 3 tbsp canned grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 2 tbsp instant powdered milk
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herb blend
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup of egg noodles 
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • ½ tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 1 freezer Ziploc bag (or similar sealable bag)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in the freezer bag and seal.
  2. To rehydrate the meal, boil 1.5 to 2 cups of water.
  3. Add water to the meal and let sit for 10 minutes.

*This recipe makes one portion.

Dehydrated Backpacking Meal Recipe #5: Chicken and rice 

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup freeze-dried chopped chicken
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ¼ cup dehydrated mixed vegetables
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 2 tsp powdered chicken bone broth (or chicken flavour base)
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ cup minute rice
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • ½  tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • ½  tsp ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 1 freezer Ziploc bag (or similar sealable bag)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in the freezer bag and seal.
  2. To rehydrate the meal, boil 1.5 to 2 cups of water.
  3. Add water to the meal and let sit for 10 minutes.

*This recipe makes one portion.

Grocery list for the homemade dehydrated backpacking meals

backpacking meal recipe grocery list

For more backpacking meal ideas, this 5-day backpacking menu lists breakfasts, snacks and lunches on top of the delicious homemade dehydrated recipes from this article. The menu concentrates on high-energy snacks and meals for backpackers.

If you are planning a backpacking trip, the Ultimate Guide to Backpacking will ensure that you have everything covered, from gear to food and clothes, plus safety tips.

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