Of all the meals you’ll have in the Boundary Waters, dinner is probably the most popular. This is a time for your culinary creativity to shine. It’s a time for some variety, some spice, some flavor.
Because there are so many directions to go with dinner, the following seven Boundary Waters dinner ideas and recipes were chosen for both their simplicity (they’re all pretty easy to make) and for the variety. You can easily modify as you see fit. And since they are all delicious, it’s hard to get tired of them.
Pro tip before we start: When you go to restaurants, stock up on Condiment packets, such as mayo, hot sauce, olive oil, mustard and stash them away for your trip.
Now onto the dinners.
1. The One-Pot Wonder
The basis of countless delicious dinners, both in the Boundary Waters and in many bachelor pads across the country, is the indomitable one-pot wonder. The basic recipe is simple: A grain, some veggies, meat or meat substitute, seasoning, cheese. No need for precise measurements or portions! Easy enough with a refrigerator full of leftovers, but how do you bring all of this into woods with you?
Here are some ideas:
This is the simplest category and because it forms the basis of your meal, also the most important. Whatever you and your fellow campers prefer, quinoa, faro, rice, couscous, orzo or some mixture.
- Dehydrate your own hamburger.
- Fry up lean hamburger grounds with plenty of salt and seasoning
- Blot off all the excess fat and grease (this will prolong the shelf life)
- Place the cooked grounds in a food dehydrator for about 6 hours, or until they are crips and thoroughly dried
- Package in an air tight container and for the sake of longevity, store in your freezer until you leave on your trip
- Several companies sell freeze dried ground beef, which is pricey but very convenient.
- Chicken pouches. Starkist makes shelf-stable chicken pouches that are available at most grocery stores
Vegan meat alternatives
Textured Vegetable Protein, or TVP, is a great substitute for dehydrated hamburger or meat in general. It has a firm texture, is virtually tasteless and takes on the other flavors you’re cooking with. Many carnivores pack this on trips!
If you have a food dehydrator, you can prepare veggies yourself. Otherwise, Harmony House sells an impressive array of dried veggies. PackitGourmet sells a great, 8-in-1 vegetable blend.
You can always pack in your own fresh veggies. Onions, peppers, potatoes and many other vegetables will stay good for the duration of a week-long trip. The challenge is to keep them from being crushed!
Cheese. Either pack in a vacuum-sealed block of cheese, or bring instant cheese mix, such as Trio cheese sauce mix, which, for good or for bad, will bring back some intense memories of stadium nachos.
You’ll also want to bring some spices to jazz things up. Bring your favorite blend. Cavender’s, Siracha, Spike, Molly McButter (seriously), Cajun are all popular choices.
2. South Asian Food
Thanks to the numerous pouches of readymade curry, lentils and masala that come in single serving, shelf-stable packs and are available in most grocery stores, South Asian food is one of the easiest, and the most flavorful, diners you can make in the Boundary Waters.
You’ll need to bring about ½ a cup of grains, such as quinoa, couscous, or rice, that you will cook in a separate pot. Or, you can do the one-pot-wonder method and simply pour the room-temperature pouch onto a hot pot of rice, mix and you have a delicious, easy meal.
The only drawback is that because each packet is intended for an individual, it can be a bit cumbersome for large groups. Even so, ripping open a package and dumping it into a pot is pretty simple!
3. Beans and Rice – 5 Ingredients for dinner magic
A fair share of people eat only beans and rice when they’re out camping, and for good reason. This meal is simple, nutritious, loaded with protein, fills you up and one of the best things you can cook up over a stove or a fire.
At the most basic level, you only need two ingredients – beans and rice (big surprise, right?) But to do it right, you need five ingredients:
- Rice (between ½ and ¾ cup per person)
- Dehydrated refried or whole beans. You can find a variety of these from Santa Fe Bean Co. One of these packets is will be plenty for between two to three people.
- Some variety of meat, such as smoked summer sausage (because it lasts) or a meat substitute like Textured Vegetable Protein.
- Cheese – A vacuum-sealed block of cheese or instant cheese mix, such as Trio cheese sauce mix.
- Taco seasoning
In addition, you might want to bring some hot sauce or a bag of Frito Lays or tortillas chips. These will probably get crushed, but will be delicious, nonetheless.
4. Chicken Alfredo
Pasta is a staple of camp meals, but it can also be really boring. Here are the ingredients and the method to make a delicious pot of chicken alfredo.
Here’s what you need for two people:
- 2 cups of your favorite pasta – Rotini, bow tie, macaroni, etc.
- 1 packet of StarKist chicken
- 6-8 Sundried tomatoes
- 6-7 olives (rather than buy expensive, bad tasting olive packet, throw a few from your jar at home into a Ziplock).
- Knorr Alfredo Sauce or pesto.
- About half a cup of powdered milk
Here’s what you do (in the spirit of the one-pot wonder, these instructions allow you to do it all in a single pot):
- Boil the pasta until it is tender. Drain so there is about a cup of water left in the pot.
- Stir in the powdered milk with the pasta and water until it is dissolved.
- Do the same with the Knorr Alfredo Sauce. Stir until it is creamy
- Add chicken, sundried tomatoes, and olives.
- Stir and serve!
5. Taco Mac and Cheese
If there ever was a competition for comfort food, Taco Mac and Cheese just might take first place.
Ideal at the end of a long day when your legs are tired and arms weary, this recipe is remarkably simple and oh, oh so good.
In the simplest terms possible, here is what you need:
- One box of Velveeta mac and cheese (any generic variety is fine, just make sure it comes with a creamy cheese packet rather than powder)
- Summer sausage, dehydrated or freeze dried ground beef. If anyone you travel with doesn’t eat meat, pick up a substitute like Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP).
- Taco seasoning
- Fill your pot with water and and the dehydrated hamburger or TVP
- Bring the water to a boil and add the macaroni noodles. Boil until the noodles are soft.
- Drain the water. Since this is the wilderness you probably won’t be using a strainer, so be careful not to pour out the reconstituted hamburger or noodles!
- Add that packet of cheezy goodness, stir and serve.
6. Instant potatoes and stuffing
This one is for those days when you get into camp and can’t bear the thought of making anything but the easiest meal. And you got a pit to fill. And plenty of water to drink, because if you’re watching your sodium, skip to the next recipe!
Here’s what you need for two people:
- One 8 ounce packet Idahoan instant potatoes
- Bacon bits
- One cup of Stove Top Instant stuffing
- Powdered/ instant gravy
- All you need to prepare this is boiling water. For simplicity sake, you can mix the potatoes and stuffing in a single pot. Just follow the instructions for each mix, you might need more water as the stuffing and potatoes are very absorbent.
- Mix the gravy, according to instructions, in a separate bowl.
- Serve, top with gravy and bacon bits
7. Darn Good Chili
Despite the papyrus-like font they use, Bear Creek makes some of the heartiest soup mixes out there, and their Darn Good Chili mix is perfect for a few days in the wilderness.
On packet feeds two. You can either just reconstitute this mix on its own with water, or do so with sundried tomatoes, a protein, such as dried hamburger, TVP or summer sausage.
That being said, there are two things to keep in mind with Darn Good Chili:
- Use only about half the water they call for, around 4-5 cups.
- The day after this meal, be sure to paddle bow and avoid being downwind of anyone else who ate the meal. As you can imagine, if you are on a trip with young boys, there will be a lot of giggles.