Many, many delicious calories
June 23, 2009 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Please give me your best long-distance hiking / bicycle touring / <insert other adventurous endurance activity> food recipes!

The watchwords here: densely caloric, easy to prepare (ideally in a single pot over a white gas cookstove), delicious and made from ingredients that are readily available in small, out-of-the-way groceries. Bonus points for recipes featuring lightweight, easily luggable ingredients.
posted by Captain Rayford Steele, Tribulation Force to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Dal Bhat

It's really just rice and lentil soup. The Nepalese basically live off it, including the porters who carry 200+ pound loads daily, over 2000' of elevation change, without shoes. I dont know that lentils would be available in an "out of the way" store, but rice certainly would.

To prepare, in the context of a backpacking trip etc:

Soak rice and lentils overnight in some water and salt. Drain water and store in ziploc bag. When ready to eat, dump rice and lentils into small pot, add enough water to cover (or more if you like it soupy). Add fave curry powder (and chili powder if you like) plus whatever other veggies you like or have. Cook until soft, maybe only about 20 minutes, adding water as necessary. Chow down. Huge carbo/protein bomb, nutritious and relatively low weight.
posted by elendil71 at 5:13 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Swiss Breakfast

I premix a large batch, and then separate portions in ziplock backs. 1/3 of your daily fibre, 325 calories a portion, lots of nuts and fruit in it. Keeps me full until lunch, without fail. Also good with yogurt or adding some skim milk powder. Lots of room for variation.
posted by furtive at 6:25 PM on June 23, 2009

Trail Cooking (formerly freezerbag cooking) has a lot of easy meals and a youtube channel to go with it. This section of the site has the freezer bag recipes. I love the freezerbag concept because all I have to do is boil water and dump it in the bag of pre-mixed ingredients. There's only a spoon to wash after it's all said and done. When I was on the road for 3 months, I'd make these in 3-4 bag increments based on what I could find at local stores. Usually I'd do something based on minute rice, dry soup mix, and packaged chicken or tuna. Another favorite was the Thanksgiving dinner in a bag, which was one package of instant potatoes, one package of dry gravy powder (or half a package if you're not into so much salt), and dried cranberries. Put chicken in right before adding the boiling water, and you have a pretty decent meal. If I could get couscous, I'd do that with curry powder, dried veggie soup mix, and some sort of protein.

They've added a lot to the site since my trip in 2006, so there's more to sort through, but I'm sure you'll find some good recipes there. I loved that I could pull into camp, start water boiling, and have dinner almost ready before I even had the tent set up.

There's also a series of posts on Crazyguyonabike about One Pot Meals (aka 1PM) that may help you build your list.
posted by BlooPen at 9:22 PM on June 23, 2009

There are plenty of camp bread recipes using baking powder as a leavening agent. It's nice to have something pastry-like on the trail. The vacuum packets of chicken and tuna are nice protiens if you get tired of going with freeze-dried stuff.

Not really a recipe, but pita bread is also nice if you're into grains. Not quite ultra-light, but light enough, and it travels well.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:44 PM on June 23, 2009

the nols (national outdoors leadership school) cookbook has a ton of tasty, backpackable, ludicrously high calorie recipes.

gado-gado is delicious and pretty high-cal (to me at least, but i am a small lady who does not need a whole lot of them)

the recipe from the nols book is below, but it's basically just cooked noodles with a tasty tasty peanut sauce thrown over it.

1/2 lb. spaghetti or ramen noodles
4 cups water
3 Tbs. + 1 tsp. oil
2 Tbs. sunflower seeds
1 Tbs. dried onion, rehydrated
1/2 Tbs. or one packet base*
3 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. black pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
1/2 tsp. spike (optional)
3/4 cup water, or more as needed
3 Tbs. vinegar
3 Tbs. soy sauce
3 Tbs. peanut butter
sliced green or wild onions, if available

Break pasta in half and put into boiling unsalted water to which 1 tsp. of oil has been added. Cook until done; drain immediately. In a fry pan, heat 3 Tbs. oil and add the sunflower seeds and rehydrated onions. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the base with the brown sugar, garlic, other spices if desires, and 3/4 cup water. Add the vinegar and soy sauce. Add peanut butter and stir. Do not burn! To eat this hot, heat the sauce thoroughly and pour over hot spaghetti.

This recipe is best cold, and it loses some of its saltiness as it sits. Mix sauce and spaghetti, cool quickly, and serve chilled. If available, sliced green or wild onions as a garnish add to the flavor.

but most of my backcountry experience is canoeing, which doesn't have major weight restrictions, and with kids, who don't have great palates.
we ate a lot of english muffin pizzas (put split english muffins, pitas, flat carb in pan, add tomato sauce, cheese, various proteins on top), pasta with rehydrated TVP, a potato-cheese soup from nols, fajitas (bring dried pressed tofu and fresh veggies for one of the first days out and tortillas hold their shape well in your bag), snickers for breakfast, a ton of pb & js, ramenramenramen with dried egg powder and dried tofu for protein, dehydrated veggies.
posted by chickadee at 10:01 PM on June 23, 2009

My budget back country meals consist of a package of those pasta-side dishes that just need milk (i used powdered milk) with either a packet of tuna, or if weight is an issue, dried shredded pork, available at any Asian grocery store. Lately they've been adding more vegetables to the pasta-side dishes, so you're in luck!
posted by furtive at 6:53 AM on June 24, 2009

It's also worth getting one of the little bitty squirt bottles for olive oil. It gives you a fat to fry/sautee in if you need one, packs well, and you can add it to pastas and such for a calorie/tastiness boost.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:55 AM on June 24, 2009

Basically, you don't want to carry any water in your food - that will increase the weight. Oatmeal is a great breakfast - either instant or regular, and you can add dried fruit, nuts, and nut butters for variation and more calories. Bring powdered milk to make it in (more calories & protein than just using water). Good snacks/ lunches are things that require minimal preparation, like (again) dried fruits and nuts (bring lots of variety), tortillas with nut butter, energy bars (either homemade or bought). Jerky is great. I would avoid pita bread in favor of crackers or tortillas, since bread does have water in it - tortillas do to, but I think they have less, and since they have fat, they're more energy dense.

In terms of dinners, I'd buy some instant bean soups - you don't want uncooked beans, of course, since they'll take too long to cook, but Whole Foods generally has pre-cooked dehydrated beans and bean soups that are super easy and very light. Some kinds of lentils also cook pretty quickly. I'd never thought of bringing oil along, but that makes a lot of sense, for flavor and fat. Pasta is another good dinner choice - easy & light - though you'll probably want some protein and fat with it. Backpacking stores sell dehydrated meat that is apparently pretty decent once rehydrated, but expensive-ish. Packets of tuna are cheaper, but weigh more, since they aren't dehydrated.

Be sure to bring some spices - eating the same thing all the time can get old. Cinnamon & pumpkin pie spice are great for oatmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper will go a long way towards seasoning dinner. I love cumin, but ymmv on that one.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:37 AM on June 24, 2009

Heat one packet or can of chicken with a small jar of salsa. Once it's bubbly, stir in a single-serving (or more) bag of fritos and a bag of shredded cheese. Add tobasco if you've got it and like it. Scoop into soft tortillas, fold in half, and eat. No plate necessary! (This serves 3-5 people depending on appetite, so I don't make it when I'm backpacking by myself. It's hard to cut down the size, but it's delicious and, as requested, easy to find all the ingredients in out-of-the-way towns.)

The Cranberry Chicken Rice recipe from the aforementioned freezer-bag cooking people is truly excellent. I make it almost every time I go backpacking. I've also enjoyed many of the other recipes on the website that BlooPen linked to. (Be warned if you're in bear country, curry powder mixed into rice or couscous or whatever will make the rest of your backpack smell like curry, even while sealed and dry in a freezer bag.)

If you get a food dehydrator, your options will be much greater and cheaper. Dehydrate a bunch of veggies to throw with tuna into a lipton rice or noodle side dish. Make your own fruit leather. Dehydrate homemade spaghetti sauce, curry sauce, tikka masala sauce, chili, etc. and then cook it in hot water on the trail.

If you head to a big outdoor gear store like REI, there will be cookbooks devoted to this subject. I have the second one from Backpacker magazine and like it a lot. Even if you don't buy one, paging through will give you some ideas about cooking methods you might not have considered before.
posted by vytae at 9:52 AM on June 24, 2009

Oh, I sustained myself on tortillas, landjäger sausage and a hunk of gouda for four days once. Was excellent rolled up and toasted.
posted by furtive at 6:35 PM on June 24, 2009

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