Vegan campfood for the carnivore at heart
June 3, 2013 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Going on a 2 night trip with a couple of vegans. I don't particularly like vegetables and I especially like things like butter. When camping I like to fish, make meaty chili, etc. Can I please have your tastiest things to make and do around the campfire with my vegepeople.

We will be travelling by kayak, so not too much room, but we should have a griddle and some pots and an alcohol burner. Since we aren't too constrained by weight I figured I could preboil pasta and let it sit in a sauce and things like that. But I would love some pancakes or griddle cakes, I can imagine doing a bean and uhh.. what, quorn, chili. We probably won't cook lunch but breakfast and dinner. You tell me!
posted by Iteki to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Tofurkey hot dogs are the best. Freeze them and then let them thaw over the day. Even my meat friends say they're not bad - good texture.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2013

Bisquick mix is vegan-friendly so you could probably carry a baggie of it for a pancake fix for everyone's pancakey needs. There are also cans of veggie chili for dinner you heat up, pasta & sauce is good. I see you're in Sweden; do you or your veggie friends have access to refrigerated faux ground "meat"? That way you can bulk up any on-the-quick pasta dishes.

Other snacky/proteiny suggests for on-the-go would be trail mixes (obviously) and we really like these for travel/hiking: Primal Strips.
posted by Kitteh at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2013

There's a bit of non-vegan stuff in there, but Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpacking has a bunch of recipes for backpackers (or any self-propelled travelers). It's basically a recipe book to make your own versions of dried backpacker food, so many recipes will call for extensive use of a food dehydrator - this may be somewhat beyond the level of difficulty you're looking for, but it's a good resource. Some recipes also call for items that need to be mail-ordered, but my wife and I have made quite a few things from the book without having to do that. The breakfast selections are usually pretty easy and don't involve much more than throwing quick oats and other stuff into freezer bags.
posted by LionIndex at 12:33 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't take Quorn - it's not vegan (contains eggs)

This is tricky - I'm vegan but I've never been camping.

Bean chilli is good, pancakes are good (they can vegan) - vegan food doesn't have to be based around a meat substitute (although they can be nice).

Are potatoes OK? Baked spuds might be fun.

You can make or buy mochi (rice flour and water and sugar) which apparently can be toasted like marshmallows. There are even vegan marshmallows (no idea how good they are) but that might be spoiling your vegepeople too much...

I've got a recipe here for vegan breakfast pancakes:

1 mug plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 mug soy milk
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix dry, mash banana & soy milk and mix it in. Then fry.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

just a warning, many pastas are made with egg, and aren't vegan. Lentils will be good, they cook up quicker than dry beans.
posted by kellyblah at 12:35 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know you don't like vegetables, but mushrooms and eggplant are great meat replacements. For the mushrooms I'd get big ones and toss them with olive oil, salt, & some crushed garlic. Eggplant, I'd peel, salt, and pat dry at home, then toss with olive oil and grill until browned. Getting some good, pungent spices in there (even something kind of generic like Montreal Steak Seasoning) will help replace the flavor you feel is missing, too.
posted by gauche at 12:37 PM on June 3, 2013

If you're not up to making backpacker food yourself, MaryJanes Farm/Outpost has backpacker food that is largely vegetarian and vegan - if you see it in stores (I usually get it at REI), they'll state clearly on the label whether it's vegan.
posted by LionIndex at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2013

Can you ask your companions? They may have ideas already, or just want to eat gorp.
posted by holyrood at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2013

Vegan marshmallows are totally good. Look for the Dandies brand. Lots of chocolate chips are also vegan. Then you can cut open a banana, stuff it with those two things, wrap it in aluminum foil, and cook it over the fire until everything is delicious and melty.
posted by something something at 12:54 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Avoid meat replacements as if they were the devil. I've was vegan for a while (to loose weight, it's amazingly efficient), and I just hate all the meat-replacement stuff.
You can make pancakes without eggs or milk. But use beer in place of water/milk. And maybe a little more sugar.
Lentils are good food, really nourishing and easy to cook on a campfire. You only need to bring onion and spices, but with potato, celeriac and garlic, it really begins to resemble good food.
Similarily, there is a reason beans are cowboy food. They are a little more complicated than lentils, but for your purpose, you can use (organic) canned beans, and still get a great meal out of them with the right combination of vegetables and spices.
Are you going in the mushroom season? Because then pasta with mushrooms is a wonderful, simple dish, for which you need only bring pasta, garlic and parsley.
Are you in Sweden? because then knäckebröt, mayo and potatoes would be great for either breakfast or lunch.
For the first day, a ready-made vegetable soup with pasta in it, packed in a can you can heat, would be a good lunch.

I canooed a lot when I was younger, and our preps were always vegan because we planned on catching fish and buying eggs on the way. Sometimes we failed, but we had enough basic vegan staples to get us through - only slightly starving. It's cheap and easy.

Back then I knew about mushrooms, but not about natural growing herbs. Today I might buy a book or something about regional edible plants, and include them in my planning.
posted by mumimor at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2013

Best answer: I'm mostly vegetarian and often go for Mexican-style cooking when I camp. My standards of quesadillas and eggy breakfast burritos would be out, I suppose, but you could do some nice tacos with beans and pre-chopped cabbage, peppers, onions, cilantro and tomatoes, and maybe do a tofu scramble with those same ingredients for breakfast burrito filling? Another good tofu scramble option is pesto, pine nuts, and onions.

Potatoes with the skins oiled and salted, then wrapped in foil and placed in the coals for an hour come out really nice, and if you make extra you can dice them up and make amazing, lightly-charred home fries the next morning.

For the chili just use a variety of beans and plenty of onion and lots of chiles, both fresh and ground dried. If you want something more for texture throw in some bulgur wheat (or vegan meat substitute of your choice.)
posted by contraption at 12:57 PM on June 3, 2013

Best answer: Rice noodles with peanut sauce.
Chili with black beans and squash, maybe over some rice.
Polenta with olive oil and olives, topped with spinach or other cooked greens, possibly even dandelion greens.
Grilled veg - sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, peppers, etc. Precook sweet potatoes & brussel sprouts, then slice sweet potatoes into slices and oil & grill them. Brussel sprouts go on skewers with peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc. You can brush veg. with a tasty marinade for extra flavor.
Baked potatoes with olive oil & onions. Partially slice potatoes. Slice very thin onion slices, and insert into potatoes. Add garlic powder, douse w/ olive oil, wrap in foil & bake.
Campfire corn on the cob
Burritos with refried beans, rice, salsa.
Apples with brown sugar, wrapped in foil and baked
Rice pudding with coconut milk and dried apricots or other dried fruit
Vegan s'mores
Vegan foods that are easy: Humus, corn chips, cole slaw, blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, felafel, baked beans.
Meat needs careful refrigeration on a camping trip, where a lot of vegan food is easier to store. A day of paddling and setting up camp males everybody hungry, which makes food taste great.
posted by theora55 at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Longtime vegan and backpacking enthusiast here. I eat like a king on camping trips!

TVP/textured vegetable protein/textured soy(a) protein is a fantastic substitute for ground meat (especially in chili) if it is available. It's lightweight, lasts forever, and is always super easy to prepare. Bulgur wheat is also great for this purpose. Boca Ground Crumbles are vegan as well, but TVP and bulgur are better.
Yes to lentils, too -- red lentils will kind of dissolve and thicken your chili; brown or green lentils tend to hold their shape better. Both lentils and TVP can stand in for ground beef to make tacos as well. Alternately, Sloppy Joes.

Pancakes: Pre-mix the dry ingredients from this recipe. Bring some soymilk and vegetable oil with you. Mix as needed. Ghirardelli chocolate chips are vegan, if you feel like getting decadent with your 'cakes. You might also make some instant oatmeal packets that can be prepared with water, soymilk, or dairy milk.

There are many different types of vegan butter on the market; the most common is Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread. It's a bit saltier than dairy butter but it's just the best. If you have access to Quorn (which, as mentioned above, is not vegan), you can probably find Earth Balance -- it comes in sticks as well as tubs. Otherwise, if you're just looking for something to grease a skillet, vegetable oil will work fine.

Foil packets are really, really good -- toss together cubed potatoes, carrots, onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever other spices you'd like, wrap in aluminum foil, poke a few holes in it to release a bit of steam, and nestle each packet into hot coals or put it on a grill grate over the campfire for 45-60 minutes. Open the packets VERY CAREFULLY. You can measure out spices into plastic/Ziploc bags beforehand so you don't have to haul jars with you. Meat eaters can add some cut sausages or whatever to their packets.

Definitely check to see if your pasta contains eggs, but in my experience, the less expensive the dried pasta, the less likely it is to have been made using anything more than semolina wheat flour, salt, and water, so look for the cheap stuff!
If you need a starch beside pasta, try boil-in-bag rice or basic couscous (1:1.25 ratio with water/veg stock, season as needed -- bring liquid to a boil, stir in couscous, cover, remove from heat, let sit for 5-10 minutes, fluff with a fork).

This may be too vegetable-heavy for you personally, but one of my favorite easy camping meals is chana masala -- 1 big glug of vegetable oil + 1 bag of pre-diced/pre-measured onion, garlic, ginger & jalapeno + 1 bag of pre-measured spice mixture + 1 can of diced tomatoes + 2 cans of chickpeas (drained & rinsed), finished with chopped cilantro/coriander + squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve with boil-in-bag basmati.
Any of these dishes by Tasty Bite would work as well; they can all be heated in and eaten out of the bag. Fantastic Foods make "just add water" box mixes for vegan Sloppy Joes, tacos, chili, burgers, and tofu scramble flavoring.

Make sure to bring a jar of peanut butter, regular nuts, fruit, and a loaf of bread, as well as a few other veggies just for them -- that way, they can add more veg to their own foil packets (sweet potatoes, parsnips, squash, eggplants, and sweet bell peppers work especially well) and have some other stuff to cram down if they need a quick snack.
posted by divined by radio at 1:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

As someone who has food allergies, you should be asking the people with the dietary restrictions. Ideally, they should pack their own food.

I really prefer it when people just tell me to be in charge of it myself, partly so I know I won't have problems, but also because why should they be scouring markets trying to figure out what the hell I can eat when I feed myself every day and already know exactly where to look?

Also, some things fit my restrictions, but are gross. There is a lot of bad vegan food out there. Your vegan friends know what's good.
posted by Dynex at 1:49 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Vegan crêpes, the easy-peasy way: make a batter from flour and equal parts apple juice and fizzy mineral water. Add some baking powder and a pinch of salt. That's all!
Fry them in coconut or sunflower oil (or any cooking oil, really).

These turn out amazingly well. And I'm not even vegan. I make them for friends with food intolerances and everyone loves them.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:55 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can bring a pie iron and make hot sandwiches stuffed with things that are not cheese. Avocado is good.

If you like the idea above of quesadillas, you can use mashed sweet potato instead of the cheese.

But really, ask them what they want. They will have preferred oils and sandwich fixings and probably strong opinions about fake meats.

But, if the trip is long enough, tuck away some vegan candies as a surprise for the middle/close to the end of the trip.
posted by bilabial at 1:57 PM on June 3, 2013

N'thing the suggestion to ask them what they suggest, but I also understand if you want some ideas to fuel your own brainstorming. I've done some camping with vegetarians (although no vegans yet) and a few standout meals were:

Burritos made with mashed sweet potatoes/black beans/onions/peppers (pre-cooked and frozen and eaten the first or second night) with salsa/hot sauce. Skip the cheese. Flour tortillas travel well (they don't squash like bread)

You can buy dehydrated hummus powder (I found it at a bulk store) that you can mix up with water and olive oil in a ziploc or nalgene and eat with pita bread and carrot sticks. It takes a couple hours to rehydrate properly, so better to do it in the morning for lunch or whatever.

Couscous + almonds + dried apricots + dehydrated onions + spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, pepper) + stock cube = fast, easy, shelf stable dinner for later in the trip.

Homemade instant oatmeal packets for fast breakfasts. Make ones with different dried fruit (cherries and dark chocolate--check for vegan-ness--were a standout) to vary it a bit.
posted by quaking fajita at 2:04 PM on June 3, 2013

Not all beers are vegan. Some are clarified with isinglass (fish byproduct). Again, ask them how specifically vegan they.
posted by holyrood at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

My immediate thought was to cook and eat them, but......

You would be best served by asking them what they want, better yet, have them bring some their own food. I've found vegans to be a very picky lot, and quite variable in what they consider Acceptable Things To Eat.

Tofurkey hot dogs are vile, imho, in both texture and taste. I'd much rather eat real non-meat food than any of the highly processed, chemical-laden substitutes. Bean chili, sans meat, can be quite good with good chili spices, especially if made with different types of beans. Eggless pasta and nonmeat sauce. I think there are egg free pancake mixes.

I'd definitely bring some nonvegan stuff to supplement what is being made for the main dish, so you don't feel deprived, or worse, hungry, if that is not the type of food you are accustomed to.
posted by lawhound at 6:39 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You will not even be able to guess that this insanely easy vegetarian chili has no meat, or meat substitutes. It's a staple at our carnivorous house.
posted by mbarryf at 6:46 PM on June 3, 2013

posted by BenPens at 7:23 AM on June 4, 2013

Response by poster: Woah, you people take your food seriously! Thanks for all these great tips. Extra love to those who went with the how-to's or stuff that I personally thought sounded tasty. Unfortunately many of the specific brands mentioned wouldn't be available here, but I think we will be well fed :) I trust my vegepeople to actually feed themselves, so they aren't entirely (or even vaguely) at my mercy, but I really want to be able to also treat them to something nice to show I am a good sport. Great thanks to all who pointed out quorn isn't vegan! I will probably go with tofu. If I could get my hands on vegan kimchi I would knock their socks off, but it's easier said than done around here.

It's unfortunately too early in the season to mushroom hunt or we would be fat as piglings, but I am now receiving any and all recipes for lentil sloppy joes which just sounds like the most fantastic thing I have ever heard of, I am drooling at my computer.
posted by Iteki at 1:04 PM on June 4, 2013

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