Recipes for portable, unrefrigerated food
October 6, 2021 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I want to carry real food on outdoor adventures that can go without refrigeration for up to 24 hours (assume I'll have a base camp with refrigeration for resupply at 24-hour intervals). I've already got stuff like Clif bars, nuts, and dried fruit, and those are fine, but I need some variety and am looking for some recipes I can make at home.

The ideal food:
- Is calorie-dense with a balance of protein, carbs, and fat
- Requires no prep in the field (putting it between two slices of bread is fine)
- Is not messy to handle
- Can be carried in a disposable wrapper
- Is at the savory end of the flavor spectrum rather than sweet

I don't have any dietary restrictions worth noting. I avoid deep-fried food when exercising, and don't have a deep-frier at home anyhow.
posted by adamrice to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
dry cured salami and hard cheeses
posted by phunniemee at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2021 [13 favorites]

posted by danep at 9:21 AM on October 6, 2021

A container of chili, or the like, will keep just fine for 24 hours if packed with a small freezer pack in an insulated pouch. Same for many other soups, stews, etc. I would just avoid stuff prepared with milk or cream.
posted by beagle at 9:31 AM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

TastyBite Indian food (plus naan)
posted by pinochiette at 9:40 AM on October 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

You would have to acquire technology at home to make and package actual homemade food that will be shelf-stable for 24 hours - even vegan food, once cooked, is on a four-hour clock that at best can only be extended a few hours by hard-freezing. You could can anything cannable (and yes, stuff like stew and chili and spaghetti can be canned) but most non-pickled savory food has to be pressure-canned - and then you're dealing with jars, not so much "disposable wrappers", plus they contribute some serious extra ounces to your carrying weight.

There is a lot of very good pouch food available now, by which the pouch technology replaces jars and cans. Ready-to-eat Indian meals (Tasty Bite, Ashoka, etc) were probably the fore-runners but you can get all kinds of entrees or sauces plus shelf-stable ready-to-eat rice, pasta, grains, etc. Plus you have a huge selection now of flavored (and even already-dressed) tuna and chicken in pouches. And then do like the ISS astronauts do and use tortillas for all your bread needs, as they won't smush and don't make crumbs.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:45 AM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Moon Cheese... store-bought or homemade.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:13 AM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Onigiri / rice balls. I keep my rice at room temp for days and haven't had an issue, and regularly bring cooked rice on camping trips. Scoop a handful of cooked rice into plastic wrap, gather the corners, and twist the wrap closed so that the rice balls tightly. Use your hands to shape them into a triangle shape if you want to get fancy.
You can go crazy with fillings here. For 24 hours, I'd probably stick to jerky, dried shredded pork (deliciously salty / umami), or I'd go as far as pickled vegetables.
Bring pre-packaged seasoned roasted seaweed to complete the onigiri.

Otherwise, highly agree with hard cheese salami, but also non-delicate fruits and veggies. A small cucumber goes great with the salami and cheese, small red peppers, whole carrots, and apples. The crispness and juiciness of fresh produce is otherworldly after eating dryass bars all day.

Tortillas are less squishable than slices of bread. Tortilla with hummus and above ingredients would be great. I've also been known to do tortilla with peanut butter (and honey) for lunch, if you fold it in half twice, it stays neat stored in a bag. (Another sweet deviation is tortilla + nutella + cinnamon)
I've also been into whipping up waffles to bring on high exertion outings to switch things up. I have a mini waffle iron, and whip up some Birch Benders batter (just add water) and it takes about 10 min to make two mini waffles.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 10:36 AM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

The classic: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Tasty, nutritious, cheap, environmentally responsible, and if it's good enough for the NBA, it's good enough for me. (If you don't want it too sweet, reduce or eliminate the jelly. You can also substitute honey.)

Or oatmeal/peanut butter bars. Here's one recipe, but if you start with a bunch of oatmeal and peanut butter, you can add (or not add) anything you want, including flour, eggs, sugar, nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, milk, and yogurt. Here's a recipe that's just oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips, and doesn't even require baking.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I also highly recommend Skratch's cookbook Feed Zone Portables. I've gotten a ton of good ideas for the exact purpose you state (portable shepherd's pie! Bake two sheets of mashed potatoes until firm, cut into squares, and use them to sandwich peas, meat, and cheese.). I'd feel comfortable letting most of those recipes go for 24 hours, but that's obviously personal preference around food safety. You'd definitely get more buffer time if you start with your items frozen.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 10:45 AM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

You can also add stuff to the PBJ sandwiches - a local shop puts slices of Granny Smith apples in PBJ sandwiches.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2021

StarKist tuna or chicken pouches?
posted by hanov3r at 10:51 AM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

You could try out the classic Korean picnic foods - hardboiled eggs, whole cucumber and kimbap. Blueberrypuffin's suggestion for onigiri - pickled veggies - is a good one for kimbap too. I would skip the sesame oil if you don't think you'll eat it within 8 hours and especially if you are hiking in hot weather. Also standard in my family -- a little tub of gochujang and a larger tub of cut carrots and whole Korean peppers (1 in 8 will be hella spicy! surprise!). Um what else. Oh, plain cooked rice in a tupperware, with non-saucy, sturdy side dishes like myeolchi-bokkeum (pan-fried teeny anchovies) in smaller tupperware.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:33 AM on October 6, 2021 [5 favorites]

Roasted chickpeas or pumpkins seeds
Rice cakes
Kale chips
Toasted seaweed
Mushroom jerky
posted by mezzanayne at 12:09 PM on October 6, 2021

pickles/pickled vegetables
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:59 PM on October 6, 2021

Canned fish or eel and very dense bread is one of my default camping foods.
posted by eotvos at 1:00 PM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Indian meals in pouches are heavy-ish but very tasty and nutritious. Better heated, but pretty good at trail temp.
Lots of people leave cooked rice in a pot for a day or 3; 24 hours if the cooked rice is promptly put in a container (ziplock) would not worry me, but is against food storage guidelines.
Kimchi is not calorie dense, but keeps well and is so good with rice. Pickled foods keep well. Canned tuna with rice and kimchi is really good.
Canned stuffed grape leaves (dolma) are available at Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's olive or artichoke tapenade is great on pasta or rice; lots of oil for calories.

You could freeze wraps, freeze a bottle or 2 of water for keeping them cool, and have a tasty meal and fresh water. This applies to lots of meals - chili and pasta comes to mind. Pasta salad would do well if you can keep it cool-ish. I add broccoli, red pepper, peas, canned artichokes, pepperoni, dressing and mayo. Parmesan cheese if you eat dairy.

Harder cheeses travel better, hard sausages, bread, mustard, pickles.

Don't forget the chocolate.
posted by theora55 at 1:11 PM on October 6, 2021

>I keep my rice at room temp for days and haven't had an issue, and regularly bring cooked rice on camping trips.
In the UK we have advice not to keep cooked rice more than a day and to reheat thoroughly because of bacterial spores that survive cooking to feast on cold, loose carbohydrates emiiting waste that gives you food poisoning.
posted by k3ninho at 2:47 PM on October 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

Cooked potatoes and rice are both risky when improperly stored. You do not want The Botch on the trail.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:15 PM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Shred a cabbage in to a large zip lock bag, add instant Ramen noodles generous dash of basalmic vinegar maybe olive oil or sesame oil .
Toss in your pack it will be delicious tomorrow and the day after..
posted by hortense at 5:27 PM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Get some tortilla wraps and make burritos! They don't even have to have mexican fillings. I often add chickpeas to some butter chicken sauce (not too much) and turn it into a wrap. The filling combinations are almost endless...
posted by piyushnz at 6:18 PM on October 6, 2021

My go to in this situation is peanut butter on bagels. Can take serious squishing, but also has a solid carb base if you are burning calories at a good clip
posted by advicepig at 7:13 PM on October 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

The dehydrator is your friend!

I've recently been making crackers with 2 cups cooked lentils, about 12oz finely chopped kale, maybe 1/2 cup of flaxseeds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, and some other stuff for flavor (salt, sauerkraut, mustard, herbs & spices). That's a meal or two. I haven't tried yet, but I suspect that crushing some and soaking them in water for a few hours would yield cold soup or something that resembles hummus.

Assorted veggie chips, dried or roasted depending on the veggie and your preferences. You could also shred or cook & mash a lot of vegetables and add them to the crackers above.

Dried or toasted chickpeas (and other beans) can be a nice snack. You can flavor them with ginger, soy sauce, vinegars, etc. Goes well in a trail mix, too.

Ground pumpkin or sunflower seeds mixed with miso and optionally other flavorings, left to ferment in the fridge for a few days, and then wrapped in nori sheets or formed into patties and dried until crunchy make a pretty good vegan jerky. (There's a company that sells some very tasty ones, and I've DIYed some that didn't turn out quite as well but were still good.)
posted by sibilatorix at 1:08 AM on October 7, 2021

Some good answers in this previously, too.
posted by mediareport at 12:54 PM on October 7, 2021

Dried, whole-fat milk powder is where it's at. Often marketed as a nutrition-substitute for infants, products like Nido can be mixed with other dry or dehydrated staples to provide a huge calorie boost while backpacking.

It has to be whole-fat milk powder, not the fat-free garbage in the blue box. Assuming you will have access to water, two of my favorite recipes can be prepped at home and then rehydrated in the field:

Overnight Oats: Into a ziplock bag, assemble 2 parts each rolled oats and milk powder, 1 part chia seeds, half a part brown sugar, plus dried fruit, a dash of salt, and cinnamon. Before pulling it up your bear-bag at night, add cold water and seal. In the morning: delicious oats!

Mashed potatoes: Into a ziplock bag, assemble 2 parts each mashed potato flakes and dehydrated potato shreds (often labeled as hash browns), 1 part milk powder, plus dehydrated chives, bacon bits, salt and pepper. Rehydrate in the bag with water that has cooled from a boil (hot, but not too hot -- you'll need to be able to hold the bag). Instant creamy mashed potatoes!

Pack out the ziplocks and use them for your next trip. Just don't pour boiling water into them!
posted by joebakes at 4:05 PM on October 7, 2021

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