After a day of fun in the outdoors, treat yourself to a super-tasty meal that’s shockingly easy to make
Elaine Johnson, Amy Machnak, and Stephanie Spencer
1 of 20Photo by Thomas J. Story
Chicken Enchilada Nacho Bowls
This Mexican spin on the campground favorite Frito pie is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The nacho bowls, which can be partially made ahead at home and then finished at camp, are a family favorite that are so easy to make that even the kids can pitch in with the prep. At home, you’ll cook chicken with a mixture of onion, enchilada sauce, crushed tomatoes, black beans, oregano, chipotles, and brown sugar. Once the chicken mixture cool, you can transfer it to a container or a resealable plastic bag and chill. Pack it in your cooler and reheat it at camp for a few minutes in a pan on your camp stove. Divide tortilla chips among bowls and top with the chicken mixture, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, and chopped cilantro. Finish the nacho bowls with a squeeze of lime and a drizzle hot sauce. Don’t be surprised when there isn’t one drop of this tasty camping dinner left!
If your kids love mac ‘n’ cheese but you don’t want to cook up a boxed version at camp, this is the recipe for you. A sharp cheddar sauce and smoked-paprika bread crumbs give this mac a massive flavor boost, making it a camping recipe that both adults and kids can love. For easy prep in camp, make the sauce and bread crumbs at home, and buy one-pan, no-drain pasta. (Or cook regular pasta in camp as noted.) At home, you’ll toast and season the bread crumbs, which can then be stored in a resealable plastic bag. You’ll also make the sauce, which is made with a roux base with milk and shredded cheese mixed in. The sauce can be transferred to a container and chilled. At camp, cook the pasta on the camp stove. When it’s done, mix in the cheese sauce until heated and well blended, and then top with the bread crumbs.
The classic camping meal in a foil pouch gets a serious upgrade in this fresh version. For a head start, make the meatballs at home. At camp, you’ll need heavy-duty foil, long tongs, grilling gloves, and a firepit with a cooking grate. The savory meatballs are made with ground turkey, sausage, grated parmesan, milk, bread crumbs, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper, plus one special ingredient—chopped Calabrian chiles—which gives them extra kick. (You can make the meatball mixture at home to save time at camp if you’d like.) You’ll create individual portions by creating the foil packets, which consist of a square of heavy duty foil. Place three meatballs in each packet and top with potatoes, onion, and carrots. Drizzle with an olive oil-based sauce, wrap the packets, and grill them on your campsite firepit grate. In about 30 minutes, they’ll be done cooking. Unwrap carefully, and voila—you’ve got a simple camping dinner that the whole family can enjoy.
A little-known but important rule of a successful camping trip is to serve at least one truly special dinner—something that seems as if it might be impossible to prepare in a campground but is, in fact, surprisingly doable. This will be the meal you’ll talk about for many trips to come. These pan-seared steaks, served with sautéed mushrooms and a simple red wine sauce, certainly fit the bill. And even if you’re a beginning camper, you can pull off this four-star dish made on the camp stove. A bonus: The mushrooms, steak, and sauce all cook in the same pan, which makes cleanup a snap.
Put the Mediterranean seasoning blend called zaatar to work to give camp chicken a complex flavor with minimal ingredients. You can start marinating the chicken at home, and even freeze it ahead. The simple marinade consists of olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, zaatar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Once you’re at camp, you’ll grill the chicken on a charcoal- or wood-fired grill for about 20 to 30 minutes. During the last few minutes of cooking the chicken, also put lemon wedges and green onions on the grate, turning just until grill marks appear. Serve with salad as well as rice or crusty bread for a complete camp meal.
When he was chef at Terra Bistro at Vail Mountain Lodge, Kevin Nelson (now the managing partner) refueled guests after skiing and other workouts with a flavorful lower-fat chili. It keeps well in a cooler if you want to make it at home. Whether you prepare it in advance or make it fresh for dinner, the recipe is fairly simple and yields delicious results. You’ll sauté onion, bell peper, garlic, and poblano chile, followed by ground turkey. Once the turkey is browned, you’ll add in canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and a surprise ingredient: agave! Once you bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, which gives the flavors ample time to blend. Just before serving, stir in fresh-squeezed lime juice, salt to taste, and top with chopped cilantro and shredded cheddar cheese.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-make vegetarian option for your camping dinner, don’t feel limited to boxed pasta and jarred sauce. Hobo bundles, full meals cooked in foil packets, are super simple to prep and cook, and can be customized to your liking. This version packs protein in the form of tofu and fresh veggies in the form of eggplant and cucumber. Added to the mix: Asian flavors, japaleño, and fresh herbs for a delicious combo. The packets take only a few minutes to cook, freeing you up to enjoy more of your time at camp. Serve with rice and extra soy sauce.
Rib-Eye Steaks with Pistachio Butter and Asparagus
Flavorful and generously marbled, rib-eye makes a great splurge meal, particularly when topped with a distinctively flavored butter. This butter is blended with pistachios and arugula, which produces an appealing green color and yummy topping for your steaks. If you can’t find unsalted pistachios, use unsalted butter to balance the salty nuts. You can make the pistachio butter up to one week ahead and store it in the fridge until it’s time to pack up the cooler. The steaks are minimally seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled on high heat for about 15 minutes for medium-rare results. You’ll grill the asparagus for the last few minutes, until tender-crisp. The amount of pistachio butter is generous; if you like, turn the asparagus in some of it right after the spears come off the grill, and top steaks with the rest.
What’s simpler yet more satisfying than a grilled hot dog served in a bun? This certainly rings true for the little ones at camp, yet grownups might crave something a bit more special. With several toppings, including caramelized onions, bacon, and barbecue sauce, these dogs are a show-stopper at camp. They can be customized for a range of diners, from those who like their dogs plain to those who want them fully loaded or with just some of the toppings. To caramelize the onions, cook them in olive oil over medium heat until deep golden and very tender, about 20 minutes. Fry up bacon as you normally would and chop it once it’s cooled. Come to camp with shredded white cheddar cheese for sprinkling atop your cooked hot dog, as well as barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, and spicy brown mustard for a trifecta of delicious condiments.
Camp Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Sausage, and Fontina
Yes, a pizza recipe you can make at your campsite! Alan Rousseau, a guide with Seattle-based Mountain Madness mountaineering company, came up with this ingenious way to make pizza in a frying pan. For efficient prep, bring the ingredients in sealed containers, grouped by use. This recipe tops the pie with caramelized onions, sausage, and mild fontina cheese, but it’s easy to adapt this camp pizza with any number of other toppings. Meat lovers can sink their teeth into a pie topped with pepperoni, sautéed green pepper, shredded mozzarella, and slivered yellow onion. Those who love salty-flavored foods will flip for a pizza topped with caramelized chopped onions, anchovies, Niçoise olives, and parmesan. Vegetarians or veggie lovers, get excited about a pie with sautéed sliced summer squash and mushrooms, as well as dried basil and shredded mozzarella. For a pie with a Western spin, try shredded rotisserie chicken mixed with barbecue sauce, crumbed cooked bacon, slivered red onion, and shredded mozzarella. No matter which variation you try, you're guaranteed to have zero leftovers.
16 of 20Photo by Greg DuPree; food styled by Margaret Dickey; props styled by Audrey Davis
Devilish Chorizo Chili with Hominy
Spicy and hearty, this chili only gets better when it’s made ahead. Tote it along in your cooler, frozen, to the campsite, heat it up in a Dutch oven on the fire, and serve it with hunks of warm cornbread.
Pound the chicken breasts before you get to camp and put the chicken marinade ingredients in a re-sealable plastic bag. Toss everything together 30 minutes before you plan to grill to give the chicken time to marinate.