If you didn’t know you were going camping until the last minute (which is how most of our trips go), it’s good to have a few staple meals that will satisfy and impress whoever you’ll be camping with. It’s even better if those staple meals are easy to make, and easy to gather ingredients for.
Here are a few of our favorite one pot meals, and these ones have just five main ingredients! It doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious and satisfying.
Quick Note: We didn’t include salt, pepper, oil, or water when counting to five ingredients for these meals. We know they technically count, but we’re going to assume these are already in your backcountry kitchen, and the five main ingredients are items you’ll likely have to shop for.
Skillet Tamale Pie
Tamales take a lot of prep time, so if you’re not ready for it, try this deconstructed version in your skillet or dutch oven.
1 pound ground beef
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained
1 16-ounce jar salsa
1 1-pound tube polenta, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds
2 cups (about 8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large, deep skillet, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat until cooked through. Add the beans and salsa and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and layer the polenta slices over the beef mixture. Top with cheese. Cover and cook until cheese is melted and polenta is heated through.
One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta
This pasta recipe cooks altogether and creates a sauce as it cooks so there’s no wasted water or straining to do. Get creative and add any herbs and veggies that you like. For some extra protein, try adding a drained can of white beans.
1 pound spaghetti
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
pepper, to taste
a few handfuls of basil
In a large pot, combine the spaghetti, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and salt, along with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente. Stir in torn pieces of basil and season to taste with pepper.
This dish is usually ingredient-intensive, but here is a perfect camping version that will still impress your taste buds.
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons garam masala
salt, to taste
In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add chopped onions, ginger and 1 tablespoon of garam masala. Cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally until onions are softened and translucent.
Add tomatoes and their juice to the pot and stir well. Add remaining garam masala and bring mixture to a simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Add chickpeas and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes to let flavors develop. Optional – serve with rice and garnish with cilantro and chili flakes.
Many homemade backpacking meals are five ingredients or less. Here are a couple from our archives:
Post in partnership with REI and Emily is an employee. All opinions shared here are our own.