Salsa and Corn Dumpling Soup

The golden hour has just passed and the sun’s warm rays are slipping away. The excitement of the day is starting to wear off and the anticipation of food and a cozy sleeping bag become the focal point. It’s time to stop, get some dry layers on and enjoy a warm meal before settling in for the night.

Time to layer up at Eagle Lake in Mineral King

That’s pretty much a typical end of a backpacking day for me. It seems no matter how much or little ground has to be covered in a day, I’m always racing to set up camp and get dinner going before the moon comes up. Luckily, on our trip to Mineral King, we had this Salsa Soup with Corn Dumplings planned for dinner.

Salsa and Corn Dumpling ingredients

Making salsa soup

In a nutshell, this is a spicy tomato based broth that gets covered in cornmeal batter dumplings. Let it simmer for 10 minutes until the batter is cooked. When you peek into the pot, your dumplings will probably have converged into one delicious cornbread-like pillow over the soup. In each bite you get a subtly sweet starch layer followed by hot and spicy broth. Soup naysayers stand down because this meal is comforting and will satisfy any ravenous hiker.

Salsa soup showing rehydrated bell peppers

Putting corn dumpling batter on top of salsa soup

In preparation for the trip, I used a dehydrator for the first time. I didn’t follow any recipes but rather put random stuff on the trays and let it go for a long time until it appeared to be completely dry. There are better ways to do things, but I’m impatient, and I was really excited to use this machine.

Salsa soup ingredients in a dehydrator

Fortunately, the homemade salsa and red bell pepper I added to the recipe rehydrated really well in the soup and added texture to the broth. My salsa was pretty basic (lazy), just fresh tomatoes, cilantro, salt and lime that I pureed in a food processor. If you don’t have access to a dehydrator, you can purchase dehydrated bell peppers and dehydrated salsa. Substitute the amounts called for in the recipe with 3 tablespoons dehydrated bell pepper and 3 tablespoons dehydrated salsa.

As for the dumplings, I’m not talking about Asian-style dumplings but the other kind which consists of steamed or boiled dough or batter. Read more about the origin of dumplings here.

This recipe is modified from my standby Backpacking recipe book Simple Foods for the Pack – also mentioned in this Grits Cakes post.

Salsa soup covered in corn dumpling

Eagle Lake in Mineral King at dusk

Salsa and Corn Dumpling Soup


2 generous servings

Prep Time / Cook Time


Activity Guide

Backpacking, Car Camping


  • 1/2 cup tomato powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons dried cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 bell pepper, diced and dehydrated (optional)
  • 1 cup blended tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeños, dehydrated (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated


  • Ladle
  • Large pot
  • Stove
  • Long handle spoon


At Home:

  1. Combine soup dry ingredients in a quart size ziplock bag (tomato powder, dried onion flakes, dried bell pepper & salsa, garlic powder, cilantro, oregano, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, red chili flakes).
  2. Combine dumpling dry ingredients in a quart size ziplock bag (cornmeal, flour, milk powder, baking powder, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin and parmesan cheese).

At Camp:

Pour 4 cups of water into pot and bring to boil. Add soup ingredients to the water and lower heat to a simmer.

Add 1/2 cup of water to dumpling ziplock bag and seal. Knead the contents of the bag until dough is evenly mixed. It will be a thick sticky batter.

Spoon batter directly on top of the simmering broth and cover for 10 minutes. Don’t peek!

The dumplings are ready when they are puffed up and cooked through the middle. Cook for 5 additional minutes if the middle still seems doughy.




6 thoughts on “Salsa and Corn Dumpling Soup

  1. Pingback: Frog Mom
  2. Would you continue to simmer while waiting for the dumplings, or do you think if it was covered and insulated and let sit for a little longer they’d cook anyway? Thinking about trying this recipe out and I am a stickler for fuel savings.

    1. That’s a great question. I haven’t tried cooking the dumplings without simmering, but my guess is if the dumplings are not too thick it may work. I could see cutting the simmer time down in half and the dumplings slowing finishing up with the remaining heat. Please let us know if you try a different method!

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