Traveling in a campervan brings with it a huge sense of freedom and shows you how simple life can be if you let it. But #vanlife can complicate things, too.
When it comes to cooking in a campervan, you might wondering how to make a proper meal with a fraction of the kitchen space you’re used to.
Fear not: We’re here to tell you that camping food can be healthy, delicious and easy to make! And we’ll be sharing our favorite camping recipes to prove it!
(Plus, these recipes are all vegetarian, and most can be made gluten-free and vegan too.)
Cooking in a Campervan
In total, we’ve spent 5 months living in campervans, and we have done a lot of experimentation with cooking. Let’s just say we know what works and what doesn’t... When you only have 1 square foot of chopping space and 2 burners, you’ve gotta get creative and cook differently than you would in “normal” kitchen.
But you know what? We’ve actually come to love it. And we’ve “invented” some camping meals that we make even when we have a full kitchen — they’re that good!
Plus, cooking your own camping food is a great way to save money on road trips, so having some go-to recipes is a must!
Our campervan meals are:
Easy: With limited space and time, we have to choose simple recipes that don’t require a ton of equipment, fancy skills or hours of prep. (One of these meals is one we regularly bring into the backcountry — where we literally just have a pot and some heat to cook with!)
Healthy: These recipes are balanced and nutritious meals. You won’t find any recipes for instant noodles or PB&J sandwiches here. Those are easy and cheap, but we never feel good after eating crappy food.
Inexpensive: Part of the reason to cook instead of eating out is to save money. These camping recipes are made with ingredients that are easy to find and affordable.
Delicious: Umm, duh. Life is too short for food that doesn’t taste good.
Adaptable: We don’t always have access to the ingredients we would at home, so these camping meals can be altered with what you have on hand.
Today, we’re sharing 7 of our go-to campervan recipes that check all those boxes. Plus, we’re going a step further…
Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-Free Recipes
All of these recipes are vegetarian; and most can be made gluten-free or vegan (we’ll make notes of this!).
We’re not vegetarians, but we cook mostly meatless camping food while traveling in a campervan for a handful of reasons:
Keeping meat at the correct temperature in a campervan can be difficult.
Properly cleaning kitchen surfaces after handling meat is not a headache you want to deal with when you’re living in a tiny space. Trust us.
Eliminating meat from your groceries saves money!
Eating less meat helps us reduce our carbon footprint.
It’s just not necessary. Trust us, these meals are so tasty (and packed with protein!) that you won’t even miss the meat!
Quick and Delicious Camping Recipes
Alright, let’s get to it!
Remember, each of these recipes can be altered depending on what ingredients you have on hand. And none of them require exact measurements. If it calls for 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, do your best to estimate (ain’t nobody got real measuring spoons in their campervan!).
Each recipe makes (at least!) 2 large servings. We are both big eaters, and we also like to have leftovers for a quick lunch the next day. You can alter the amounts based on your needs.
Vegetable Lentil Soup with Garlic Croutons
Full of veggies and protein-packed lentils, this healthy soup is one of our favorite one-pot meals.
While traveling in New Zealand, we were making this meal in a Holiday Park kitchen and we had at least 3 different groups of people come up and ask what we were making because it looked (and smelled!) so good.
It’s so good in fact, we’ve started making it even when we’re not in a campervan! The best part is you literally CAN’T screw it up. And you can use whatever vegetables are in season where you are traveling. Each time we cook this, we add a slightly different combination of veggies, and it’s always a hit!
The vegetables listed in the ingredients are suggestions, but use whatever you have on hand. You certainly don’t need all of them!
At least 3 vegetables of your choice! Here are some we like: 1 potato, 1 small zucchini, 1 carrot, 2 celery stalks (including leaves), handful of button mushrooms, ½ bell pepper (save the rest for snacking with hummus)
1 small onion or ½ large onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup lentils
greens, like spinach or kale (optional)
2 veggie bouillon cubes
1 can diced tomatoes
salt to taste
OPTIONAL Garlic Croutons: 1/2 baguette + 2 extra garlic cloves
1. Start by chopping the veggies. (Remember, use whatever sounds good to you or what you have on hand. It’s okay if you don’t have all the vegetables listed, or if you want to add ones that aren’t on this list.)
2. In a pot, add a bit of oil (1 tablespoon or so) with chopped garlic and onions, and cook over medium-high heat.
3. When the onions start to look translucent, add the lentils. Stir so they are lightly coated in oil and mixed in with the onions and garlic. (You can add a bit more oil or water if it starts to burn.) Keep stirring for about one minute, making sure they don’t burn on the bottom of the pot. This step helps add lots of flavor to the soup later, so don’t skip it if possible.
4. Now, add most of your vegetables (carrots, celery, potato, zucchini). Keep the quick-cooking veggies like mushrooms, bell pepper and greens to add at the end.
5. Immediately after the vegetables are added to the pot, add 2 cups of water so they are just covered. (Depending on how many vegetables you have, you might need a bit more water.) You can also add your bouillon cubes now. Tip: I like to dissolve them in a mug with a quarter cup of water first to make sure no chunks are left.
6. Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer. After about 5 minutes, try piercing the vegetables with a fork. They should still be firm, but able to be pierced. (If they are too hard, keep simmering for a few more minutes.)
7. Add the can of diced tomatoes and any soft vegetables, like mushrooms, bell pepper and spinach. Add cracked pepper to your liking. Cover the pot again and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.
8. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper if needed.
Garlic Croutons: For a nice crunch, make quick garlic croutons to serve on top of the soup.
9. Chop up half a baguette into bite-sized pieces (or leave them in slices, as pictured). On a skillet, heat a table spoon of oil with 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the cubed bread and toss until it is coated in garlic and oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and let it toast for 3-4 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown. Top with cracked pepper if desired.
10. Serve your lentil soup with a generous handful of croutons on top, and some roughly chopped celery leaves (optional) for a bit of freshness.
Healthy Camp Oatmeal
This is our go-to camping breakfast just about every morning. It is quick, healthy, and gives us a kick of energy we need for adventuring!
The beautiful thing about oatmeal is you can make all different types of flavor combinations so you don’t get sick of it. We’re sharing our basic recipe, plus some other combinations to try when you want to spice things up!
We make a big batch of this and store it in a container or bag so we have it ready to go in the mornings. We make another batch as soon as we’re running low.
Basic Morning Oats
This recipe is for a big batch that you can store so it is ready to go in the morning.
4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut milk powder (optional: makes any oatmeal recipe more creamy and satisfying)
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
dash of sea salt
big handful dried cranberries
1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
1/2 cup shredded dried coconut, unsweetened (optional)
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large sealable bag. To serve, be sure all ingredients are mixed well and put as much as you’d like in a bowl. Add hot water slowly until you reach desired consistency. (I like mine on the drier side and Ben likes his more “wet”.)
Here are some fun variations of the basic recipe:
Apple Cinnamon Pie
Same as basic recipe, but instead of cranberries (or in addition!) chop a green apple into bite sized pieces and add a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. (We add the apple and cinnamon after stirring in the water.)
Same as basic recipe, but substitute dried pineapple (without added sugar if possible) instead of cranberries and add 1 cup shredded dried coconut (unsweetened).
Peanut Butter Cup
Same as basic recipe, but leave out cranberries. Instead, add 1/2 cup cacao nibs (or chocolate chips if you’re feeling decadent!) and serve with a tablespoon of peanut butter. You can add 1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened) as well for an extra indulgent breakfast.
Chocolate Covered Cherry
Same as basic recipe, but substitute dried cherries instead of cranberries. Add 1/2 cup cacao nibs. You can add 1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened) as well if you’d like.
Camp “Pad Thai”
We are huge fans of Thai food, and we find ourselves craving it. Like ALL the time.
We’re going to come right out and say it: This is not authentic Pad Thai. Duh. We’ve spent 2+ years in Thailand and have taken Thai cooking courses, so we are well aware. Trust us, you really don’t want to have a bottle of fish sauce in your campervan in the heat of summer.
But this recipe is so good, that we don’t think you’ll care. Plus, it’s way healthier than traditional Pad Thai (nobody needs a whole cup of sugar in their dinner!).
We’re going to share how to make the basic recipe, plus a bunch of extras you can add for a seriously incredible campervan meal.
1 package rice noodles
1/4 cup peanut butter (almond butter can be substituted if you can’t eat peanuts)
3 tablespoons soy sauce (be sure to purchase gluten-free soy sauce if necessary)
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar (If you want to omit the sugar that’s fine. It does add a nice depth to the meal though.)
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Wanna get fancy? Add all of the ingredients below for a camping recipe that is a serious show-stopper. Or just add a few to liven up the basic recipe.
veggies of your choice: carrots, bell pepper, broccoli and zucchini all work nicely (if you only choose one veggie, carrots are our favorite addition!)
lime wedges (or lemon, depending on what’s available)
hot pepper (cayenne, chili flakes, fresh birdseye chili, etc.)
coconut milk powder (totally optional, but adds a nice creaminess!)
1. In one pot, cook the rice noodles according to the directions on the package.
2. In a separate skillet, sauté onion and garlic until translucent, then add any vegetables you’d like.
3. If you’re adding eggs: Once the veggies are starting to get tender, clear space in the center of the skillet, and crack 2 eggs (1 per person). Sprinkle with sea salt, and use your spatula to break up the eggs and sort of scramble in the middle. Once the egg is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat.
4. In a small bowl, mix peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar and lime. Add a few table spoons of hot water from the rice noodle pot. This will help the peanut butter melt and blend with the other ingredients.
5. Drain the noodles, then toss with the sauce, vegetables and eggs into the pot and cook over medium heat for one minute, or until everything is heated through.
6. Serve with chopped green onions, peanuts, lime wedges and cilantro for an extra delicious meal! You can also add hot pepper if you like it spicy.
One-Pot Veggie Couscous
This dish is incredibly versatile and can be made with all different combinations.
Couscous cooks incredibly quickly, while making this dish with quinoa is more nutritious (and gluten-free). You can use any vegetables that are in season, and experiment with different seasoning combinations.
Add a can of chickpeas for extra bulk and protein, or stir in leafy greens or herbs at the end to give it a fresh flavor. You could even spice it up with fresh hot peppers or a sprinkle of cayenne.
1 small onion (or half a large onion)
2 cloves garlic
Vegetables of your choice
broccoli, red pepper baby corn, zucchini, carrot, potatoes, etc.
leafy greens like spinach or kale
1 cup couscous or quinoa
2 vegetable boullion cubes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
Seasonings of your choice
Simple: salt and pepper
Spicy: cayenne or fresh hot pepper if you like spice (optional)
Fresh: lemon and/or fresh or dried herbs (basil, cilantro, etc.)
1. In a pot, sauté onion and garlic until translucent.
2. Add whatever veggies you have (and chickpeas, if desired). Sauté for a few minutes, until vegetables start to cook, but are still crisp.
3. Add 1.5 cups couscous, 1 cup water and bouillon cubes.
4. Cover and cook on low heat until water is absorbed and vegetables are cooked to your desired tenderness. With couscous, this should take just about 5 minutes, whereas quinoa will take longer. Quinoa also requires more water.
5. Season with salt and pepper, and or other spice combinations, as listed above.
Super Simple Shashuka
This Israeli dish is perfect for both breakfast and dinner, and you won’t believe how incredibly simple it is.
While you can eliminate the bread for a totally gluten-free meal, this is the only camping recipe in this article that can’t be made vegan.
1 clove garlic
1 small onion (or half a large onion)
1 potato (optional), diced
1 can diced tomatoes
4 eggs (2 eggs per person; you can add more to make more servings)
1/2 baguette (optional)
1. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a skillet and sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
2. If you’re making this dish with potatoes, add them in with a pinch of sea salt and cook until potatoes can be pierced by a fork (Tip: don’t stir too much to begin with so one side will get a little browned and crispy). If you don’t want to use a potato, simply skip this step.
3. Make a ring with the potato/onion mixture so the area in the center of the skillet is open. Add a little more oil if necessary, and crack the eggs (2 per person) into the center.
4. Now open the can of diced tomatoes and pour around the eggs (see the picture below).
5. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne if you like it spicy.
6. Cover with lid (a cutting board works if you don’t have a lid; we’ve even used a frisbee!). This step is important, as trapping the steam is what cooks the eggs on top.
7. When a thin white layer has formed over the eggs and all the whites are cooked, it should be ready to take off the heat (see photo above); this usually takes around 5-7 minutes. (Cook shorter or longer depending on how you like your eggs cooked.)
8. Serve with baguette (Tip: after you’ve dished out bowls of shashuka, throw a few slices of the baguette on the skillet with a bit of olive oil and minced garlic (don’t worry about cleaning the pan first). Sauté for a few minutes until toasted on either side.
Bonus: Serve with fresh cilantro, parsley or basil!
Healthy DIY Buddha Bowl
This is one of our very favorite meals to make whether we have a big kitchen or a tiny camp stove. The basic concept of this recipe is super simple: Make a bowl of grains, veggies and protein.
You can pick and choose your ingredients depending on what you’re craving and what you have on hand. We love that it’s versatile and a well-rounded meal to boot!
Let’s walk through the steps so you can make your own. Remember, don’t worry too much about measurements or having all the ingredients. You really can’t screw this meal up, so don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment.
1. Pick a flavor theme you’re craving:
Mexican (aka “Burrito Bowl”)
Asian (aka “Buddha Bowl”)
Mediterranean (aka “Bliss Bowl”)
2. Pick a grain
Mexican: rice or quinoa
Asian: rice, rice noodles or quinoa
Mediterranean: Israeli couscous (or regular), pasta, bulgur or quinoa
3. Pick vegetables: These are just ideas of combinations; feel free to alter it according to your taste.
Mexican: bell pepper, corn, red onion, tomatoes, jalapeño, avocado, etc.
Asian: broccoli, snap peas, bell pepper, onion, mushroom, carrot, baby corn, hot pepper, etc.
Mediterranean: cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.
The Mexican and Mediterranean vegetables are better fresh, while you may want to lightly sauté the veggies for the Asian bowl.
4. Add a protein
Mexican: black beans
If you’d like, you could add chicken to any of these bowls.
5. Add greens: Make it extra healthy by adding one or both of the following:
spinach or kale (you could use romaine, bok choy, Swiss chard, or whatever is easiest to find)
“zoodles” a.k.a. spiralized zucchini (this spiralizer is a great campervan kitchen gadget if you want to eat healthy!)
6. Make a dressing (these are just ideas)
Mexican: cumin + apple cider vinegar + salt/pepper + olive oil + lime AND/OR salsa + sour cream (we prefer plain Greek yogurt)
Asian: soy sauce + peanut butter + pinch of brown sugar/honey + ginger + lime
Mediterranean: balsamic vinegar + olive oil + salt + pepper + lemon AND/OR pesto
7. Serving ideas: Totally optional things to add if you want to spice it up a bit
Mexican: serve with tortilla chips, a lime wedge and/or cilantro
Asian: serve with crushed peanuts, sesame seeds and/or cilantro
Mediterranean: serve with fresh basil/parsley and/or feta cheese
Moroccan Inspired Backcountry Couscous
A few years ago, we stayed at a mountain hut in Washington state and met a sweet father who was hiking with his 3 daughters. They had packed up the ingredients for a dish similar to this one and were cooking when we entered the hut.
It smelled incredible (especially after hiking through the snow!). They offered us a bite, and we loved the sweetness of the raisins mixed with the savory spices.
Backpacking Hack: The best part about this dish is it is super simple and portable. You can literally put all of the ingredients together in a reusable container and pack it up to a mountain hut. It’s lightweight, yet more delicious than the packet meals you can pick up at the supermarket.
Like many of these recipes, you can alter it to fit your taste and what you have on hand. And if you’re not packing it on a backcountry trip, try adding more veggies to make it a healthier, more well-rounded meal. We think cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and/or zucchini are all good additions. You could also add chickpeas for a protein boost!
1 small onion
1 cup water
1/2 cup raisins
1.5 cups couscous (or quinoa if you prefer, but you’ll need to cook it longer and add more water)
tablespoon curry powder
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1/2 tablespoon ginger powder
salt and pepper
1. Chop the onion and sauté in a tablespoon of oil until translucent. (If you’re in a backcountry hut and have no access to oil, a tablespoon of water will work too.) If you are making this dish with more vegetables, this is when you would add them and sauté until desired amount of cooking has been reached.
2. Add 1 cup water and the bouillon cube and cover the pot.
3. When the water is simmering, take it off the heat.
4. Add raisins, couscous and seasonings. Cover the pot for about 5 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.
5. Stir to fluff the couscous and add salt and pepper if desired. Now it’s time to eat. It’s as simple as that!
We want to hear from you!
Do you have questions about any of these recipes? What is your go-to camping meal? Comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.