CAMPING & HIKING

Freezer Bag Cooking: How to Prepare Hot n’ Hearty Meals on the Trail

freezer bag cooking
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

There’s nothing that’ll sooth a tired backpacker’s belly like a hot meal after a long day of trekking through the elements. However, preparing hot meals can be messy, time consuming, and cumbersome. Lucky for us, freezer bag cooking has made its way into the backpacking culture!

Freezer bag cooking recipes can range from very simple to more complex but once you master them, they will be quick to make and delicious to enjoy. On top of that, you won’t need much apart from the most basic of tools, so freezer bag recipes are one good way to lighten up the weight on your back.

Below is a collection of our favorite freezer bag recipes for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The recipes are chock-full of carbohydrates and the micronutrients needed to keep you going strong in the wilderness! Keep reading on to learn more about ways to satisfy your appetite while up on the trail.

Can You Prepare Meals Out of a Freezer Bag?

Yes, you really can! If you’ve been wondering how does it exactly work, it’s pretty simple – you’re basically preparing recipes ahead of time utilizing freeze-dried, dehydrated, and shelf-safe foods. The food is packed in gallon-size Ziploc bags. Water is boiled and added to the bags at meal time. The food is consumed by you, the happy hiker, and the bag is disposed of!

food dehydrator and dried fruit in ziploc

It all depends on your food preferences and the amount of time you’re willing to put into assembling the bags. Ingredients can be dehydrated yourself or retrieved from the grocery store. Dehydrated meats and eggs can easily be found at sporting goods stores in the backpacking section if not readily available elsewhere.

You’ll notice that cook times and water requirements vary from recipe to recipe. This is where a sharpie will come in handy. Be sure to label each bag with the appropriate water and cooking information. Be sure that the spoon you pack along is long enough to reach down into the freezer bags for stirring.

Things to Get You Started

Here are a few things you’ll need to make the most delicious recipes.

  • Sharpie
  • 1 Gallon Ziploc Freezer Bags
  • Measuring Cup
  • Cook Pot
  • Long-handled spoon
  • Food Ingredients (according to recipe)

ziploc bags boxes

Freezer Bag Breakfasts

Here’s a selection of some of the tastiest breakfast’s out there!

Cheesy Breakfast Grits with Bacon

For those of you grit lovers who prefer a savory breakfast, this recipe will hit the spot

Ingredients:

  • 2 pkt instant grits
  • 2 T dry milk
  • 2 T bacon bits or shelf stable bacon
  • 1⁄2 t onion powder
  • 1⁄2 t dried diced garlic
  • 2 oz. shelf stable cheddar cheese, diced
  • 1 c water

Directions:

  1. In your freezer bag, combine all ingredients except for the cheddar cheese and water.
  2. When you’re ready to eat, boil the water. Add the boiling water and diced cheddar cheese to your freezer bag and let sit for 15 minutes.

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Oats

Packed full of fiber and carbohydrates, this meal is a delicious way to energize before the start of a long hike!

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Oats

Image credit: thewhimsicalist.com

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Combine quick cooking oats, dry milk, raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon in your freezer bag.
  2. Bring water to boil, add to freezer bag, seal, and let sit for 2-5 minutes.

Breakfast Rice with Fruit

Rice creates for unique texture in a breakfast meal. The fruit adds sweetness and flavor. Together, they work great!

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 t cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 c diced dried fruit blend
  • 2 T powdered milk
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 1⁄4 c water
  • 1 c instant rice

Breakfast Rice with Fruit

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except for water and butter in your freezer bag.
  2. When you’re ready for breakfast, bring the water to a boil. Add water and butter to freezer bag. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Cheesy Breakfast Potatoes

This is a comfort food breakfast at its best. For extra pizazz, try using the flavored instant mashed potatoes!

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 c instant mashed potatoes
  • 1oz shelf stable cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 1 T dry milk
  • 3 T shelf stable bacon or bacon bits
  • 1⁄2 c water

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients except for water to your freezer bag.
  2. When it’s time to eat, bring the water to a boil, add it to the freezer bag, and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Trail Breakfast Scramble

Proteins are just as important as carbohydrates when it comes to fueling an active body. That’s why we’ve added eggs and bacon! Remember, freeze-dried egg products can be found at your local sporting goods store or online.

Trail Breakfast Scramble

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ c Instant mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 c freeze-dried eggs with bacon
  • 1 T dry milk
  • 1 ½ c Water

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to freezer bag.
  2. Bring water to a boil, add it to the bag, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Strawberry Cream of Wheat

Adding strawberries and sweetness to plain Cream of Wheat will brighten any morning. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of fruit!

Ingredients:

  • 1 individual packet plain Cream of Wheat
  • 2 T freeze dried strawberries
  • ½ t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 T powdered milk
  • 1 T slivered almonds (optional)
  • Water as Needed

Strawberry Cream of Wheat

Directions:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in freezer bag.
  2. Boil water, add to bag, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Couscous with Fruit

The variety of fruit in this recipe makes for a well-rounded, nutrient-rich breakfast. If you’re feeling especially tropical, add a pinch of flaked coconut to your mix.

Ingredients:

  • 2⁄3 c couscous
  • 1⁄4 c dried chopped pineapple
  • 1⁄4 c ground freeze-dried blueberries
  • 2 T ground freeze-dried bananas
  • 2 T brown or raw sugar
  • 1⁄2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t vegetable oil
  • 1 1⁄2 c water

Couscous with Fruit

Directions:

  1. Combine all Ingredients in your freezer bag except for the oil and water.
  2. Boil the water and oil together in your cook pot. Add to freezer bag. Seal and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Freezer Bag Lunches and Dinners

Lunch and dinner are especially important for hikers to replenish the nutrients lost during intense exercise and to provide fuel for adventures ahead. Here is a collection of our tasty, filling, nutrient-dense recipes for the day’s later meals.

Garden Couscous

This delicious recipe is packed full of vegetables, plant proteins, and nutrients to end the day right.

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄3 c couscous
  • 1⁄4 c freeze-dried green peas
  • 1⁄4 c freeze-dried sweet corn
  • 1 T diced dried carrots
  • 2 T shelf stable parmesan cheese
  • 1 T dry milk
  • 1 1⁄4 t low sodium vegetable bouillon
  • 1⁄4 t granulated garlic
  • 1⁄4 t dry parsley
  • 1⁄4 t ground black pepper
  • 1⁄4 t dried onion
  • 1⁄4 t turmeric powder
  • 1⁄4 t kosher salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 1⁄4 c water
Garden Couscous

Image credit: baileycatering.com

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in your freezer bag except for the olive oil and water.
  2. When you are ready to eat, boil the water and olive oil together in your cook pot, add to the freezer bag, seal, and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.

If you’ve got a hankering for pizza, this recipe will surely satisfy you. It’s got everything a normal pizza might have!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pk ramen
  • 1 pkt Italian dressing mix
  • 2 pkt string cheese
  • 1⁄2 c sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 pk shelf-stable sliced pepperoni
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T shelf stable parmesan cheese
  • 3 c water

Directions:

  1. Place only the ramen and sun-dried tomatoes in your freezer bag. Everything else should be packed separately.
  2. When it’s time to eat, bring the three cups of water to a boil and add to the freezer bag. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the water out.
  4. Add the Italian dressing mix, pepperoni, and olive oil. Break the string cheese into small chunks and add to the mixture. Once the cheese is melted, dig in!

Basic Rice and Beans

Looking for a short and simple recipe? Basic rice and beans will provide you with enough protein, carbohydrates, and flavor to satisfy your hunger.

Basic Rice and Beans

Ingredients:

  • ½ c instant rice
  • 1/3 c instant refried beans
  • 1 T dried onion or shallots
  • 2 packets salsa
  • 1 c water

Directions:

  1. In your freezer bag, combine the rice, beans, and dried onions. Pack the salsa separately.
  2. At meal time, bring the cup of hot water to a near boil, add to the freezer bag, seal tightly, and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the salsa. Enjoy!

Roast Chicken and Cranberries

Chicken, cranberries, and the seasonings involved in this recipe are reminiscent of a hearty, holiday meal that will tickle the taste buds. Try it with instant mashed potatoes on the side!

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄4 c dried cranberries
  • 1⁄4 c powdered dried cranberries
  • 1 t low sodium chicken bouillon
  • 1⁄8 t dried thyme
  • 1⁄8 t dried sage
  • 1⁄8 t ground black pepper
  • 1 can 5-ounce chicken
  • 1 pkt grape jelly
  • 1⁄4 c water
Roast Chicken and Cranberries

Image credit: 12tomatoes.com

Directions:

  1. Combine the dried cranberries, chicken bouillon, thyme, sage, and pepper in your freezer bag. Pack the can of chicken and the grape jelly separately.
  2. At meal time, boil the water. Add the boiling water, chicken, and grape jelly to the bag and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Note: The powdered cranberries can be made by first placing dried cranberries in the freezer and then blending them into a fine powder.

Trail Chili

This recipe is overflowing with flavor and nutritious vegetables. Add dehydrated ground beef for an extra punch of protein.

Ingredients:

  • 2 T diced dried onion
  • 2 T diced dried bell peppers
  • 2 T diced sundried tomatoes
  • 1⁄4 c cooked and dehydrated red kidney beans
  • 1⁄4 c dehydrated canned hot chili beans
  • 1 T tomato powder
  • 2 t brown sugar
  • 1 t dried garlic
  • 1⁄2 t diced dried jalapenos
  • 1⁄2 t ground chili pepper
  • 1⁄8 t dried oregano
  • 1/8 t dried cumin
  • 1/8 t dried cinnamon
  • 1 c cooked dehydrated ground beef if desired.
  • Water as needed
Trail Chili

Image credit: trail.recipes

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in your freezer bag except for the beef and water. Pack the beef separately.
  2. When it’s time to eat, boil enough water to cover the ingredients in the bag. Seal. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.

Alfredo Couscous and Chicken

Who would have imagined that the rich, hearty flavors of chicken alfredo would someday be possible on the trail? Try this recipe to satisfy your alfredo cravings.

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄3 c couscous
  • 1⁄4 t dry or powdered garlic
  • 1 T dry milk powder
  • 1 T dry Alfredo mix
  • 1 T dried or powdered onion
  • 1 t dried parsley
  • 1 T shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄2 c water
  • 1 can chicken

Directions:

  1. In your freezer bag, combine the couscous, dried onion, alfredo mix, parsley, garlic, and milk. Pack the chicken and the parmesan cheese separately.
  2. Boil the water. Bag it. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes!
  3. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Fiesta Chicken

If you’re a lover of Mexican food, this recipe is for you! Try packing tortillas along if you’d like to try it taco-style!

Fiesta Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄3 c couscous
  • 2 T freeze-dried vegetable blend
  • 1 t dried adobe powder
  • 1 t dried chipotle powder
  • 1 t dried garlic
  • 1 t onion powder (not onion salt)
  • 1 cn 3 to 5-ounces chicken
  • 1⁄2 c water

Directions:

  1. Combine couscous, veggies, adobe, chipotle, garlic and onion powder in your freezer bag. Pack the chicken and water separately.
  2. When you’re ready to eat, boil the water. Add the chicken and the water to the bag. Seal and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Fuel Your Adventure the Fun Way

By now you can see that meal time doesn’t have to be as mundane as protein bars, trail mix, and beef jerky. Throughout the course of a backpacking trip, we subject our bodies to intense, grueling, work and we burn thousands of calories per day.

msr microrocket stove cooking

So be kind to yourself and allow yourself a hot-cooked, mess-free freezer bag meal to wind down for the day or prepare for the journey ahead. Take that extra time when you’re preparing the freezer bags in the kitchen to notice the individual ingredients and how they each play a comforting role in your overall health.

Try preparing the bags together with your kids or hiking buddies – it’s amazing how much fun you can have that way! Are there any favorite recipes of yours you’d love to share with us? Leave us a comment and let us know!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.