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Vegan Backpacking Food: Recipes, Ideas and Info

Going vegan on the trail sounds like one heck of a challenge, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. As the vegan community grows worldwide, so does the number of vegan food alternatives. That includes ready made vegan backpacking meals. However, vegan freeze dried backpacking foods are not widely available unless you do all your shopping online. Neither are they widely available outside of the USA or Europe. Plus, they can be pricey and create a lot of waste from their packaging.

Fortunately, making DIY vegan backpacking meals and finding vegan-friendly snacks is surprisingly easy. I was already using many plant-based alternatives on the trail before I became vegan. So I’m sure most of you will already be familiar with many of the best vegan backpacking foods; oats, grains, nuts, dried fruits, granola, chia seeds, soya mince etc. Often these vegan backpacking options are more nutritious, lightweight, and convenient than meat or dairy products.

That said, we still need to pay attention, plan correctly, and make sure that we’re getting the nutrients we need, particularly on a long-distance trail.

Couscous

Vegan backpacking food nutrition

Sustaining energy is essential. As much as we like to eat tasty foods, it’s more important that your meals are packed with the right nutrients, regardless of whether you’re vegan or not. Your backpacking diet should contain a balance of proteins and complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fibre, salt, iron, and minerals. If you think you’ll struggle, consider adding a pack of nutritional yeast or supplements to your backpack.

The best vegan backpacking foods are nutritional and practical, but they can also be full of flavour.

Best vegan backpacking food

Here’s a list of vegan backpacking food ideas according to their nutrition group.

Carbohydrates

The bulk of your energy while hiking should come from complex carbohydrates. This type of carbohydrates releases energy slowly so you can tackle tough trails throughout the day. Backpacking foods with complex carbohydrates include:
Oats (also high in iron, fibre, and protein)

  • Bulgur
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain cereals (often fortified with B12)
  • Wholemeal bread or wraps

Protein

Protein is more important on longer hiking trips than overnight camping because it helps your muscles to recover faster and get stronger. These foods will help you fill your daily quota:

  • Lentils
  • Bulgur
  • Oats
  • Chickpeas or soya beans (dry roasted)
  • Nuts
  • Chia seeds (also provide iron, calcium, healthy fats, and fibre)
  • Mushrooms (dehydrated mushrooms travel better than fresh)
  • Soya mince
  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Wild rice

Fibre

Fibre keeps your digestive system moving. You don’t want to skimp on this food group!

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Fruits (especially banana, apple, oranges, or dried fruits)
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Lentils
Vegan hiking boots gear banner
Camping beans

Things to consider before you start your vegan backpacking trip

  • Weight – although the food content in your backpack will get lighter day by day, you still need to be able to carry it on day one. Therefore, you should select the foods that offer the best nutrition to weight ratio.
  • Cook time – the longer your food takes to cook the more gas (or other fuel) you’ll need to carry. On a long trip, I opt for quick cook grains such as bulgur, barley, or couscous rather than rice or pasta.
  • Storage and shelf life – choose foods that won’t get squashed inside your backpack – for example, flatbreads or tortilla wraps instead of bread rolls and apples instead of bananas. Also, remember to choose foods that will survive the length of your backpacking trip. Canned foods are inexpensive and have a long shelf life, but dried foods are more lightweight.
  • Temperatures – think about the temperatures you’ll be hiking in. In hot and humid conditions, dried fruits and vegetables will last better than fresh fruits and vegetables. Likewise, in hot conditions, you’ll want to choose low-salt snacks to eat on the go but salty foods to replenish electrolytes at the end of the day.
  • Convenience – You’ll want foods that you can eat on the go as well as for your main evening meal. Depending on which country you’re hiking in, vegan-labelled snacks can be challenging to find and more expensive. Plan and don’t rely on small village stores for plant-based hiking food.
  • Cost – vegan alternatives are often more expensive than non-vegan products. You’ll need to budget for that or take some time to prepare homemade vegan backpacking foods.

Camper eating vegan backpacking meal

Vegan freeze dried backpacking food

For vegans on multi-day adventures, or less organised hikers, ready made meals are a convenient solution. The advantage of vegan freeze dried backpacking food is that it’s designed for hikers. You can be sure that you get the right nutrients in the right amounts.

So far, I haven’t tested any ready made vegan backpacking meals because I prefer to use fresh ingredients when possible – they’re also not readily available where I live. However, there is plenty of recommended freeze dried vegan meals to choose from.

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal

    Peanut Butter and Raisin Oatmeal

    By Backpackers Pantry
    Filling, has a smooth consistency, and the peanut butter is packaged separately so you can save it for lunch

  • tofu scramble

    Sunrise Tofu Scramble

    By Outdoor Herbivore
    Filling, tasty flavours, goes well with a tortilla wrap, comes in single or double serving sizes.

Lunch/Snacks

  • Pesto

    Pesto Herbilicious Spread

    By Outdoor Herbivore
    Great taste, contains nutritional yeast, ready instantly, just add cold water and stir. You can spread it on bread, tortilla wraps, and crackers or use it as a dip.

  • Skout organic bar

    Coconut Protein Bar

    By Skout Organic
    High protein, no additives, grain-free, organic.

Dinner

  • Cuban rice and beans

    Cuban Coconut Rice and Black Beans

    By Backpackers Pantry
    High in carbohydrates and protein, gluten-free and soy-free, recommended by PETA.

  • Risotto

    Herbed Mushroom Risotto

    By Good To-Go
    Low-sodium, does not contain additives or preservatives, made in the USA, you may want to add extra salt and flavouring.

  • Patagonia chili

    Spicy Red Bean Chilli

    By Patagonia Provisions
    Certified organic ingredients, has good reviews for taste, contains 2.5 servings, made by an eco-conscious company.


Vegan backpacking recipes

Top Tip: Carrying a selection of spices will change the way you cook when backpacking. My staples are salt, cumin, and chilli flakes but ginger powder, curry, and cinnamon are useful too. With straightforward ingredients, plus some spices, you can make very tasty meat-free and dairy-free dishes on a backpacking stove.

Breakfast: Overnight Oats Recipe

You can’t beat oats as a backpacking breakfast. I like this one because it’s so simple and because I can prepare it the night before. Plus, I find that the oats taste sweeter when left to absorb the natural sugar overnight.

Overnight oats

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 60g oats
  • A handful of dried fruit
  • A pinch of cinnamon powder and a sweet syrup (optional)
  • A handful of seeds and nuts of your choice

Method

  1. Before going to bed, put the oats into a pot or box.
  2. Mix in dried fruits, plus cinnamon and syrup if using.
  3. Pour water so that it’s just covering the oats, put the lid and leave to soak overnight.

Lunch: Tortilla Wraps

Tortilla wraps, filled with your favourite toppings, make an excellent vegan backpacking lunch. They don’t take up much space and don’t weigh much either. They’re also light enough to eat on a short lunch break without feeling full and lethargic afterwards.Fill the wraps with tahini or peanut butter, both of which are high in protein, fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, or other fresh veggies if you have them at hand.

For a more substantial vegan backpacking lunch, you can add canned or dehydrated beans to your wraps.

Dinner: Couscous with dried fruit

One of my go-to vegan backpacking recipes is couscous with raisins, fresh or dehydrated veggies, and spices. It contains a balance of carbs and fibre, and you can raise the protein level by adding soya, chia seeds, or mushrooms. You can make this without any cooking utensils, so it’s convenient for overnight trips or lightweight hiking.

Bowl of couscous

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 100g couscous
  • 150-200ml water
  • A handful of raisins (or other dried fruit)
  • A handful of fresh or dehydrated vegetable (depending what you have – dried tomatoes, fresh pepper, or dehydrated mushrooms work well
  • Salt, cumin, and chilli flakes (optional)
  • Sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together
  2. Add the spices
  3. Pour the water over the mix and cover. Use hot water if you want to speed up the process.
  4. Wait until the couscous (and dehydrated vegetables) become soft. Add more water if needed.
  5. Sprinkle the sunflower or sesame seeds over the top for extra crunch (optional)

*Remember to add extra water if your using dehydrated vegetables. If you can find soya mince you can add that too, just let it soak in water for a bit longer.

Dinner: Bulgur with Lentils and Soya Chunks

Another favourite is bulgur with lentils and soya chunks. Bulgur, a type of cracked wheat, is more nutritious than rice, with approximately 4 grams of protein per cup. It also cooks faster than rice and takes less backpack space than pasta.

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 100g bulgur
  • 100g lentils
  • 300-400ml water
  • 30-50g dry soya chunks (or soya mince)
  • Salt and spices
  • Fresh or dehydrated vegetables (optional)

Method

  1. Prep the lentils in advance– to shorten cooking time, soak the lentils in water from midday or early afternoon. Take an extra water bottle and put the lentils into the bottle with water when you stop for lunch.
  2. At dinner time – combine the pre-soaked lentils and bulgur, add the water, cover, and bring to boil.
  3. Reduce to a low-medium heat if your stove allows. Add the soya chunks and stir in the salt and spices of your choice.
  4. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the ingredients are soft.
  5. Take off the heat and tuck in!

* For more calories and protein, you can replace bulgur with quinoa.

Eco friendly camping gifts

Vegan backpacking snacks

Between mealtimes, it’s sensible to have something to help boost your energy levels before fatigue starts to set in. Here are a handful of the best homemade and shop-bought vegan snacks:

Banana chips – lightweight, travel better than fresh bananas, high in protein, fibre, magnesium, and potassium. Can be made at home if you own a dehydrator tray or bought from a supermarket.

Halva – after hiking in Turkey and Israel, Halva became my top choice for high sugar snacks. Its tahini mixed with sugar and optional flavours such as chocolate, walnut, almond, and pistachio. It’s simple to make at home, or you can buy it ready made.

Granola bars/flapjacks – made mostly from oats, this snack is high in iron and fibre. Make them with nuts and dried fruits, and you have a wholesome snack that will keep you full.

Trail mix – a classic hiking snack, trail mix provides healthy fats, protein, and natural sugar. It also keeps well for multiple days.

Roasted chickpeas or soya beans – a protein-rich, lightweight alternative for hikers with nut allergies. To make at home, just drizzle cooked chickpeas or soya beans with oil and roast until crispy.

Homemade energy balls – like granola bars, these hiking snacks are highly nutritious, keep for multiple days, and can take a bit of a bashing.

Vegan-friendly cookies – often high in calories and sugar, cookies will give you a quick energy boost. Just remember to store them carefully in your pack.


Vegan backpacking food: an strong eco-choice

Getting active in the great outdoors lets you get close to nature. Choosing to take ethically sourced, vegan backpacking foods on the trail is just one way that you can protect the environment that you love. We hope that this guide to the best vegan backpacking food will help you to prepare for your next backpacking adventure with healthy, convenient, budget-friendly, and yummy vegan backpacking foods.

Happy hiking!

About the author

author-beth

Originally from the UK and currently based in Turkey, Beth Carter is a full-time adventurer, former scout, and vegan traveller. When she’s not hiking long-distance trails with an oversized pack on her shoulders, you’ll probably find her peddling up and down scenic roads, or pitching a tent in a far-off mountain range. On the odd occasion, you might even see her sitting at a keyboard, coffee at the ready, typing about her latest outdoor pursuit.

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