Travel expert Taylor Taverna took to the road in a Cabana. Follow her easy recipes and campervan cooking tips.
When you think of camping meals, your first thoughts are probably hot dogs and s’mores over the fire. And you’re not wrong, those are my favorite quintessential easy camping meals (s’mores are a meal right?). However, my favorite part of traveling with Vinny the Van, my affectionate nickname for our amazing Cabana van rental, is the full slide-out kitchen. As someone who loves to cook, being able to pull over to cook whenever you want, and do so in some of the most beautiful destinations, is a serious game changer. Plus, having a kitchen on the road means that you can one-up your easy camping meals and enjoy proper, healthy meals while on the go. On my recent 10-day road trip with Cabana, we cooked about 90% of our meals, which allowed us to save money, eat well, and stay healthy (or at least healthier) while on the road. This guide will cover some of my favorite easy camping meals for your next campervan road trip.
Campervan Cooking Tips
Plan out your meals
One of the best parts of renting a Cabana is that there is a fridge in the van. However, for obvious reasons, it is going to be a whole lot smaller than your fridge at home. This means that you’re going to want to really plan out your camping meals ahead of time. I recommend planning out meals that utilize similar ingredients so that you can properly maximize the space in your van fridge. We loved having fresh greens, but kale and spinach can be quite bulky and space-consuming. Use these at the beginning of your trip and stock up as necessary for ultimate freshness.
Keep it simple
When thinking about what easy camping meals to cook, leaning into the easy part is definitely key. This means focusing on recipes that can be made in just one or two pans. Since you have a limited amount of fresh water in your van, it’s always best to avoid washing too many dishes. Plus, who wants to waste time doing tons of dishes when they can be exploring?
Spice it up with spices
Spices are your best friend when making simple meals on the road. Here are some of the must-pack spices:
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Hot Sauce
There is ample space in the kitchen to store all of your favorite spices, but you can also pack a travel spices kit.
Easy Camping Meals
My list of delicious, easy camping meals is endless, but I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites to add to your list and get you thinking.
This camping meal idea came from my road trip buddy and it was seriously perfect for a campervan meal. I honestly loved it so much that I’ve been making it all the time now that I’m back home in NYC. What makes it an easy camping meal is that it is 1) super quick to make but tastes absolutely gourmet and 2) everything can be cooked in a single pan. This Vegetarian Orzo is one of the few camping meals on this list where we actually followed a New York Times recipe, which I’ve linked here.
Pesto Pasta with Chicken Sausage
Chicken or veggie sausage is one of my go-to road trip meal items. They pack some good protein without taking up too much room in the fridge. Plus, they will keep for a while, so you don’t have to worry too much about eating them right away. We ate a variation of this dish multiple times during our trip. What I love about it is that other than the key ingredients of pasta, pesto (we used the vegan pesto from Trader Joe’s) and sausage, you can pretty much throw in whatever else you like. Some ideas of what else to add include onion, spinach, broccoli, tomato, peppers, or any other leftover veggies that you have from other recipes.
Oatmeal with Fresh Fruit
At home I’m not much of a breakfast person, but on this trip it was so important to fuel up in the morning before big hiking days. Oatmeal is my go-to breakfast for a delicious, hearty meal! Oatmeal is one of the easiest camping meals (even without a fridge and stove) because all you need are some oats, water, and a banana! Even better, add some cinnamon and fresh berries on top for a luxurious breakfast on the road, because a camping breakfast doesn’t need to be basic!
If oatmeal isn’t your thing, then a breakfast sandwich or peanut butter and banana on toast are some other delicious breakfast ideas.
Yogurt with Homemade Granola and Fresh Berries
As amazing as the kitchen in the Cabana is, you may run into one little issue... a rainy morning. On the second morning of our ten-day road trip, we woke up to some rain. There's a kettle in the interior so I could make my morning tea (coffee drinkers are safe, too, with steeped coffee bags), but I didn’t quite feel like cooking a whole meal out in the rain. For these days I recommend having some meals planned out that don’t require the use of the slide-out stove.
Tacos are one of my favorite easy meals at home, and they are seriously one of the best easy camping meals. My favorite part of making tacos is that you can literally put whatever you want on a taco and it still tastes good! I swear everything is better in taco form. Here are a few of my go-to tacos:
Sweet Potato and Black Beans
- This requires only pantry items so it is super easy to have all of the necessary ingredients on hand. Just sauté the sweet potato, heat up the beans, and top with sliced avocado and a spritz of lime.
Spicy Shrimp and Coleslaw
- This meal is admittedly a bit more complicated as the shrimp won’t last super long while on the road, but it is still such an easy, delicious meal. I recommend buying frozen shrimp and letting them defrost in the fridge for a day before eating.
Chocolate Chip Pancakes
What is a camping trip without chocolate chip pancakes? I recommend finding a “just add water” mix to avoid having to purchase and store extra ingredients. If you don’t think you’ll go through an entire bag of chocolate chips, you can easily chop up some of your s’mores chocolate (from the s’mores you’re obviously making over the campfire) to add!
I’ve said it before and I'll say it again, burritos are the best hiking lunch. They are so easy to make, they keep well in your backpack, and they are packed with fuel for a long day of hiking. My go-to burrito is sautéed onions and peppers, black beans, spinach, sweet potato, cheese and hot sauce. But you can also heat up some rice to make it a bit more filling. Plus, if you have leftover wraps you can easily whip up some quesadillas!
Kale Salad with Chickpeas and Sweet Potato
This is a go-to salad for me both at home and on the road because it is easy, delicious, and packed with protein for hiking days. At-home I usually roast the chickpeas and sweet potatoes but on the road you’ll want to sauté instead. Make sure to add lots of spices, including salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper or cayenne.
While that is cooking, chop up some cucumber and red onion and prepare your dressing. I like to do a mixture of tahini, lemon, garlic, EVOO, and water, plus a dash of salt and pepper. The dressing is on the creamier side which is perfect to balance out the bitter kale and the spicy sweet potatoes.
Grilled Salmon and a Side Salad
Grilled salmon is such a great camping meal because it cooks so quickly! One meal that I recommend is grilling up some simple salmon with salt, pepper, garlic and lemon for dinner, and serving alongside a small side salad with any of your favorite veggies. My go-to is always cucumber, red onion, and tomato.
Make sure to cook some extra salmon which can be stored and thrown on top of a salad the next day as the perfect post-hike fuel!
Easy Camping Meals: Packing Essentials
Lucky for you, your Cabana will come stocked with all of the necessary essentials. In your slide-out kitchen you can find the following:
- 2 sets of utensils
- 2 sealable bowls (with lids as plates)
- Cooking spoon
- One Pan
- One Pot + Lid
- Three-in-one serrated knife, bottle opener, cork screw
These essentials definitely have you covered for any basic cooking needs, but there are a few other items that I recommend packing as well to up your cooking game on the road.
Chickpeas and beans were an essential part of many of our easy camping meals. I recommend either packing a can opener or making sure to only purchase cans with easy open lids.
Sharp Knife + Cutting Board
If you plan on chopping up meats and veggies during your trip, you’re going to want to make sure to pack a sharp knife and a small cutting board. One of the small, plastic cutting boards works perfectly!
I am truly obsessed with Stasher Bags and use them every single day for everything. If you don’t already own some, I recommend changing that immediately. While on the road they work for everything from storing leftovers to packing a sandwich or snacks for a hike. They are even great for holding your toiletries!
For more of Taylor's travel advice, head to her blog Taverna Travels.