Rethinking Campfire Food: 15 Healthy, Easy Ideas + 2 Recipes

Jessica Harlan by Jessica Harlan | June 23rd, 2014 | 37 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating


For me, the best part of camping isn’t the rugged hiking trails, swimming in a pristine lake or sleeping under the stars — it’s the food! It’s easy to get caught up in a junk-food rut when packing for a camping trip — potato chips, over-processed hot dogs and preservative-laden packaged foods. But planning campfire meals that are better for you is easier than you might think.

A recent campfire cookout with my family inspired me to make our next camping menu healthier — but still delicious! Try these ideas and easy-to-prepare camping recipes on your next outing.

1.    Pancakes: Mix up whole-wheat pancake mix before you leave, using dried egg and dried buttermilk, so all you’ll need to add at the campsite is water. The wheat fiber will keep you full and energized for an active day of hiking, biking, boating and late-night campfire conversation.

2.    Hearty oatmeal: Try my yummy make-ahead recipe (below). It’s less sugary than packaged instant oatmeal.

3.    Trail mix: Make your own trail mix with an assortment from the bulk foods aisle of your supermarket, including nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and carob or chocolate chips. The trail mix can double as a sprinkle on oatmeal.

4.    Tuna melts: Make tuna melts on crackers or toasted bread with tuna from a pouch and slices of individually wrapped cheese on top. Heat on grill until cheese melts.

5.    Grilled-cheese sandwiches or panini: Toast them over the hot fire.

6.    Veggie dogs or turkey dogs: They’re better for you than regular hot dogs.

7.    Veggie ramen: Combine ramen noodles and chopped fresh vegetables (or freeze-dried ones) and low-sodium hot broth made from a powder or liquid concentrate. (If you use the flavoring packets that come with the ramen noodles, only add in about half the packet to cut back on sodium. I promise, it’ll still be plenty flavorful!)

8.    Rice pilaf or couscous: Prepare according to package directions; combine with your choice of fresh vegetables, mushrooms, dried fruit and nuts.

9.    Kebobs: Thread pieces of mushrooms, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, fresh fruit, extra-firm tofu or seitan, chicken or beef onto metal or wooden skewers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and/or brush with a marinade. Cook over an open fire until the vegetables soften and meat is cooked through.

10.    Potatoes: Before leaving for your trip, cook whole potatoes in the oven or microwave until they’re just tender when pierced with a fork; pack whole. Prepare at campsite as stuffed potatoes (cut slits in the potatoes and stuff with cheese and shredded beef jerky) or cut up potatoes and sauté in butter or a little oil to serve with breakfast.

11.    Hobo stew: On a large piece of aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil, arrange small chunks of meat, if desired, assorted fresh vegetables, onions, and fresh garlic or garlic powder. Top with a pat of butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and gather up sides of aluminum foil to make a sealed pouch, allowing some room at the top for steam. Cook in the coals for about 10 minutes.

12.    Chili: Make chili in a camp oven with cans of beans, tomatoes and corn, seasoned with powdered chili spice. Bring cornbread mix to make in a cast iron skillet, or make it at home.

13.    Grilled fish: Packed in ice for the first night, salmon or tilapia will make a luscious dinner cooked over the fire. Try my easy yet fabulous recipe (below) for Foil-Wrapped Trout with Arugula and Onions.

14.    Grilled fruit: Grilling really brings out the flavor of stone fruits, for a satisfyingly sweet finish. Halve peaches, plums or other stone fruit and remove the pit. Grill cut side down until the fruit begins to brown and soften, then turn over and grill a few minutes on the other side, sprinkling with brown sugar if desired.

15.    Baked apples: Core apples, fill with brown sugar and raisins and top with a pat of butter. Wrap in aluminum foil, set in coals and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Hearty Oatmeal Mix

Serves 4


This “instant” oatmeal is less sugary than store-bought packets, and you can customize the mix with your favorite nuts, sweetener or dried fruit. Make it before leaving home and store it in a zip-top bag or a plastic container. Don’t forget a half-cup measuring cup to portion out the oatmeal and the water!


2 cups instant rolled oats
2/3 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon cinnamon


In a bowl, combine the rolled oats, milk, brown sugar, raisins, almonds and cinnamon. Stir to combine completely. Transfer to a storage bag or container.

To prepare, put 1/2 cup oatmeal mix in a bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup boiling water. Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes until the oatmeal thickens, and stir again before serving. For thicker oatmeal, use a little less water.

Per Serving: 393 calories; 8g fat; 17g protein; 67g carbohydrate; 7g dietary fiber; 4mg cholesterol; 116mg sodium

Foil-Wrapped Trout with Arugula and Onionstrout1-cropped1

Serves 4

These tidy packets are ideal for the first day of a camping trip. Make up the packets the morning you leave for your trip and keep them packed in ice until you’re ready to prepare. If you fish, this is also a great way to prepare your catch. Feel free to substitute spinach for arugula.


1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces arugula, roughly chopped
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 trout fillets (about 6 ounces each)
Salt and pepper
8 thin slices lemon
4 sprigs fresh thyme


Rub the dull side of four large pieces of aluminum with butter. Divide the arugula into four portions and arrange the leaves in the center of each piece of foil. Top arugula with two or three slices of onion. Place the trout fillets over the onions and arugula. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and place two lemon slices and a thyme sprig on top. Fold corners of the foil over the fish and crimp edges to seal into a packet. Keep cold until ready to cook.

To cook, place packets on a grill grate set low over a hot fire. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until fish is flaky and opaque, arugula is wilted and onions are soft. Fish can be eaten right out of the packets or transferred to a plate.

Per serving: 235 calories; 7g fat; 36g protein; 5g carbohydrate; 2g dietary fiber; 102mg cholesterol; 93mg sodium

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  1. [...] I long for the comfort of my whirlpool bathtub and plush mattress. Although I like the thought of camping in the Wisconsin woods, I sometimes eschew the opportunity because the task of taking ticks off [...]

  2. Ok, my thanks to you! Off on a camping trip tomorrow and the grocery list is currently in development. Really liking the oatmeal option and fresh peaches are high on the list.

    emily haataja | July 24th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. The foods are fantastic and perfect for camp firing. I think the required groceries are available in any grocery store. I am running short of time, its already 9 in the eve. I think i will buy all the groceries required for tomorrow’s campfire online.

    Collin paul

    price compare supermarkets | September 24th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. mmmmm , i think i will go to camp :)) this post made my mouth water ….. when i see that foil wapped trout and grilled fish …..yummy . I think this sunday ill do some party at my house :))

    Anonymous | October 8th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  5. it is a fantastic information. i really enjoy the information. thanks for sharing.

    alina | November 15th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  6. We’re planning a family camping this weekend. Thanks for the awesome recipe. The Hearty Oatmeal Mix is definitely on the menu cards this weekend. Thanks for allowing me to comment :)

    tony | November 21st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. These are really great recipes! I’ve been compiling a menu for our upcoming camping this summer. I want them easy to cook, light to carry and most especially healthy for the family.

    Ruby | January 18th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  8. Yum! These ideas have given me some inspiration for our next camping trip. I love the idea of prepping the potatoes before leaving. They take far too long to cook otherwise. The kebobs (We call them kebabs here) look great too!

    Grill StanD | February 13th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  9. Nutrition consultants are the registered dieticians which guides the people about what food they consume in a particular body type and also in particular disease if any.

    Nutrition Consultants | February 25th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  10. I like Foil-Wrapped Trout with Arugula and Onions very much as it’s so delicious. Pancakes are my first choice for the dinner. Surely, it must contain healthy wheat without sugar.

    Anonymous | March 3rd, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  11. These are great ideas-we go camping alot-we take our ATV’s and go for a week or so-we catch all of our dinners with the exception of some tofu dogs-these are great! thanks so much-my husband is a chef so he cooks gourmet camp food

    bcpowersports | April 5th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  12. Celebrating Memorial Day, we cooked the oatmeal, and the apple desert. Plus, we did a variation of your fish- using swordfish & tuna. The oatmeal was absolutely delicious. My group loved it.

    The apple desert was also well-received. I think pecans or walnuts would have been a good addition..

    The fish was good as well. We prepared it with parchment paper wrapped in the foil as well, to make sure it was juicy. (also means we had to be careful over the open fire). It all worked very well!

    Thanks for the great camping-food tips.

    Diana | May 30th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  13. I am so glad to read the comments of everyone who has enjoyed these camping recipes in the 2 years since I wrote them!

    Jessica Harlan | June 1st, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  14. I’m so happy to use your healthy ideas. Thanks SO much. I want to do the Foil-Wrapped Fish and the Kebobs

    diane | August 31st, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  15. Great ideas Jessica! can’t wait to try out some of them on next week :)

    VSL Narasimham | August 1st, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  16. jessica these are really good recipes that i have been trying with my family :)

    clinton jackson | August 12th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  17. Thanks Jessica for sharing the recipe for Hearty Oatmeal Mix. This is my favorite camping food and I have been looking for a recipe for long time. Yummy :)

    Scott Robertson | November 28th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  18. I have another great idea….CAMPFIRE MEATBALLS: 1. Make meat for meatballs, seasoning them anyway you want. 2. Take a onion and cut in half. 3. Seperate layers and pair them back up and set aside. 4. roll meat into balls that will fit inside the paired layered onions and inclose meat inside. 5. Seal onion with meat inside into foil and roll into a ball. 6. throw on hot coals for 20 to 25 minutes…..You will have different sized, wonderful tasting meatballs. You can also do all this before you leave to go camping an have them Fire Ready when you get ready for lunch or dinner :)

    sMontano | May 21st, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  19. I like Foil-Wrapped Trout with Arugula and Onions with pepper. Nice recipe. Its a good food for a camping trip. And Kebabs are really good recipe. In this sunday i thought to prepare this delicious recipe and serve it to my family.

    David russell | July 5th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  20. Take jarred baby food fruit to the campsite as a small treat! That’s what we always did when our kids were little, and still do. We’re going camping for 3 nights next week and have many of these ideas you listed already packed. Snacks include falafel chips with hummus, applesauce, and coconut water to drink. Easy coffee: grind coffee at home and when at campsite, line a mug with a coffee filter, fill with some coffee grounds, and add hot water, then pull out filter with coffee grounds when ready to drink :)

    Jenn-Jenn | July 11th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  21. These are healthy and richy dishes. It gives luxurious taste for any one. I am fan of Hearty Oatmeal Mix and trying to prepare it at home. Jessica I would like to thanks for treat and surprise.

  22. these are really great recipes i tried these recipes on coming weekend withmy family

  23. BAKED POTATO WARNING: Servsafe warning for baked potatoes to avoid risk of BOTULISM — must be stored at temp above 130F or below 40F or consumed within 4 hours of cooking. Gotta be careful out there!!!

    Brenda | October 13th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  24. Wonderful ideas.
    I love cooking on a fire.
    Thank you Jessica!

    Tim H. | November 7th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  25. [...] honor of the The Hunger Games: Catching Fire premiere, I’m posting some healthy and easy campfire recipes in case any of you ever find yourself in the Hunger Games. If Effie happens to pull your name, [...]

  26. [...] Here are 15 ideas for healthy campfire food plus two easy camping recipes! Source [...]

  27. [...] Here are 15 ideas for healthy campfire food plus two easy camping recipes! Source [...]

  28. Perfect and ideal food recipes for camping. Thanks for sharing, Jessica. I particularly like the idea of grilled fruits. Healthy and delicious!

    Capri | September 24th, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  29. I think one of the more romantic cities to visit is Italy. I personally went there on my honeymoon and my husband and I loved the food and the people there! I would strongly suggest Rome and Florence. Although it can get very touristy, especially in the summer, they are very beautiful places with so much history and culture. To break free from the tourist crowd, I would suggest you to try some home-dining options. We went to dine with one of the local hosts on BonAppetour, and were treated to a fancy meal at their homes on the rooftop! It is very simple to book a dinner with the hosts on their website too! Other than that, I would also suggest you to try taking one of those Vespa tours, especially in the Florence country-side. Riding on the vespa with your partner across the green landscape is actually very thrilling and romantic! Hope this helped!

    Radia | January 15th, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  30. These are all great ideas, remember one of the best things I’ve ever tasted while camping was omelette with toast, all cooked on fire. I think fire makes all food taste delicious.

    Scott | February 19th, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  31. i like the idea of grilled fruit.. Perfect post and thanks for sharing these ideas with us!!!

    Jinpak | May 14th, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  32. Robert Nguyen select the best tent you can afford, set it up properly, take care of it, and then just enjoy your trip.

    ujivenelson | June 23rd, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  33. this is a great deal,doing this kind of stuff outdoor . healthy food is very much important in our daily activity

    Oliver Jones | April 27th, 2016 | Comment Permalink
  34. camping meals for vegetarians are both delicious and heathy

    william | June 7th, 2016 | Comment Permalink
  35. This list of camping dishes may bring more fun and joyful moments…..i love the tuna melt mostly….Perfect :)

    David Nolen | June 22nd, 2016 | Comment Permalink
  36. so grear, i will try it for next camping :)

    TheSurvival@Life | July 3rd, 2016 | Comment Permalink
  37. so great, i will try it for next camping :)

    TheSurvival@Life | July 3rd, 2016 | Comment Permalink

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