In just 3 years, the number of American vegans has grown by 600%. We are slowly but steadily becoming a more health conscious and Earth-conscious nation. And people are discovering the incredible benefits, for us and our environment, of a plant-based diet.
Our society is starting to see the big advantages of a diet that doesn’t include meat and other animal-based products. A vegan diet is typically more sustainable and creates a much smaller carbon footprint than those that require animal agriculture.
We are on our way to a healthier diet that is friendlier to the Earth we all love. None more so than outdoor adventurers like ourselves.
But where do we fit into a camping culture filled with burgers, hot dogs, and fish fries?
Whether you are new to veganism, cooking for a friend, or you’re a long-time vegan looking for some new vegan camping food recipes. Get your taste buds ready for some ultimately delicious vegan camping foods.
Are you part of the 94% of the country who are not currently vegan?
If you aren’t very familiar with this quickly growing trend, you aren’t alone. A large portion of Americans aren’t completely sure what being a vegan means.
Let’s start with what we do know. There are two plant-based diets that are similar but differ in a few ways.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
Most of us are familiar with vegetarianism. Vegetarians do not consume meat or fish of any kind. They also do not consume products that contain animal byproducts, for example, chicken broth or gelatin (which is made from animal bones).
Is being vegan the same as being a vegetarian? What are the restrictions? Why would someone want to be vegan?
The Vegan Diet
At its most basic level, following a vegan diet means you do not consume any animal products. Like vegetarians, vegans do not eat meat or fish. They also won’t eat eggs or dairy products, like cow’s milk, since these products come from animals. Some vegans are very strict and choose not to eat honey since it is made by bees.
The Vegan Lifestyle
If you talk to most vegans, you’ll find out that veganism isn’t as much a diet as it is a lifestyle choice. Some people follow a vegan diet. Other vegans choose not to use any products that come from animals, like leather or beeswax.
Instead of cow or goat’s milk, they may choose to drink soy, coconut or almond milk. Instead of wearing leather shoes, they may choose linen, canvas or hemp options.
Everyone is different. We choose to be vegan for different reasons and have different needs and capacities. Therefore, each person who chooses a vegan diet or vegan lifestyle may do so a little differently than the next person.
Some people follow a vegan diet or lifestyle for health reasons, by choice or by necessity. Others make the choice to fight for animal rights. Some practice veganism as part of their religion or faith. Still more people are working hard to live sustainably and with as little impact on the Earth as possible.
Controversy Surrounding Vegan Diets
There is often some controversy surrounding veganism. Occasionally it centers around the ethical or political reasons that people choose to be vegan. But most concern the “strict” restrictions of the diet and whether it affords enough nutrition for the body.
Recent studies have shown that a well-balanced vegan diet is just as healthy, if not healthier, than those that are not plant-based. The main concerns that non-vegans have when making the transition to a vegan diet is getting enough protein and iron. These two things are found most often in meats, especially beef, and dairy products like cheese.
In fact, there are plenty of foods available to vegans that supply even more protein and iron than you would normally get from red meat and dairy products. Lentils, brown rice, spinach, and tofu all contain ample amounts of iron. Foods like almonds, chickpeas, peanut butter and soy milk all contain plenty of protein to keep the body more than satisfied.
Of course! Vegan and vegetarian diets, while they have restrictions, are just as simple when camping if you have the right recipes, techniques, and ingredients.
Just like any other diet, you can make your vegan camp cooking as simple or gourmet as you want. And many of the meals you make at home can be easily adapted to campfire cooking.
Many of the foods that you buy for vegan camp meals can be purchased in bulk to help you avoid disposable packaging and containers.
But remember, animals can still be attracted by scents of all kinds. Just because your meal didn’t contain meat doesn’t mean wildlife won’t be enticed. Make sure to follow best practices when it comes to storing food away from your sleeping area and in a bear-safe container or hung if necessary. Also, make sure to cook and eat away from the area where you will be sleeping.
Similarly, vegan food can be just as damaging to the environment as foods that contain meat and animal by-products. Wild animals are not accustomed to human food and spices and it could make them sick.
Feel free to compost while camping, but carry-out your compost instead of leaving it near your camping area. Although plants and grains are biodegradable, it can still take some time. It’s best to leave the area you are camping as pristine as when you arrived.
What is camping food? Really it is just food that you bring on your camping trips. But the three keys to great camping food are:
- Convenience – doesn’t require a lot of pots and dishes or special equipment
- Portability – isn’t heavy, comes in a smaller container, isn’t fragile
- Longevity – doesn’t require refrigeration or is small enough to fit in a cooler easily
Therefore, vegan camping foods are just foods that you will bring camping that excel in these categories.
Who doesn’t love a smoothie in the morning? But it may not be the most practical thing to bring camping. It requires ice, a blender, and fruits and veggies that are more perishable (if not frozen).
Let’s take a look at some of our favorites. Here are the 31 vegan camping foods we can’t live without.
Non-Perishable Vegan Camping Foods
We’re always looking for great non-perishable items to take camping. They are typically easy to store and travel with and won’t take up extra space in the cooler.
The great news is there are a ton of non-perishable foods that are vegan and can really enhance your camping menu. Here is a list of all the non-perishable vegan camping foods you should pack up for your trip.
- Non-dairy milk – The options include soy, almond, coconut, rice, oat, hemp, cashew, and flax.
- Nut butter – It’s not just about peanuts. Try almond, cashew, sunflower or coconut.
- Beans – Dry beans are lighter, but canned are quicker to cook.
- Lentils – Mix them with anything for a hot meal or a cold salad.
- Chickpeas – They are a great snack on their own, on salads, mixed up as hummus or crushed and spread.
- Bulgur – A whole grain made from types of wheat. It can add some bulk to your meal and keep you feeling full longer.
- Nuts and seeds – Almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, cashews. The list goes on. Eat them on their own or mix up your own trail mix.
- Vegan Cereal – A box or bag of vegan cereal can be an easy meal option mixed with a non-dairy milk.
- Muesli – A delicious mix of oats, seeds, and raisins. Try mixing it with strawberry yogurt and letting it sit overnight.
- Fruit – Apples, bananas, mangoes, kiwis, lemons, limes, avocado. Until you open them, they don’t need to be refrigerated.
- Rice – Wild or brown, you can mix them with beans and vegetables and make a whole filling meal.
- Fresh vegetables – Corn, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and root vegetables won’t need as much refrigeration as lettuces and fresh herbs.
- Pasta – So versatile, inexpensive and easy to cook over a campfire or on a portable stove.
- Bread – Check to make sure it is vegan! Even bread that doesn’t contain animal products may have an egg-wash to make the crust shiny. Always ask and read the ingredients.
- Quinoa – A great place to get Omega-3s and protein. Plus it is lightweight, easy to cook, and non-perishable.
- Oatmeal – Overnight oats are one of the easiest things to make at a campsite for a quick and satisfying camp breakfast.
- Couscous – It’s not a grain, it’s actually more like a pasta. Its light flavor makes it a really versatile carb to add to camping meals. And it cooks up quick.
- Vegan Chocolate – The general rule of thumb is any chocolate that is 70% cocoa or more will not contain milk. But be on the safe side and check the ingredients.
Make-Ahead or Packaged Vegan Camping Foods
Sometimes a great option is some pre-made foods that will be easy to grab when you are in a hurry. Most of them you can buy prepackaged or you might prefer to make them at home ahead of time. Here are a few items to consider picking up or putting together before you head to the campsite.
- Vegan Energy Bars
- Pickled vegetables
- Veggie/Pita chips
- Ragu Chunky Garden Style Sauce
- Vegetable broth/bouillon
- Nature’s Path frozen waffles
Vegan Condiments and Seasonings
The key to great tasting food is often in the spices, sauces, and seasonings you add to it. While most dried spices are vegan, it is always best to check the ingredients. Some of the mixes do include meat or animal byproducts.
Some Mayonaise and margarine are vegan when they are made from soy and oil. However, there are some brands that include eggs and other ingredients that are not vegan-friendly.
- Stevia, agave syrup or cane sugar
- Smart Balance
- Dried spices
- BBQ sauce
- Soy sauce
- Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix
- Liquid smoke
Vegan Camping Foods that Require Refrigeration
So you are bringing some things that need to be kept cold. It’s not the end of the world. Bring a good cooler (check out our Coleman Xtreme vs Yeti Cooler Showdown here), keep it tightly closed, and open it on rare occasions. It is best to have a separate cooler for your drinks since you will likely be opening that more often. You can check out our No Refrigeration Camp Foods here.
- Veggie burgers
- Fresh herbs
- Soy/Almond Yogurt
Surprising Vegan Foods to Bring Camping
Found yourself on a camping trip with omnivores and not sure what you can share? Or maybe you need some snacks but your camp store doesn’t carry vegan options. Here are some of the common packaged items that are actually (typically accidentally) vegan. Keep in mind that some of these may be produced in manufacturing sites where eggs or animal byproducts are present.
Backpacking foods are a little bit different than camping foods in a couple of ways. First, they need to be as light as possible since you will be hauling them on your back for miles. Second, they need to be easy to prepare, since you won’t be bringing your whole camp kitchen with you.
Here is a list of great vegan backpacking options to keep your energy up and your pack light on the trail.
- Dried fruit
- Seitan jerky
- Energy/granola bars
- Instant oatmeal
- Hot cereal
- Dehydrated soy/rice milk
- Nut butter packets
- GORP – Good Old Raisins and Peanuts
- Fruit leather
- Dried mushrooms
- Dehydrated soba noodles
- Condiment/spice packets – soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, sugar, pepper, salt
- Dehydrated tofu
- Dry beans
- Dark chocolate
Looking for some great pre-packaged vegan options to take on the trail? This article from Fresh Off the Grid has an incredibly comprehensive list of vegan freeze-dried options for backpackers.
Cooking food at your campsite is always a little more challenging than cooking at home. Your home kitchen has amenities like running water, a pantry filled with items, and a refrigerator. While your camp kitchen has extra challenges like dirt, bugs, and very little counter space.
You may be concerned that adding vegan or vegetarian restrictions to the mix could make it impossible. Don’t worry! Cooking outside over a campfire, grill, or portable stove isn’t any harder when you remove meat and animal products from the equation.
It all comes down to how prepared you are before you leave on your adventure. Planning meals ahead is always a great way to make sure you will have everything you need. For more tips and tricks on how to plan ahead for cooking at your campsite read our article The Complete Camping Food List for Planning, Packing, and Cooking.
Here are some delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes to choose from for your camping menu.
Vegan Camping Recipes
Freezer Breakfast Burritos – Not just for meat and egg eaters. You can make these ahead and freeze them. They’ll keep your cooler even colder. And they only take a few minutes on the campfire to heat up.
Nut Butter and Banana Roll-ups – Peanut butter and bananas go so well together. But so do a variety of nut butters. Spread some on your favorite vegan tortilla with some banana slices and roll it up for a sweet morning treat. Add a little honey, or some ground clove and cinnamon to spice things up.
Make-ahead muffins – Everyone loves muffins. And they are so easy. You can just throw them on the griddle in the morning to toast them up. Or eat them caky, right out of the wrapper. Here are a few of our personal favorites.
Instant Oatmeal Packets – Don’t rely on the boring prepackaged stuff. These packets you can make right at home. You’ll have individual servings for each day you are gone.
Vegan Breakfast Scramble – It’s like a one-pan hobo meal for vegans! This recipe uses chickpea flour instead of eggs.
Mashed Chickpea Salad Sandwich– A great go-to for an easy summer camping sandwich. This gives you a great protein punch and has way more zing to it than other salads. You can make it ahead or right at your campsite. Its simple to throw together.
Lentil Sloppy Joes – It’s the vegan Manwich but better. Grab some fluffy vegan rolls and throw this quick and easy meal together on your camp stove. Great one for a group or with kids.
Vegan Hummus Wrap – There is no end to the way you can use a chickpea. And hummus is one of the favorites. Make it at home or buy it prepackaged and you can do almost anything with it.
Curried Veggie Brown Rice – This is so yummy, you might get a midday food coma. It’s pretty simple and has loads of flavor.
Salads in a Jar – There are just so many delicious options to choose from. This is a great option to get all your veggies in, especially those dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. Pack them in a jar and stick them in your cooler and you will have an easy, healthy, grab-and-go lunch every day.
Coconut Lime Energy Bites – These tasty little treats will give you plenty of energy to make it up the next hill. Only 4 ingredients, you can freeze them, and there is no cooking required. Best to make these ahead because they do require a food processor.
Boiled Peanuts – This is a great option for spring and fall camping, especially with a larger group. You can leave a pot of bubbling peanuts on the fire for the day and folks can grab a hot snack whenever they want.
No-Bake Chocolate Chia Energy Bars – Did someone say chocolate? If you need a little sweet treat to get you through the afternoon and keep your energy up, these will do the job. Low maintenance and delicious.
Red Beans and Rice – Careful, some folks like to add sausage to theirs or cook it with meat bouillon. This recipe is decidedly vegan. You can make it over the campfire or stove with your Dutch oven. Not sure how? Check out our recipe on Dutch oven cooking to find out how simple it is to cook with one of these great camping pots.
Grilled Orange Teriyaki Tofu Skewers – If you’re in the mood for something hot off the grill, try these skewers. The tofu sucks up the tangy flavor and the grill will add that smokey taste.
Grilled Sweet Potato Fajitas – Nothing truly fills you up like a sweet potato. And this recipe really hits the comfort-food spot.
Vegetable Foil Packets – Talk about easy. Not only are the veggies super flavorful from being steamed in the packet but there are no pots to clean up afterward. Win-win. If you need something carby, serve this with brown rice or quinoa to bulk out the meal.
Buddha Bowls – If you are vegan then you love Buddha bowls. It’s just a fact. They are like a salad but better. Yvette over at Yvette’s Healthy Kitchen has designed some awesome ideas just for the vegan camper.
Baked Camping Apples – Satisfying your sweet tooth with a healthy treat. Apples are sweet to begin with. But add some brown sugar, nuts, oats, and cinnamon and you have a delicious vegan campfire dessert.
Banana Boats – When you’re craving sugar, you can’t get a healthier option than fruit. Adding a little chocolate and some other delicious treats like nut butter and dried fruit makes it even better.
The hallmark of most vegan and vegetarian lifestyles is a love of nature and the Earth. But we are all stewards of our environment. Everyone who has a passion for nature, the wilderness, and the Earth have the same goals and interests. To care for, renew and share its beauty and keep it pristine for generations to come.
There are plenty of differences between vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. But it is more important to understand and share our similarities as outdoor enthusiasts. Even though our approach may sometimes be at odds, our sentiment and affection for the natural world bring us together.
Campers and backpackers, at their core, are looking for a primal connection to nature. They want to leave society behind and find the tranquility of nature. Breathe the fresh air. Smell the pines. Taste the cool mountain stream.
So what are some ways that we can work together toward our common goals and learn to appreciate one another’s approach?
- No matter what your diet, always remember to practice “Leave No Trace” tactics
- Cut down on your packaging and try to recycle, even if that means bringing containers home
- Make an extra effort to be respectful of the campers you are sharing a site, campground, or wild space with, no matter your differences in dietary or lifestyle choices
- Help children to develop a love of nature early. Teach and encourage them to practice environmental stewardship. Children are more likely to care for the Earth if they learn to appreciate and love it. Spark Your Kids Outdoor Interest With Backyard Camping.
Vegan camping is just camping. And vegan camping foods are just camping foods. Whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan you should never feel that your camping food options are limited or boring.
With this list of vegan camping foods and recipes, you are well on your way to a flavorful, convenient, and healthy camping or backpacking trip.