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No Cook Camping Food

Easy No Cook Camping Food

Raise your hand if your favorite meal is one you didn’t have to cook! I have both hands in the air because cooking is not a strength of mine.

I love the idea of cooking and I search for beginner friendly recipes, but actually cooking food makes me nervous even before I begin because I always seem to burn at least one thing.

Ironically, I did win an outdoor cooking contest from Texas State Parks with the only Dutch oven enchilada meal I’m not afraid to serve to people I just met. 

No Cook Meals Are Great for Summer or During Fire Season

When we plan on spending time outside, whether it be near home or further away, we tend to eat a lot of no cook meals that are easy to pack and prepare. This means when it’s hot outside you don’t need to build a fire or start a stove just to enjoy a quick meal. It also means you can get food in hungry bellies faster and cleaning up is usually easier, too.  

There are also times where you can’t build a fire because of drought, bans, or regulations where you are visiting or camping. No cook meals can be essential when you are getting outside during fire season. 

We spend lots of outside time in our backyard. After a swim on an unusually cool summer day we had a no cook lunch in the treehouse.
We spend lots of outside time in our backyard. After a swim on an unusually cool summer day we had a no cook lunch in the treehouse

No Cook Meals Are Great For Beginners in the Outdoors

When we take families camping with our community North Texas Kids Outside, we have a lot of people who are new to spending a night or two outdoors. Some of the common questions we get before a camping trip are, “How are we going to cook?” and “What if we don’t know how to cook over a campfire?”.

Because bringing people together for quality time outside is our mission, we prioritize making sure people feel welcomed, comfortable, and included in the outdoors no matter their experience level or hesitations. Meals are a HUGE part of how we build community while camping with our families.  No cook meals have made camping that much more accessible and welcoming for families worried about cooking outside. 

no cook meals are easy to pack in a cooler for a day or camping adventure, especially for beginners
no cook meals are easy to pack in a cooler for a day or camping adventure, especially for beginners

12 Quick and Easy No Cook Meal Ideas

When you’re enjoying the outdoors, especially with kids and all the moving here and there, it’s nice to have some meals on hand that you don’t have to cook! These no cook meals have ideas our family and members of the TMM team enjoy, along with some tips we’ve learned along the way. 

1. Cereal

It doesn’t get much easier than cereal! This is a super quick way to eat breakfast outside. Keep your milk in the cooler and bring along your cereal in a food bin. A friend of mine portions the cereal into bags or containers to help her older kids be more independent. It also makes a great snack to eat dry while hiking.

Cereal is an easy no cook breakfast or snack to make!
Cereal is an easy no cook breakfast or snack to make!

2. Yogurt with Toppings

There are so many possibilities with yogurt. Keep it in the cooler and bring along a variety of toppings. We like to add berries, raisins, and granola for a quick and satisfying breakfast. TMM team member Rebecca says on really hot summer days you can also freeze yogurt tubes at home before you head outside. The frozen yogurt tubes are a great treat when hiking with a baby in warm weather

A super fun and easy to clean way to eat yogurt and fruit comes straight from TMM Founder, Amelia, inside of her Easy Camp Cookbook. Amelia’s family enjoys fruit and yogurt parfait cones while camping, as a dessert or for breakfast. Get a peek of the parfait recipe and then grab her books and meal plan guides and never worry about meals again! 

When she first published the books I was so excited, because 1) ya girl needs help cooking and 2) I wanted to support her after all the tips, tricks, and support she had provided me through her blog when I was getting started in the outdoors!

This no cook meal of yogurt with toppings in a waffle cone is in Amelia's Easy Camp Cookbook.
This recipe is in Amelia’s Easy Camp Cookbook

3. Bagels with Cream Cheese or Peanut Butter

We keep our cream cheese in the cooler and peanut butter goes with our other dry food. I personally LOVE cinnamon bagels with peanut butter, sliced bananas, and walnuts. It tastes like banana bread and takes just a minute to throw together.

We prepare a few slices of bagel and add some fruit for a breakfast we can share. You can also make them more savory with cream cheese and sliced deli meat for lunch. TMM team member Jami also packs bagels, fruit, and yogurt for breakfast.

My favorite no cook meal bagel combination is peanut butter, a little cream cheese, bananas, and walnuts!
My favorite bagel combination is peanut butter, a little cream cheese, bananas, and walnuts!

4. Sandwiches, Tortas, and Wraps

These no cook meals aren’t super fancy, but they are versatile and you can find many combinations to satisfy even the most picky eater.

Tortas, wraps, and sandwiches are so easy to make ahead and toss in the cooler. Alternatively, you can pack bread or tortillas and keep the fixings in a cooler and assemble at your destination. 

Premade sandwiches in the cooler make for a super fast lunch at the splashpad
Premade sandwiches in the cooler make for a super fast lunch at the splashpad

I love the Mexican version of a sandwich, called a torta. What makes the torta so much better than a regular sandwich, in my opinion, is the bread. Instead of sliced bread, you slice a bolillo lengthwise.

A bolillo, or telera, is kind of like a soft roll or soft French bread. I was at Lake Mineral Wells State Park when a family in our nature community served me a torta and I was instantly transported back home to my abuela’s kitchen in El Paso with Vicente Fernández on the radio.  

When it comes to sandwiches and wraps, you have unlimited options. My family’s sandwich preferences are pretty basic. My husband enjoys an excessive amount of jelly and peanut butter and both he and our kids stick to a very simple meat and cheese combo. Occasionally they stick some chips in the middle.

For a snack they’ll put some peanut butter and Nutella in a tortilla or on bread. My goal is to expand their horizons a little more! 

A Classic no cook meal is Peanut Butter and Jelly with extreme layers courtesy of my husband!
Classic Peanut Butter and Jelly with extreme layers courtesy of my husband!

I’m more of a turkey and avocado fan, however I love to add a variety of veggies and protein together. TMM team member Ginny made some wraps for lunch recently. She said they used “spicy hummus and rotisserie chicken on naan bread with chopped salad, cucumber, and feta wrapped up inside. Would be great with bell pepper, too. No mayo because it goes bad easier, but hummus makes it moist!”. Gosh, that sounds amazing!

You can add any fixings between two slices of bread or rolled in a tortilla and have yourself a super fast no cook meal that’s easy to eat on the move.

5. Quesadillas

Technically the cheese should be melted in order to be a true quesadilla, so this isn’t exactly no cook. But I have a hack for you, especially if you live in a warm climate, that does turn this into a no cook meal. We live near the surface of the sun, or at least it feels like that some days in North Texas, so this is how we have made them work. 

No Cook Quesadilla hack - leave them on the dashboard of the car on a hot day
No Cook Quesadilla hack – leave them on the dashboard of the car on a hot day

Here’s our no cook quesadilla hack! Prep your tortilla on a piece of foil on a plate if you have it, and add your cheese on top. Wrap or cover with foil and set it inside your car on the dashboard. Depending on how hot it is outside, your cook time will vary. T

ake out and enjoy when you see the cheese has melted. My husband is a great cook and actually enjoys cooking, so I’m sure he’s embarrassed and appalled with some of my strategies. It works in a pinch! Let me know if you try it!

6. Salad Kits with Protein

Most grocery stores have premade salad bags that come with dressing and extra toppings. This is a great base for you to add a protein of your choice and turn it into a meal with no cooking involved! TMM members have used hummus, canned tuna, and canned chicken with success. 

TMM team member Becky said to give canned chicken a try, even if it might seem gross at first because of the mushy texture. She has tried it mixed with kale salads, pre-cooked rice with sauces, and mixed with “apples, mayo, raisins, and curry for a chicken salad”. Because it does have a very soft texture, she suggests, “Mix it with crunchy foods or use it as a dip or spread.

I haven’t tried this, but I bet it makes a good buffalo chicken dip with Frank’s hot sauce and softened cream cheese.” We’ve made a buffalo chicken dip with canned chicken for a Super Bowl party, but now I want to try and take it camping this fall. 

Pro tip from TMM team member Jackie: Store your canned goods in the cooler if you want a cooler meal
Pro tip from TMM team member Jackie: Store your canned goods in the cooler if you want a cooler meal

Here are some pro tips from TMM team members about taking plant and animal based protein on an adventure in the warmer months. Jackie says, “Throw your cans in the cooler. Warm tuna on a salad didn’t taste amazing. I mean not horrible, just not as cold and crisp as I was hoping when it was 96 degrees! I packed a can of chicken to throw into a southwest flavored salad.” 

Jami also adds, “We get the Starkist Chicken bags sometime, those would definitely take up less space in the cooler too! Hummus is easy to dehydrate and then just mix with cold water and mush around in the baggie until desired consistency. One less thing to fill a cooler or worry about going bad on a hot day hike”, especially while backpacking.

7. Flavored Tuna Packets or Beef Jerky with Crackers

This is a really simple lunch that my friends, and Park Rangers, Lisa and Cassie survived on while leading camping workshops with Texas Outdoor Family. You don’t need to store them in a cooler and you can eat them while on the move, if you need to. However, if it’s hot outside you might use the tips from TMM above and toss them in the cooler.

There are a variety of flavors of both tuna and beef jerky available at the grocery store.  I really like the teriyaki flavor beef jerky and ranch or deli tuna! They can each be eaten solo or combined with some fruit or veggies to make more of a meal.

Tuna packets, beef jerky, and crackers are easy to pack and require no cooler or cooking!
Tuna packets, beef jerky, and crackers are easy to pack and require no cooler or cooking!

8. Charcuterie Board

I call this an adult Lunchable. Maybe it’s because I’m a 90s kid or because it’s easy to add in things that please all of us when we’re outside. Either way, grabbing a bunch of finger foods that don’t require cooking makes this a meal that is a win for everyone. 

A quick salad with some fruit and nuts is easy to grab and go as a  no cook meal
A quick salad with some fruit and nuts is easy to grab and go as a no cook meal

Our spread is more about function than fancy and it’s usually not served on a board. Recently at a splashpad we used our YETI cooler and towels as our table. We don’t usually add lots of cured meats, but instead opt for fruits, veggies, hummus, nuts, cheese, and sandwiches cut up smaller than usual.

I tried to be cute once and use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into shapes for the kids and they both asked me, “Can we just have triangles?” My sweet babies. May they always keep it that simple for a Mom who’s not the best cook!

Finger Foods Make it easy to have a picnic outside that everyone will enjoy and it is a perfect no cook meal!
Finger foods make it easy to have a picnic outside that everyone will enjoy and it is a perfect no cook meal!

Make Ahead Meals That Don’t Need to Be Cooked at Your Destination

The next few meals can be prepared at home before an adventure and then packed into a cooler until you are ready to eat. Some of them involve no stove or fire and a few require some of the ingredients to be cooked before mixing it together. 

9. Fruit Salad

This is another versatile option you can use as a side dish. Pair it with some tuna packets or a handful of nuts for a quick snack or meal. Try to go with fruit that is in season, to save money, but to also increase your chances of it lasting the duration of your trip. My 4 year old can almost eat his weight in watermelon, so sometimes we travel with the watermelon whole and cut it once we arrive at our destination.

Sometimes they start eating the fruit before we get a chance to cut it up. We wash at home and assemble at our site.
Sometimes they start eating the fruit before we get a chance to cut it up. We wash at home and assemble at our site.

10. Pasta and Bean Salads

TMM team member Domo makes a chickpea dish that requires no cooking and tastes great during the hot summer months. She says, “Mix 2 cans of chickpeas w 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 TBS lemon juice, and a dash of cumin, salt, pepper and paprika. I add 1/2 of a bell pepper finely chopped and/or 1-2 carrots finely chopped. You could add other beans or onions as well depending on personal tastes.”

Another no cook salad Domo makes has a southwestern flair and is sometimes referred to as a variation of cowboy caviar (fun fact: the name began in Texas). To make this dish she says, “Mix 1 can of corn with 1 can black beans (or other bean), 1/2 a large red onion finely chopped, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt & pepper, dash of paprika, and 1-2 avocados chopped. Mix & eat.” You can bring along chips and eat this dish like you would salsa. 

TMM Member Jackie paired tuna with a salad kit and pasta salad for a no cook dinner.
TMM Member Jackie paired tuna with a salad kit and pasta salad for a no cook dinner

TMM team members Jackie and Jami make a pasta salad and three bean salad at home and pack it in the cooler. Jami pairs hers with sandwiches and fruit for a meal. 

11. Overnight Oats

 As a teacher, overnight oats are so easy for me to prepare at night and enjoy in the morning. Sometimes I will make them at school and store them in my classroom fridge. I started taking these jars on camping trips when we had to leave really early in the morning to get to our destination.

I just make them the night before and store them in the fridge until it’s time to put them in the cooler. If I want to have some after a night of camping, I mix the dry ingredients together in a baggie and keep the cold ingredients in a jar in the cooler until I’m ready to mix and leave in the cooler overnight. I really like bananas, nuts and seeds, and peanut butter in my oats!

Overnight Oats are an easy no cook breakfast. Photo by Daria Nepriakhina
Overnight Oats are an easy no cook breakfast. Photo by Daria Nepriakhina

One More No Prep and No Cook Meal Idea

12. Pick Up Food From a Restaurant

Most of the state parks and places we visit in DFW are within 30 minutes of a city or town, so this may be a luxury we have that you can’t find in other parts of the country. But it’s definitely saved a few camping trips for families who were inexperienced with cooking outdoors. It made them feel more comfortable to know that at least one of their meals would be guaranteed. 

Once, I attempted to cook fajitas on a camping stove, because it was brand new and I was brand new to camping and I wanted to test it out. I started cooking way too late and my friend was a boy scout and saved the day and the meal for families waiting to eat at one of our first camping trips. Learn from my mistake and go get food or cook the carne over the campfire or a portable camping grill!

David, a Boy Scout and volunteer with North Texas Kids Outside, saved the meal I almost ruined back in November 2012! Omar's face by the lantern says "Never again".
David, a Boy Scout and volunteer with North Texas Kids Outside, saved the meal I almost ruined back in November 2012! Omar’s face by the lantern says “Never again”.

When we’ve had a super long day or we forgot an essential ingredient, we’ve changed our plans and one of us ran into town to pick up pizza or food from a local restaurant. Other times we know the drive will be long and it’ll be dark by the time we get camp set up so we plan to stop at a restaurant on the way. Still other times we want to keep our “movie night” tradition and grab pizza to eat under the stars and enjoy the show.

Fed Families are Happy Families

If we’re being honest, no cook meals have resulted in happy families enjoying their time outside. Our ultimate goal is spending quality time outside and easy no cook meals help us do just that!

We’d love for you to share your favorite no cook meals in the comments below or on social media!

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