Freezer Bag Cooking: Easy Meals For the Lightweight Backpacker

Ziploc bag
Written by Sean Nelson

Cooking on the trail is one of the backpacker’s greatest little joys – or one of the greatest nightmares, depending on who you ask. While many companies offer easy-to-prepare and easy-to-clean-up pouch meals, these options can be too pricy for even a short weekend trip. Luckily, there’s another way to go that’s lightweight, easy, and simple to clean.

Must read: No-Cook Camping Meals: Stove Free Recipes For The Minimal Backpacker

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the world of freezer bag cooking, or “FBC” if you’re into fancy abbreviations. We’ll give you 12 delicious, simple recipes that will keep your stomach full – but not your backpack. Let’s begin!

The Basics: How Do You Cook in a Bag, Anyway?

When most people think of backpacking food, they think of freeze-dried pouch meals. These meals, which come pre-prepared by several companies, usually offer the promise of simplicity just add water and wait! The choices range from stroganoff to spicy lentils and peach cobbler to chocolate pudding pie, but they all have one thing in common – they’re expensive!

Freezer bag meals allow you to eat the same delicious, hot food without breaking the bank. Preparing your own meals is cheaper than the store bought stuff, and it also allows you to customize however you want. Love curry but hate lentils? No problem!

See also: Dehydrated Food Recipes: Just Add Water to These Delicious Dehydrated Meals

In addition to personal taste preferences, customizable meals are perfect for those with dietary restrictions. Vegans don’t have to be restricted to rice and beans, and those with sensitivities to gluten, dairy, soy, or other foods can rest assured that their meal won’t cause issues.

So how do you make these miracle meals? There are a few tricks you should know before you start.

  1. Make sure your bags are sturdy! Most freezer bags are perfectly capable of holding extremely hot water, and some companies sell heavy duty, reusable zipper bags (like OPSAK). That being said, make sure your freezer bags are actually freezer bags. Thin sandwich baggies simply will not do.
  2. Label, label, label! There’s probably nothing more disappointing than a soggy meal. Make sure to label your pre prepared meals with what they are, how much water they need, and how long they need to cook.
  3. Don’t boil! Boiling water is hot – really hot. Water of about 180˚ F is sufficient for dehydrated meals, so a near boil is perfect. Overheating your water puts you in danger of burns and melting plastic.
  4. Wrap it up! After you add water to your meal, keep it hot while it cooks by wrapping the bag in a jacket or hat.
  5. Account for altitude! Higher altitudes mean longer cooking time. Prevent the accidental crunchy bite by letting your food sit a little longer in higher environments.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s get into the recipes!

Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day

As we’ve all heard a million times, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is especially true when you’re backpacking – some hearty carbs are perfect for quick energy to get you going, and a good balance of protein will provide slow releasing energy to keep you strong. Here are three customizable, healthy recipes for all day energy:

Oatmeal – Of Course

Perhaps the most classic of all backpacking meals, oatmeal has earned its reputation. Oats are filling, delicious, packed with nutrients, and completely customizable.

For freezer bag oatmeal, all you need is two packets of your favorite instant oatmeal and two tablespoons of dry milk. Combine the dry ingredients and add 1 cup of hot water.

Now comes the fun part. Add a scoop of dried or dehydrated fruit (like blueberries, cranberries, mangoes, banana chips, or strawberries) into the bag for a sweet touch, or top with chopped almonds and walnuts for a more savory approach. Other toppings can include brown sugar, flaked coconut, or maple syrup.

Tip: If you can’t do dairy, skip the dried milk all together or use dry soy milk powder.

The Traditional

One of the things this writer misses most on the trail is a hot, greasy spoon breakfast. There’s truly no replacement for hash browns and eggs in the morning – and luckily, you can have ‘em on the trail too!

For this recipe, all you need is freeze dried eggs and instant hash browns. Combine them in your bag and add 1 ½ cups of hot water. Let sit for about 15 minutes, and you’ve got a diner meal! For meat and veggie lovers, add freeze dried veggies or sausage crumbles, and if you’re really craving the full experience, use some pita or tortillas in place of toast.

Tip: As an alternative to hash browns, use instant mashed potatoes. For extra flavor, try cheesy flavors or varieties with bacon bits!

Savory Grits

While savory oatmeal is possible, the savory cereal title is definitely held by grits. Nothing beats this salty snack in the morning, and it’s one of the easiest meals to prepare!

For this recipe, combine 2 packets of instant grits, 2 tbsp. of dry milk (or soy milk powder), 2 tbsp. of bacon bits, ½ tsp. of onion powder, and ½ tsp. of garlic powder. Add 1 cup of hot water and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes until the grits are soft.

Tip: For cheesy grits, add 1 – 2 oz. of diced sharp cheddar cheese after cooking.

Lunch: Quick Stops and Casual Bites

Lunch may not be the most important meal of the day, but it is one of the most delicious. Lunch breaks are an important part of anyone’s day, whether you’re pulling a 20 mile section or just resting at camp. These freezer bag lunches are sure to hit the spot for omnivores and vegetarians alike.

Rice with Artichokes and Zucchini

This savory meal is a delicious vegetarian dish that doesn’t skimp on the flavor. While white rice lacks in protein, the veggies and cheese are full of vitamins and calories to get your stomach full and keep your body working at its best.

For this recipe, combine these dry ingredients in a bag:

  • 1 cup instant white rice
  • 2 tbsp. Alfredo sauce mix
  • 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese (dried or shelf stable)
  • 2 tbsp. dry milk
  • Freeze dried zucchini
  • Freeze dried artichokes

When you’re ready to eat, add 1 cup of hot water and 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Let sit for 15 – 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper, or dried basil.

Tip: If white rice doesn’t suit your fancy, try instant brown rice or instant couscous.

Sushi Salad

This recipe is a way to bring a bit of the city into nature. It can be prepared vegetarian or topped with a protein of your choice, and is the perfect refreshing meal for hot days.

For this recipe, combine these dry ingredients in your bag:

  • 1 cup instant white rice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • ½ tsp. soy sauce or soy sauce powder
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp. vinegar or vinegar powder
  • Dehydrated carrots
  • Dehydrated green onions
  • Dry seaweed

Add 1 cup of hot water and let sit for 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is soft. For hot days, prepare in the morning and let cool off in the shade or in cool water like a river or lake.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Just like rice, pasta is an excellent, carb packed way to fill up on the trail. This pasta will satisfy your appetite and can be prepared vegan, vegetarian, or with meat.

Prepare these dry ingredients in a bag:

  • 4 oz. of pasta (cooked and dehydrated)
  • 1 packet dried pesto mix
  • ¼ cup parmesan (dried or shelf stable), or ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • Dehydrated peas
  • Dried mushrooms

When you’re ready to eat, add 1 ½ cups of hot water and let sit for 15 – 20 minutes. Top with olive oil, pine nuts, or more cheese. You can add shelf stable chicken fillets for a little extra protein.

Tip: Mushroom hunters can try this recipe with dried morels or chanterelles for an even more woodsy experience.

Dinner: The Freezer Bag Gourmet

Dinner is the time to relax and chow down, and these next meals are meant to fill you up after a long day.


This recipe is a classic of backpacking food.

Stroganoff is the perfect combination of protein and carbs. Here’s what you need:

  • 4 oz. pasta (cooked and dehydrated)
  • ½ cup textured vegetable protein or dehydrated ground beef
  • 2 tbsp. dried onion
  • 2 tbsp. dry milk
  • 1 tbsp. tomato powder
  • 1 tsp. beef or vegetable bouillon
  • Dried mushrooms

Combine all the ingredients in a bag and cover completely with hot water. Let sit 15 – 20 minutes and enjoy!

Tip: This is another good recipe for morels!

Chicken Adobo

If you’re craving something spicy, look no further. This recipe can be prepared as spicy as you like, so let loose!

Combine these dry ingredients in a bag:

  • 1 cup instant white rice
  • 1 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon
  • ½ – 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • Chili powder (to your taste)

Add 1 cup of hot water, 1 packet of soy sauce, and ½ tbsp. of vinegar and let sit for 15 – 20 minutes. Top with shelf stable chicken.

Tip: For even more spice, try New Mexico or Anaheim pepper powder.

Mac and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a favorite meal for pretty much everyone. Being on the trail doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some good comfort food.

Here’s what you need:

  • 4 oz. pasta (cooked and dehydrated)
  • 1/4 cup dry milk
  • 1 tbsp. parmesan (dried or shelf stable), or ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • Pepper

Combine everything except the pasta and store in a small baggy. Add 1 cup hot water to the pasta and let sit for 15 – 20 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and 2 tbsp. olive oil and mix.

Desert: The Best Part of the Day

Some people say that desert is unnecessary. Those people are probably wrong. Here are a few desert recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth on the trail:

Bag Brownies

Everyone loves brownies. This recipe is prefect for the trail, and it only uses a few ingredients.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 packet crushed graham crackers
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¾ – 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp. dry milk
  • 2 tbsp. powdered sugar

Combine ¼ cup of hot water with the dry milk and chocolate chips. Melt the chocolate by dipping the bag in simmering water, then mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Tip: Try spicy pecans for a more trail gourmet experience.

Apple Crisp

Fruity deserts are perfect for all kinds of trips – whether you’re getting toasty by the fire or trying to cool down.

Here’s what you need:

  • Sweet granola
  • ¼ lb. dried apples
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon

Combine the apples and dry ingredients with 1 ½ cups of hot water. Let sit for 15 – 20 minutes, then top with the granola and enjoy!

Tip: This recipe works great with pears and peaches as well, and can even be topped with a packet of caramel sauce.

Berry Shortbread

This desert isn’t really shortbread – but it’s close enough.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups dehydrated mixed berries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • Angel food cake

Combine everything except the cake in a bag and add 2 tbsp. of water. Heat the bag in a pot of simmering water and stir while it comes to a boil. Once the berries cook and thicken, serve on top of your cake.

Summing Things Up

For more tips on DIY backpacking food, see our article to find out.

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Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.