Whether doing it for the animals, the environment, or personal health, the vegan community is growing by the day. And, with it, so are the choices and possibilities for foods Vegans can eat.
Maintaining a vegan diet from the comfort of your home was difficult enough but nearly impossible while on-the-go. That’s steadily changing as vegan foodstuffs are becoming more widely available and multiplying in variety by the day.
However, when doing something as adventurous and strenuous as backpacking trip, there’s still a lot to consider. You’ll want to fine-tune your vegan meals to keep you full, energetic and minimize waste while maximizing enjoyment.
That takes a little bit of research, planning, and knowing when, how, and why to use vegan foods in your plant-based diet.
In this article, I’ll help you solve any food-imagination problems you might have with vegan backpacking food ideas, meal plans, recipes, and an entire must-have foods list!
Note that I will not talk here about freeze-dried meals as these are a complete other approach to vegan backpacking food (even though if I give you my three favorite ready-to-eat vegan backpacking meals at towards the end of this article). These ready to eat vegan meals can be relatively expensive and their selection for true vegan food is somehow limited.
But nevertheless, I will cover freeze dried meals in another article soon!
Vegan backpacking food ideas
Not long ago, it was hard to quickly access a large variety of vegan foods, not to mention while backpacking. This is especially true when it came to foods that are a high source of protein. Nowadays, it’s easy to find tofu and tempeh in a grocer or health food shop near you.
While not as widespread, meat substitutes such as seitan products and Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods-branded items are still readily available.
That being said, there are a huge variety of everyday foods that we tend to forget about. Nuts, nut butters, and seeds are all energy-dense and nutritious foods available in any grocer or minimart. Oats are a staple in every household but also happens to be a convenient and effective on-the-go food.
Fruits, both fresh and dried, can give you that quick burst of energy to restart as well as being an excellent, natural source of vitamins.
Vegetables are among the more difficult food groups because they tend to not stay fresh for long and can easily be bruised or wilted when carried. Roots like beets and carrots can be used in various dishes, are filling, and hold well while backpacking. While they may take up some space and add some weight, canned beans, peas, and other veggies will last almost indefinitely and are quick and easy to cook.
If you enjoy eating homemade meals while backpacking your way over mountains, through valleys, and across countries – you need to learn to dehydrate.
Basically, this process involves sucking moisture out of cooked meals. The method makes the food lighter, smaller to store, and keeps it from going off for more extended periods. Together with a vacuum-sealed container, it’s the best way to prepare packed, home-cooked meals for extended backpacking trips. Adequately prepared and stored dehydrated food can last up to 5 years! Or a few weeks on-the-go.
With an electric dehydrator, it’s also easy to dehydrate your food at home. Just cook the meal, pop it on a tray in the dehydrator, and wait for it to finish. Seal it in a bag and take it with you wherever you go. Once you’re ready to chow down, just boil, steam, or cook your dehydrated meals with some water.
Vegan backpacking meals
After what you eat, when you eat can be almost just as important. Nutrient timing is a whole science by itself. However, it’s not rocket science, and by following some simple guidelines, you can keep your body fueled, having satisfying meals, and handle food efficiently while hiking or on a backpacking trip.
Vegan backpacking breakfast
Vegan or not, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When backpacking, you’ll want to hit those complex carbs and fats first thing in the day to maintain high energy and satiety levels. Don’t worry about going all out, as you’ll be burning these calories as fuel throughout the day. Try to add some protein sources for a well-balanced meal and to recover from yesterday’s exertion.
Don’t forget to work on some of your superfood supplements (listed below) for an extra boost.
Oatmeal is a superfood all by itself. It’s packed with complex carbs, fiber, and a bit of protein. It’s also an extremely easy and versatile food to cook. Add some fruits (fresh or dried) or non-dairy milk for an extra boost of energy and deliciousness or some protein powder to fuel your muscles. Nuts, nut butter, and seeds are also great additions to add some extra fats that’ll keep you full and energetic throughout the day.
Vegan breakfast pancakes:
Nowadays, you can find an easy vegan pancake mix at most vegan or health food stores. They can come with a variety of flavors and ingredient lists with variations like high-protein vegan pancakes. Some will require mixing with other ingredients, like non-dairy milk, bananas, or oats but are usually super simple to prepare. Like oats, the other great thing about pancakes is that they are easy to upgrade with fruits, nuts, berries, etc.
Scramble eggs are an on-the-go breakfast stable. You’d be surprised at how close you can get with soft tofu, some turmeric for color, and a dash of salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and some other herbs and spices. Boost its energy and nutritional content with some wholewheat bread, canned beans, or avocado, and you’re good to go!
Vegan hiking lunch
Lunch is a tricky meal to pull off when backpacking. Not only will you already be tired and grimy from half a day of activity, but you’ll also want to get going again as soon as possible. That means quick and easy vegan meals are prepared with minimal effort. You’ll want to reduce unpacking/packing to a minimum, which means taking cooking out of the equation.
However, it should still be substantial enough to refuel your tank and keep you going till dinner.
Vegan wraps and sandwiches:
It doesn’t get much more “quick and easy” than a wrap or sandwich. Try to use a complex carb, such as wholemeal wraps or bread, for your base for sustained energy. Use fruits or nut butter for something sweet or go savory with vegan cheese, pre-prepared burgers (see recipes below), some fresh greens, and your favorite and best vegan condiments.
Binge on snacks:
If you’re feeling particularly drained or hungry, incorporating some of your snacks is a great way to fill in those energy gaps. Other times, you might even not have the energy or time to face preparing a wrap or sandwich. While you should be mindful of potential nutrition pitfalls, merely going to town on energy-dense snacks like energy balls or bars can be your fallback.
Vegan backpacking dinner
Dinner is when you settle down and recover from a long day. You’ll probably have the opportunity to unpack or settle all your gear. This means you can launch up that burner and prepare a proper vegan meal. Having a nutritious and well-balanced dinner is crucial to replenish your lost nutrients and be on your best for the coming day.
If you don’t have a protein to add to your dish, have a shake with non-dairy milk for dessert. Your muscles will thank you.
Pasta with sauce:
If you have the space to accommodate some pasta and a packet of sauce, such as marinara, vegan alfredo, etc., this can make for a quick and delicious meal. You can add just about any available veggies, cooking oil, some nutritional yeast, and all the herbs, spices, and condiments your heart desires. Some salt is essential for replenishing those precious electrolytes. And, add some firm tofu or tempeh for a protein boost. I really like my food spicy and I always have a little container with hot sauce (Sriracha, my favorite!) and use it wherever possible.
Similarly, you can take the Asian twist and prepare some instant noodles, ramen, or rice noodles with a delicious and straightforward broth or soup. Fill the nutritional gaps with some tofu, whatever fresh veggies you have, and add seasoning in the form of salt, chili flakes, sesame oil, stock, etc. Add some miso paste, and you’ll have an authentic, hearty, and nutritious dinner in no time. However, don’t just go for ramen every night, as instant noodles are usually packed with additives.
Just because your vegan doesn’t mean you can’t plan a meal around protein. Both tofu and tempeh can make an excellent base for a meal when served with other sides, condiments, and veggies. You can also find mouthwatering seitan steaks to grill in a pan or on the open flame. Season or marinade and serve with pasta, chickpeas, fresh veggies, or instant mash.
Vegan backpacking meal plan
There is no one-plan-fits-all meal plan. And, if you follow a specific protocol, such as intermittent fasting or OMAD, you’ll want to tailor it to your lifestyle. However, when undertaking something as inherently strenuous as backpacking, the best advice is to split your big vegan meals across the day with snacking windows in between.
The idea is to have a full tank when you set out in the morning, refuel as necessary throughout the day, and then replenish and recover what you’ve lost at the end.
- 07:00-08:00 AM: Have a BIG breakfast, targeting complex carbs and fats.
- Midday: Refuel with a quick-and-easy to prepare lunch. Carbs and fats are once again your friend but don’t overdo it, or you might feel sluggish.
- 03:00-04:00 PM: Throwdown some of your snacks, such as nuts, fruits, energy bars, or trail mix that provide a quick burst of energy for the final leg.
- 06:00-07:00 PM: Settle down with a proper, home-cooked meal to replenish macro and micronutrients. Add some protein for recovery.
Vegan backpacking desserts
As a vegan backpacker, you might be surprised to hear that you can have your cake and eat it too. While dessert is considered to be the most disposable “meal,” it can be an excellent way to spark some joy and boost your calories while backpacking.
Here are some recipes that are easy to stock and prepare even for the most minimal of backpackers (all for two servings):
Coconut and Chia Pudding
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. All you need are two ingredients:
- 1 cup Coconut milk/cream (cream is preferred if you don’t have fridge access)
- 1 cup Chia seeds
You can fancify this go-to dessert with just about any other fruits, nuts, or seeds you have at your disposal. It goes particularly well with:
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)
- Walnuts or almonds
- Honey (depending on your ethical rationale), maple or agave syrup for some added sweetness
- Shredded or desiccated coconut for garnish
- Broken or crumbed cookies
The steps are straightforward:
- First, mix chia seeds and coconut cream in a 1:1 ratio. You can use more cream/milk if you have access to a fridge.
- Cover and let it sit for up to 2 hours (preferably somewhere cool). The chia seeds will form a gel layer that will thicken with the coconut milk.
- Garnish with your favorite extras
A vegan takes on a familiar yet effortless and satisfying dessert. All you need is:
- Two packs Instant Jell-O pudding (yes it is vegan if you use plant based milk, but always check ingredients list)
- 2 tbsp Coconut milk powder
- Around 2 cups of cold water
Just like the previous dessert, you can garnish this dessert with just about anything from fruits to cookies to nuts.
The steps to complete are just as straightforward:
- Combine Jell-O pudding and coconut milk powder. A ziplock bag should do it.
- Initially, add 1 cup of water to the mixture. Keep adding small amounts of cold water as needed and keep stirring the mixture.
- Just let it sit for around 5 minutes.
- Garnish with your favorite toppings, and enjoy!
One-pan Apple Crisp
This recipe is the most extravagant dessert of the bunch. It’s a hearty dessert that will remind you of apple pie and sitting around the fireplace during fall. However, the ingredients are all easy to carry and can either be used in other meals or snacks. You will need a total of 5 items as well as a gas burner (or wood fire) and an appropriate pot or deep pan:
- 1 ½ cup freeze-dried or one fresh apple
- Three tablespoons brown sugar
- One teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- One handful granola
- Walnuts (chopped), to taste
- 1 cup of water
You might need more ingredients, but the actual steps are a breeze:
- Combine the first four ingredients as well as ½ cup of water in your pot or deep pan. Stir slightly and then place on a medium flame. If the mixture appears too dry, add boiling water as needed.
- Cook until the apples start to caramelize and the ingredients have fully incorporated and started to thicken.
- Once it appears done, remove it from the heat and garnish it with granola and walnuts.
Homemade vegan backpacking recipes
To get you started, I’ve put together some handy recipes that will give you an idea of how to prepare food as a backpacking vegan. These recipes can be modified to taste, and I encourage you to experiment yourself and create your vegan meals.
Dehydrated Chickpea Chana Masala
Indian food has always been one of the staple cuisines for tasty, nutritious, and hearty vegan food. However, the very idea of transporting a liquid curry over rough terrain should spark fear in the heart of any backpacker. Not anymore.
This meal provides a good balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats with some veggies to round out your diet. It’s definitely a feel-good meal to settle down with at the end of a hard day.
What you’ll need:
- One white onion thinly sliced or diced
- Three garlic cloves, minced
- About ½ inch fresh ginger root, grated
- 1 tsp Chana Masala spice mix
- 1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas
- 1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup basmati rice
How to prepare:
- Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic, and cook until the onion turns translucent and brown slightly.
- Mix in the Chana Masala powder and cook until fragrant.
- Pour in the whole can of crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes until it starts to bubble. While cooking, add salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss in the chickpeas and cook for a few minutes until they start to soften.
- Add the fresh coriander just before turning off the heat and leave to cool down to room temperature.
- Take the basmati rice and cook it to the packet instructions. Leave to cool down to room temperature.
- Finally, dehydrate your Chana Masala and basmati rice one by one in a rack in your dehydrator (look for the specific device instructions).
- To prepare your dehydrated Chana Masala and basmati rice, cook both individually in a saucepan or pot with a cup of water. It should take roughly 10 minutes, and you should let it sit for another couple of minutes to completely rehydrate before tucking in.
Vegan Energy Balls
Convenient. Space-efficient. Delicious. Vegan energy balls have it all as vegan hiking food. You might not want to replace entire meals with these nutrition bombs, but they are great for snacks throughout the day, and they round out your meals with a sweet note.
The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to dreaming up your own unique vegan energy balls as well. However, here is one recipe for chocolate-chip peanut butter balls that anyone can get behind using typical ingredients. Even better, these are no-bake balls, so you can even assemble them on the go if you happen to take the ingredients anyway.
You’ll need (makes roughly eight balls):
- 3 cups oats
- 2 cup natural peanut butter
- 1/2 cup agave or maple syrup
- 60 grams chocolate protein powder (pea, soy, etc.)
- 1/4 Tablespoons chocolate chips
- Mix oats and peanut butter with all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and start to combine and knead them together. It will take some time and a lot of elbow grease, but it will eventually form a roughly consistent dough with some chunky bits.
- Use either your hands or an ice cream scoop to scoop and shape the mixture into balls.
- Once done, store them in the fridge or a cool place until it’s time to snack.
Vegan power burgers
These vegan burgers will make a great addition to your vegan backpacking food arsenal. With beans and oats, they are high in protein as well as incredibly filling. They can be enjoyed anytime but are a great option to whip up a quick burger, sandwich, or wrap for lunch.
You’ll want to dehydrate the burgers to last longer. When ready to eat, just spray them with some water and heat them in a pan. Burgers can also be upgraded with tempeh as well as whatever seasoning you prefer. Assemble with some kale and your favorite condiments.
- 1 (14 oz.) can black beans
- ⅓ cup rolled oats
- ½ red onion, diced
- Two garlic cloves, minced
- Seasoning of choice – it goes nicely with an Italian seasoning mix.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
How to prepare:
- Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until it’s mostly consistent. If it doesn’t mix, you may need to add a bit of water or oil but be careful not to overdo it. If it shoots off to the side, scrape it back to the middle and continue to blend.
- Transfer the whole batch to a bowl and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to around 400°F (200°C) and cover a baking sheet with baking parchment or cooking foil.
- While the oven heats, start forming the burger mixture into patties, about 1 inch thick (or, to taste).
- Pop the burgers in the oven for around 25 minutes total, flipping them once halfway.
Vegan backpacking foods list
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it contains most of the easily accessible foods, some with long shelf life, you should be aware of as a vegan backpacker.
Many of them can be enjoyed by themselves or used with a variety of other foods.
For example, peanut butter is excellent in oats or sandwiches, but a tablespoon fool can give you a boost of energy and quell some hunger pangs.
General vegan backpacking foods list:
- Nut butters (almond, macadamia, peanut butter, etc.) – warning they are also high in calories.
- Fresh fruits – Fruits like apples, berries, and pears can hold decently well, especially if bought new. Bananas might be more short-lived but are a great energy source and will aid recovery when undertaking strenuous activities.
- Dried fruits
- Oats (instant or quick cook)
- Nuts – add salted nuts from time to time to replenish electrolytes.
- Seeds (chia, flax, sunflower, pumpkin, etc.)
- Trail mix
- Vegan granola, muesli
- Vegan granola/muesli bars
- Vegan protein/meal replacement shake (pea, hemp, soy)
- Cooking oil (olive, canola, avocado, peanut, sesame, etc.)
- Bread (preferably wholemeal)
- Multigrain cereals
- Banana or tapioca chips
- Rice cakes
- Instant potato mash
- Canned beans or chickpeas and other pulses
- Lentils (not dried)
- Instant noodles, such as ramen
- Plant based milk powders
- Dehydrated mushrooms
Vegan food list of superfoods/nutrition supplements:
- Seaweed (dried seaweed snack, e.g.)
- Nutritional yeast
- Herbs and spices – as many as you can comfortably carry, but turmeric and cinnamon are particularly great choices. Dried chili flakes and herbs and garlic and onion powder are convenient and versatile ingredients.
- Miso paste
- Isotonic powders and rehydration tablets
- Himalayan salt
Vegan backpacking fresh vegetable food list
Ready-to-eat Vegan Backpacking Meals
When hiking, there is no question of carrying a whole pantry. Freeze-dried, dehydrated can be a neat solution for fast tasty meals at the end of long hikes, if you don’t want to cook every evening (or just lazy) or just because you want to hike light.
There are plenty of these types of backpacking meals but I would suggest “good to-go”, “backpacker’s pantry “, “nomad nutrition” and “outdoor herbivore” as they have some nice vegan selections.
Here are my favorite three ready-to-eat vegan backpacking meals to please yourself without having to carry a load.
Last update on 2023-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
And a meal combo from Outdoor Herbivore.
Last update on 2023-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
As you can see, and despite popular perception, you have many choices when it comes to food as a vegan backpacker.
Gone are the days where you have to choose one or the other of your passions. By making smart food choices, investing in a dehydrator, and learning a few new recipes, you can prepare compact, nutritious, and delicious food with plenty of variety for weeks in advance.
It’s worth taking the time before your next hiking trip to not only plan what you will eat but when as well. You are what you eat, and eating the right thing at the right time will help you stay on top of your game and enjoy the overall experience that much more.
Create and print a checklist of handy foods and recipes to make preparing for your next backpacking adventure a breeze.