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How to Make Your Dehydrated Camping Meals Taste Better

How to Make Your Dehydrated Camping Meals Taste Better

When you get your first dehydrator, everything is different and overwhelming.  The possibilities are endless, but the how often gets missed.  There’s one main trick to make all your dehydrated camping meals taste better!

I’ve been eating homemade plant-based dehydrated camping meals on my thru-hikes since 2015.  (Let’s not talk about those years of nothing but couscous…) After a few years of experimenting, my Mom and I started doing ONE thing that made everything better.

This one trick will make you want to cook up your dehydrated camping meals in the backcountry after a long day!

Come along for the ride as I show you one thing that will give you tons of new possibilities!

This post contains affiliate links.  I have used every product mentioned and if you purchase one of these products I can make a small commission at no cost to you.

Dehydrated Camping Meals with Bold Flavor Punches

Desert camping with tent and backpack.

Are you ready to drool over the smell of your dehydrated camping meals in the backcountry? 🤤

Then, you’ve come to the right place! 

We routinely get excited for any meal where we have things like Beyond Beef, Spanish Rice, or some of our Chinese Food-inspired concoctions.  Other thru-hikers smell our food and get jealous on the regular.

So, get out your dehydrator, your vacuum sealer, and your cooking supplies. Let’s cook up some mouth-watering dehydrated camping meals together!

The KEY Trick to Getting Bold Flavors

There is one KEY trick to getting a bold flavor into your dehydrated camping meals…

🗝️ The key is SAUCE! 🗝️

But not in the way you’d think! Most sauces contain too much oil to make them into barks that actually dehydrate, let alone rehydrate later.

➡️ You will cook the sauce into your rice!

Essentially, you make flavored rice!  Trust me, you’ll want a hefty amount of rice in your dehydrated camping meals to fill you up with good carbohydrates. 

Those carbs will give you energy to climb those mountains and ford the rivers.  Why not make them the main flavor source?

The best part? You can make infinite possibilities this way! Spices do well, but they don’t pack the biggest flavor on the rehydration side.  Their flavors are more subtle.

How to Find Good Sauces

A hotel room with a thru-hiker's resupply across the floor.

Above, you can see some of our dehydrated camping meals laid out on the left as we sort our resupply.

And now that you know the one key trick, it’s time to go shopping!

You can find some good sauces at any regular grocery store, especially in the international section. 

However, if you want to find bold, different flavors, go to Sprouts, Natural Grocers, or Whole Foods. 

If you’re looking for authentic flavors, find your local ethnic grocery store.  Search for “xxx grocery store in Google” and see what comes up!  I find particularly good ones at Chinese, Indian, and Mexican grocery stores.

Tip: Download the Google Translate app before going if you’re looking for vegan or gluten free sauces!  Occasionally, you’ll get a sauce and can’t read the label.  Google Translate now has a feature where you can take a photo of a product and it will translate for you!

5 Delicious Sauces

Overwhelmed?  Here are 5 delicious sauces that we’ve found to have delicious, bold flavors in our dehydrated camp meals!

  • Kung Pao Sauce: Kung Pao sauce makes for that amazing Chinese Food-inspired taste you crave on trail!  The flavors in Kung Pao sauce really come through well when re-hydrated in the backcountry.
  • Sesame Ginger Sauce: We love sesame ginger sauce rice when we’re out thru-hiking.  This one doesn’t knock us off our feet from the spiciness, but it does bring the great mouth-watering flavor!
  • Buffalo Sauce: If we’re in the mood to clear our sinuses out, we LOVE the buffalo sauce rice!  This is one of the biggest in-your-face flavors we’ve done.  Although while we absolutely love it, we usually only want it every 4-6 days.  Make sure you aren’t having only buffalo rice inspired dehydrated camping meals in your resupply.  We found a fantastic vegan buffalo sauce from Costco a while ago, but haven’t seen it recently.
  • Green Enchilada Sauce: If you love the taste of enchiladas, this one is delicious!  You can find canned green enchilada sauce in almost any grocery store.  It’s usually one of the most affordable sauces.  It goes great with dehydrated Beyond Beef, any dehydrated beans, and almost any vegetables!
  • BBQ Sauce: I’ve always been a BBQ sauce over Ketchup fan!  Here you can use your favorite BBQ sauce.  Chances are if you’re thinking of making this into your dehydrated camp meal, you have a BBQ sauce in mind.  However, if you don’t, I HIGHLY recommend G Hughes Original or Hickory!  G Hughes has a wide array of sauces and while they’re all gluten free, not all of them are vegan.

Step-by-Step Directions Cook & Dehydrate Your Sauce-Flavored Rice

After you’ve come back from the grocery store, grab a large pot out, and let’s get cooking!

All you need here is rice, your sauce of choice, a pot, a stirring spoon, and a measuring cup.

I use a 5-tray dehydrator, so this recipe is in bulk to fill all 5 trays!

Step 1: Measure Out Rice, Sauce, and Water

Start by placing your pot on the stove with 3 cups of rice.

Normally, you would add 6 cups of water in a 1:2 ratio. 

However, we will use 6 cups of COMBINED water and sauce here.  Basically, you can do 4 cups water with 2 cups sauce or 5 cups water and 1 cup sauce.  You’ll want a really strong flavor to only use 1 cup of sauce (like Buffalo Sauce).

Step 2: Bring to Boil, Let Simmer

Once you’ve brought your mixture to a boil, bring it down to a simmer and vent.

Simmer than rice for 18-22 minutes until cooked.  If you need to add extra water to get it cooked all the way, go ahead, but go slow. 

Thicker sauces might need a bit more water. 

Just taste your rice when you think it’s done and you’ll know if it’s cooked or not.

Step 3: Let it Cool a Bit

When it’s done, take it off the burner and let it cool a bit. 

It does not need to get to room temperature here.  However, you should be able to touch it with your hands and not burn them.

Step 4: Spread It Evenly onto Your Dehydrator Trays

When you're ready to dehydrate Spanish Rice, spread it out evenly over your dehydrator trays.
Rice Spread Evenly

Spread your flavored rice over your dehydrator trays with non-stick sheets on them.  The sheets are key to preventing the rice from falling through!

Make sure you make the amount on each tray even.

Next, make sure it’s spread out evenly across the whole tray. 

Take your time and do this well. It will make your dehydrated camping meals rehydrate better if it’s consistent!

Step 5: Dehydrate!

Breaking up clumps of dehydrating Spanish Rice halfway through the dehydration process.
Break up the Clumps Halfway Through!

Put the full trays into your dehydrator and set it to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dehydrate the flavored rice for 5-7 hours depending on how saucy it is.  The saucier it is, the longer it takes.

I like to put it in for 3 hours, then pause it to rotate each tray 180 degrees, change their position in the dehydrator vertically, AND break apart any larger clumps.

If you leave those larger clumps, it won’t dehydrate properly.  At the 3-hour mark, when you break up the large pieces, you will notice they’re hard on the outside and still soft on the inside. 

When you go to reset your timer at the 3-hour mark, if the rice is majority dehydrated, set it for 2 hours.  If you’ve still got a lot of soft stuff, set it for 3 hours again. 

Finally, when you reach that 6-hour mark, take it out if it’s all try and monitor closely if it’s not.  You’ll get the feel for it fairly quickly. Then, you’ll make plenty for all your dehydrated camping meals!

Step 6: Let the Flavored Rice Come to Room Temperature

Congrats! You’ve made flavored dehydrated rice! Let it cool to room temperature before you package it up.

Step 7: Vacuum Seal or Store Briefly in a Gallon Ziplock

If you’re going to re-package it into individual or 2-person dehydrated camping meals soon, go ahead and put it in a gallon Ziplock bag.  This is a great solution for about 2 months or less.

However, if you want it to last the longest, vacuum seal it up until you need it later!

How to Add Your Flavored Rice into Dehydrated Camping Meals

A couple making dehydrated backpacking meals together,

Now you’ve made a few different dehydrated flavors of rice…it’s time to make them into dehydrated camping meals! For the full run down of creating meals, check my post here.

You’ll want to gather your dehydrated carbohydrates (kinds of rice), dehydrated proteins (Beyond Beef, beans, TVP), and dehydrated veggies.

To make dehydrated camping meals for one, I generally use

  • ½ cup flavored rice
  • 1/3 cup protein
  • ¼ cup veggies

To make dehydrated camping meals for a couple, I generally use

  • 1 1/3 cup flavored rice
  • ¾ cup protein
  • ½ cup veggies

Vacuum seal those meals up and store them for later.  Once vacuum sealed, dehydrated camping meals will last at least a year.  I would question them after about a year and a half.

Final Thoughts on Dehydrated Camping Meals

We’re constantly experimenting with different flavored rice to make epic dehydrated camping meals. 

They’ve really leveled up our backpacking food on trail.  Even after a long, full day of hiking, we want to cook dinner.  That’s how you know they’re good!

Let us know what sauces you try and how you liked/disliked them in the comments below!