Have you ever wanted to lighten your pack with dehydrated backpacking meals only to realize they’re expensive without a big vegan selection? I sure have! This post is for you if you want to learn how to make your own homemade vegan dehydrated backpacking meals!
While a few companies have started to offer more vegan or gluten free dehydrated meals, it’s usually not enough variety and they’re pricy! You can make your own backpacking dehydrated meals cheaper, healthier, and have more variety.
After thousands of miles of backpacking, my Mom and I figured out how to create our meals. When you need 2-5 months of dehydrated backpacking meals for a thru-hike, you MUST have variety. This post details the system we figured out that keeps me healthier on trail.
Even if you’re not vegan, you can learn a lot from these tricks. I’ve had plenty of non-vegans drooling over our homemade dehydrated meals in the backcountry as they eat their Knorr Sides.
If you’re ready to stop paying $10-15 per meal, continue reading for all our tips and tricks!
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List of Contents
What You Need to Make Vegan Dehydrated Backpacking Meals
Creating your own vegan dehydrated backpacking meals does have some up-front costs. 💰
However, if you’re doing a long thru-hike or even if you’re an epic weekend warrior, your body will thank you for giving it better nutrition.
Here’s a list of the things we bought to start dehydrating (not including food):
- Paraflexx Non-Stick Drying Sheets
- Recipe For Adventure by Chef Glenn McAllister 📖
- Vacuum Sealer
- Vacuum Sealer Pint and Quart Bags
The biggest up-front cost is the dehydrator. We use the LEM Mighty Bite 5-Tray Countertop Dehydrator. After intensive use, we found it overall quiet, easy to use, and it dehydrates efficiently.
If you’re reading this post, then you’re ready to get adventurous with your food. That means, you also need the non-stick drying sheets to go onto your dehydrator trays. These are essential for making a wide variety of vegan dehydrated backpacking meals.
When you’re ready to make your various dehydrated components into a meal, you’ll want to vacuum seal them. This makes them last longer. Then, you can keep them in your pantry (or mail drops) for months before you eat them.
Why You Need This Book to Start Dehydrating Backpacking Meals
Besides the dehydrator itself, the book Recipe for Adventure by Chef Glenn McAllister is the key ingredient to making your own homemade vegan dehydrated backpacking meals.
This book is for the adventurous cook who wants to eat well. It’s not specifically vegan, however, it can help immensely with making vegan dehydrated meals because it gives you the framework.
I highly recommend it because it teaches you the ins and outs of dehydrating specific items.
Yes, it has an entire section on dehydrating meat. You can use this same process to dehydrate beyond beef! 🙌
Personally, I found this book invaluable to the dehydration process.
For Variety, Dehydrate Various Components Individually
While you could cook up an entire meal and put it in the dehydrator, the individual elements might better dehydrate at different temperatures and lengths.
To make better vegan dehydrated meals, you’ll want to dehydrate the meal components separately.
By that, I mean you should individually dehydrate your carbohydrate 🍚, your protein , and your vegetables 🥦.
For example, you can make seasoned rice in one batch. Next, you could dehydrate several cans of black beans. Finally, you could dehydrate peppers and onions. Since beans and rice make a complete protein, you’ll get a solid, filling meal base. The peppers and onions will make an excellent addition.
Basically, if you make various seasoned rice batches, proteins, and vegetables, you can mix and match them into different meals giving variety.
Favorite Rice Tip: Go to any international section of a grocery store and find any vegan sauces. As you cook 3 cups of rice, near the end mix in a sauce. Then, dehydrate the sauced rice. The rice takes on the flavor of your chosen sauce and tastes absolutely delicious!
Why It’s Easy to Make Vegan Dehydrated Meals
A lot more backpacking food is vegan than most people think. The same goes for what you’d want to put in a dehydrated backpacking meal.
If you break down the main components of a good meal you end up with:
- Carbohydrate 🍚
- Vegetables 🥦
Most carbohydrates that you’d want to dehydrate include:
You can get a variety of proteins by dehydrating:
- Any Canned Beans
- Beyond Beef
For added protein, I’ve had great luck with flavored TVP (textured vegetable protein) from Harmony House Foods. I particularly like their chicken flavored bits and bacon flavored bits. I have found the bits rehydrate better and faster than their chunks!
For vegetables, you can cut most up into small bits and dehydrate those or you can blend them in a food processor to make a bark. However, I’ve found that it’s easier to purchase certain vegetables from Harmony House Foods unless we’re making a bark.
Supplementing with Dehydrated Food Elements
Depending on the season that you wish to dehydrate in, some vegetables might not be as tasty.
For example, we dehydrate food in the winter to eat in the summer. Therefore, we’ve found it easier and cheaper to order some already dehydrated food elements from Harmony House Foods.
I’ve ordered with them since 2015 and they’ve only expanded since then.
For vegetables, we typically order their broccoli, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, onions, leeks, zucchini, and peppers.
We also love their flavored plant-based protein (TVP). Usually, we order their chicken flavored bits, bacon flavored bits, sausage crumbles, and taco flavored bits.
How to Combine Dehydrated Meal Components into Tasty Meals
Here’s how you take all those delicious and nutritious meal components and make them into fully-fledged vegan dehydrated backpacking meals!
I’m going to separate this into portions for one person or two people. Having solo backpacked for thousands of miles, I’ve needed meals for just one. Then, I met my partner and he got jealous of my dehydrated backpacking meals, so now I make them for two.
To assemble vegan dehydrated backpacking meals, I use a large countertop (at my Mom’s house) and a folding table.
I lay out all the bags of various rice flavors followed by a proteins section and finally, a vegetable section. I use a 1-cup, ½-cup, and a ¼-cup to assist in relative portions. Recently, I’ve switched to a gram scale (that I switch to ounces) and base the portions more on their weight.
As with testing any new backpacking near, I highly recommend making only a few to test the portions for yourself before you scale.
Even if you portion one out and make it for dinner after work…try it and see how full you get or if you need more. Chances are if you’re stuffed after a normal day, that’s about right for the backcountry! If you’re simply full, maybe increase your portions.
Vegan Dehydrated Backpacking Meals for One
To start you off with the idea of a portion, here’s what I used for my solo vegan dehydrated backpacking meals:
- ½ cup carbohydrate (usually flavored rice)
- 1/3 cup protein
- ¼ cup vegetables.
If you translate to ounces, I’d aim for between 4-5 ounces of dehydrated food, not including the vacuum seal bag.
Vegan Dehydrated Backpacking Meals for a Couple
Every couple has different appetites. You would think that you could just double the portions of one person to make a two-person meal. However, my partner likes to eat a little more than I do, which we found out in our portion testing.
Our portions look roughly like this:
- 1 1/3 cup carbohydrate
- ¾ cup protein
- ½ cup vegetables
We aimed for meals that weighed 8-9 ounces. That included roughly 5 ounces of carbs, 2-3 ounces of protein, and 1-2 ounces of vegetables.
Remember to test out your portions before you create dozens of meals!
Can You Make Vegan & Gluten Free Dehydrated Meals?
You can certainly make vegan and gluten free dehydrated backpacking meals!
All the grains that we often dehydrate are gluten free as well as the canned beans and vegetables.
The only item we eat frequently in our vegan dehydrated meals that is NOT gluten free is the Beyond Beef. While on its own, beyond beef is gluten-free, to dehydrate it, we use breadcrumbs. It’s the same process as dehydrating cow beef. By adding breadcrumbs, you give the water something to go back into in the rehydration process making it less chewy.
Secondly, you’d want to pay attention to the sauces that you flavor rice with. Just like companies like to sneak dairy into sauces, they can also sneak gluten into them. We have better luck finding vegan sauces in the international section of grocery stores.
Otherwise, if you’re struggling to find gluten free dehydrated backpacking meals, I recommend making your own!
Our Favorite Vegan Dehydrated Backpacking Meals
We’ve eaten thousands of vegan dehydrated backpacking meals on our thru-hikes and have grown to love some more than others.
It’s safe to say that if you season your beyond beef well, anything it goes in is a favorite.
Here are some of our favorite vegan dehydrated backpacking meal combinations (in no particular order):
- Kung Pao Rice, Beyond Beef, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions
- Thai Mango Sweet Chili Rice, Garbanzo Beans, Mushrooms, Broccoli, Leeks
- Butternut Squash Risotto, Beyond Beef, Butternut Squash Bark, Onions
- Lemon Basil Rice, Kidney Beans, Ratatouille
Remember: by doing items individually, you can mix and match! It’s always helpful to have a few more neutral good flavors like Spanish Rice or Porcini Risotto to go with more flavorful vegetables like Ratatouille.
The vegetables listed above besides the bark are from Harmony House Foods.
My mom also makes a very tasty “root vegetable bark” which usually has onions, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, and spices.
Pro Tip: Add a paper towel with what’s in the meal written on it. This will tell you what you’re eating in the backcountry AND give you something to clean out your pot!
How to Rehydrate Homemade Vegan Dehydrated Backpacking Meals on Trail
Now you have your own dehydrated backpacking meals, but how do you make them on trail?
First, you need a stove and a pot. We prefer the Windmaster Soto stove because it has a wider burner than most backpacking stoves. We pair this with a titanium snow peak pot that we have made a pot cozy for.
Second, we empty the meal into the pot and add water. The water varies per meal, but generally speaking, we cover the homemade dehydrated meal plus ½” of water above it. You soak the meal in water for 10 minutes.
Third, if you don’t see any water around the top of the meal, add a bit more. Boil the meal for 1 minute. Add more water slowly if it starts to stick to the bottom.
Fourth, cover the pot and place it in the cozy for 5 minutes.
Lastly, you stir it up and eat!
You *can* use a Jet Boil. I used it with dehydrated backpacking meals for my first Continental Divide Thru-Hike. However, it’s a bit of a pain because it boils so fast that it often burns the bottom. You’ll have to watch it and hold the pot above the flame for a minute of boiling. Overall, I found the Jet Boil frustrating for anything other than boiling water.
If you’re ready to give your body better nutrition, save some money, and have everyone jealous of your food on trail, you should start dehydrating.
Making your own homemade vegan dehydrated meals is a rewarding process. It gives you a purpose in the months before your thru-hike and it pays you back on trail when you get excited to have dinner.
While this is an extensive process for the here-and-there backpacker, for the regular weekend warrior or thru-hiker, it can help you tremendously. Personally, I think it’s worth the effort and will continue to make vegan dehydrated meals for thru-hiking for years to come.