Canned food has been a go-to for campers far and wide… just think back to those old westerns your dad would watch, the cowboys warming up a can of bean on the fire…
Well, camping canned foods aren’t just beans anymore! In this article, we’ll dig into the reasons why canned foods are the absolute best for camping, weigh the pros and cons (which, spoiler alert has something to do with weight), delve into the top canned food groups you should stock up on, and even toss in a few simple and scrumptious easy camping recipes that you can try on your next camping trip.
So, strap on your backpack and get ready for a culinary adventure in the wild, because we’ve got the lowdown on the best canned foods for your camping escapades!
But first, what are the best canned foods for camping?
Well, to be honest, I don’t actually eat a lot of canned foods when camping. But, when we do, it tends to be one of these 5 items:
- Canned fruit: you can find both sweetened and unsweetened and such a wide variety
- Canned tuna: because tuna sandwiches are so easy and the kids love them
- Canned pie filling: to make campfire pies, yummy
- Canned beans: in maple syrup for a bit of sweet protein
- Canned soup: a complete meal in a can
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Favourite Camping Meals made from Canned Foods:
These following canned food recipes are so simple that I haven’t elaborated much on the instructions as I assume most of you will know the process for using these foods.
1. Canned Fruit topped with yogurt and/or granola
- Canned fruit: peaches, pears, and fruit salad are a good choice
- Yogurt (optional)
Empty your fruit into a cup or bowl and top with some yogurt (if you have it) and a generous sprinkling of granola.
2. Canned Tuna, Chicken, or Ham Salad
There are various foods to eat your ‘salad’ on… bread, crackers, bagels, wraps. Even cucumber slices, lettuce wedges, or mixed chef salad are good options too!
- Canned meat of choice: tuna, turkey, chicken, ham, salmon, etc.
- Diced green onion and celery (if you have access to fresh vegetables)
- Seasoning – salt and pepper
- Your eating vehicle: bread, crackers, bagels, wraps, lettuce, cucumber, etc.
Open your canned meat and drain any excess liquid, then mix in your seasonings, chopped onion and celery, and a scoop of mayonnaise. Top this onto your bread for sandwiches as a meal or scoop with cucumber slices for a healthy snack!
No refrigeration tip: Scour the grocery store for some single serving mayonnaise packages. Bring these along on your trip so you don’t have to worry about keeping a open larger jar of mayonnaise cold.
Vegetarian pasta and sauce
- Canned pasta sauce: tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, alfredo sauce, etc.
- Can of kidney beans
- Your favourite pasta
You’ll need two pots for this recipe. In one, cook up your pasta. In another, warm up your pasta sauce and add your rinsed and drained kidney beans. If you are ambitious and able to bring fresh produce, you might want to add some vegetables like chopped zucchini, carrots, or mushrooms.
Alternatively, if you’d like to bring along some fresh meat, you can fry up some ground meat or add meat balls to your tomato sauce.
3. Tex-Mex salad
- Canned black beans
- Canned corn
- Cilantro, tomato, avocado, salt, cumin (optional)
Open and rinse the canned beans and corn and dump into a bowl. Squeeze the lime overtop. Some people are happy stopping here. However, we enjoy adding chopped tomato, avocado and sprinkling on some salt and a bit of cumin. Chopped cilantro is a great addition!
Why Canned Foods for Camping?
Canned foods are the ultimate convenience food for campers. They come ready-to-eat or require minimal preparation, saving you precious time and effort… so you can spend more time reading in the hammock or hiking that peak. All you need is a can opener and maybe a heat source!
Their compact size makes them easy to store and pack into your camp food bins.
No need to worry about delicate fruits and veggies getting squished or spoiled during transportation. Canned foods are sturdy and can withstand the bumps and jolts of the journey!
One of the biggest advantages of canned foods is their long shelf life. They are specifically designed to have a long-lasting quality, making them perfect for camping trips where refrigeration may not be available.
Canned foods are sealed tightly, preventing air and bacteria from spoiling the contents. This means you can stock up on your favorite canned goods well in advance and enjoy them throughout your camping adventure without worrying about spoilage. This is particularly helpful if you plan to camp off-grid for extended periods of time or won’t be visiting a grocery store frequently.
Pros and Cons of bringing canned foods camping
The Pros of Canned Food:
- Nutritional Value:
- Many canned foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are picked and processed at their peak ripeness, and retain their nutritional value when canned.
- Canned foods are an easy way to make a wide variety of meals.
- Minimal Preparation and Cooking Time:
- So easy to cook with! No washing, peeling, chopping, or pre-cooking. Just open and dump!
- Canned cooked meats, like tuna and chicken, are easier to cook with and clean up afterwards than cooking with raw meats.
- Long Shelf Life:
- Because canned foods are usually good for a few years, you can easily have some emergency food on hand in your camper kitchen or camp food tubs.
Cons of Canned Foods for Camping:
- The weight!
- While canned foods are convenient, their weight and bulkiness can add to your load, especially if you’re carrying them in your backpack for long hiking trips…. please don’t bring canned foods on hiking trips!
- Limited Fresh Ingredients:
- Canned foods, by their nature, sometimes lack the freshness, crispness, and flavors of fresh foods.
- Sodium Content and Additives:
- Canned foods often contain added sodium or preservatives to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. You may want to read labels and choose ‘no-salt added’ if sodium intake is a concern.
Best-Canned food for Camping
Tuna and Chicken: Canned tuna, chicken, and turkey are a great source of protein that can be used in various camping recipes. We usually use it by mixing in some mayo and seasoning then spreading on crackers, bread, or a scoop onto salad greens or cucumber slices.
Spam / Canned Ham: Also great for making a ham and cheese sandwich, but can also be diced up into scrambled eggs or added to a box of KD (cheesy pasta dish)
Beans: So many bean options! Beans in tomato sauce are easy, full of protein and fiber, and a super quick way to bulk up a meal. My kids particularly like the maple flavoured version.
- Chickpeas can be added to salads
- Black beans can be added to scrambled eggs or taco mixes
- Kidney beans are a great addition to tomato sauce pasta dishes
You might already have your favourite canned vegetable varieties. The standards are corn, peas, and green beans. But, don’t overlook all the other options out there. As a kid I loved eating those little canned baby corns, just right out of the can!
Note: take a look at the ingredients list, the healthy option would be to choose low sodium options and ones without many additives and sugars.
A few quick ways to add canned vegetables to your camping cooking:
- Canned mushrooms are great for adding to scrambled eggs.
- Canned water chestnuts can be added to a mixed veggie and rice dish
- Canned potatoes can be fried up with salt and served with salsa or ketchup
Just like canned vegetables, there are many different types of canned fruit. We prefer choosing the ‘no-sugar added’ ones. Our family’s favourites are canned peaches and canned fruit salad. If you are missing out on fresh fruits when camping, these are a great option.
Canned Soups and Stews
Canned soups and stews are a classic comfort food option for camping. They can be heated over a campfire or camp stove and enjoyed on their own or paired with crackers and salad for an easy meal. We like to choose soups with a variety of vegetables and beans, for a more filling and hearty meal.
If you don’t have access to fresh milk you may want to try some canned milk options like evaporated milk or condensed milk. Condensed milk is sweetened and historically was a popular addition to coffee.
Other non-perishable food options:
Whether you’re keeping food on hand for emergency situations like a natural disaster or a longer than expected camping trip, it’s a good idea to have a bit of extra food in your emergency supplies.
Here are some additional non-perishable foods to have on hand:
Peanut butter: Filling and provides a bit of protein and fiber, an easy snack or enjoy it as a meal on bread or crackers
Freeze-dried meals and dehydrated foods: Available in a wide variety of main dish or side dish options. Dehydrated meals are a good way to have substantial calories on hand. Some freeze dried foods have an expiration date years in the future so you can tuck some into your camper or camp kitchen tub just to have on hand
Instant oatmeal: We always have some instant oatmeal packs in our camping good or make your own instant oatmeals to keep in the camper!. It’s lightweight and easy to cook up as long as we have access to hot water. Add some chopped apples and raisins to your cup of oatmeal to make it a bit more healthy and exciting.
To get more camping food ideas that don’t need refrigeration, this is the article you need to read next!