Ontario Parks

Learn to Camp

Camp Food: Making Meals

Food always tastes better when you’re camping!

Classic Camping Recipes

Learn to Camp Participants Recipes

We challenged participants of the Learn to Camp Program to make some great meals on their very first camping trip and share the results with us. This section contains a sample of the delicious recipes created by our new campers. Enjoy!

Learn to Camp Staff Recommendations

We asked some of our park staff what their favourite camping recipes were. Here are the delicious results!

Make a Meal Plan

The key to eating well while camping is preparation. When planning your trip, think about how long you will be going for and what meals you would like to have. Plan out all your meals and snacks in advance of the camping trip using a food checklist. Many meals we cook at home can be cooked easily at the campsite on a camp stove.

Meal Planning Tips:

  • Do some research: there are a wide variety of websites and books that have great menu ideas for campers working with a camp stove.
  • Balance hot and cold meals: this will save fuel and reduce preparation time to give you more time to enjoy the park. Lunch is the best meal to have cold!
  • Try a 1 pot meal: reduce the amount of dishes and save on camp stove fuel.
  • Work with your equipment: Think about what you have to cook with and plan your meals accordingly. Most campers use a camp stove or their campfire. There is a wide variety of specialty cooking equipment available for the camping chef. For example, if you want great toast at breakfast, consider getting a camp stove toaster.
  • Bring extra snack foods: Fruit, trail mix, and crackers and cheese are yummy options just in case you need a little extra food after a busy day.
  • Challenge yourself to make something creative: cooking on the campsite can be a lot of fun!

Download a sample meal plan for a weekend camping trip. (PDF)

Pack Smart:

  • Pack only what you need: instead of bringing big boxes of bulk foods, open packages and bring pre-measured quantities. You can use freezer bags or small reusable containers to repackage foods.
  • Pre-chop meats and vegetables: do the prep work at home and save some time on the campsite.
  • Prepare and Freeze: It’s a good idea to make a meal before the camping trip and freeze it (e.g., pasta sauce, curry, chill). This provides a quick meal and added ice for your cooler! You can also freeze meats before the trip so they last longer in your cooler.

Use a Cooler:

A cooler is an essential piece of camping equipment. It’s your fridge away from home! Here are some tips to make the most out of your cooler:

  • Choose a large, well insulated cooler with a lid and a drain plug.
  • Put foods in well-sealed containers or bags to keep them from getting wet.
  • Freeze prepared food and drinks before the trip to help keep the cooler cold.
  • Use block ice, it lasts longer than cubed ice. Consider making your own blocks of ice in 2 litre pop bottles or other sealable containers at home. Remember to leave air space for ice expansion.
  • Keep meats and dairy products close to ice.
  • Store foods in the order you will use them (aside from meats and dairy)
  • Keep drinks separate: use another cooler for drinks if necessary.

At your campsite:

  • Open the cooler only when necessary, the ice will last much longer.
  • Keep cooler out of the sun.
  • Keep the lid on tight.
  • Drain water only as necessary. The cold water will help keep your food cold.
  • Store the cooler in your vehicle at night and when away from your campsite to avoid attracting wildlife.

Preparing Meals

Cooking on a Camp Stove:

The camp stove is an essential piece of camping equipment. They are a safe and reliable means of cooking while camping.

  • Get to know your stove before camping. Try lighting it, and even try a practice meal at home.
  • Never use a camp-stove indoors or inside your tent.
  • Use on a flat surface away from flammable materials.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions. All stoves are slightly different.
  • Pack matches. Many stoves come with an automatic starter, but they can break.
  • Block the wind. This will reduce fuel consumption. Some stoves come with side windscreens. If not present, use your cooler at a safe distance to block the wind.
  • Food burns quickly on a camp stove. Aside from boiling water, keep flame settings low and stir food often.
  • Cook with lids. It contains the heat and food cooks faster, using less fuel.
  • Use the recommended fuel canister for your camp-stove.
  • Be careful! Camp stoves get hot just like the oven at home.
  • Keep your camp stove clean, wipe it down with soap and warm water after each use.

Cooking on a Campfire:

Campfire heat is difficult to control, but making food on the campfire can be a fun and challenging activity. Here are some tips:

  • Always check for fire restrictions before lighting a fire!
  • Gain some experience building and managing a fire before attempting to cook on one.
  • Don’t cook in the flames: allow the fire to burn down, and cook on the bed of hot coals.
  • Use a camp grill over the coals for balance. Many fire-pits in come with a camp grill at Ontario Parks.
  • Wrap food in aluminium foil, place it directly on the coals or grill to recreate an oven. Check frequently to keep food from burning.
  • Have patience. Cooking on a campfire is not usually as fast as using a camp stove.
  • Use camp forks for marshmallow sticks instead of taking sticks from the forest. It is prohibited to collect wood or sticks in a provincial park.

Cleanup

Dealing with Dishes

Food waste and dirty dishes can attract animals looking for an easy meal. It is important to clean up your site as soon as you are finished eating. Here are some tips to help make cleanup go quickly:

  • Boil water in a pot on your camp stove while enjoying your meal.
  • Fill your dish tub with hot water and use biodegradable dish soap to wash dishes. Dry and put away dishes immediately.
  • Dump used dishwater down the vault toilets (outhouses). Dirty dishwater can attract wildlife if disposed of near your campsite.
  • Do not wash dishes at water taps or comfort station sinks.
  • Collect all garbage and ensure it is put in a park garbage can.