If you’ve decided you’re going to make your own vegan backpacking food, there are a few ingredients you’ll definitely want to consider adding to your backpacking kitchen pantry. For me it’s important for my trail meals to be full of nutrients, protein and flavor. I’m going to go over all of the essential ingredients you will need to build homemade vegan backpacking meals that are so good you’ll want to make them at home!
Vegan backpacking food should include a strong source of protein to help those sore muscles rebuild after a long day of physical activity. Most of these are readily available wherever bulk foods are sold. Buying these in bulk can save you a ton of money and it’s easy to measure out only what you need.
Soy curls rehydrate wonderfully when soaked in boiling water and one serving will yield about 10 grams of protein. They weigh almost nothing when dehydrated and they add a chicken-like addition to rice and noodle dishes.
It’s no secret that nuts are packed with protein and they offer nutrients that will boost the health benefits of any vegan backpacking meal. The nut I find myself adding to meals most often are almonds and walnuts. Almonds pack 6 grams of protein per ounce and walnuts have about 4 grams per ounce. Almonds and walnuts have a distinct flavor and a satisfying crunch. I crumble them on top of my oatmeal and chia pudding, and even on top of noodles or rice dishes.
I always carry a small bag of salted and roasted sunflower seeds with me on the trail. Snack on them throughout the day or throw them into all of your dishes for a salty crunch. Sunflower seeds clock in at a whopping 9 grams of protein per ounce!
Chia seeds are also an excellent source of protein, but they have many other health benefits as well. They are high in fiber, they’re anti-inflammatory, and they are full of antioxidants.
Beans & Legumes
Dehydrated COOKED beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein for your vegan backpacking meals. I personally love adding chickpeas to cous cous and curry dishes. Chickpeas have 14grams of protein per cup of cooked chickpeas. White beans have 17 grams of protein per cup! They’re also a great source of fiber. Incorporating beans into your backpacking meals will give them a hearty, creamy texture. Try whipping up your own homemade hummus and dehydrating it for the trail. All you have to do is add water!
Legumes like lentils are also high in protein (17grams per cup cooked). Add your lentils to a creamy curry dish with veggies or make a bright lentil salad.
TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)
What is TVP? TVP has the texture of ground beef but it is made from soy flour. It’s really cheap and you can even find it in a variety of flavors. It’s perfect for adding to vegan chilli or vegan tacos/burritos.
Grains & Pasta
After you pick your protein for you vegan backpacking meal you need to choose what grain or pasta will pair best. When I first started making my own meals all I ate was white instant rice because I thought this was the only grain I could cook on the trail. While instant white rice is still a favorite of mine, there are much more nutrient grains and pastas to choose from.
Buckwheat Soba Noodles
These Japanese noodles are made from buckwheat and they are the best noodles for any vegan ramen or curry recipe. They cook in about 3-5 minuets, making them ideal for the trail, plus they’re high in protein!
Cous cous looks like a grain but its actually pasta! This is a very versatile ingredient and you can add just about any sauce or spice to make all kinds of recipes. For those who travel without a stove, cous cous is an easy cold soak meal.
When possible, go for the colorful quinoa. More color means more complete proteins which are essential in a vegan diet. You can cook quinoa on the trail straight from the bag, but if you have a dehydrator and some time on your hands, I recommend cooking the quinoa and dehydrating it prior to your backpacking trip. Doing this saves a lot of cooking time and fuel. Simply pour boiling water over your pre-cooked quinoa and let it soak until fully hydrated.
Angel Hair Pasta
This stringy pasta is perfect for backpacking because it cooks quickly compared to pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine. To cook you just place your angel hair in you pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let it soak for 5 mins.
I like rice noodles because they are super easy to cook and you can add them to any Thai curry or soup recipe.
A meal as simple as rice and beans can go from bland to bomb by adding a flavor-packed sauce. I pack my sauces and oils in leak-proof bottles and store them together in a separate bag or container for extra protection.
For me, olive oil is a top essential. I use it in almost every meal in one way or another. I often use olive oil to fry something up on the skillet, dress a salad, or simply add some flavor.
A bright and flavorful vegan pesto is easy to make and it will keep for at least a few days on the trail. I will usually add a bit more oil when making pesto especially for the trail to preserve the freshness and flavors.
Vegan ramen is a favorite backpacking meal of mine and adding soy sauce is a must. It adds a nice salty flavor. Mix with maple syrup when making vegan breakfast sausage patties.
I love making vegan curry dishes on the trail and it’s almost not worth eating if you can’t add a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice.
For any long time vegans out there, you know lemon juice is an everyday ingredient. It brightens any dish and it adds a cheesy tang to meals traditionally made with cheesy sauces. I like combining olive oil and lemon juice for a zesty dressing and I like to add lemon juice to dehydrated hummus to help bring it back to life.
Do I really need to explain this one? It’s good on anything savory. I’m a fan of spice and Siracha is an easy way to heat up a meal. It’s especially welcome in early spring or fall when the nights get cold quick!
Chinese chilli oil is something I use almost everyday at home. I love dripping it over my avocado toast in the morning for a smoky, earthy, spice that is unlike anything else! Check out this chilli oil recipe from
This list of vegan backpacking essentials would not be complete without a little spice! While there are hundreds of spices you can add to any recipe, I want to focus on the spices and powders I use most frequently in my vegan backpacking recipes. Most of these can be added to your meals at home or mixed with other spices on the trail.
You can make your own vegan parmesan or you can find several brands that make vegan parm. The recipe I use in my everyday cooking is meant to be refrigerated. It will probably last several days on the trail and be fine, but I haven’t tested it quite yet. Check out these shelf stable options if you’re new to the vegan parm game.
I sprinkle nutritional yeast (or nooch) on tofu scrambles and pasta dishes. Its also a great source of the elusive B12 that everybody needs (not just vegans!) Nutritional yeast adds a savory cheesy flavor to any dish.
Everything but the bagel Spice
You know how good an everything bagel tastes? Well Trader Joe’s has captured all the goodness that covers an everything bagel into a shakable spice jar. It has a combination of poppy seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and sesames seeds just to name a few.
I just recently discovered vegan bouillon cubes and they are a game changer when it comes to full, rich flavor. There are several different vegan flavors like garden veggie, yellow curry, and not chick’n. Just pop a bouillon cube into your rice, beans, noodles or whatever you’re pouring boiling water over and the contents will absorb he bouillon flavors. I love adding a cube when re-hydrating soy curls. Check out how I use bouillon in my vegan chick’n pesto pasta backpacking recipe!
Coconut Milk Powder
Admittedly I had to really search to find coconut milk powder. I went to several health food stores and only found creamed coconut, or coconut flour. I eventually gave up and bought it online. You can find it here:
Peanut Butter Powder
I use peanut butter powder in my vegan peanut satay recipe, and I also love to add it to my oatmeal in the morning for an extra protein boost. It rehydrates into a lovely creamy consistency.
Salt & Pepper
I almost left this out because it seems obvious, HOWEVER I don’t know how many times I’ve simply forgotten to pack salt and pepper! Just add it to your packing checklist and put it somewhere you can’t miss it.
Wondering how to make all of these ingredients into an actual trail meal? Check out my vegan backpacking recipes.
What are your vegan backpacking food essentials? Let everyone know in the comments below!