On-the-Road Recipes: Backpack-Cooking Made Easier (and Cheaper!)

Backpacking & Trekking, Budget Travel, Extras, Food & Wine, Hostels — By on November 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Eating out at restaurants while you travel  is one of the quickest ways to blow through cash. Even if you think you’re eating cheaply, the cost of restaurant entrees almost always trumps the cost of buying groceries and cooking for yourself.

So no matter what amenities the hostel kitchen has (or doesn’t have) these recipes are easy to make, cheap to buy, and LG-approved for deliciousness. Plus, they’re healthy and satisfying to fuel up before sightseeing or chow down after traveling. They’ve been adapted for the road from cookbooks, old family recipes, or (in the case of our Penne ala Vodka sauce) traded hands from an Italian nonna to a fellow traveler herself. So don your chef’s hat and say goodbye to expensive dinners out.

Holly’s Favorite

Best Breakfast Parfait

You need:

1 cup cereal or granola

1/3 cup nuts with 1/3 cups raisins

1/2 cup skim milk or yogurt

Simply add cereal, nuts and raisins in a bowl filled with milk or fruit.

Extra notes:

This hearty breakfast is so simple, you’re almost guaranteed to find the ingredients in any grocery store around the world. It’s healthy and thanks to protein-rich nuts, you’ll be able to start your day refreshed and energized. The best part about this dish? You can adapt it to the regional flavors of the country you’re in. Visit a local food market to collect a sampling of in-season fruit and locally roasted (or raw) nuts, and enjoy.

Patty’s Favorite

Pa amb Oil (lunch)

You need:

3-4 slices of fresh, whole grain or multi grain bread

one large red tomato

chunk of cheese (try gouda or sharp cheddar for best results)

jamon jamon (ham, or thinly sliced meat of your choice—salami works as a good substitute)

olive oil and sea salt (optional)

Take a piece of bread. Slice the cheese thinly and the tomato thickly. Stack the cheese, tomato and a piece of meat on the bread. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt for added flavor, or skip this step and opt for flavor-au-natural.

Extra notes:

I fell in love with Pa amb oli, a traditional dish from Mallorca, Spain, as soon as I moved here. It literally means “bread with oil” in the Mallorcan dialect of Catalan. But with adjustments that restaurants typically make (combinations of soft whole grain bread with juicy tomatos and salty meats and cheeses) it’s closer to a Spanish version of a one-sided sandwich. This dish is super low maintenance and doesn’t demand a kitchen. Once you have the ingredients, you can whip it up anywhere. I’ve made it on a moving bus, and most recently, while sitting cross legged on a pier jutting out of Soller, Mallorca in the Mediterranean. The best part? The ingredients cost less than $5.

Amanda’s Favorite

Salmon with Honey Ginger Soy Glaze (dinner)

You need:

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 tbsp honey

2 6 oz salmon filets (can sub any fish filet)

1 scallion, finely sliced (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together first four ingredients until honey is dissolved. Pour liquid into the bottom of a medium sized saucepan and place on stove. Place salmon in the pan over liquid, skin-sized down. Turn heat to medium-low; cover pan with lid. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, then check fish for doneness (center should be slightly translucent). For medium-well done fish, cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle scallions over fish one minute before cooking is finished; recover pan with lid.  Remove fish from pan and add to plate. Pour remaining liquid over fish or stir into cooked white rice.

Extra notes:

You can take advantage of whatever catch is fresh that day, as we did, by swapping out the salmon filets for the fresh and saltwater fish sold in local markets around the world.

If you don’t like ginger or you can’t find it, you can eliminate and just make this as a honey-soy glaze.

Nancy’s Favorite

Penne ala Vodka Sauce  (the real deal) (dinner)

You need:

250 grams penne rigate

1 cup whipping cream

3 cups tomato sauce

1 small onion chopped

3/4 cup chopped bacon or pancetta

1/2 cup vodka


olive oil

Fry olive oil and onion.  When onion has softened, add chopped bacon or pancetta, salt and pepper to taste.  Once bacon is fried add vodka and allow to evaporate.  Add tomato sauce and cook for approximately 20 min.  Add salt to taste.  Add whipping cream and cook for another 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened.  In pot of boiling water add salt and pasta and cook until al dente.  When cooked, drain well and add pasta into vodka sauce.  Stir until well coated and serve.

Extra notes:

This recipe traded hands from an Italian nonna (grandmother), who perfected it over many years, to Nancy’s sister, and then to Nancy. Nancy cooked us the Penne ala Vodka the night before team Lost Girls ran the Seneca 7 in upstate New York. Needless to say, it got us through the 77.7 miles!




Jen’s Favorite

Lost Girls’ Guacamole

You need:

4-5 ripe local avocados

Freshly squeezed lime juice (approximately 2-3 limes, to taste)

1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)

1 large garlic clove, minced  or 1 tsp garlic powder

1 teaspoon each, salt and pepper

A few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

1 large tomato, seeded, and diced

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of the peel and into a large bowl. Add the lime juice right away (this keeps the avocados from browning), plus the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper (and hot sauce, optional) and mix well, until all the large pieces of avocado are mashed. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taste for flavor, adding additional lime, hot sauce, salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with warm tortillas or fried plantain chips.

Extra notes:

To make your own fried plantain chips, simply peel and slice green plantains into 2-3 inch pieces. Fry them in oil until golden (about 3-4 minutes), and place on a papertowel lined plate. Next, use a heavy pan to flatten them into thick chips. Re-fry in the oil until golden and crispy (about 5 minutes), return to the papertowel to remove excess oil, sprinkle with salt and serve.

When volunteering in Kenya, we discovered that fresh avocados were not only available at every corner market, but they were unbelievably cheap. So we immediately set to work mixing large quanitities of home-made guacamole, which became a huge hit with the locals, who had never had their avocados transformed in such a way. Since then, making guacamole on the road has become a tradition for us. It’s easy, affordable, can be made with local produce, and it’s a hearty snack (or even meal) if served with tortillas, chapati or plantain chips.

You’ll find tasty recipes like these in the HostelBookers.com Backpacker Recipe Guide

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