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Top 15 foods to cook when camping

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Camping recipe specialist, Cathy De Abaitua, gives us her top 15 meal ideas for eating at a campsite – from make-ahead meals to easy one-pot dinners.

With my family, I seek out campsites that allow campfires. A fire is not just to keep us warm once the sun has gone down – we make good food on it, too, which takes a little planning, but that's half the fun. Before I go, I might make pasta sauces, salad dressings, spice mixes and treats to take along and add to local produce – these days many campsites are near decent farm shops.

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For more recipes to keep the family full and happy, check out our camping recipes. We also have inspiration for alternative diets such as vegetarian camping recipes and vegan camping recipes. If you want to cook in style while on your trip, check out our best camping stoves for outdoor feasting.

1. Prepare a 'just pitched dinner'

Spaghetti meatballs

After the effort of travelling and pitching a tent, make your first meal something that just needs heating up. Italian meatballs and a tomato sauce made at home and then dangled over the campfire in a billy can, then some pasta, is ideal.

2. Take campfire bites

Jar of nuts

One of the joys of camping is sitting around the campfire at night, chatting with a beer and some snacks. I make sweet & spicy nuts at home and bring them along, which are great to share with friends. Check out even more picnic snack recipes for more portable treat ideas.

3. Children's bedtime treats

Mug of hot chocolate

My children display boundless energy when they're in a field, so to slow them down for bedtime I make them some homemade hot chocolate. A mug of this delicious drink is the perfect thing for chilly evenings.

For more warming mugs of cocoa, take a look through our best hot chocolate recipes.

4. Veggie options

Pan of eggs, halloumi and potatoes

Cooking outside can mean a relentless diet of meat. I balance our holiday meals with vegetarian camping recipes. Choose from a hearty halloumi hash, classic barbecue skewers or stuffed breakfast croissants.

5. The festival pie

Meat pie

In the past I would never have dreamed of taking a pie to a festival and would have instead perused the stalls offering international cuisine. As I now have three children and can't afford to purchase festival food for everyone, I take a large festival pie to feed the family. It should do two meals if kept in a cool box. Something best eaten cold, such as a lamb- or pork-based picnic pie. Grab a slice of our favourite pork pie recipes or get stuck into our ultimate pie recipe collection.

6. Bountiful beans

Pile of quesadillas

I pack some meals that won't suffer too much if I can't keep the cool box cold, such as quesadillas. Fill them with beans, salsa and cheese for a quick-fix meal. To whip up lunch, I make the bean mixture at home and then only have to assemble the quesadillas and heat them up. Get your fill of cheesy quesadilla recipes with our top collection, bursting with quick lunch ideas.

7. Barbecue favourites

Tomato relish in a bowl

Spruce up burgers and sausages over the campfire with a homemade tangy tomato relish and chutney recipes that bring buckets of flavour. Pick your favourite from our 10 burger sauces you can make in minutes.

8. Sweet treats

Coconut & jam macaroons in lunch boxes

When setting up camp, I keep the children quiet with a cake or two. Some cakes travel better than others – gingerbread loaf cake, lemon drizzle cake and our best ever chocolate brownies are tried and tested. Looking for tasty desserts the whole family will enjoy? Take a look at our top 10 picnic dessert ideas for portable treats.

9. Storecupboard dinners

Jar of pesto

Lay something on for a quick and easy lunch. For example, pasta served with a jar of classic pesto, prepared at home. Get the most out of your favourite everyday ingredients with our best storecupboard recipes.

10. One-pot meals

Meat stew with chillis and coriander

A one-pot meal such as our spring chicken in a pot is good if you don't have many pans, limited washing up facilities or only one burner to cook on. You can include the carbs in the pot such as pasta or potatoes or eat it with bread warmed over the campfire. Save yourself the hassle of washing up with our top one-pot recipes.

11. Quiche

Quiche with bacon

Quiche is another great dish to bring on a camping trip as it keeps reasonably well (as long as it’s kept cool) and can double as both a filling breakfast, as it’s filled with high protein eggs, or as a lunch that can be packed on trips to the beach or nearby destinations. For inspiration on different flavour variations, check out our quiche recipes.

12. Salads

Avocado, tomatoes, onion and feta in a bowl

You might think that bringing a salad on a camping trip is a hassle due to its many different components, but that’s not the case. You can either pre-prepare the salad at home and garnish it with your favourite dressing or bring a chopping board and get cutting. The fun in the second option is locally sourcing your fruit and veg. Check out our salad recipes for more colourful ideas.

13. Breakfast bars

Granola bars in a pile

Whether you’re going on a family camping trip or a trip to a festival, breakfast bars are a must-have. They’re a great way to start the day as they are full of delicious oats and fruit that release energy slowly. Discover more of our tasty breakfast bar recipes.

14. S'mores

Pile of smores

Have you really been camping if you haven’t gorged on marshmallows until you feel sick? There’s no better way to enjoy these fluffy treats than sandwiched between two biscuits with a topping of your choice. Discover more of our sweet and savoury s'mores recipes.

15. Refreshing drinks

Glasses of pink lemonade with lemon and raspberries

It’s essential to stay refreshed and hydrated when you’re sitting out in the sun all day. What better way to do that than with a homemade glass of lemonade? Prepare before leaving and bring in your cool box for a sugary pick-me-up. For more drinks perfect for enjoying in the summer sun, check out our non-alcoholic summer drinks recipes.

Enjoyed these recipes? Get even more ideas for cooking outdoors...

Easy family camping recipes
Our top recipes for dining outdoors
No-cook summer recipes
Our best picnic drinks ideas

What camping recipes would you like to see from us? Leave a comment below...

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Visit cathandmathcamping.com for more of Cathy De Abaitua's camping tips and recipes, or read stories of Cath's camping trips in her husband Matthew De Abaitua's book, The Art of Camping, published by Hamish Hamilton.

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