Campfire Classics Without The Fuss: Delicious Make-Ahead Dinners For Your Next Adventure

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Camping trips are a fantastic way to reconnect with nature, enjoy outdoor activities, and create lasting memories. But let’s be honest, campfire cooking isn’t always the most convenient option, especially after a long day of hiking or exploring. That’s where make-ahead meals come in – delicious dishes you can prepare at home and enjoy on your camping adventure with minimal fuss.

This guide dives into a variety of make-ahead dinner ideas perfect for your next camping trip. From hearty stews to refreshing salads, we’ve got something to satisfy every taste bud. But before we delve into the recipes, let’s address some essential tips for making the most of your make-ahead meals:

+ Make Ahead Camping Meals for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
+ Make Ahead Camping Meals for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Planning and Preparation:

Choose dishes that travel well: Opt for meals that can withstand being stored in coolers for a few days. Avoid creamy sauces or dishes that require reheating to extremely high temperatures.

  • Portion control: Divide meals into individual containers for easy grab-and-go meals. This also helps with portion control and prevents overeating.
  • Label everything: Clearly label each container with the dish name and date to avoid confusion and food spoilage.
  • Invest in reusable containers: Ditch disposable containers and opt for reusable ones that are leak-proof and can withstand travel bumps.

  • Cooking Techniques:

    Slow cooker magic: Utilize your slow cooker to prepare delicious stews, soups, and chilis before your trip. These meals only require minimal prep and cook low and slow, resulting in tender, flavorful dishes.

  • One-pot wonders: Simplify your cooking by creating one-pot meals that combine protein, vegetables, and grains in a single pot. This reduces dishes and makes clean-up a breeze.
  • Pasta perfection: Pre-cooked pasta salads are a fantastic option for camping. Toss cooked pasta with your favorite vegetables, protein, and dressing for a cold, refreshing meal.

  • Make-Ahead Dinner Recipes:

    1. Hearty Chili (Slow Cooker)

    This hearty chili is perfect for warming you up on a cool camping evening. Packed with protein and vegetables, it’s a satisfying and complete meal.


    1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle of your favorite beer (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Directions:

    1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking it up with a spoon. Drain any excess grease.
    2. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic to the skillet. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
    3. Transfer the mixture to your slow cooker. Add crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, diced tomatoes, beer (if using), chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper (if using), salt, and pepper.
    4. Stir to combine everything. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours, until the chili is thickened and flavors are meld together.
    5. Serve hot with your favorite toppings like shredded cheese, chopped onions, sour cream, or avocado.


    This chili freezes well! Prepare a double batch and freeze half for a future camping trip or quick weeknight meal at home.

  • Feel free to adjust the spices to your preference. Like it extra spicy? Add more cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce.

  • 2. Creamy Tortellini Pasta Salad

    This creamy pasta salad is a crowd-pleaser, perfect for a potluck-style camping dinner. It’s packed with flavor and can be easily customized with your favorite ingredients.


    1 pound cheese tortellini (cooked according to package directions)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package chopped baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil