No-cook backpacking meals are just what you need for hiking in hot weather, or anytime you want to go stoveless on the trail. The following recipes use dehydrated ingredients which were chosen because they rehydrate well with cold water.
With cold-soak, stoveless backpacking meals, allow between 1½ to 3 hours for the ingredients to rehydrate. To enjoy these meals for lunch, add cold water after breakfast and hike on. A thermos food jar is ideal for rehydrating no-cook backpacking meals because the meals will stay cold. A light-weight plastic container with a tight-fitting lid will also work, but if you’re hiking in hot weather, the meal may be less refreshing without the insulating advantage of a thermos.
This no-cook backpacking meal includes dehydrated sushi rice, cucumbers, and surimi. It’s like a California sushi roll in a bowl, without the avocado. You can add fresh avocado on the trail, but don’t bother dehydrating avocado, because it turns brown and doesn’t rehydrate well.
I’ll cover the cooking and dehydrating instructions first, then show how to assemble the meal and rehydrate it on the trail.
Sushi rice is a short-grain rice which is cooked with less water than is used to cook long-grain rice. If available, choose Japanese sushi rice. Rice vinegar is added to the rice after it is cooked.
The ingredients needed to make sushi rice, besides the short-grain rice, are rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Check the ingredients list of the rice vinegar you buy; it may already include sugar or salt. The rice vinegar used for this recipe included sugar, but no salt.
If the rice vinegar contains no salt or sugar, add those items to the rice vinegar in a pot and heat on low temperature until the salt and sugar dissolve. You can do this while the rice is cooking. Overheating the rice vinegar will cause a loss of flavor. That is why you do not add it to the rice until after the rice is cooked.
To cook 1¼ cups (250 g) of sushi rice, use 5 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2½ teaspoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Leave out salt or sugar if already present in the rice vinegar.
Photos above: Sushi rice is made with short-grain rice and a solution of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Sugar or salt may already be in the vinegar. Check the label.
Rinse rice several times with cool water. The water will turn chalky at first due to the high starch content of the rice.
Add the rinsed rice to a pot with the cooking water and soak it for thirty minutes.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer for ten minutes with the lid on the pot.
After ten minutes, turn off the stove, and let the rice sit for fifteen minutes, keeping the lid on the pot. Important: Don’t let any steam escape by lifting the lid off the pot. Your patience will be rewarded with perfect sushi rice.
Photos above: Rinsed sushi rice, soaked for 30 minutes, and then cooked.
Professional sushi chefs use wooden bowls and spoons when mixing rice vinegar with rice. I used a wooden spoon and did the mixing in the pot. The objective is to be gentle with the rice. Drizzle the rice vinegar/salt/sugar solution over the rice and mix it in with a folding motion with the spoon.
Photos above: Dehydrating sushi rice before and after.
After you mix in the rice vinegar, and the rice has cooled a bit, place it on dehydrator trays covered with nonstick sheets. Two Excalibur dehydrator trays were used in this example. Since the rice sticks together, place one teaspoonful of rice at a time on the trays, leaving space between the little piles. Then, spread the little piles out a little more.
Dehydrate at 125°F (52°C) for 5–6 hours. When rice is almost dry, pull apart some of the rice that is sticking together and redistribute on the trays. Rice will be hard when dry.
Yield: 2¼ cup dried rice (240 g)
Photo above: Sushi rice rehydrated with cold water in a thermos food jar after one hour. For this example, ¾ cup dried sushi rice (80 g) was rehydrated with ½ cup cold water (112 ml). Rice was firm, not hard, with good texture. The sushi rice retained its sour, sweet, and salty flavors.
Sushi rice, surimi, cucumber, and avocado are the ingredients found in popular “California sushi rolls.” As mentioned previously, avocado does not dehydrate well, so carry a fresh one if you want to include it.
Surimi, which resembles the meat of snow crab legs, is a processed food which contains fish and flavors of crustaceans, as well as starches and coloring. You can find it in various shapes and marketed as “artificial crabmeat” or “seafood sticks.”
Photo above: Surimi shaped like seafood sticks.
Slice seafood sticks crosswise into ¼ inch thick pieces, and place them on mesh dehydrator tray in a single layer.
Dehydrate at 145°F (63°C) for 5–6 hours until hard.
Yield: A 235 gram package of surimi will yield ¾ cup of dried surimi (69 g).
Photos above: Dehydrating surimi, before and after. The pieces will shrink while drying.
Photos above: Dehydrating cucumbers before and after. Beginning quantity on one Excalibur dehydrator tray was 1¼ large cucumbers.
Peel cucumber, cut in half longwise, and scrape out seeds with a spoon. The central part of cucumbers surrounding the seeds tends to oxidize (turn brown) while drying, so you’ll have better-looking dried cucumbers if you remove that part.
Slice the cucumber halves one more time so you have four quarters, and then slice crosswise ⅛–¼ inch thick (½ cm). To reduce browning even more after cutting, cucumbers may be dipped in a solution of 1 cup water and ¼ cup lemon juice.
Dehydrate at 135°F (57°C) for 7–8 hours. Dried cucumber will be pliable.
Yield: 1¼ large cucumbers (1 lb. after processing) will yield ¾ cup (23 g) when dry.
Photos above: Dehydrated cucumbers, surimi, and sushi rice rehydrated with cold water for a delicious and refreshing no-cook backpacking meal.
Rehydration: Combine ingredients with cold water in thermos. For best results, wait 1½ hours. If waiting longer, rehydrate with a little extra water.
For a larger serving, use 100 grams sushi rice, 25 grams surimi, 12 grams cucumber, and 1¼ cups cold water. Use a little more water for longer soak times.
The salsa part of this no-cook backpacking meal makes a delicious offering at any party—next to a bowl of tortilla chips—or you can dehydrate it for the trail. Rehydrate it by itself, or combine it with rice for a zesty rice salad.
I’ll cover the peach salsa recipe first, and then show how to pair it with dehydrated short-grain rice.
Servings (Fresh): 11 cups.
Dice all vegetables and mix together with salt and pepper. Remove seeds from peppers before dicing.
Cayenne peppers are moderately-hot chili peppers, usually red in color with a skinny shape. They are suitable for dishes served to mixed-company where you don’t want to risk causing discomfort to sensitive tongues. If you like your salsa hot-hot, you may substitute a hotter pepper.
Cut a lime in half. Press and rotate the halves over a handheld juicer. Place the juiced contents in a bowl.
Peel and dice peaches. Place the diced peaches in the bowl with the lime juice as you work. Stir to coat peaches. Tip: Select ripe peaches with firm flesh. Overripe peaches will be harder to dice.
Depending on how sweet the peaches are, add one or two tablespoons of peach or apricot jam to the peaches.
Combine diced vegetables and peaches, and add chopped cilantro.
Let salsa sit for a few minutes, stirring to mix the flavors.
Spread salsa in a single layer on dehydrator trays covered with nonstick sheets. This recipe provides a little more than 2 cups of salsa on each of 5 trays. Include juices equally on trays.
Dehydrate at 135°F (57°C) for 15 to 18 hours. You can speed up drying by starting at 145°F (63°C) for 3 hours.
Active Dehydrating Tips: After 12 hours, peel salsa off nonstick sheets and redistribute. For the final hour, transfer almost dried salsa from 5 trays down to 2 trays. This will increase air flow.
Dried Yield: 3 cups (229 g)
To rehydrate peach salsa by itself, cover with cold water in a container and hike on. After 1 or 2 hours, enjoy as a snack with tortilla chips, or add it to a packet of tuna or chicken.
Dried peach salsa makes a fantastic no-cook backpacking meal when combined with dried rice.
Dehydrated short-grain rice rehydrates great in cold water. For this recipe, use the same rice as was used to make the sushi rice salad. Follow the instructions for cooking and dehydrating sushi rice on this page, but cook the rice in salted water and omit the rice vinegar.
Yield: 4½ cups dried rice (470 g)
Regular Serving: ¾ cup dried short-grain rice (80 g), and ½ cup dried peach salsa (40 g). Rehydrate with 1 cup cold water (236 ml).
Large Serving: 1 cup dried short-grain rice (100 g), and ⅔ cup dried peach salsa (50 g). Rehydrate with 1¼ cup cold water (300 ml).
After adding water, wait at least 1 hour, but 1½–2 hours is best. For longer soak times, rehydrate with a little more water. A thermos food jar is the best way to rehydrate this no-cook backpacking meal. You want this zesty meal to be cold and refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
It takes 2½ hours to rehydrate macaroni with cold water. This no-cook backpacking meal also includes dried san marzano tomatoes, olives, green beans, and tuna. You’ll find the recipe on the dehydrating tomatoes page.
For stoveless backpacking meals with pasta, you must precook and dehydrate the pasta at home before you hit the trail. This back issue of Trail Bytes shows how to precook and dry macaroni.
Quinoa is a nice change of pace from rice, and it is a good source of protein. It rehydrates well with cold water, so you can use it in a variety of refreshing no-cook backpacking meals. This back issue of Trail Bytes includes the recipe and shows how to dehydrate quinoa.
Overnight Couscous Salad. This no-cook backpacking meal is made at home the night before a hike, and is added to a thermos in the morning. It features fresh vegetables and lemon juice. Link takes you to a back issue of Trail Bytes.
Couscous Salad with Cucumber Salsa Dressing. This couscous salad is prepared on the trail with no-cooking. Couscous does not need to be precooked and dried. It plumps up nicely in cold water. Link takes you to a back issue of Trail Bytes.
Dehydrated meat needs a longer soak time in no-cook backpacking meals. If you want to enjoy a delicious shrimp cocktail for lunch, simply add the cold water after breakfast. After 3 or 4 hours, the dehydrated shrimp will be chewy, but not hard.
See this Trail Bytes back issue for the Shrimp Cocktail Tortillas recipe.
Gazpacho is a spicy tomato soup, served cold. It’s a nice side item to accompany other backpacking lunch favorites like tuna or cheese rolled up in tortillas. This Trail Bytes back issue has the Gazpacho recipe.
Aside from the obvious choices of mixing up some powdered milk on the trail and pouring it over granola cereal, or hiking out of camp with a couple of power bars in hand, there are other ways to start your day with a no-cook breakfast.
Oats are delicious when soaked overnight with fruits and berries. See the Backpacking Breakfast page for the Overnight Bircher Muesli recipe.
Dried fruit adds nutrition to trail breakfasts. Instead of eating it dry, soak the fruit overnight to plump it up. See the Peach Granola Clusters recipe and Peach Crunch Breakfast recipe on the Dehydrating Peaches page.