One of the things we look forward to after a long day of exploring or fishing is having a nice warm meal at camp. However, most campers often have to rely on pre-packaged or dehydrated meals that aren’t really appetizing. This is where having a camping pantry can be of help. With a variety of camping spices, you can liven up even the most tasteless of packed meals. Below we listed some of our favorite camping spices (salt aside since we’re sure you already got that pegged) to spice up your meals in the backcountry (or wherever you’re camped in).
1. Garlic Powder
Made from dehydrated garlic cloves and ground into fine granules, garlic powder can add a sweet and savory taste to any camping recipes. While not a direct alternative to fresh garlic, a dash of this finely ground powder can help liven up a rather bland dish while you’re out camping.
Because of the dehydration and grinding process, garlic powder is less potent than freshly crushed or chopped garlic. It also doesn’t have that caramel-like undertone that you get from roasted or sautéed garlic. Nonetheless, it still retains that garlicky taste that many people long for. Use them as a dry rub on your meat before throwing it over on your portable grill or add a dash to your roasted peanuts for a more full-flavored camping dish and snacks.
2. Onion Powder
If you love the taste of onions but hate the “crying” effect they make, then you’re going to love using onion powder. Just like garlic powder, onion powder is made by dehydrating fresh onions and then grinding them into a fine powder. You can use this as a welcome addition to your dry rubs for grilling meat or even in your barbeque marinade. The best part is that the powder sticks to the meat unlike chopped onions so you can really taste the onion on your dish. Aside from grilled and roasted meat, onion powder can also add more flavor to soups and stews which are some of the most favorite meals when camping during fall or winter.
Some onion powders come mixed with salt, but it is still recommended that you get the non-salted version and add the salt separately so you can control the saltiness of the dish.
3. Cayenne Flakes or Chili Powder
Some people like a little bit of heat on their dishes whatever the season they’re out camping. If you identify with this group of campers, then you’ll want to bring along some cayenne flakes or chili powder to add to your meals. These are nothing more than dried peppers that have been ground up into flakes. If you want to make your own cayenne flakes or chili powder instead of buying the mass-produced ones, then you can do so by buying fresh chili peppers, drying them up, and then ground them in your food processor. The best part about making your own cayenne flakes or chili powder is that you can choose which types of peppers to use. Different types of peppers have different heat levels, so you can choose one that is light or one that will make you sweat under your fleece jackets.
Rosemary is so incredibly aromatic and pungent and you’ll immediately notice them when you add it to your camping dishes. They also add a complex twist to your meals with their woodsy and peppery flavor profile. Although they are most popularly added to barbeque marinade and grilled meats, they can also add a nice flavor to soups and stews boiling over your camping stoves.
Rosemary can be bought fresh from markets or as dried spices from groceries. Dried rosemary may not be as potent as the fresh ones, but they still make a good addition to any camping meals. Besides, if you’re out camping for days, then the fresh rosemary you bought will end up dry and wilted anyway.
This herb is one of the most basic and versatile spices and one that definitely belongs to any spice rack or camping pantry. Unlike other herbs, thyme isn’t very aromatic, but the subtle aroma ensures that it won’t leave any unwanted smells even if you leave it inside your camping tents.
As for the flavor, thyme has a rather dry, earthy, and slightly sweet, and minty taste. It has some warm, peppery undertones as well. In any case, the taste isn’t all that potent, so you can add thyme to your meal recipes and it won’t dominate or overwhelm the true taste of your dish.
If you’re planning on making some pasta dishes while camping, then you’re going to need some basil to give it a more authentic Italian or Mediterranean taste profile. Basil has a subtle peppery flavor and rather a minty aromatic, but it also has some sweet undertones to it. If you’re cooking with basil, be sure to add it during the later parts because overcooking basil will make it (hence your dish) taste quite bitter.
Oregano is one of those spices that has a bold and potent flavor, which is why you’ll want to avoid using too much of it while cooking. It can easily overwhelm the other flavors in your camping when overused. This aromatic herb works well with most camping dishes, adding a depth in the flavor profile that other spices and herbs cannot.
8. Black Pepper
When it comes to popularity and usage, black pepper stands side-by-side with salt. Whether you’re building up your camping pantry or spice inventory in your home kitchen, you’ll want to make sure that black pepper is always present. Black pepper is available as whole corns, ground, or powder. Each of these has its own uses, and you’ll want a little of each in your camping pantry.
Cumin works well in enhancing the flavor profile of any dish it is added to, even bringing out the sweet flavors of the dish or food. However, cumin has its own taste profile and has a well-balanced mix of sweetness, heat, and even bitterness.
Cinnamon is mostly used in baked products like camping deserts and sweets. However, this spice is actually very versatile and can be used in several ways. For instance, you can sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on your coffee and camping mug during breakfast or hot chocolate before you hit your sleeping bag. You can also add a dash to your peanut butter or jelly sandwich.
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All in all, cooking whether at camp or home is a personal thing, so feel free to add or subtract from the list of camping spices above as you see fit. Nonetheless, if you’re having a hard time building up your camping pantry, then you can refer to the list to help you decide. Remember, just because you’re living a rugged lifestyle outdoors means you can’t have a wonderful meal at the same time. So invest in your camping pantry and you won’t have to endure another bland meal while camping.
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