Thanksgiving On The Trail

Over the years we have gotten many emails asking for backpacking recipe meal ideas for late fall trips that fall on or near Thanksgiving weekend. A couple different ways to have a great dinner on the trail in late fall are below, ranging from very simple to more elaborate. You can pick and choose of course, some might only want gravy over mashed potatoes yet the next person wants to be able to serve 3 hikers a gourmet multi course dinner – just without dirtying up 4 pots and doing dishes till bed time!

A Meal With All The Trimmings:


This version of Thanksgiving Dinner is FBC Hybrid, using both FBC friendly recipes but making the gravy in a pot for best results. It takes a little extra work but can be worth it.

Sourdough Stuffing


  • 1 round loaf sourdough bread
  • ¼ cup diced dried onion
  • ¼ cup dried celery flakes (in spice aisle)
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 Tbsp lower sodium vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp dried rubbed sage
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Directions at home:

Heat the oven to 350°. Cut the bread into small crouton shapes and put on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, checking every 10 minutes, stirring, till crispy dry. Once cooled, use a rolling-pin to break them up even smaller. In a small bowl mix the seasoning blend together until well combined.

Split into 3 quart freezer bags (about 2 cups dry bread each) and 3 Tbsp dry seasoning mix. Note on each bag “Add ½ cup near boiling water and 2 Tbsp oil or melted butter”. In camp, after adding the oil and water seal the bag tightly and shake to distribute. Put in a cozy for 15 minutes.

Each bag serves 2 to 3 and the recipe makes 3 bags worth.

Mashed Potatoes

In a quart freezer bag:

  • ¾ cup instant mashed potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter powder
  • Pinch of salt, if desired

FBC method:

In camp add 1¼ cups near boiling water to the bag. Stir well, getting into the corners. Seal tightly and put in a cozy with the stuffing for 15 minutes.

Serves 2 to 3.

Turkey (or Chicken) Gravy


One pot method:

Add the gravy mix to 1 cup water in a small pot, stirring well. Add in the chicken (or drained turkey) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for a few seconds, until nicely thickened. Season to taste with black pepper if desired.

Serve over the mashed potatoes.

Serves 2 to 3.

Cranberry Sauce Version 2


  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

At home:

Grind the cranberries with the sugar in a food chopper or small food processor. Pack in a pint freezer bag.

In camp add ½ cup near boiling water. Seal the bag and put in a cozy for at least 15 minutes. Letting it cool down after rehydrating will help it thicken up.

Serves 2 to 3.


Green Bean Casserole

In a snack bag pack:

Also take:

  • 1 package freeze-dried green beans (0.42 ounce) (about ¾ cup)

FBC method:

Open the green bean package and find the desiccant packet, toss. Add in the dry ingredients and 1¼ cups boiling water. Stir well, seal tightly and let sit for 15 minutes. Open up, stir well and add in ¼ cup of the fried onions, stirring in. Top with the remaining onions.

Serves 2 to 3.

The dry items packed:



Savory Broth Powder


  • 1½ cups dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
  • ¼ cup diced air-dried sun-dried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup dried celery
  • ¼ cup dried celery leaves
  • 2 2/3 cups Large Flake Nutritional Yeast
  • ¼ cup onion powder (not onion salt!)
  • 2 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried rubbed sage
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt


Add the mushrooms through celery leaves into a dry mixing container for a Vitamix 5200 Blender or a similar high-speed blender, process on medium (about 5 on a Vitamix) until powdered. Add in remaining ingredients, process on medium until just mixed, stirring as needed.

Store in an airtight container.

Use 1 Tablespoon broth mix for every cup water.

Makes about 2½ cups.


You can find the mushrooms in big containers for cheap at Costco (in the produce department). With the tomatoes, pick up really dry ones. I use these ones from Frontier.

An Alternative Meal:


Harvest Rice


  • 1 cup instant rice
  • 1 cup instant brown rice
  • ½ cup freeze-dried vegetables
  • 2 Tbsp homemade broth mix or 2 tsp lower sodium chicken bouillon
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • Pinch of sea salt

Also take:

  • 5 ounce can (w/ pop-top lid) or 7 ounce pouch chicken
  • 1 Tbsp or packet olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

At home:

Pack the rice ingredients in a sandwich bag or quart freezer bag, depending on cooking method. Mark “Add 2 1/2 cups water” on bag. Pack the walnuts in a snack bag.

One Pot Method:

Add the chicken, with any broth, water and oil to a cooking pot. Bring to a boil, add the rice bag, return to boil. Turn off the stove, cover tightly and let sit for 15 minutes. In cooler weather or at altitude insulate the pot with a pot cozy.

Stir the rice, top with the walnuts.

Freezer Bag Method (FBC):

Bring the water to a boil, set aside. Place the freezer bag in a cozy, add the oil and chicken, with any broth and the water. Stir well, seal and let sit for 15 minutes.

To make a second ‘bowl’ bring along a second freezer bag, cuff in half.

Divide the rice and top with the walnuts.

Serves 2.


This recipe can be adapted to vegan by leaving the chicken out and adding in chickpeas if desired, or more nuts. Use the same amount of water called for, if using dehydrated chickpeas, hydrate them separately  add, drained, with the hot water to the dry rice.


Cranberry Pear Compote


  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup dried pears, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp dried orange zest (or a True Orange packet)
  • Pinch fine sea salt

At home:

Pack the ingredients in a snack bag or pint freezer bag, depending on cooking method.

 Insulated Mug/Bowl Method:

Add the ingredients to an insulated mug or small bowl, cover with ¼ cup of water. Cover and let hydrate for 20 to 30 minutes. If a bit dry, add in a little more water as needed.

Freezer Bag Method (FBC):

Bring ¼ cup water to a boil, set aside. Place the freezer bag in a cozy, add the water and seal bag. Let hydrate for 20 to 30 minutes. If a bit dry, add in a little more water as needed.

Serves 2.


Pumpkin and Gingersnap Pudding


  • 2/3 cup dry milk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch or favorite thickener, arrowroot works as well
  • 2 Tbsp dried and powdered pumpkin purée (see below)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Big pinch ground nutmeg
  • Big pinch ground ginger
  • Big pinch salt

 Also take:

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 bag crisp gingersnap cookies (any size, more is better..say 7-9 ounces)

At home:

Pack the pudding ingredients in a sandwich bag. Tuck the butter in a small bag.

One Pot Method:

Add the mix and 2 cups cold water to a cooking pot. Using a small whisk, stir while bringing to boil, over a lower flame. When the pudding comes to a boil and is thick, take off the stove and whisk in the butter. Serve warm or let cool, a cold stream or snow bank works well for chilling.

Divide between mugs or bowls – or in a pinch served in pint freezer bags.

Crumble up some of the gingersnaps, dust on top, serve with the rest to dip in the pudding.

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetite.


Dried pumpkin? Very easy! Spread a can of organic pumpkin purée on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, dehydrate in your oven at lowest temp till bone dry, then powder. Store tightly sealed. Or see here on how to do it in a dehydrator.

Want it even better? Add in some rum at the end, after it comes off the stove.

The below recipes are from previous years and give even more ideas!

The Trashy Version:
This isn’t one of the “it is good for you” meals. But, eh, you get it once a year, no? The meal is designed to feed 2 to 3 and it will make quite a bit. You can double the meat and use a 10 to 13-ounce can. If you do this, use the liquid in the can, and cut the water back to a generous 1/2 cup (instead of 3/4 cup) in the gravy

You can leave the butter out of the stuffing, it does add a nice flavor and texture…and if you are hiking in November, the fat is a good thing for staying warm. Butter is easy to carry in the colder months as well, so take advantage!

Being a meal to share this is one of the rare times I will suggest “bring bowls!”. It makes the cooking easy to do as well as sharing the meal.

Turkey Cranberry Gravy

In a pint freezer bag:
1 package Roasted Turkey Gravy mix
¼ cup dried sweetened cranberries


Add can of chicken & ¾ cup water.

Trashy Stuffing:
In a quart freezer bag:
1 package instant stuffing (usually between 6-8 ounce box, Stove Top or similar)

Mark: Add ¼ cup butter and 1½ cups water.

Mashed Potatoes
In a quart freezer bag:
¾ cup instant mashed potatoes
2 Tbsp dry milk
¼ tsp diced dried garlic
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Mark on bag: Add 1¼ cups near boiling water.

Also take:
¼ cup butter
5-ounce pop-top can turkey or chicken


Trail Directions:

The stuffing:
Add the butter, diced up, and 1½ cups near boiling water. Stir well, and make sure the water gets mixed in. Seal tightly, pushing any air out carefully.

Add in the can of turkey along with the liquid and ¾ cup of near boiling water. Stir very well and seal, pushing out any air carefully.

Mashed Potatoes:

Add in 1¼ cups near boiling water, stirring well. Make sure to get any powder in the corners. Seal tightly, pushing out any air.

For all:
Put the 3 bags into a cozy (you may need two cozies) for 10 minutes. Fluff up the stuffing, stir the potatoes well.
Plate up and eat!

One pot option for the meal:
Boil the water for the stuffing and potatoes. Proceed as directed.

For the gravy, add 1 cup water along with chicken and juice to your pot. Stir in the gravy mix and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low and boil gently for a minute.

Let sit till everything else is ready.


DIY Instant Cranberry Sauce

¼ cup dried sweetened cranberries
¼ tsp dried orange peel (in spice aisle)

At home pulverize the cranberries and orange peel in a mini food chopper or blender till a small chunky paste (it will be sticky). Pack in a pint freezer bag.

On trail add ¼ cup near boiling water. Seal the bag tightly and let sit in a cozy for 15 minutes.
Serves 1.

Thanksgiving On The Trail Part #2 – Making It Reasonably Healthy:

One of my favorite pre-low sodium diets was doing Thanksgiving On The Trail…which just isn’t low in sodium no matter what you do, even using the hard to find “lower sodium” chicken instant stuffing mix by Stove Top. The other issues lie in that brand contains both MSG and High Fructose Corn Syrup, both items we can do with less of. (And most commercial brands of “instant” stuffing contain it as well.)

This recipe won’t necessarily save you money, but it will allow you to have a great tasting meal and be able to make it with whole wheat or multi grain breads, vegetables and control the sodium to a respectable level. You can use homemade bread as well, and control the sodium there as well.

Thanksgiving On The Trail:

At home take approximately 6-7 slices of bread and flatten them with your palms on a cutting board. Take a sharp chef knife and dice up the pieces of bread. When done you will want about 4 cups of diced bread. The flattening creates a denser crumb.
Put on lined dehydrator trays. It will take about 2 hours at 135*. You want crispy dry.


When dry split the bread crumbs into 2 quart freezer bags.

In a small chopper, blender or clean coffee grinder combine and whirl:
1 Tbsp low sodium chicken bouillon (or 3 Tbsp homemade)
1½ tsp dried parsley
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 Tbsp dried onions
2 Tbsp dried celery
1/8 tsp sugar

Split the seasoning mix into two small bags. Each bag of bread gets a bag of seasoning mix.
Mark the bread bags with: Add ¾ cup water + 1 Tbsp olive oil.


Thanksgiving On The Trail
1 bag of bread crumbs
1 bag of seasoning blend
1 Tbsp or packet of olive oil
1 3-ounce can of chicken
Packet of Cranberry Sauce

Add the seasoning packet to the bread crumbs, add in the chicken (you can add in the broth if desired), oil and ¾ cup boiling water. Stir well, seal and put in a cozy for 5 minutes. Fluff up and serve.
Serves 1-2.
Using no added salt besides the bread and the chicken one gets about 1000 mg of sodium if they eat the whole bag (the chicken is around 400 mg of it). Using commercial instant stuffing you would consume over 1700 mg of sodium. This is a considerable savings. While not low sodium it is a fun way to be able to enjoy it once in a while!

Roast Chicken with Gravy

FBC Hybrid Thanksgiving On The Trail