People always assume that cooking in a van must be really difficult and that vandwellers must eat a lot of pot noodles and boring sandwiches. But really van life cooking isn’t very different to cooking in a house; everything is just scaled down. Oh, and there’s no oven. (Some people do have an oven, and if that’s you then we’re pretty jealous.) Most campers also don’t have a freezer and minimal food storage, which means that meals are usually fresh or made up of the canned and jarred dregs of your cupboard, but you’d be surprised what you can make with few ingredients. So, I’m going to talk you through ten Vanlife Recipes that I regularly make in my van.

10 Vanlife Recipes That You Can Cook
On The Road!

Our Kitchen Set Up

You don’t need to have loads of fancy top cooking accessories to make these meals. In our van we have a fridge, a three ring gas hob (we recently upgraded from a two ring burner and we’re feeling pretty swanky), three pans, two XL Ridgemonkey toasters (basically two pans attached by a hinge making a sort of mini-oven, definitely one of our van life essentials), a large frying pan/wok, a chopping board, knives, cheese grater, wooden spoon and perhaps most importantly a spice rack. As a side note, we’re both pescatarians, so the recipes below will be either veggie or include fish, but most could be made with meat or made vegan if that is your preference. All of the recipes serve two (but they’re generous portions!)

1. Veggie Donburi

vanlife recipes - donburi

This is an Asian style rice bowl and one of my favourite vanlife recipes, topped with stir-fried veg, fried egg and a sticky sauce. The good thing about this sort of meal is that it’s so versatile – you can make it with whatever veg is left in your fridge or meat/fish/tofu, making it a cheap meal to cook in your off grid home.

Ingredients

  • 175g rice 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 3cm piece of ginger
  • 3tbsp honey
  • 4tbsp soy sauce 
  • Chilli paste (to taste)
  • 2tsp rice wine 
  • 1 pak choi
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 spring onions
  • Olive oil
  • Kimchi (Asian pickled veg- not essential but tastes great with this meal if you can find it in your supermarket!)vanlife recipes - donburi

Method

  • Prepare your veg – mince the garlic and ginger; chop the spring onion; peel and slice the carrots into thin strips; cut each pak choi leaf in half, longways. 
  • Put your rice on to cook.
  • Fry off the garlic and ginger in olive oil. Add the honey, soy and chilli paste to create a sticky sauce (why do vanlife recipes make me so hungry!) 
  • Set aside in a cup, cover to keep warm.
  • In the same pan fry all your veg in oil, adding some soy, rice wine and more chilli. Fry for 3-5 minutes until cooked but crunchy.
  • Push the veg to one side of the pan, leaving enough space to fry the eggs on the other side. 
  • Serve in a bowl with rice at the bottom, fired egg and veg on top. Drizzle sauce over dish and garnish with the spring onion and kimchi if you have some.

Enjoy! 

2. Wraps

vanlife recipes wraps

Wraps are a favourite in our van. This entry to my vanlife recipes list requires minimal effort, but you really feel like you’re eating a feast once it’s all plated up. 

Ingredients

Chilli:

  • 1 can passata or chopped tomatos
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained 
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 red onion 
  • 2 large carrots 
  • 2 cloves garlic  
  • 1-2tsp chilli powder
  • 1-2tsp cumin powder
  • 1-2tsp paprika powder
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil to fry

Salsa:

  • 1/2 red onion 
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt & pepper 

Guacamole: 

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Cheese, grated. 
  • Wrapsvanlife recipes wraps 2Method

Chilli: 

  • Prepare all the veg – chop the pepper; peel and grate the carrots; finely chop the onion and mince the garlic.
  • Fry off the onion and garlic until the onion is soft.
  • Add the pepper and fry until soft, then add the carrots. Here we are treating the carrots as minced meat, so you want to fry until most of the moisture has evaporated. 
  • Once the moisture has mostly evaporated, add 1-2 teaspoons of each spice, to taste and fry for another minute. 
  • Add the passata (or chopped tomatoes) and red kidney beans. 
  • Allow to simmer whilst you prepare the rest of the meal. 
  • Before serving, taste and add salt, pepper and any more spices to taste. 

Salsa:

  • Prepare the veg: finely chop the onion and chop the tomatoes into slightly larger cubes. 
  • Mix together and squeeze lemon juice over. 
  • Stir and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Guacamole:

  • Peel and stone the avocado and mash with a fork until smooth.
  • Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir.

Wraps:

  • If you have a ridge monkey they’re great for heating up the wraps themselves, if not a frying pan will do, covered in tin foil. Ensure the gas is on a low heat and flip the ridge monkeys or the wraps halfway to heat from the other side, we usually heat four at once. 
  • Keep wraps covered so they stay warm until eaten.

Assembly:

 Wraps are best when assembled immediately before eating so put all dishes on the table and allow each person to add their own filling- chilli, salsa, guacamole and cheese.

Enjoy!

3. Sushi

vanlife recipes - sushi

 

 

 

 

Sushi is one of those vanlife recipes that people think you have to be a chef to make but is actually so easy. Remember, they’ll taste just as good even if your roll technique isn’t perfect yet. 

Sushi has a few unusual ingredients, but once you’ve bought them they can stay in your cupboard and are available from most large supermarkets – don’t skip out on the rice vinegar as it gives this vanlife recipe its lovely and distinctive flavour. 

Ingredients

  • 300ml Sushi rice 
  • 345ml Water
  • 2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5tsp salt
  • Pack of nori sheets
  • 2 fillets of salmon
  • 1 Avocado 

To serve

  • Soy sauce 
  • Wasabi

Method

Rice:

  • Wash the rice in cold water until is clear, then soak in cold water for 15mins.
  • Cook rice in 345ml water. Cover and bring to boil over high heat, about five minutes. 
  • Lower heat and simmer for ten minutes, until all the water is absorbed. 
  • Remove from the heat and leave, covered for 10-15minutes. Do not remove the pan lid. 
  • Mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a cup and stir until dissolved.
  • Pour vinegar dressing onto rice and fold in. You want to try and cool the rice quickly, this is easier done in a wide flat dish or pan – we use our wok. Whilst you fold ion the vinegar, fan the rice with your other hand, we don’t own a fan so we usually use a book.
  • Let the rice cool to body temperature before making the sushi.

Fish and Avacado:

Prepare the fish and veg. Skin the fish and cut into long thin slices. Slice the avocado long ways so it is also in long thin slices.

Assembly:

  • For single ingredient rolls cut each sheet of nori in half, for rolls with both salmon and avocado in leave then sheets whole. 
  • Lay nori on top of the rolling mat.
  • Press a thin layer of sushi rice on top of the nori, leaving about 2cm of nori rice free at the top of the sheet. 
  • Add slices of salmon, avocado or both onto the middle of the rice. 
  • Using the sushi mat begin to roll the nori over the rice and filling.
  • The 2cm of rice free nori will bond to the roll, forming a seal. Once the sushi is made, roll it back and forth several times to ensure then nori seals itself. 
  • Slice the roll into bite sizes pieces, using a sharp, damp knife. Pierce the nori and then slice; this should make the cut neater. 
  • Serve with soy and wasabi.
  • Enjoy! 

4. Potato Hash

I’ll cook this when I’m really craving roast potatoes. It’s crispy and potato-y and can be served with gravy. Mmm…why did I start this Vanlife Recipes article on an empty stomach!

Ingredients

  • 3 large potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons of butter 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt

Method

  • Peel and dry the potatoes with kitchen roll.
  • Grate the potatoes using a cheese grater and put in a sieve or colander. 
  • In the sieve or colander press grated potato down to squeeze as much moisture out as possible, then dry again on kitchen roll. You want the potato to be as dry as possible so that it goes crispy, not soggy. 
  • Salt potatoes generously.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a pan until it’s very hot. 
  • Add potato to the pan and press down with a spatula.
  • Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
  • Flip and cook the other side for about five minutes.
  • Serve as part of a cooked breakfast with eggs and ketchup or for dinner with mushrooms and gravy.

Enjoy!

5. Calzones 

vanlife recipes - calzone

This is one of Seb’s favourite vanlife recipes. It’s one for the ridge monkeys, just proving that you don’t need an oven to enjoy pizza! You can put anything you like inside your calzone; I’m going to show you one example below, but get creative and add your favourite pizza toppings!

Makes two ridge monkey sized (square!) calzones (18cm x 18cm)

Ingredients

  • 200g bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 140ml warm water 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 500ml passata
  • 2 teaspoons dried Oregano
  • Salt & Pepper 
  • I bag Grated Mozzarella- I’ve found balls of mozzarella make calzone too wet
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • 1 small courgette
  • 1/2 aubergine 
  • Handful of olives 
  • Dried basil
  • Salt & Peppervanlife recipes - calzone 2

Method

Dough:

  • Put flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl and add all the water and 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • Mix together to create a wet dough.
  • Place dough on well-floured surface and kneed with hands until smooth- for about 5 minutes.
  • Oil bowl and return dough to it, brush tops of dough with more oil, cover bowl with cling film.
  • Leave to rise at room temperature for at least 25minutes. The dough should double in size.


Filling:

  • Prepare veg – cut mushrooms courgette and aubergine into small chunks. Fry off with basil, salt and pepper to taste. Frying the veg before assembly ensures they are nicely cooked and also removes some of their moisture so the calzone doesn’t end up soggy.
  • Remove olive stones and half the olives, then mix into rest of veg mixture. 
  • In a separate pan, add oregano, salt and pepper to the passata. This doesn’t need to be heated for the filling.

Assembly:

  • Cut the dough into four.
  • Roll out each piece of dough so it is slightly bigger than the base of your Ridgemonkey. We don’t have a rolling pin, but a glass bottle works just as well! 
  • Lay dough flat on the base of the ridge monkey.
  • Add a layer of sauce.
  • Adda generous amount of cheese and half of the topping mixture, saving the other half for the second calzone.  
  • Lay the second piece of dough on top of the filling, you want the dough slightly larger than the ridge monkey so there is enough to seal over the filling.
  • Twist each piece of dough together so the calzone is sealed- almost as though you’re making a pasty.
  • Cook on a very low heat for about 30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and solid when tapped. Make sure you turn regularly and keep checking each side to ensure it doesn’t burn. It is easy to burn the outside of the dough but leave the inside raw, so it is really important to cook over a low heat and check the calzones often.
  • Heat any leftover sauce and drizzle over cooked calzones.

Enjoy!

6. Vegetarian Lasagne 

Another Italian vanlife recipe favourite; yes you can make lasagne on a hob!

Ingredients

  • 4-6 lasagne sheets
  • 500ml passata
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil 
  • 1 veggie stock cube 
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Half an aubergine 
  • I small courgette  
  • Handful of mushrooms 
  • I can of chickpeas
  • 2 balls of mozzarella  

Method

Filling

  • Prepare veg – mince garlic, cut all veg into bite-sized cubes.
  • Fry off garlic in olive oil and then add all veg and 2 teaspoons of basil, fry until soft.
  • Add chickpeas and passata as well as rest of basil, stock cube, salt and pepper. 
  • Leave to simmer for 15-20 mins.
  • Slice mozzarella and then tear into smaller strips. 

Assembly

  • Add a covering of sauce to the bottom of the ridge monkey, then add two sheets of lasagne, next to each other. 
  • Cover generously in sauce and, on top of the sauce, mozzarella. Add another sheet of pasta and repeat. 
  • Depending on how much sauce you use and how wide your ridge monkey is you will either get two or three layers of pasta. The top of the lasagne should be mozzarella. 
  • Cook on a low heat until pasta sheets are soft. The bottom layer of sauce usually burns a little so it is best to leave this behind in the ridge monkey for serving.

Enjoy!

7. Risotto

One pot dishes are great vanlife recipes; less space, less gas used, and less washing up! 

Ingredients

  • 150g risotto rice
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper
  • Half an onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 500ml vegetable stock 
  • Salt & pepper
  • Grated parmesan (as much as you like!)
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Prepare veg – seed and cut the pepper into small squares; cut mushrooms into chunks; mince the garlic; finely chop onion.  
  • Fry off the garlic and onion in olive oil, then add the mushrooms and pepper and fry until soft. 
  • Add the risotto rice to the mixture and fry off for two minutes before beginning to add the vegetable stock. Add a bit at a time until all liquid is soaked up by the rice. 
  • Season with salt & pepper to taste. 
  • Grate the Parmesan and stir in before serving. 
  • This is a great vanlife recipes idea that can be enjoyed on its own, but it’s even better with some rocket on top or salad on the side.

Enjoy!

vanlife recipes - risotto 2

8. Mediterranean Grilled Sandwich 

vanlife recipes - sandwich

A fancy cheese toasty, but oh so good. For us, this is one of those ‘bottom of the cupboard’ vanlife recipes; we nearly always have bread, butter, cheese, jarred olives, pesto, tomato purée and jarred peppers, and this sandwich doesn’t use that much of each of them.  

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of white bread (the chunkier the better)
  • A few slices of aubergine 
  • Jarred roasted peppers
  • Olives
  • Cheese 
  • Pesto
  • Tomato purée
  • Olive oil 
  • Basil

Method

  • Fry the aubergine slices in oil and basil, you want the aubergine to be soaked in oil. Fry until soft and browned.
  • Butter the outside of each slice of bread so the butter will sit on the ridge monkey. 
  • Build the sandwich – spread pesto on one slice of bread and tomato purée on the other, add all other ingredients as filings and press bread together. 
  • Fry in the ridge monkey, over a low heat until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Vanlife recipes never tasted so good!

Enjoy!

9. Oriental Style Salmon

vanlife recipes - salmon

I love the infusion of soy, ginger and garlic on this tender fish dish. It’s another one of those vanlife recipes that makes my mouth water (well…they all do, but you get the idea!)

Ingredients

  • 2 fillets of salmon
  • 1 lemon 
  • 3tsp minced garlic 
  • 3 cloves of garlic 
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Half a broccoli or 1 Pak Choi 
  • 1 red pepper 
  • Soy sauce 
  • 1tsp chilli flakes 
  • 175g rice

Method

  • Prepare veg – mince the garlic and ginger, slice half the lemon, slice the pepper and broccoli. 
  • This is a quick meal so you’ll want to put the rice on to cook now.
  • Place salmon fillets in a ridge monkey, or a frying pan covered with tin foil. 
  • Sprinkle about 1tsp of the garlic and ginger on the fillets, place a couple of slices of lemon on each and squeeze the rest of the lemon over the fish. Add on tsp of butter on top of each fillet.
  • Close the ridge monkey and cook over a medium heat until the fish is opaque but still tender. About 10-15mins. 
  • Whilst the fish is cooking stir fry the veg in the remaining garlic and ginger and with the chilli flakes and soy sauce. 
  • Serve in a bowl with the salmon and veg on top of the rice, the sauce from cooking the fish poured over it all. 
  • If you only have a two ring burner, cook the rice before the fish and veg and leave covered to keep it hot.

Enjoy! 

10. Vanlife Curry 

vanlife recipes curry

Any type of curry is great in the van; these vanlife recipes are one pot (plus rice) and pretty much anything can go in them, as long as you’ve got some spices to hand. I’m going to list my favourite vanlife curry recipe below!

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3cm ginger
  • 1 chilli
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • 1tsp dried coriander powder 
  • 1tsp curry powder 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 
  • Salt to taste 
  • Aubergine
  • Can of chickpeas
  • Can of tomatoes 
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh coriander 
  • 175g rice 

Method

  • Prepare the veg – finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, ginger and chilli, cube the aubergine. 
  • Fry off the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in generous amounts of olive oil. 
  • Add all of the spices and fry for a further minute before adding the aubergine. 
  • Add more olive oil to the pan when the aubergine is added, fry until the aubergine is soft. 
  • Drain and add the chickpeas, followed by the tinned tomatoes.
  • Allow to simmer for at least 20 mins, cook the rice. 
  • Add the juice of the lemon and chopped coriander just before serving with the rice. 

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading our top vanlife recipes article! Let us know if you’ve tried any of the recipes above or share your favourite vanlife recipes with us! Join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share your meal ideas!

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