09 Jul Bicycle Touring Food
Bicycle touring food differs in various locations.
One of the questions we frequently get asked is: what do we eat while we are on the road, how do we prepare our meals, and what makes for good bicycle touring food.
The answer can be a little tricky, because it varies depending on where we travel and whether we are going to stay at someone’s house, at a campground, or whether we plan on wild camping. Also, it differs whether it is summer or winter time. Olive oil or butter become hard to use when it is freezing outside but our bodies still crave fatty things, especially when wild camping in the snow. We found “Schmalz” to be a great substitute because even in freezing conditions it is still spreadable. On the other hand, when it is hot and steamy, we’d rather have juicy fresh fruit and we end up eating an entire watermelon at once for lunch.
Since we are traveling on a budget and we’d like to eat somewhat healthy, we usually shop at the local grocer and prepare all the meals on our MSR International Whisperlite camp stove.
However, in Morocco it was quite cheap to eat out for lunch and have a huge, tasty, and affordable meal. At those times, we would only have something small like fruit, bread, lunch-meat, and cheese for dinner. In Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam it was actually more economical to just stop at one of the many street vendors or family run restaurants to get a bite to eat than to cook for ourselves…although we were not always 100% sure about what exactly we were eating. Also fruit smoothies, sugar cane juice and the most delicious coffees can be had for such reasonable prices in those areas that they easily can become an addiction!
Our Bicycle Touring Kitchen
Besides having fruits and making our own trail-mix for snacks, we try to cook at least one good meal a day on our camp stove. Since we only have one pot and one small frying pan, we have to be somewhat creative at what we cook and how we prepare our meals.
Although we do not have a whole lot of room in our panniers, we still manage to carry a sharp knife, a small cutting board, a little spatula, a wooden spoon, a couple of stack-able small plastic cups (which came with the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker cookware), and two cheap, deep, plastic plates, to make cooking more convenient on the go.
Initially we had two plastic ‘light my fire sporks’ to eat with. Unfortunately, they were not up to the task and broke after two months of use. In the meantime we have found a fork, spoon, and knife at different times while riding our bikes or camping out, and eventually we actually found another pair of Light My Fire titanium sporks that were abandoned at the Athens campground (the universe provides after all!!)
Our Bicycle Touring Food Pannier
The usual food stable in our panniers consists of pasta, fast cooking rice, couscous, quinoa or gnocchi, oatmeal; also tuna, maybe ham in a can, beans, garlic, onion, some herbs such as salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and bullion cubes can usually be found in one of our bags as well. We generally restock everything we need to make sandwiches such as bread, lunch-meat, cheese, pate and a couple of pieces of fruit on a daily basis. Since butter and mayo do not keep well in our panniers, a small bottle of olive oil comes in handy for frying and sauteing, making salads, and for drizzling on bread for sandwiches. Olive oil also makes a great conditioner for dry hair ends and dry chapped skin, so how could you go wrong?!
Honey is also great to take on trips, because we can use it with peanut butter or bananas on bread or wraps for a fast snack and at the same time it works great as a sugar substitute for tea, coffee, etc.. Unfortunately, when it gets too cold outside, we have a hard time squeezing it out of the bottle and have to take a short ‘honey-break’.
Before we find a spot to camp, we generally try to get whatever fresh meat or vegetables we need for our meal, unless of course we still have enough lunch meat, cans, or leftovers left from the day before. We have found that certain vegetables hold up better while getting beaten up in our panniers than others. Peppers, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, leeks, onions, cabbage, and squash are great to keep in panniers without making a mess and are also versatile, all of them can be cooked, some can be eaten raw or thrown on sandwiches or roll them up in a tortilla with some meat or tuna. Tomatoes and zucchini are wonderful as well but need a little bit more protection, so we usually keep them in the front panniers where they do not get squished.
Just to give you an idea of what we eat, here are a couple of things we came up with.
Please remember that cooking healthy on the go can be a little difficult at times, sometimes we just have to make due with what we have in the panniers, because of where we are traveling, or just simply because there is no store in sight. Most recipes can be easily modified and will feed two very hungry cyclists…or maybe 3 normal eating people.
One-Burner-Meals for Bicycle Touring
Quick and easy Tuna Pasta
(also great to eat cold, when the weather is hot)
- One cup pasta (we usually use our 1/2 liter metal camping cups)
- 1/2 onion
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 zucchini or cucumber
- 1/2 green or red bell pepper
- 1 small can or bag of frozen mixed veggies, i.e. corn/peas/beans …pretty much anything you like
- 1 big can of tuna
- A little bit of olive oil ( or use brine/oil from tuna)
- Salt/pepper/garlic…or any other seasoning you carry and like (a little bit of lemon juice is great, too)
Cook pasta in pot per packet instructions, in the meantime, chop up onion, and veggies, and mix with tuna, olive oil, and season to taste. When the pasta is done, drain the pasta and simply mix all the ingredients together in the pot. Further cooking is not necessary the meal can either be eaten hot right away or cold. The same recipe also works well with couscous and rice.
Field notes: I usually chop up everything and put it on the plates until the pasta is ready and mix everything up in the pot.
Peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, cabbage, leeks, onions are great to use and store while cycle touring, because it is easy to only use half of the veggie and store the rest in the panniers without getting them all squished.
Quinoa dinner using up left over salami/ham and left over veggies
Quinoa is known as the Peruvian wonder crop, it is high in protein and gluten free. It is very versatile and can be turned into a hearty dinner or into a sweet breakfast cereal. In it’s uncooked state it takes up very little volume and it cooks very quickly with relatively little water…in other words it is the perfect cycle-touring-stable-food. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find.
- 1/2 cup quinoa (again, using 1/2 liter metal camping cup)
- 1/2 onion
- any left over veggies such as peppers, zucchini, leek, kidney beans…
- any left over lunch meat such as salami, ham, etc..
- 1 egg (if available, but not needed. It just helps add some extra protein)
Cook quinoa in pot, per package instructions and set it to the side when done. It tends to cook very quickly over the whisperlight stove, so be careful not to burn it. In the mean time chop up the veggies and meat. Sautee meat and onions in frying pan, add rest of the veggies and season to taste.
Combine quinoa, meat, and veggies in pot and heat everything up together. Add egg (optional) and stir until egg is cooked.
Hamburger and cabbage stir-fry
Easy and hearty recipe, you only need one pot to cook which means easy clean up
- 1/3 lbs. hamburger meat
- 1/2 head of cabbage, cut into small strips
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 tomato, diced
- Pepper, salt, fond (bullion), garlic
- Sour cream or feta cheese
Brown hamburger and chopped onions in pot. Add cabbage and sauté until cabbage is golden brown. Add tomato and a little bit of water with bullion, cook until cabbage still has some bite to it.
Finally, add sour cream or feta to taste and to make the sauce a little bit more creamy before eating.
It is also good with left over potatoes and noodles. Should you have any left over leek, peppers, or zucchini, they are always good to throw into the mix as well.
- 1lb hamburger meat
- 1can red kidney beans
- 1red or orange pepper
- 1 chilli pepper
- 1 tomato
- tomato paste
- 1 small onion
- salt, pepper, paprika
(optional any left over veggies, chopped up)
brown meat, add peppers, onion and veggies and sauté for few minutes, then add beans, tomato, tomato paste and season to taste
Of course there are many more things to cook up on one burner, like the occasional brat and the nice greasy hamburger…Bon Appetit
Our thoughts and experiences using the MSR Whisperlite International and GSI Pinnacle cookware.