Backpacker’s Best Burrito Bowl Recipe

by Melanie Sampson

Life on the trail is full of the unexpected; weather and trail conditions can quickly change, there may be wildlife encounters, injuries, slips and falls, turn-arounds, fatigue, dehydration…the list goes on! If there’s one thing that a hiker can count on at the end of the day though, it’s that they’ve likely worked up an appetite for a well deserved, nutritious and tasty meal. While there are plenty of options for quick and convenient pre-made dehydrated and freeze dried meals, they can become quite costly. Oftentimes the sodium levels in pre-made meals are off the charts, the vegetables are skimpy, and they can lack serious flavour. By preparing and dehydrating our own meals, we have full control over what we’re fuelling our bodies with, and it can be really fun to get creative in the kitchen while planning our next big adventure – even if that big adventure is just a day hike.

A favourite go-to dehydrated meal that’s easy to prepare and allows for a lot of wiggle room in the recipe to add or omit different ingredients is a tried and true burrito bowl. Feel free to follow this recipe as it is, or use it as a loose guideline to create your own unique dish that suits your own palate and adheres to any dietary restrictions or preferences that you may have.

When making these burrito bowls, you can dehydrate each individual ingredient separately and then divide all ingredients into four servings; alternatively, you can mix all ingredients together before dehydrating. If you choose to dehydrate each ingredient on its own, it is best not to chop the spinach or cilantro. Instead, dehydrate them whole and once they’re dried, crumble them with your hands. For a bit of extra delicious fat, add some fresh avocado to your prepared meal once it’s time to eat. Enjoy!

Backpacker’s Best Burrito Bowls

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef*, cooked
  • 2 cups spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup of your favourite salsa
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce**
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed and flattened slightly with back of a spoon
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 red or orange bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A few dashes of your favourite hot sauce for some extra heat

*this ingredient may be omitted; ground chicken or turkey may also be substituted
**any BBQ sauce will do, but Sweet Baby Ray’s Original is especially tasty in burrito bowls


  1. Add oil to a skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Into the same pan, add the ground beef and cook thoroughly, stirring continuously. Once the meat has been cooked through, transfer to a strainer and run hot water over the meat to remove any residual fat. Removing as much fat as possible is important because dehydrated foods high in fat will typically spoil faster than those with lesser amounts.
  3. Once the meat has been rinsed with hot water, transfer it into a bowl and add the taco seasoning and jalapeño peppers. Stir well to combine.
  4. Combine the quinoa and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
  6. In a large bowl add cooked quinoa, cooked meat, and all remaining ingredients. Stir well.
  7. Spread the mixture evenly and as thinly as possible over dehydrator trays lined with parchment paper.
  8. Dehydrate at 145°F for 8-10 hours rotating the order of the trays every couple of hours to ensure even drying. As the mixture dries, it will become bark-like; break large pieces up to ensure it is completely dry.
  9. Once completely dry, remove from the dehydrator and divide into four individual portions.
  10. To rehydrate the meal, add enough boiling water to just cover the dehydrated mixture. Let it sit for about 20 minutes, or until all ingredients are soft and fully hydrated.

For best results, rehydrate food in an insulated container, such as a Hydroflask or Thermos. Usually, about 20 minutes is enough time to rehydrate a meal, but sometimes, depending on the size and type of food that has been dehydrated, it may take longer.

Enjoy your delicious and nutritious meal!

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