If you’re reading this you’re probably like me and you like high-nutrient, tasty, lightweight plant-based meals for mountaineering, backpacking, and hiking. But are you finding exactly what you want in every outdoor store around the world? No, you’re not. I’ve looked everywhere too.
What you mostly find is cheap, high-sodium (and addictive to boot), carb-stuffed nutrient-poor and highly-processed camping or backcountry meals in supermarkets. Why is it so hard to get exactly the meals and snacks that you want and need for outdoor sports like mountaineering and hiking? Is the demand for low-quality products driven by the increasing numbers of occasional backpackers, or by an industry trying to get the biggest margins?
If you’ve been searching for recipes, you’ve probably had a similar experience to mine and had to resort to creating your own. The upside of making your own is that you can have exactly the ingredients you want: vegan, organic, dairy-free, preservative-free, gluten-free, nightshade-free, or carbohydrate-free, whatever. The downside is that food preparation, particularly dehydrating meals for a long mountaineering or backpacking trip, can be very time-consuming.
In the past, I devoted a whole day to preparing food for New Zealand and overseas expeditions to Peru, Bolivia, and Nepal. That is until I found Radix Nutrition. I was introduced to Radix in 2018 while on an expedition in Patagonia. The town of El Chaltén in Argentina has a small collection of restaurants and groceries that are good for bread, meat, and cheese, but do not stock much in the way of vegetables. The few greens that make it to the supermarket look like they’ve been sitting on the back of a truck stuck in the desert for ten days.
Patagonia is a destination where I needed to carry high mountains meals AND town meals. I read through the ingredients on the Radix packaging and tasted a couple of flavours. Not only do they source very high-quality ingredients, many of which are organic, but they also guarantee all meals to be gluten and nut-free, and almost all to be dairy-free – whey protein shakes excepted. They pack their plant-based meals with all natural ingredients, creating a great balance of protein, fat, carbs, and fibre. While there still isn’t a large manufacturer yet that focuses solely on vegan hiking snacks or vegan hiking food, Radix comes very close. I have tasted some of the options that contain meat, but I barely eat much freshly cooked meat so the freeze-dried chunks rank pretty low on my level of interest.
If you're looking for a purely vegan brand, look no further than Local Dehy. This Hāwea based company dehydrates their meals in small batches in their custom-built food trailer. Their meals are available in New Zealand through a limited amount of retailers, and through their website. They have a strong commitment to sustainability and all their meals come in home compostable packaging – they recommend using one of their reusable platinum silicone pouches or your own reusable container.
Radix plant-based products have evolved enormously since 2018 and are now stocked widely in New Zealand and Australia, with shipping to Europe, UK, and US. They’ve made it so easy to source enough variation in flavour for up to (about) a 14-day expedition, that I sold my dehydrator a few years ago. Hell, they even take my feedback extremely professionally. It might be a coincidence but I suggested meal ideas and ingredients and I’ve seen some of these introduced in the new ranges; the simple and nutritious avocado being a favourite of mine. I never knew these would freeze-dry so well.
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My recipes may be obsolete now that I value my time more than the rewards (and toil) of preparing and dehydrating them myself, but you are welcome to enjoy them nonetheless. Note: I still eat my breakfast and smoothie recipes at home on a daily basis.
Lastly, the difference between dehydrated food and freeze-dried is significant: freeze-drying removes more water, locks in more nutrients, has a better shelf life and rehydrates significantly faster. Radix smoothies and breakfasts rehydrate instantly; the main meals taking just 5 minutes.
Give me the goddamn recipe already…
This low GI, high nutrition mix is packed with flavour, and contains plenty of good fats that release energy slowly, avoiding sugar spikes. After developing this mix as a condiment for porridge, I quickly realised where the quality energy lay – in the raw superfood ingredients, not in the oats.
- Almonds (1 cup)
- Pumpkin seeds (1/2 cup)
- Sunflower seeds (1/2 cup)
- Chia seeds (1/2 cup)
- Linseeds/ Flax seeds (1/2 cup)
- Desiccated coconut (1/2 cup)
- Goji berries (a sprinkle)
- Sultanas (a sprinkle)
- Chopped banana (optional)
- Nondairy Milk (or powder)
Add the chia and linseeds/ flax seeds to the blender first, blending them up for 10-15 seconds until the mix is consistently ground up. Add the other ingredients and blend for another 15 seconds. Pour your desired quantity into a bowl and add your favourite milk.
Using a good blender like Thermomix or Blendtech is important, as cheap or stick blenders do not have the motor power to grind nuts and seeds.
Store your mix in the fridge in a glass jar or container with the lid on. Chopped nuts release oils and may go rancid in the open air.
For mountain or wilderness trips, you can weigh your required quantities and package each serving ready for use. Keep the milk powder separate due to the mix going rancid quicker if they're stored together.
This is a sweet and salty delight, packed with flavour and no added sugar. Sweetened using medjool dates or soaked pitted dates, you'll be craving this creamy texture after your workout.
- Almond Milk (200ml)
- Peanut Butter (1 heaped tbsp)
- Chocolate Protein Shake – Nuzest, Clean Lean Protein (optional)
- Himalayan Salt (1 tsp or to taste)
- Dates – Medjool dates or soaked pitted dates (3-5)
- Macca Powder (1 tsp)
- Cacao (optional) (1/2 tsp)
Place all ingredients in blender for at least 30 seconds until the dates have blended properly.
This recipe is probably the one I miss the most in the mountains but I haven’t even bothered dehydrating it, because there is an excellent mineral-rich plant-based smoothie range available from Radix Nutrition.
This traditional meal from the Indian sub continent has many flavours, but one thing's for sure, its reputation in the Himalaya for providing 24-hour power is legendary. It's become a mainstay of South Asian restaurants around the world. Here is my version of this classic dish.
- Onion finely chopped
- Grated or finely chopped carrot.
- Ground dried Coriander (1 tsp person)
- Ground dried Cumin (1 tsp per person)
- Black Pepper
- Vegetable Boullion – no need for salt with a good quality stock cube – watch out for MSG/ E621.
- Tomato Paste – 2-3 small blister packs, or one small jar, or one tube. Try to pick one that doesn’t have added sugar.
- Chopped tomatoes (2 tins for 5 meals)
Pre soak some split red lentils and green french lentils – ideally overnight. Half a cup of each per person
Boil them for at least 20 minutes before adding to the mix. The key is that when the red lentils start to become unrecognisable as individual lentils, you’re good to go. Mushy and soft!
Boil the lentils separately in plenty of water. Fry the onions and carrots until softened, then add the spices to warm them, then the tomato paste….keep stirring, then the chopped tomatoes….now add the lentils and anything else on the list. ….leave to stew for as long as you can.
Cook some rice to accompany it (also dehydratable)
Dehydrate broccoli and carrots separately to add to the mix later.
Bring some fresh coriander if your adventure allows it. Chop the stalks off finely and add to the spice mix when cooking, keeping the leaves for a garnish.
Enjoy this blend of subtle flavours, influenced by the ancient japanese dish, this meal packs light and brings a great sense of delicacy to your backcountry or mountain meal planning.
- Buckwheat Noodles (gluten-free), or egg/ wheat noodles
- Onion (can be dried)
- Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
- Shredded dried seaweed
- Miso Soup – fresh or dried.
- Grated Zucchini (optional)
- Sesame Oil – about 5 mls for per person
Pre soak the shiitake mushrooms and seaweed in warm water at least an hour before preparation. It can be longer, they won’t go soggy. Then fry the onion until golden, add the shredded zucchini (or vegetables of choice), and fry for a little bit, then add the miso stock, shiitakes, and seaweed. I like to make the miso stock slightly thicker than recommended so it sticks a little better to the noodles.
Serve the noodles in each bowl, then add stock to it. This makes it easier to disperse the stock and contents more evenly than stirring it all together.
Optional: Tofu (fry it in blocks to give more bite to it or buy pre-fried), and mung beans
Add some hot sauce or chipotle if you find the flavour lacking in pungency.
Carrot and fruit cake
- 4 cups of your favourite Gluten Free flour
- 1 cup oil (sunflower/ rice bran/ grapeseed)
- 1.5 cups nut milk (add more if dry)
- 2 grated carrots
- 1 can crushed pineapples (optional)
- 1 cup raisins or sultanas
- 1 cup blended/ sliced dates
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp all spice
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- pinch salt
Mix the lot into a paste, place in a suitable bread loaf or cake tin and bake at 180 degrees for 50- 60 mins depending on your oven.
This recipe works well without added sugar – it’s sweet enough with these natural ingredients.
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