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Van Life Food Ideas: 7 Disgustingly Simple Van Life Meals

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Searching the internet for van life food ideas can be pretty depressing. When I first started searching for van life meal ideas one of the first things that came up was an article featuring the eight-step process of preparing a salad in a bag. I got to step 6 ‘Take out the dressing package and open it…’ before I started weeping. Maybe van life wasn’t going to be for me if these were the dinners I had to look forward to. Thankfully my own experience with van life food and van life cooking has been a little different.

Here a seven super simple van life food ideas to go to when you want something cheap, healthy, and super satisfying, and no bag salads!

*These van life meals are all for 2 serves, scale up as required.

Hey! Looking for more great van life food ideas, tips, and tricks? Check out these articles!

7 Disgustingly Easy Van Life Meals

#1 Butter Bean Mash

Butter beans in a pot ready to mash
Simple, easy, and delicious food for van life, butter bean mash ticks all the boxes

Butter bean mash is as versatile as it is delicious. Serve as a side dish as a no-cook replacement for mash potatoes, enjoy as a dip, or smear of wraps and sandwiches.

Ingredients

  • 1 can butter beans
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Drain your can of beans and mash together with the 1 tbsp of oil, juice from 1/2 a lemon, 2 sprigs of thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Boom. Done.

#2 Rice Paper Rolls

Vietnamese rice paper rolls, super simple van life food ideas
Vietnamese rice paper rolls, super simple van life food ideas

If you can boil a pot of water you can enjoy these delicious fresh Vietnamese-inspired rice paper rolls. If you can’t boil a pot of water, you can still enjoy them, it will just take a little longer.

Ingredients

  • 8 rice papers
  • 50g dried vermicelli noodles
  • 1 cup veggies sliced into strips (we like shallots, cucumber, avocado and carrot)
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar works fine)

Optional

  • Shredded chicked, pork, tofu or shrimp
  • Crushed peanuts
  • Sliced chilis
  • Mint or coriander (cilantro)

Method

Boil water. Mix 3 tbsp sauce with a tsp of vinegar and a tsp of water in a small dish. Slice the veggies into strips. Throw 50 grams of dried vermicelli noodles in a pot of hot water for a few seconds. Pull out the noodles when soft and put them on a large plate with sliced veggies, hoisin sauce, and any other protein or garnishes you are having. Transfer hot water to a large bowl.

Start dipping rice papers in the hot water to soften and wrapping your rice paper rolls.

*If you can’t be bothered to heat water then the rice papers and noodles can be prepared in cold water it will just take longer.

#3 (Sorta) Torta Espanola

Hearty, healthy and so easy Torta Española is one of our go to van life food ideas and recipes
Hearty, healthy and so easy Torta Española is one of our go-to van life food ideas and recipes

This one-pot wonder is a hearty filling meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. What’s more, it’s incredibly quick and easy to prepare in under 15 minutes. The perfect van life meal for a day on the road or on the go. We like it spicy! But if you don’t back off the chili or leave it out.

Ingredients

  • 1 potato thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 clove diced garlic
  • 1/2 chili thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 3 eggs whisked together

Optional

  • Grated cheese
  • Handful chopped cilantro (coriander) / or parsley

Method

Fry your sliced potatoes in a large cast-iron pan with a little oil. Turn once they start to brown. Once both sides are cooked add 1 clove of diced garlic and 1 sliced chili. Fry for a couple of minutes mixing the veggies a couple of times.

Add 1 tsp cumin and a grind of salt and pepper. Mix to coat the potatoes in the spices and fry for another minute.

Add 1 diced tomato and fry for another minute or two, stirring the mixture a couple of times. Pour in the 3 whisked eggs. If you’re adding cheese, now is the time. Cover the mixture and turn down the heat. Once the top is just set cut into quarters and serve straight from the pan. Garnish with fresh herbs.

#4 Van Nachos

Adapting nachos for the van has to be one of our best van life food ideas
Adapting nachos for the van has to be one of our best van life food ideas

Setting out to try van life, leaving behind a kitchen with an oven also meant leaving behind pizza and nachos, this was perhaps the hardest thing to accept about this lifestyle.

Thankfully we have since realized that nachos (and to a lesser extent pizza) can actually be made over the stove with the help of a good cast iron dutch oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 large packet of corn chips
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 2 handfuls of grated cheese
  • Fresh pico de gallo
    • 1 diced tomato
    • 1/2 a small red onion, diced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 chopped handful cilantro (coriander)
    • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
    • Salt and pepper

Optional

  • Fresh red chilli
  • Mashed avocado with lemon salt and pepper
  • Sour cream or greek yoghurt

Everyone loves nachos, and now you can have them in your van.

Method

Into a cast iron dutch oven go the corn chips, drained can of black beans and grated cheese, cover and set over low heat. While the cheese is melting, make the pico de gallo by combining diced tomato, onion, garlic, and coriander and mixing it up with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Once the cheese is melted serve up the nachos with the pico de gallo and all the trimmings. Done!

#5 Mushroom Steaks

Mushroom steaks, one of the easist simple mushroom recipes
You won’t believe how simple this recipe from the van life cookbook is!

This recipe we have adapted from one of our favorite Yotam Ottolenghi recipes. It is so incredibly satisfying it’s hard to believe it’s also so easy. This one is a go-to when we want a decent sit-down van meal after a long day of driving.

Given how ridiculously simple these mushrooms are they have no business being sooo tasty, but… they are.

Ingredients

  • 6 – 8 large flat mushrooms
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 chili cut in half and then quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic whole
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Fill a large pan with mushrooms flat side down and shove the other veggies in the leftover spaces. Chuck a few dollops of tomato paste around the pan and drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with cumin, salt, and pepper.

Cook over medium-low heat until the mushrooms start to brown, flip the mushrooms over, and continue to cook until they are done.

Serve with butter bean mash.

#6 Quesssidillas

A go-to lunch or easy van life dinner, this hits the spot when you looking for a hot meal but not something overly complicated.

Ingredients

  • Fresh pico de gallo
    • 1 diced tomato
    • 1/2 a small red onion, diced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 handful cilantro (coriander)
    • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
    • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tortillas
  • 1 can black beans – drained and rinsed
  • 2 handfuls grated cheese
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper

Optional

  • Mashed avocado with lemon salt and pepper to serve
  • Sour cream or greek yoghurt
  • Add some mushroom, capsicum and / or onion to the quesadilla to fill it out. Simply saute with cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Method

Make the pico de gallo by combining diced tomato, onion, garlic, and coriander and mixing it up with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Put a frypan over a low heat and chuck a tortilla on, spoon some black beans (and any other fillings) onto one side and cover with cheese. Fold the tortilla in half. Grill until the tortilla is brown and crispy and the cheese inside is gooey, flip, and repeat. Serve with fresh pico de gallo.

#7 Gnocchi with butter and sage

Simple but so delicious, the butter and sage gnocchi recipe is a van life menu winner!

A fancy dinner without the effort. You can of course go all out and make your own gnocchi, but then it might not qualify for simple van life food ideas. Store-bought gnocchi will do the job here and is incredibly quick and easy to cook.

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 250g store bought gnochhi
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 10 leaves of sage
  • 100g prosciutto
  • 100g cherry tomatos, halved
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • Pepper

Optional

  • Parmesan cheese

Method

Set a pot of salted water to boil. Halve the 100g cherry tomatoes and rip up the 100g prosciutto. Once the water is boiling add the 250g gnocchi, it will only take a few minutes before the gnocchi starts rising to the surface then it is done. While the gnocchi is cooking heat 1 tbsp butter in a large pan over medium heat, once hot add 10 leaves of sage to crisp up in the butter.

The gnocchi should be done now so drain well and add to the pan with butter and sage. Fry for a minute or two to get some color on the gnocchi. Add the tomatoes and prosciutto and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Now start to add the 100g baby spinach one handful at a time letting it wilt. Once all the spinach is wilted, serve with cracked pepper.

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There you have it, some of our simplest and favorite van life food ideas! Hopefully, you found something you can enjoy on the road. If not, why not drop us a comment and let us know what kind of van life recipes you would like to see in the future!

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