As someone who loves camping, but has a busy schedule, I can usually only get away for a day or two at a time, and am thus always looking for ways to streamline my trips in order to make them more frequent and turnkey.
Part of that is simplifying my grub; instead of having to haul pots and pans into the wild, and clean them after each meal, I cook my meals in foil packets or on a stick; no muss, no fuss, no clean up.
That works well for entrees, but what about the crown of the meal — the dessert? S’mores are an obvious and delicious choice, but lately I’ve found myself wanting to branch out more.
So we recently field-tested a bunch of easy, make-ahead campfire desserts, and found six absolute winners. These tasty treats require no pots, pans, or clean-up. Just put ’em in the fire, and enjoy.
If you’re ready to add some variety to your s’mores routine, give these recipes a try on your next trip into the woods.
Notes on Preparation & Cooking
- All of these recipes can be made ahead of time at home and brought with you to your destination.
- The ideal place to cook nearly all campfire grub is not directly in the flames, but on a nice bed of coals (shoot for at least 2 inches of them).
- When making something in a foil packet, always spray the surface on which you’re going to place your food with cooking spray, so that the food doesn’t stick once it’s cooked.
- Use heavy-duty foil to avoid puncturing. I recommend using two sheets to be on the safe side, and because it seems to cut down on charring.
- Measurements of ingredients are kept intentionally vague on most of these. I don’t exactly measure the ingredients when making campfire grub. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and you’re gold. Measure and season to taste.
- Cook times are approximate as well; they can vary depending on how hot your coals are. Check on your food periodically to see how it’s doing; if it’s not done, crimp the foil back together and return the food to the coals. The packets will be hot, so use an oven mitt, gloves, and/or tongs, and look out for steam.
Finally, know that while none of these campfire desserts are going to win any beauty contests (campfire cooking rarely will), they’re all, appearances aside, certified delicious.
6 Easy Campfire Desserts
Pineapple Upside-Down Donut
If you’re a fan of pineapple upside-cake, you’ll love this easy campfire homage to that dessert.
- Plain cake donut
- Canned rings of pineapple
- Brown sugar
- Squeeze “butter”
Slice a donut in half (through the ring, so you’re creating 2 O’s, not 4 C’s). Lay a pineapple ring on the bottom of one half of the donut. Spoon on some brown sugar. Squeeze a line of butter around the ring. Place the other half of the donut on top; you now have a pineapple donut “sandwich.” Place the donut on a sheet of foil. Bring the long sides of the foil to the center and crease them together until the foil is flat next to the donut; then tightly roll up the shorter sides.
Place in campfire coals and cook for 5-8 minutes until the donut and pineapple are heated through. Be sure to flip it over halfway through, or the bottom will burn.
Campfire Apple Crisp
This traditionally oven-baked dessert can be enjoyed in the great outdoors. I got the recipe for this one from Cooking With Jax. It serves 2-3 people.
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- 6 tbsp flour
- 3 tbsp packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- dash of nutmeg
- 3 apples
- 2 tbsp butter
- squeeze of lemon juice (you can sprinkle this on the apple slices, but we left it out just to have one less thing to worry about)
Mix together the oats, flour, sugar, and spices. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Cut the apples into slices and place the slices on a double-layered, cooking oil-sprayed sheet of foil. Cover with the oat mixture. Take another piece of foil the same size as the bottom one, spray one side of it with cooking oil, and place it spray-side down on top of the apples/oats. Crimp/crease the sides of the bottom and top sheets of foil together, all along the perimeter of the foil rectangle.
Cook in the coals for 20-30 minutes.
Cobbler made in a Dutch oven is a perennial campfire favorite. But if you don’t have a Dutch oven, or don’t want to bring it along on a quick trip, you can actually make cobbler right in a can of fruit or pie filling. I imagine some may be aghast at this idea, as most cans are lined with BPA (the toxicology of which is debatable). It’s hard to imagine that a perhaps once-a-year ingestion of such a campfire dessert will do you in, but if you’re worried about it, then skip this one, and the Puppy Chow dessert as well. Or search out a BPA-free can.
- Pie filling or fruit in heavy syrup (we used dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup)
Mix 1¼ cups Bisquick with ½ cup milk. This will make enough batter to place one big “biscuit” in 2 smaller cans, or if you have a larger can, you can put all the batter into it. Open can of fruit/filling and drain off excess syrup. Place biscuit batter on top of fruit. Replace lid.
Cook on hot coals until batter turns into hard dumplings.
This is an old campfire favorite that’s especially enjoyed by kids.
- Mini marshmallows
- Chocolate chips
Marshmallows and chocolate chips are the basic, traditional stuffings for banana boats, but there are numerous variations. Try golden grahams, crumbled up graham crackers, peanut butter chips, nuts, and so on.
Slice the banana lengthwise through the skin on its flat, concave side. Allow the knife to penetrate the fruit, but don’t slice through the skin on the other side. Stuff the pocket/crevasse with marshmallows, chocolate chips, or whatever else you have in mind. Wrap and crimp foil around the banana to make a “boat.”
Cook on coals for 5-8 minutes until the marshmallows and chips melt. Unwrap and scoop out the banana/toppings with a spoon.
Puppy chow is a version of Chex snack mix; here, sans powdered sugar, it’s used as inspiration for a campfire treat.
- Peanut butter, or peanut butter chips
- Chocolate chips
- Chex cereal
Take an empty, clean aluminum can and fill it with peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place on coals and allow ingredients to melt. Once the PB and chips are melted, stir in some Chex cereal. You can also use it as a dip for graham crackers.
Orange Peel Cupcakes
Cupcakes around the campfire — no muffin tins or oven required. Making cupcakes inside of an orange is not only fun, but delicious — these ended up at the top of everyone’s list. The orange peel imparts a subtle orange flavor to what you cook inside of it, and you can also use the same method to make muffins, brownies, and even cinnamon rolls.
- Cupcake/cake mix
Prepare cake batter according to the package instructions. Slice an orange through about ¾ of the way up. Scoop out the pulp so that you’re left with a hollow “bowl.” (You can eat the pulp later, or use it to make OJ.) Spoon in the cake batter and fill up the hollowed-out orange, stopping a little short of the lip. Put the top back on and wrap the whole orange tightly with foil.
Cook in the coals for 20-25 minutes until the batter is baked through. Rotate the orange’s position several times as it cooks to ensure even baking.
The pioneer cook had to be resourceful and ingenious when it came to cooking. She would have to improvise when supplies ran short, because no matter how well one packed the wagon, supplies did not always last as planned. For example, bacon, if not protected from the heat of the plains would go bad. It was standard for bacon to be packed in a barrel of bran to insulate it. Eggs were similarly packed in corn meal to keep them from breaking, but also because they’d be used to make bread. The women usually cooked breakfast and dinner. Lunch would have been ‘leftovers,’ often baked beans or stew with bread or biscuits from the night before. Below are a few recipes from common ‘trail’ foods. Enjoy !
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