Backcountry food for your next canoe trip or hiking trip
If you’ve been canoe camping, you have likely had the experience of being on the water when it’s just. too. hot. The sun reflecting back at you off the lake is somehow creeping around the gaps of your sunglasses and piercing through your UV shirt. You’ve covered the dog with a tarp and a wet bandana but she still doesn’t look comfortable. And the fish aren’t biting.
Those are the days we stop for lunch.
We wedged the canoe into a gap in the rocks on a small rocky island near the top of the Temagami river. As my paddle partner dragged the water bottles under the shade of a jack pine, I tilted one of our barrels on its side hoping it was the one I had put lunch in (of course it wasn’t). We swam, ate, fended off horseflies, ate some more, and ranted about how we needed to bring this recipe on every single trip we ever take.
These black bean burritos are one of our favourite backcountry camping meals. They feel luxurious when assembled at lunch time, are good eaten cold or hot, and trick you into believing you’re eating some fresh vegetables - a luxury on a lengthy backcountry trip.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Dehydrator Time: ~10 hours
Cost of dehydrated ingredients: $15
Servings: 4 hungry campers. Recipe can be easily doubled.
1 large onion
2 red bell peppers (or your favourite colour)
1 medium sweet potato
4 cloves of garlic
2 450ml / 15oz cans of black beans
4 tablespoons Taco seasoning, divided
Small jar of salsa (450ml / 15oz)
On the Stove
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat until water splashed on the pan makes it sizzle. DO NOT ADD OIL!
Peel your sweet potato and dice it into 1cm (⅓ inch) cubes.
When the pan is hot, add your sweet potato. Add a quarter cup of water to the pan and cover. Add a few tablespoons of water to your pan whenever an ingredient starts to stick. After 3 minutes, add a tablespoon of taco seasoning, stir, and re-cover.
While the sweet potatoes are cooking, thinly slice your onions and peppers. Your slices should be about the width of your pinky fingernail. Keep the onion and pepper separated.
Once the sweet potatoes are softened, scrape them into a bowl and set aside.
Add the onions to your pot, scraping with water as necessary.
When the onions begin to soften slightly, add your peppers.
Once the onions are translucent and the peppers have softened, add your garlic and 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning. Cook about 3 minutes or until the garlic is lightly browned. Set aside this portion to be dehydrated.
To your pan, add the remaining seasoning. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
While the spices cook, drain and rinse the black beans. Add them to your pan and immediately stir to prevent the spices from sticking.
Add ½ cup of water and gently mash the black beans with the back of a fork or a potato masher until they resemble a lumpy paste. Allow the black beans to simmer for about 3 minutes or until they are very thick. Add a tablespoon of water as necessary to prevent burning.
Remove your black beans from the heat and stir in the cooked sweet potatoes.
At the Dehydrator
Line dehydrator trays. You can use parchment if you do not have liners.
Crack open your jar of salsa and thinly spread it across a tray (or more as required).
On a new tray, add your onion and pepper mixture making sure there are no large clumps.
On other trays, spread out your black bean and sweet potato mixture.
Set your dehydrator to 125°F (50°C).
Check your trays after 8 hours. Your salsa should be leathery and dry on both sides. The black bean mixture should crumble when pinched. The onions and peppers should be pliable with no damp areas when squeezed.
As your ingredients dry, remove them from the dehydrator. Once cool, store in ziplock bags. The salsa, onion/peppers, and black bean mixture should all be stored in separate bags. If you choose to vacuum seal your meal, remember to bring ziplocks or containers to rehydrate in on your trip!
8-12 Tortillas of choice
Hot sauce, optional
Powdered lime, optional (I like True Lime brand)
Spoons for serving (plates optional)
Give your ingredients 4+ hours to rehydrate. I like to do this in the morning as we’re eating breakfast. The meal is hydrated by lunch time but will easily last until supper. If you’re eating the black bean mixture warm, you can save fuel by soaking it in advance.
Add water to the black bean mixture until the ingredients are well covered. There should be no dry ingredients sticking above the water line.
Cover the onions and peppers with water. Any water that isn’t absorbed can be easily drained off before serving.
Add water to your salsa until just covered.
If you are eating this meal cold, assemble and enjoy!
If you are eating this meal warm, heat the black bean mixture over your stove until large bubbles are bursting through the surface. Stir regularly! If you have added too much liquid to the black beans, this is a great way to evaporate some of that liquid.
If you forgot to rehydrate your ingredients, combine the black bean mixture and onions/peppers. Cover with water by at least 1cm (⅓”) above the ingredients. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. While the mixture is resting, add your salsa to a pot. Cover the salsa with water and boil until the salsa is reconstituted. A few firm pieces is ok: they will absorb any remaining water as the salsa cools. Put the salsa aside and cook your bean mixture on medium-low for 15-20 minutes or until it has reached your desired texture. Add more water as necessary. Assemble.
Oil and fat drastically shorten the life of your dehydrated foods. If your ingredients are sticking too often, spray a very fine layer of oil or use an oil-soaked cloth to minimally coat your pan.
Checking the trays: Break up large clumps and be very diligent while checking for damp spots. Flip, crush, and spread apart your ingredients to improve drying time. The liner can now be removed about half-way through to speed up drying time for items that won’t crumble (onions/peppers, salsa).
It’s safe to dehydrate low-fat sour cream! Spread into a thin layer and dry until crackley, then blend it into a powder. To rehydrate, add roughly 1/3rd sour cream to 2/3rds water, stir, and let it sit for a few hours. Mix well before serving.
Click here to watch a a short video of this recipe!
Follow Riley on Instagram for more recipes like this as well as some outdoor adventures!