11 Ways to Make Mountain House Backpacking Meals More Delicious and Nutritious

Though Mountain House meals (and Backpacker Pantry, etc) are certainly convenient, I can’t remember the last time I ate a pre-made dehydrated backpacking meal without adding my own ingredients to it.

No matter how much they claim to be loaded up with the good stuff (fat and protein), dehydrated backpacking meals always seem too carb-heavy to be truly satisfying. To make matters worse the portion sizes are often on the small side, especially if you’re covering big miles.

I suppose this is how Mountain House and similar brands keep their prices from soaring even higher; they’re already pretty darn expensive for a meal you’re going to eat from a bag while sitting in the dirt. Carbs like pasta and rice are much cheaper than quality sources of fat and protein, so I can understand why they’re tempted to skimp.

So what’s a hungry and nutrition-conscious backpacker to do?

If making all your own DIY backpacking meals from scratch is too much work but pre-made meals aren’t quite cutting it, you can add more of the good stuff to your pre-made meals via bulk ingredients. You’ll get the flavor and menu inspiration of pre-made meals plus more fat, protein, and important nutrients, not to mention a yummier and more satisfying meal.

This post is a roundup of my favorite bulk ingredients to mix into Mountain House (or more generally, any freeze dried or dehydrated) backpacking meals. There are several ways to do this:

  • Carry these ingredients alongside a single-serve meal packet and mix them on the trail.
  • Buy pre-made meals in bulk (like the #10 can size, which is cheaper per serving), then portion them out and add the extras at home.
  • Skip the expensive pre-made meals altogether and add these ingredients to your DIY backpacking meals. All you need is a base of ramen, couscous, instant rice, oatmeal, or similar, plus a selection of the following add-ins.

However you do it, adding these yummy additions to any backpacking meal will instantly make it more filling, nutritious, and tasty.

Read next: The Easy Way to Wash Dishes While Backpacking

For long trips I like to buy Mountain House meals in bulk and then add some of these goodies (and others, see below) to make them even better.
Here’s how a recent concoction turned out — it was delicious!

When you buy through affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support! I always offer unbiased opinions based on real experience from the road and trail. Learn more.

Delicious Additions

Here are my favorite items to mix into bulk backpacking meals or add to single-serve packets. I’ve linked to my go-to bulk brand on Amazon for each, but many are available in smaller package sizes too if you’re not ready to commit.

Cream Powder

45 cal per 6 g, 1 tbsp

An efficient way to add calories and creamy texture to almost any meal, but especially great in creamy dinners or sweet breakfasts. Add some to your instant coffee while you’re at it.

Buy online: Anthony’s Heavy Cream Powder

Especially good in:

Coconut Milk Powder

60 cal per 9 g, 1 tbps

Fantastic as a vegan alternative to cream powder, or for its own flavor. Especially great in some Asian-inspired premade meals or even simple ramen. Packs a lot of calories into a small volume.

Buy online: Anthony’s Coconut Milk Powder

Especially good in:

Textured Vegetable Protein

70 cal and 12 g protein per 24 g, 1 cup

Essentially just soy flour, these little protein-packed flakes can be added to anything and they will simply dissolve and soak up the flavor. It’s a great way to make sure you’re getting enough protein on the trail, especially for vegans or vegetarians.

Buy online: Anthony’s Textured Vegetable Protein

Especially good in: anything!

Freeze Dried Veggies

If you like the flavor of veggies or worry you’re not getting enough varied nutrients on the trail, mix a spoonful of dried veggies into each dinner. A blend is convenient, but you can also buy individual veggies (my favorites are spinach, broccoli, and tomato) to give a unique character to different meals.

Buy online: Frontier Co-Op Vegetable Soup Blend

Especially good in: any freeze dried dinner

Cheese Powder

70 cal per 14 g, 2 tbsp

What backpacking meal isn’t better with more cheese? Add a scoop to Mac ‘n Cheese or mashed potatoes, or savory egg-based breakfasts, for more calories and flavor.

Pro tip: If you happen to be carrying real cheese, melting some into your meals is even better than adding the powder.

Buy online: Anthony’s Cheddar Cheese Powder

Especially good in:

Egg Powder

80 cal and 6 g protein per 13 g, 2 tbsp

Powdered eggs add fat and protein plus texture and flavor. They go well in many meals but especially noodle dishes; you can even add them to a simple ramen packet. You can also get powdered egg yolks or whites alone, if you prefer.

Buy online: Judee’s Dried Whole Eggs

Especially good in:

Peanut Butter Powder

70 cal and 8 g protein per 16 g, 2 tbsp

Powdered peanut butter lacks much of real peanut butter’s fat content, but it’s still a good source of protein and very tasty too. It goes wonderfully in sweet breakfasts like oatmeal, and certain noodle dinners. It generally comes in two forms: peanut flour only, or with a bit of sugar added.

Tip: Real peanut butter works great too, and though heavier than powder it’s an even better source of fat.

Buy online: PBFit Peanut Butter Powder

Especially good in:

Butter Powder

40 cal per 6 g, 1 tbsp

Yum, butter… It’s one of the best ways to add fat to almost any meal. It goes great in pretty much any dehydrated or freeze dried dinner as well as both sweet and savory breakfasts, and packs a lot of calories per gram.

Buy online: Anthony’s Butter Powder

Especially good in:

Bean Flakes

100 cal and 6 g protein per 28 g

Though not the most compact dried food, beans are a great vegan source of protein and fiber. They rehydrate quickly (if you buy the pre-cooked and flakey kind) and add a nice texture. They’re especially great in Mexican-inspired meals but will disappear into almost anything.

Buy online: Mother Earth Dehydrated Refried Beans

Especially good in:

Grain Free Granola

170 cal and 6 g protein per 30 g, 1/3 cup (varies)

Grain-free granola is a great way to add higher-fat and protein ingredients like nuts and seeds, plus some extra flavor and texture, to oatmeal breakfasts. There are many kinds, some focused on the needs of gluten-free or low-sugar diets. A cheaper and more commonly available option: simple trail mix.

Buy online: Nature’s Path Grain Free Maple Almond Granola

Especially good in: Oatmeal of all kinds

Ground Flaxseed

90 cal and 3 g protein per 15 g, 2 tbsp

Ground flaxseed is a good source of fiber and fat, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Mix it into oatmeal breakfasts or even trail dinners to add a subtle nutty flavor and extra nutrients.

Buy online: Viva Naturals Ground Flaxseed

Especially good in:

Packing and Cooking Tips

I’m always bothered by the amount of packaging generated when I do food prep for a big trip. I wash and reuse my ziplock bags at home to try and make up for it, but portioning out backpacking meals can lead to a lot of plastic waste.

If you’re eating single-serve meals like those from Mountain House, it’s often simplest to eat directly out of the pouch. But how do you carry all these other powdered and dried ingredients? And if you’re portioning out bulk meals at home, do you use a separate ziplock for each meal?

Here are a few ideas:

  • If you’re going to use single-use ziplocks, use the smallest size that fits. These snack size baggies are perfect for small amounts of powdered ingredients.
  • If you’re mixing up multiple servings of the same bulk meal, carry them together in a single larger plastic bag that you can wash and reuse. Label it with the intended number of servings so you can portion out the right amount at each meal, and shake to mix before pouring a serving.
  • Consider reusable silicone ziplock bags.

Pack all your powder baggies inside a larger bag or container to avoid mess. Squeeze all the air out before zipping, both to save space and minimize potential for busting a seal.

Whether you’re rehydrating directly in the Mountain House pouch or in a bowl or pot, an ultralight insulated cozy is a nice luxury item. It’s not strictly necessary, but slow eaters in cold or high-altitude camp locations will appreciate having hot food for longer.

Hopefully these ideas will help you spruce up your freeze dried backpacking meals on your next trip. There’s nothing like sitting down to a filling and delicious meal at the end of a long day. Happy trails and bon appetit!

An insulated cozy fits a variety of containers and keeps food from getting cold while it rehydrates.

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About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and countless shorter amazing trails throughout the US and abroad. I love solitude, big views, and a good lightweight gear setup. Learn more here.

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3 thoughts on “11 Ways to Make Mountain House Backpacking Meals More Delicious and Nutritious”

  1. Great article. It gave me many ideas for food when I’m hiking. I tend to go with Lipton noodles and rice and add a packet of peanuts for taste and protein. A supply of TVP and dried vegetables could really help with texture, taste, and protein. Thanks.

  2. I’m travelling to the US so probably wont be able to order online. Does anyone know if any of these suggestions are available over the counter anywhere?


    • Hmm that’s tough. You might be able to find a few (flax seed, cream or milk powder, TVP, granola) at grocery stores specializing in healthy or vegetarian food. As for the freeze dried stuff, if you’re really interested maybe you could order via Amazon and have them shipped to an “Amazon locker” along your travel route. Good luck and have a great trip!


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