We have big adventures planned this summer on the Appalachian Trail and I’ve been keeping busy preparing the meals we will take with us backpacking. One of our favorite dinners to eat on the trail is dehydrated chili and I’ve whipped up several batches to store in our deep freeze until we set off. Making our own dehydrated meals has many benefits compared to packaged backpacking dinners. Not only are they MUCH cheaper, I am able to control the quality of the ingredients when I prepare our own. And like this dehydrated chili recipe, we thoroughly enjoy the meals we eat on the trail.
Making dehydrated chili is super easy and with a small amount of effort, we are able to enjoy several dinner’s worth. We enjoy ground beef in our chili, but this could easily be prepared without meat as a vegetarian option.
- Ground beef
- Seasoned Bread crumbs
- Canned Mexican Corn
- Chopped Green Chilis
- Canned Crushed Tomatoes
- Canned Diced Tomatoes for Chili
- Black Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Seasonings to taste – I used generous amounts of chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, pepper and taco seasoning
- In a large bowl, combine beef, seasonings and 1/2 cup bread crumbs for each pound of lean ground beef. Mix well until all dry ingredients are incorporated into the beef. Cook mixture over medium high heat, making sure to break up any large pieces. Once the beef is fully cooked, use a paper towel to absorb any visible fat.
- Spread cooked ground beef onto a dehydrator screen. (You can use any brand of dehydrator you wish, but I love my Nesco Dehydrator which not only is economical, has been a dependable work horse for our backcountry food prep!)
- Dehydrate the ground beef on a high setting. It generally takes ground beef any where from 6-10 hours to fully dry. I just check it every so often until it is the consistency of gravel.
- In the mean time, dehydrate the remaining canned ingredients by spreading on additional dehydrator screens and placing on trays. For the crushed and diced tomatoes, I like to use jelly roll liners which prevents the ingredients from falling into the lower trays. Depending on the moisture content of the ingredients, they usually are finished about the same time as the ground beef.
- Once all ingredients are thoroughly dehydrated, I turn off the dehydrator and leave everything in place on the trays to completely cool.
- Once everything is cool, I mix together all of the dried ingredients in a large bowl. I then use a Vacuum Sealing System to package the portion size I am planning to cook. While the dehydration process greatly extends the shelf life of foods, using a vacuum sealer extends it even further. To keep it fresh even LONGER, I store our dehydrated foods in a deep freeze until ready to use them.
Preparing the Dehydrated Chili at Camp-
- Pour the contents of the Vacuum Sealed bag into a cook pot. Cover the ingredients with water and bring to a low boil. Add water as needed, until the ingredients are thoroughly rehydrated and the chili is at the desired consistency. For best results, make sure to only add a small amount of water at a time to make sure the consistency stays thick. To save fuel, I suggest bringing the dehydrated chili to a rolling boil for a few minutes before removing the pot from the flame and then leaving it covered. This will allow the dehydrated chili to stay hot while absorbing liquid without excessive use of fuel.
- That’s it! It really is that easy to turn dehydrated chili made at home into a delicious, nutritious and filling meal. I like to serve chili with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and either bread or crackers. We’ve also served it with corn cakes made with jiffy cornbread mix spread with clarified butter and honey. Absolutely delicious!
Equipment Needed to Make Dehydrated Chili for Backpacking-
- Dehydrator with screens and jelly roll inserts (I use this one)
- Large skillet to brown ground beef and spoon to break up meat while cooking
- Large Bowl
- Vacuum Sealer and Bags (I use this vacuum sealer and these bags)
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