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The Cyclist's Kitchen

Foods for Bicycle Camping

2007 / April 21

Note: as much as possible, the following recipes avoid artificial ingredients & excessive packaging

This page :

Basic & versatile pantry items you will need | Recipes | The $1.00 vegetable curry |

Make Your Own Muesli | fibre counts | food product links | Other Peoples' Cooking Books & www sites

Other food pages at Bicycle Fish :

Damper - a traditional travellers' bread | Food parcels on tour | Drying fruits & vegetables: DIY | Self Service Wholefood stores across Australia |

Bicycle touring is something of an adventurous pastime, especially if you travel "un-supported" (i.e. without a back up team). There you are, out in new territory, enjoying new sites, feeling pleased with the inner strength and resourcefulness you find in your new self, perhaps a little different to your suburban work-a-day existence.

But for some people, there remains a balance to strike - finding a menu of dishes that is at once as satisfying and tasty as you are used to at home, yet light, compact and durable enough to carry across the hills on your next trip.

You can go along way towards finding that balance with a few simple and basic commodities that make up a "cyclist's kitchen". Some of them you may have already, others you may not think you need - but all of the following are reliable, easily "bike portable" and most can be found in even the smallest general store.


Dried onions - most savoury dishes are based on onions. While you can use fresh ones, the dried form is more space efficient and much lighter, more economical and will last longer if you're away from shops for a few days. Kept it in a small plastic bag or jar, it's also unaffected by heat or rain. Look for the " Mackenzies" brand in supermarkets in Australia.

Dried garlic - as for onions. A small packet of dried garlic will be enough for weeks on the road, and easier to use than the fresh form. A film canister is a useful and compact container.

Spices - a very small quantity of spices will improve simple dishes no end. You can experiment as you go, but start with paprika, basil and oregano for Italian style dishes. For more spicy meals, small containers of curry powder, a Cajun mixture and perhaps another of crushed chilies will be useful - I find almost everyone enjoys just a few crushed chili seeds, even if they say they don't like "hot" foods. You'll find small packets of spices cheaply enough in supermarkets and wholefood shops – secure them against spillage by bundling them together with a few rubber bands, inside a small cloth bag. You can also use Plastic film bottles, but they are a bit bulky.

Butter or oil - a very small amount improves your cooking immensely. You might be surprised how long butter keeps - even in hot weather - if you keep it in a screw top container (plastic bottles from stock powder are ideal). Butter is readily available in rural Australia, quite cheap, you can use it for lunchtime picnics and it's very useful for frying your onions and spices. Or use olive oil, carried in a spill proof container. Note though, that use of butter or oil makes clean up a little harder, using more water. My recommendation assumes you do not use butter in large quantities that would damage your health.

Stock powders - light and durable, stock powders are also versatile, improving the flavours of many dishes but without artificial chemical enhancement. In an emergency, you can use stock powder as instant soup. I recommend the Massel range, which is also both tasty & also ideal for vegetarians ( it's the only brand to offer a "vegetable" flavour). There are also some interesting flavours available in Asian supermarkets. The "cube" forms are more space efficient than the "powdered" form - we carry a selection of cubes in a small zip-lock bag.

Milk powder - is infinitely more convenient to carry than fresh milk, and much cheaper. The skim variety dissolves a little better than the full cream. Useful in tea or coffee, muesli or desserts. Avoid lumpiness by adding milk to your hot cup of tea (rather than the other way round).

Dried vegetables - wholefood stores & supermarkets usually stock a range of dehydrated vegetables, eg peas, beans, carrots-and-corn etc. In the spice section, you might find Italian style dried mushrooms. These are all very economical for camping, especially travelling solo or in a small group.

Dried fruits are also a staple of the grocery store in Australia : dates, apricots, apples, peaches figs etc are all widely available, and not so expensive in comparison to their food value. With a little pre-planning, you can also dry your own fruits and vegetables.

Parmesan cheese - useful in a variety of applications, as well as durable and highly concentrated, giving you a lot of flavour for a very small space in your panniers.

Rice - the quick cooking variety [Sunbrown quick] is particularly useful, as you can " cook" it in your panniers - simply by soaking it, in a leak proof container, for a couple of hours before you make camp. It's ready to eat with just a couple of minutes warming over your stove, and provides a good fibre count to your diet.

Bulgar Wheat ( also known as Bourghal) is an interesting alternative to rice and pasta. It's still space efficient and with practice easy enough to cook.

Pasta - there are now some "quick cooking" varieties particularly useful for cyclists. I like "Pasta Pronto" brand, myself. In general, smaller shapes cook quicker than larger ones. Use the ingredients above to build flavours.

Sultanas - are very versatile, you can eat them as they are, add them to rice dishes, use them in cooked desserts, or even add to a "damper" mixture to make sweet bread.

Sugar - you may or may not need it in tea and coffee, but it's also a useful energy source and the base for some interesting desserts, particularly in combination with milk powder. A hundred grammes will go a long way.

Self raising flour - makes damper, Australia's traditional campfire bread. Available almost anywhere in Australia.

Semolina & Polenta - are both cheap & versatile and widely available in Australian grocery stores. They contain more fibre than rice or cous-cous , and are each much easier to cook (properly) in the field . Each can be combined with a little oat bran for extra fibre. Adding a little semolina to your flour makes for a nice crust on your damper.

TVP - "textured vegetable protein" is a useful alternative to meat , with a variety of applications. In supermarkets, it's usually found under " hamburger helper" or sometimes in the " health" secction.

Asian food stores - good for many useful products, eg jerkys, dried mushrooms, prawns ( shrimps ), dried fruits & vegetables. I use a tiny dried anchovy , very cheap (about A$1.20 for a packet of a hundred or so, lasts at least a week on tour : you may need to ask for them by their Malay name "ikan bilis".)

Snap lock plastic bags - are highly space efficient and can easily be re-used. Label bags with the contents to avoid clashing tastes when refilling. The plastic bags will last longer if you protect them in a larger outer bag made of cloth. I keep the whole collection safe from rain inside a re-used large, heavy-duty plastic " document courier" bag that fits my panniers almost exactly.

Measuring cup - helps make best use of your stocks by avoiding waste ; and useful for mixing dry ingredients etc. Good as a spare cup too ! Look for one with good volume marks, metric and pre-metric if possible, that are easy to read.

Plastic bowl - a bit of a luxury perhaps, but quite useful ; and as it travels in the pannier on the end of my folded tent, it doesn't take up any extra space. Mine is Decor brand, 1.0 litre, clear, bought in a charity shop for 20c. Ideal for mixing damper & generally useful.



Camper's Paella

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish, combining the flavours of chicken, ham and seafood. Generally, the ingredients would not be suitable for bicycle touring, or for cooking on a small stove. However, I have adapted the traditional ingredients to be "bike portable". This version is a very basic approximation, but still quite tasty. If you cook it at night, use any leftovers for a delicious lunch!


Rice 2/3 C.

Onion, dried - 2 tsp.

Garlic, dried - a few grains

Butter for frying onion - 2 or 3 tsp

Green peas, freeze dried - 2 or 3 tsp.

Green beans, freeze dried - 2 or 3 tsp.

Paprika - 1/2 tsp

Chicken stock cube - 1

Shrimp, dried ( tiny ones from Asian grocery) - 2 tsp.

TVP, bacon flavour - 1 Tbs.

Tomato paste - 1 or 2 tsp.

Water , about 2C.

Pepper – cracked black, a little 

Salt, to taste only


Method :

(If possible , pre-soak rice & TVP for half an hour or so.)

1.    Melt butter, fry onion a little, add shrimps, garlic & paprika, mix well.

2.    Add rice, peas, beans, TVP, tomato paste, stock cube, pepper, water, stir in.

3.    Simmer gently, (covered) till cooked, about 10 minutes or so. Water should be absorbed completely & rice separate. Add a little water if necessary to prevent scorching the pan .


"High Country Fry Bread"

Yield: 4 servings

2 c Flour


1 t Salt

3 c Oil (enough to fry bread)

1 T Baking powder

Honey to taste

1/2 T Cooking oil

Mix dry ingredients. Add 1/2 Tbsp oil and enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead for 5 minutes. Roll into 3" balls and flatten each like a pancake. Cut thin lines from the centre to outside of pancake (in the shape of a star) so that air can get into the dough. Place this into heated oil in skillet. Cook until golden brown and crispy. Top with honey.

Bulgar Wheat & Mushrooms

½ c bulgar wheat

1 cup water

½ pkg onion soup mix

about 8 mushrooms, sliced thin

two scallions, sliced into rounds

Bring water to boil. Add bulgur. Reduce heat to low add soup mix, and simmer about 20 minutes, until the liquid is all absorbed. Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in a little butter or oil. When bulgur is done, mix in the mushrooms and the scallions (the heat of the bulgur will "cook" the scallions). Enjoy.

( From :


Lentil Curry

Red lentils are cheap and easy to find in larger supermarkets, in conveniently small packages, (around 375 gm.) They also cook more quickly than other beans, especially if pre-soaked for a short time.

Ingredients :

Red lentils : ½ cup, (preferably soaked in a cup of water for an hour or so)

Butter : about 3 tsp. At least. Use olive oil if you want, but butter is easier to manage.

Onion : dried , about 2 tsp.

Garlic : dried , ¼ tsp.

Curry Powder : about 2 tsp. or to taste . Add a whole chile if you like it more interesting.

Stock powder : about ½ cube, your choice of flavour .

Coconut cream : (optional) about 1 tsp. ( This is available in an "instant" form from Asian groceries)

Salt : to taste 

Method :

Melt the butter in one corner of your pot. Fry onion in butter, add garlic & then curry powder, fry a few seconds ( carefully , so as not to burn !). Add the lentils, coconut cream and stock cube and another cup of water. Cook over gentle heat, stir occasionally, to prevent sticking. Should be ready in about ten to fifteen minutes, serve as a thick soup or sauce, goes well with steamed rice or a small damper. Dishes of this type are common in South Asia, known as " dhall" in many Indian languages. For a more elaborate version of this dish , see :

Red Lentils & Bulgar Wheat Pilaf


Red Lentils : ½ cup

Bulgar wheat : 1 cup

Onion : dried, 1 or 2 tsp

Garlic : ½ tsp

Butter/ Oil : 1 tbs.

Parsley : dried , 1 tsp or more to taste.

Stock cube : ½ or more to taste.

Salt : to taste.

Black Pepper : a little (optional).

Method :

1.If possible, wash the lentils in several changes of water to remove dust etc. Add 1 C water & leave to soak for an hour or more if possible. Otherwise, proceed to step 2.

2.Heat butter / oil over a medium flame. Fry onion and garlic for about 1 min or until onion is soft.

3.Add bulgar wheat and lentils, stir and cook another 3 minutes or until wheat is lightly browned.

4.Add parsley, stock cube, salt, 1 3/4 cups water.

5.Bring to a simmer, cover, turn heat right down and then cook for 20 minutes or so. Watch closely, and add small amount of water if necessary to keep from sticking.

6.Turn off heat, leave pot to sit covered and undisturbed for a further 20 minute. Add the black pepper, mix and serve.

This receipe modified from :

Quick Rice With Garlic, Chili & Kangaroo Jerky

Garlic: ¼ tsp or a few grains, dried (or fresh, if you must!)

Chiles : 1 or 2, dried

Stock powder: ½ tsp, your choice of flavour

Kangaroo jerky: a couple of pieces, or about 1Tbs.

Rice : ½ C "Sunbrown Quick" quick cooking long grain brown rice, for preference.

Water : 1C +

Method :

Place all ingredients in a wide mouth, leak proof, screw top bottle, with enough water to cover. Leave for a couple of hours, if possible - bouncing around in your panniers is fine! The rice will absorb the water & be ready to eat after about two hours, & the jerky will be "chewy".

Heat through or cook as necessary - depends on soaking time. Do not drain.

Quick Rice With Dried Anchovies & Peas

Garlic - a few grains, dried

Onions - 1tsp or so , dried

Butter - if possible, 2 tsp.

Anchovies - dried, from Asian store, 4 or 5, or to taste

Peas - green, instant ½ Tbs

Stock Powder - 1 tsp. vegetable flavour ( or your choice)

Salt - ½ tsp. optional

Rice - ½ C "Sunbrown Quick", long grain brown quick cooking rice (or other, as available)

Method :

Fry garlic, onions & anchovies in butter (carefully!). If no butter, just add ingredients to rice, below. Add rice, peas & water to cover + about 1 cm more water. Add stock powder, salt.

Cook over low / moderate heat about 10 mins. Do not drain, eat when soft!

Rice , Biryani Style

Rice, 1 cup, Basmati type is best, preferably rinsed once or twice.

Butter, 2 or 3 tsp

Onion & garlic, a little of each

Curry powder, 2 or 3 tsp to taste ( expensive ones are usually better !) If possible, add a little ginger, cloves & cardomom to the spice mix.

Stock powder, 1/2 cube or 1 tsp. Perhaps a little salt as well.

Peas, snap dried, about 3 tsp; and a few dried vegetables if available.

Tomato paste, 2 or 3 tsp.

Yoghurt, if available, about 1/2 cup. Otherwise, water.

Water, enough to cover rice. 

Method: melt butter carefully in pan, add onions & garlic, fry gently, than add spices & fry a little more, be careful not to burn. Add rice, stir, then add tomato paste & yoghurt, stock , peas etc. Cover rice with water ( to about 1 cm), set cooker to low burn, cover the pan with lid. Liquid should evaporate in about 10 mins, rice will be soft but separate. You should not need to drain the rice.

Polenta - basic

Garlic : a few grains

Onion : 1tsp, dried

Butter/oil , a little (to fry onions & garlic)

Parsley 3 tsp

Polenta 1C.

Water 3 C.

Stock cube : 1 Massell's "chicken" (or to taste)

Salt : 1 tsp or to taste

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Method : combine garlic, onions , salt, fry in butter ; add parsley & polenta , then add water. Cook over gentle heat, stir frequently, taste after 5 min, add more water if it's too thick to stir easily. It's done when it's sticky enough to hold the spoon vertical but comes away from the sides of the pot.

Polenta goes well with soup or a sauce of some kind.

NB Polenta is high in fibre, low in sodium (you may want to add salt). You can also cook semolina to the same recipe.

"Polenta - another receipe : Coarsely ground yellow cornmeal is cooked with stock or water and flavored with onions, garlic, and cheese"

Herbed Polenta

Polenta from The Way To Cook by Julia Child.


( a delicious dessert, and good for breakfast too)

Semolina 1/3 C

Butter 1 Tbsp. ( optional)

Sugar ¼ C

Milk powder ¼ C

Water 1 C

Sultanas 1 Tbsp. ( optional)

Method :

Fry semolina carefully in butter ( if any). Combine sugar & milk powder, Add water gradually, blending to a smooth paste.Add sultanas. Cook, stirring frequently, over gentle heat, about 10 mins. Add water, or sugar/honey to taste.

NB : It's done when it's sticky but comes away from the sides of the pot ( as for polenta, above).


(savoury version - good with a soup or sauce)

semolina 1/3 C

butter 1 tsp

onion , a little dried

water 1 ½ C

parsley , 1 tsp dried (optional)

Method: fry onion in butter (if used) OR add onion to semolina. Add water. Cook for a few minutes, till it thickens

Short Pasta With Herbs,

Dried Vegetables & "Creamy" Sauce

Short pasta - 1 C (Three Minute variety if possible)

Onion & garlic - a few grains

Parsley , basil etc. - 1 tsp or so each

Stock powder - ½ tsp

Chile seeds - half a dozen , or more to taste.

Dried vegetables - zucchini, broccoli, capsicum etc, preferably soaked till soft. (optional)

Skim milk powder - 1Tbs

Salt & cracked pepper - to taste

Method :

Cook pasta in about 1C water (this is entirely contrary to classic pasta technique!) When pasta is nearly done, add onions & garlic , dried vegetables, chile seeds, stock powder, & milk powder. Stir throughly. Do not drain the pasta ! Eat the whole thing - it's delicious!

Note : short pastas cook more quickly than longer or thicker ones. I find " spirals" best.

Pasta With TVP, Herbs & Tomato Sauce

Short pasta - 1 C

TVP - ½ cup

Onion & garlic - a few grains

Parsley, basil etc. - 1 tsp or so of each

Chile seeds - half a dozen, or more to taste.

Stock powder - ½ tsp

Tomato paste - 2 tsp or so

Salt & cracked pepper - to taste


Cook pasta in about 1 - 1 .5 C water (this is entirely contrary to classic pasta technique!) When pasta is half done, add onions & garlic, TVP, chile seeds, stock powder, & tomato paste. Stir thoroughly. Cook a few minutes more. Do not drain the pasta! Eat the whole thing - it's delicious

The $1.00 Vegetable Curry

(2002 / Jan)

I had a breakthrough on tour recently, some of you may find the result useful .

In the past I have often found it difficult to find fresh food in quantities appropriate to the limited carrying & storage capacity of the bicycle traveller. I particularly missed fresh vegetables, as it's difficult to deal with, say, a whole celery or cabbage when you have only a tiny stove and (of course) no refrigerator. Till now, I have relied on carrying dried vegetables as a stand-by, but while these are better than nothing in remote areas, in more populated areas one might want to feel a little less Spartan.

Well, the breakthrough came a few weeks ago when I found myself in conversation with the proprietor of a small country vegetable shop, where I had stopped to buy bananas advertised at a bargain price. As he asked me about my trip (in a way unusually sensible for a non-cyclist), I began to explain my carrying problem, and how much I craved a simple vegetable curry, realising as I did so that one way round was to offer to pay a small amount of cash for a small amount of produce - after all, a dollar's a dollar to someone in private enterprise!

So I took an empty plastic bag & suggested that, rather than me take up more of his time than it was worth at the scales, he give me what he thought was a fair bargain for my dollar, anything as long as it was a mixture. He thought this was fine, and soon enough I had a great little bag of vegetables - a few beans, a potato, a little celery, a couple of squash and a piece of cauliflower -- just about the same quantity I had in mind.

I always carry the "background" materials for such a curry ( a few spices , dried onion & garlic etc ) so now I was complete. At that night's camp a few hours later, I had a really great meal, perhaps made the more delicious by such a simple demonstration of trust between strangers.

Now I liked this technique so much, I next tried it in a self service supermarket. This was a little more difficult, but still OK - the checkout person weighed my three beans, one mushroom, two squash etc with a straight face, even if some of the other customers in the queue at the "Express checkout " sniggered at my micro purchase, so puny compared to their bulging trolleys of ice cream and frozen cardboard. I didn't even need a volley of plastic bags, simply loading all the little vegetables into one bag, after weighing them individually ( " mushrooms 21 cents ... beans 4 c.... " said my docket ) . Again, the result was a delicious and substantial meal at a tiny price, a fraction of the cost of any processed food in a can or box.

One other good thing about a curry, too, is that any left overs are good for a cold lunch next day.

Make Your Own Muesli

Muesli mixes are very convenient when you're on tour - just one packet, ready to eat on the spot if necessary, easy to carry, durable etc

However, I find they have the following defects :

  1. to my taste they are usually way too sweet
  2. they are overpriced considering the high sugar content (on its own, sugar is a cheap commodity- things with a lot of sugar should be cheap !)
  3. the fruit components vary considerably & are generally a lower grade than in other applications
  4. in " toasted" varieties, the fat content may be surprisingly high
  5. in " natural" varieties, the raw oats are pretty stodgy to chew.

Well , there is an alternative that

  1. tastes at least as good
  2. gives you a bit of scope for creativity & variety
  3. costs about the same (or even less) for a better product

You will need

  • A packet of "quick-cooking" oats - these are generally around 750gm, widely available even in remote areas. (The only difference from regular oats is, the "quick" oats are cut a lot finer, to cook more quickly. They are certainly easier to chew in the un-cooked state)
  • Dried fruits ( sultanas are best for this, but others in small pieces will do)
  • Small packets of
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Pepitas ( green pumpkin seeds)
    • Sesame seeds
    • Linseed
    • Oat bran
    • Slivered almonds, or other nuts etc.
    • Coconut - the " thread" version has better flavor.
    • Oatbran ( if you think you need more fibre in your diet!)

(You can get all these ingredients from wholefood stores, or almost any supermarket)

The method

  • For each 750 gm of quick oats, combine your choice of nuts, seeds & oatbran (about 2 cups , or around 250gm total), to make up a kilo of mixture ( nice & tidy, isn't it ? ).
  • Mix thoroughly. (You will have nuts etc left over for next time, or for other uses eg making damper.)
  • If you wish , add the sultanas now ( enough to your own taste) ... BUT read on ....
  • You might try this : Soak a few sultanas overnight in a few drops of water - (a little screw top jar keeps the bugs out) ; in the morning, add the soaked fruit to the mix just when you're ready to eat. The sultanas etc will taste much sweeter !
  • If that's not sweet enough, you can always add a little sugar!

I have assumed you are using powdered skim milk (cheap, portable & delicious). But you could always use ordinary milk if you like - of course!

Generally , I think you'll find this method much better than buying the first mix you see.

Fibre counts *

Percentage                      Commodity

12.2                                Vita Wheat Biscuits ( Arnott's )

11.2                                Flour, stoneground wholemeal *

11.0                                "Wheat-bix" breakfast food

10.0                                oats, quick cooking, generic *

9.9                                  Peas, quick cooking, (No Frills brand)

9.7                                  dates, dried , generic

9.1                                  apricots, dried, generic

6.7                                  muesli , toasted , generic 

5.5                                  Prunes, dried         

5.0                                  Baked beans (canned)

4.5                                  Rye bread    

4.4                                  Sultanas

4.0                                  "Salada" biscuit

3.6                                  TVP, " Vitaburger"

3.0                                  white bread , generic

3.0                                  Semolina, dry weight *

2.9                                  Polenta , dry weight *

2.7                                  Milk Coffee Biscuits (Arnott's )

1.9 "Golden" brand Hotcakes

1.7                                  rice, Sunbrown Quick , cooked

1.1 - 0.5                          rice, white long grain


* some product labelling lists fibre counts for the "dry weight " or un-cooked ( and therefore usually inedible !) form of the product, which exaggerates the fibre count in comparison to a cooked form containing a large proportion of water - water has no fibre. This practice makes comparisons difficult. In addition, much product labelling is voluntary in Australia - high fat foods in particular often minimise the information they provide on their labelling.


Vegan Passport contains a short explanation of what vegans eat, don't eat, and why. This is explained in about 40 languages, one page per language, and all you have to do is to show the right page to the restaurant staff.

Markus & Mila’s Camping Kitchen

Mark & Juliette's Bicycle Cooking page

An Untitled Web Site with a few interesting "light weight" ideas for motor cycle camping and walkers - the author appears to be unaware that bicycle travelers share these interests.

Recipes by "Emergency Essentials "

The Backcountry Recipe Book

Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook

"The Lightweight Cooks : Recipes for Forty Days & Forty Nights in the Wilderness" Detailed recipes and useful hints from a number of experienced outdoors-people from around Australia.( Ed.George Driscoll & Avis Pearce. Spiral bound, 94 pp. ISBN 0-9578396-0-X. email: ) Around A$20.00.

The Home-Made Stove Archives slow to load (lots of good pictures!) worth the wait!

Ken Kifer's bicycle camping cooking page

Mike on the B.N. Trail has some good cooking ideas

Rebecca Burtt and David Waugh spent a good time cooking for themselves on Australia's Bicentennial National Trail. A rambling but cheerful site site seems to have bombed out !

"The Well Fed Backpacker" June Fleming 1986. Vintage Books ISBN 0-394-73804-7

" The Lightweight Gourmet - Drying & Cooking Food for the Outdoor Life" Alan Kesselheim 1994 Ragged Mountain Press. ISBN 0-07-034248-2

GLAD Snap Lock bags

Massel stock powder         

Sunbrown quick rice