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How to Make Tasty Foil Packet Camping Meals – Recipes & Tips

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.
Closeup of a classic foil packet meal with a man and a dog sitting around a campfire in the background

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Foil packet meals make it easier than ever to enjoy real, hearty food outdoors with good company. This cooking method combines all of your ingredients in individual, folded foil packets that you can roast over a campfire, on the grill, or in the oven.

We’ve been making these dinners on our trips for decades and they’re always a hit! We love that they’re quick to prepare, pre-portioned so they’re easy to serve, and they make the chore of dishwashing almost nonexistent.

Foil packet meals cooking over a bed of embers on the edge of a campfire

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

What’s in a Foil Packet Meal?

There are a ton of variations out there, and the possibilities for foil packet meals are only limited by your imagination. Foil packet cooking works well for almost anything that you’d normally put on a grill or in the oven as long as it contains some moisture.

Here are some ingredients you’ll find in a typical foil packet meal:

  • veggies (potatoes, onions & carrots)
  • meat (beef hamburger, sausage, meat alternatives, etc.)
  • seasoning (salt, pepper, Italian)
  • oil and/or sauce for added flavor & moisture
  • toppings or garnishes
Top-down view of seven different cooked foil packet meals on a camping table

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

How to Make a Foil Packet Meal:

We’ll go over this in more detail in the recipes below, but the basics of making a foil packet meal are easy. Wash and dice your potatoes and veggies (you can do this at home or at the campsite) and divide them into personal-size portions on foil sheets that are oiled with non-stick spray. Layer meat, oil or sauce, and seasonings on top of the veggies. Then, fold the edges of the foil over multiple times to seal the packet. After that, you can choose to cook your meals over a bed of embers in a campfire, on a grill, or in an oven for about 25-45 minutes.

Closeup of the Surf and Turf foil packet meal ingredients

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

The Benefits of Foil Packet Meals:

Foil packet meals are a great way to provide a warm meal for a hungry bunch of campers, and they’re also easy to prepare, portable for serving, and simple to clean up.

  • Can be made with healthy whole foods
  • Minimal cookware required
  • Affordable
  • Easy cleanup
  • Can be prepped ahead of time
  • Easy to store in the fridge or a cooler in Ziplocs or containers
Top-down view of a cooler with labeled Ziploc bags filled with foil packet meal ingredients

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Is a Foil Packet Meal the Same as a Hobo Dinner?

Foil packet meals and hobo dinners are one and the same. We’re not huge fans of the term ‘hobo dinner’ because it’s offensive to some, but the term is widely used among the camping community and simply refers to meals cooked over a fire in foil. With that acknowledgment, we’ll refer to them as foil packet meals in this post.

The Greek chickpeas foil packet meal recipe

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Why was it Called a Hobo Dinner?

Historically, houseless people who lived in camps were known as hobos. These people had to be resourceful with their food – whether grown, foraged, scavenged, or gifted – and often cook it over a fire. Simple, cost-effective, and efficient was the goal with these meals.

A camping table with foil, non-stick cooking spray, tongs, a meat thermometer, can opener, plates, camping knife set, salt and pepper, and a lighter laid out

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Kitchen Items You’ll Need to Make Foil Packet Meals:

How to Fold a Foil Packet Meal:

We’ve found that it’s much easier to wrap a foil packet meal properly with wide (18-inch) heavy-duty aluminum foil. For most meals, a section that’s about 18×30 inches works well. Regular-width foil will work fine if you already have it on hand, but keep food portions small so you’ll have enough material to fold over to seal the packets.

Foil can become brittle when cooked on a grill or over a campfire, so we like to double-wrap foil packet meals and serve them on plates.

  1. Position food in the center of the foil, keeping it as compact as possible
  2. Bring edges of long side up to meet in the center
  3. Fold and crease first ½ inch of foil, then continue to roll down, leaving a small amount of space for food to expand while cooking
  4. Fold short sides of foil inward tightly
  5. Wrap with second layer of foil for added durability
Pouring marinara sauce on top of a meat patty for the meatloaf and roasted veggies recipe

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

What Kind of Beef is Best for Foil Packet Meals?

Lean ground beef with some fat content is best to add flavor and moisture to the meal so it isn’t too dry. We usually go for standard ground beef with a ratio of about 70 percent lean meat to 30 percent fat since it’s affordable, widely-available, and easy to cook. You can also amend leaner ground meats (like chicken and turkey) with oil, butter, lard, tallow, or bacon grease to make your meals juicier and more calorie-dense.

Closeup of BBQ tongs turning a foil packet meal over in a campfire

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

How to Cook a Foil Packet Meal

Over a Campfire

Get your campfire going about an hour before you want to start cooking your dinner. That way, you’ll have time to create a bed of hot embers to cook over. You’ll need plenty of dry wood to build a hot fire with a solid structure. After your fire’s been burning strong for at least 40 minutes, use a fire poker or sturdy stick to drag hot coals near the side of your fire, creating a hot bed of embers.

Place the foil packets directly over the coals, away from direct flames. Alternatively, you can use a campfire cooking grate that hovers a few inches above the embers.

Cook for a total of 25-40 minutes, turning midway using bbq tongs or a fire glove. There are a ton of variables when cooking over a campfire, but your meal should take about 12-20 minutes per side (25-40 min. total). If it’s taking a lot longer than that, your coals aren’t hot enough.

On the Grill

Preheat your grill to medium (about 600°F). Place foil packets on the grill and cook for 10 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to low (about 400°F) and continue cooking for 40 minutes to an hour until meat is done and veggies are tender, turning occasionally with bbq tongs.

In the Oven

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray foil with nonstick spray, place veggies and potatoes on the foil and top with meat. Seal the foil well and place them on a large baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Using a meat thermometer to check a foil packet meal for doneness

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

How to Tell When a Foil Packet Meal is Done:

Remove one foil packet from the fire, grill, or oven and check for doneness, being careful to avoid steam burns – contents will be hot!

Ground meats (beef, sausage, etc.) should reach 160°F on a meat thermometer. Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.) needs to hit 165°F; and fresh steaks, chops and roasts should be at least 145°F. Potatoes and other veggies should be fork tender.

If the first meal is satisfactory, remove the rest of the packets from the heat and let them rest for 5-10 minutes before opening. The food will continue to cook for several minutes, so you may want to pull it off just a touch early. Our recipes have more specific suggested cook times based on ingredients.


The Best Foil Packet Meal Recipes


Classic foil packet meal with beer, hot sauce, and ketchup

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Classic Foil Packet Dinner Recipe

Serves 4, measurements approximate

  • 4 potatoes, diced
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (or 4 hamburger patties)
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil (olive or vegetable)
  • garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • condensed mushroom soup
  1. Mix beef with soup mix and form patties
  2. Toss diced veggies with oil, then garlic powder, salt & pepper in a gallon Ziploc or large container
  3. Separate 4 sheets of foil (about 18×30 inches) and rub with oil or use non-stick cooking spray
  4. Divide veggies evenly between foil and top with meat patties
  5. Spread about 2 Tbsp mushroom soup on top of each hamburger patty
  6. Fold packets and seal them well
  7. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 30-40 min., turning once

Grill – medium heat for 10 min., then low heat for 45 min.-1 hr.

Oven – 375°F for 35-45 min.

  • It’s done when: hamburger is 160°F and potatoes are tender
  • Serve with: hot sauce, ketchup or additional dipping sauce
  • Drink pairings: excellent with beer or soda
Meatloaf and roasted veggies foil packet meal with red wine

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Meatloaf & Roasted Veggies

Serves 4, measurements approximate

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c breadcrumbs
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp italian seasoning
  • pinches of salt & pepper
  • 1 jar marinara/ red pasta sauce
  • honey
  • 4 potatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Optional additions/toppings:

  • other veggies, chopped: beets, brussel sprouts, parsnip, etc.
  • parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley, minced
  1. Toss diced potatoes, carrots, and other veggies with olive oil, then divide among 4 lightly-oiled foil sheets.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Use your hands to combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl
  4. Form meat mixture into patties and place on top of veggies
  5. Spread a thick layer of red sauce over each patty and drizzle lightly with honey
  6. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 30-40 min., turning once

Grill – medium heat for 10 min., then low heat for 45 min.-1 hr.

Oven – 375°F for 35-45 min.

  • It’s done when: beef reaches 160°F and veggies are tender
  • Serve with: extra red sauce, parmesan cheese, and chopped fresh parsley
  • Drink pairings: excellent with red wine, pomegranate/cranberry juice, or club soda with lemon or lime
Low country boil foil packet meal with bread and beer

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Low Country Boil

Serves 4, measurements approximate

  • 4 large (or 8 small-medium) red or gold potatoes, diced
  • 1 large sweet onion, quartered and sliced into thin wedges
  • 4 andouille sausage links, sliced into ½ inch rounds (2 each for big eaters)
  • 2 ears of corn, broken into halves
  • 1 lb. shrimp (raw, peeled, tail-on)
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 beer (optional – cheap lager is fine)
  • butter
  • cocktail sauce
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 small loaf of french bread or baguette
  1. Oil large foil sheets
  2. Layer potatoes, onion, sausage, corn, and shrimp
  3. Start folding foil upward, then pour a small amount of beer (or a bit of water) over ingredients to add moisture for steaming
  4. Sprinkle everything generously with Old Bay seasoning.
  5. Seal and double wrap packets
  6. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 20-30 min., turning once

Grill – medium heat for 10 min., then low heat for 30-40 min.

Oven – 375°F for 25-35 min.

7. Wrap bread in foil and heat with meals for the last 10 min. (fire) or 20 min. (grill or oven)

  • It’s done when: shrimp are pink, potatoes are fork tender, and bread is lightly toasted
  • Serve with: pat of butter, lemon wedge, cocktail sauce, additional Old Bay, and slice of bread
  • Drink pairings: white wine, light bubbly beers or IPA, lemonaid, and citrusy seltzers
Surf and turf foil packet meal with lemon La Croix and white wine

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Surf & Turf

Serves 4, measurements approximate

  • 2 large or 4 small steaks (best cuts: filet mignon, beef tenderloin, New York steak, ribeye, or top sirloin)
  • 1 lb. shrimp (uncooked, peeled, tail on)
  • pinches of salt & pepper
  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, cut in half
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or crushed)
  • 4 potatoes, diced
  • fresh green beans, tips removed
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Optional additions/toppings:

  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • lemon, cut into wedges
  • horseradish
  1. Toss diced potatoes with light cooking oil and distribute on 4 foil sheets
  2. Arrange a large handful of green beans on the side of potatoes
  3. *Slice steaks crosswise in ½-inch sections and place on top of veggies
  4. Surround the steak with shrimp (9-11 small-medium shrimp or 5-7 large to jumbo shrimp per adult)
  5. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper
  6. Top steak with a pat of butter, ½ sprig of rosemary, and garlic
  7. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 20-30 min., turning once

Grill – medium heat for 10 min., then low heat for 30-40 min.

Oven – 375°F for 25-35 min.

  • It’s done when: beef reaches 145°F, shrimp are pink, and veggies are tender
  • Serve with: chopped parsley, a lemon wedge, and horseradish
  • Drink pairings: excellent with white wine, lemony beers (hefeweizens, IPAs, etc.), gin cocktails, and citrusy seltzers

*Alternatively, you can take this extra step to make the steak even better; sear all sides of each portion on an oiled, cast-iron pan over high heat on your camping stove. Transfer steaks to individual foil packets and cook them whole on top of the veggies. Provide a knife for each person to slice their own steak.

Teriyaki Chicken with Noodles foil packet meal

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Teriyaki Chicken with Noodles

Serves 4, measurements approximate

  • 4 chicken sausage franks, cut into chunks
  • pineapple rings or chunks (canned or fresh)
  • bell peppers, sliced (we like to use mini red, orange, and yellow)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 jar teriyaki sauce
  • 2 packages Yakisoba noodles (in produce section)*
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Coat 4 foil sheets in oil
  2. Layer bell peppers, onion, pineapple, noodles, and chicken franks
  3. Drizzle each serving with teriyaki sauce and a bit of extra pineapple juice to help steam the noodles
  4. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 20-30 min., turning once

Grill – medium heat for 10 min., then low heat for 30-40 min.

Oven – 375°F for 25-35 min.

  • It’s done when: everything is hot and noodles are soft
  • Serve with: additional teriyaki sauce
  • Drink pairings: excellent with fruit-forward beverages such as sake, ginger beer, and juices like pineapple, mango, or watermelon

*Alternatively, you can omit the noodles and make with pre-soaked minute rice or rice cooked separately in a pot on your camping stove.

The Vegan cooler section at the grocery store

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Vegetarian Foil Packet Meal Recipes

Any of the above foil packet meal recipes can easily be made vegetarian by subbing in canned beans, more veggies or plant-based meat alternatives. With a little extra prep work, Tempeh, lentils, tofu, Seitan, or jackfruit could also work well for vegetarian foil packet meals.

Here are a few of our favorite meat-free recipes:

Nachos foil packet meal with a lemon seltzer water and a fire in the background

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Nachos

Serves 4, measurements approximate

  • 2.5 cups tortilla chips
  • 1 oz. packet taco seasoning
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup mexican shredded cheese
  • ½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • Jalapeno, sliced
  • sour cream
  1. Mix black beans with taco seasoning in a bowl or Ziploc bag
  2. Separate 2 extra large sheets of foil and spray with cooking spray
  3. Place half of the chips in each packet
  4. Sprinkle each with beans, onion, and cheese
  5. IMPORTANT: Seal foil packs, but cut a hole so steam can vent and chips won’t get too soggy, do not flip this one or the cheese will stick to the foil!
  6. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 10-20 min.

Grill – medium heat for about 12-15 min.

Oven – 375°F for 12-15 min.

  • It’s done when: cheese is melted and onions are tender
  • Serve with: sliced jalapenos, sour cream, and cilantro
  • Drink pairings: Mexican beer, margaritas, or lime seltzers

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Herbed Mushrooms & Rice

Serves 2-4, measurements approximate (2 big plates or 4 small)

  • 1 cup vegetable broth (from 32-oz carton)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or use crushed)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stems
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup uncooked instant white rice
  • 1 lb. button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • lemon wedges (optional)
  • Balsamic glaze (optional)
  1. Separate 4 sheets of heavy-duty foil and spray with cooking spray
  2. Mix broth, brown sugar, garlic, thyme, and salt in a bowl
  3. Add instant rice to the broth mixture, then stir and let it absorb the liquid for about 10 min.
  4. Divide mushrooms and carrots evenly among sheets of foil
  5. Top with rice mixture and a good size pat of butter
  6. Fold foil packets, allowing a bit of extra room for rice to expand
  7. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 20-30 min., turning once

Grill – medium heat for about 25 min., flipping once

Oven – 375°F for 45-50 min.

  • It’s done when: rice is soft and everything is hot
  • Serve with: parsley, a lemon wedge, and balsamic glaze
  • Drink pairings: citrusy drinks, pinot noir (light-bodied red wine), amber ale, or porter
The ingredients for the greek chickpeas foil packet meal ready to be doused with italian dressing and folded up for cooking

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Greek Chickpeas

Serves 4, measurements approximate

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced into rounds
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 cans sliced black olives
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 4 tsp garlic, minced
  • Italian salad dressing (oil and vinegar)
  • Feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Divvy up onions, zucchini, chickpeas, and tomatoes onto four large sheets of foil
  2. Drizzle each portion generously with italian dressing
  3. Add a small amount of garlic to the top of each meal
  4. Sprinkle with greek seasoning, salt, and pepper
  5. Seal foil packets
  6. Cook using one of the following methods:

Campfire – over hot coals for 20-30 min., turning once

Grill – medium heat for about 25 min., flipping once

Oven – 375°F for 25-30 min.

  • It’s done when: everything is hot
  • Serve with: feta crumbles
  • Drink pairings: iced coffee, herbal teas, light and dry white wine, or ouzo( an anise flavored spirit)

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Make Up Your Own Foil Packet Meals

If you’ve made it this far, you’re well on your way to becoming a foil packet meal master chef. We hope the recipes above inspired you to start translating your favorite food into camping meal sensations.

A few more foil packet variations to get your wheels turning:

  • Try using cabbage leaves under and over ingredients to keep food from sticking to foil
  • Add 2 hamburger patties side by side for bigger appetites
  • Use seasonal veggies like green beans, peppers & brussel sprouts
  • Mix it up with the meat – try shrimp, ground turkey, sausage, pre-cooked links, or meat alternatives
  • Base your recipe off of a sauce or spice you love
The produce section in a grocery store

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Basic Foil Packet Meal Grocery Checklist:

(make a recipe up on the fly!)

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

Creating a Camp Kitchen

You don’t need much to make foil packet camping meals. That said, a well-equipped camp kitchen is essential if you want to be able to prepare a variety of outdoor meals on trips. Here are a few of our favorite things that make our camp kitchen hum:

For a complete list, check out our Ultimate Camping Checklist.

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)

More Information

If you enjoyed this post, check our CleverHiker Food Homepage where we have more great camping and backpacking recipes, tutorials, and gear recommendations.

You’ll probably also like our top camping gear lists:

A woman chopping onions on a camping table

PHOTO CREDIT: HEATHER ELDRIDGE (CLEVERHIKER.COM)


Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a modest commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.