From Savory to Sweet: Outdoor Afro’s Favorite Camping Foods

Fall can make for excellent camping experiences all across the country. Up north, you can set up camp surrounded by the changing colors of deciduous trees, and, in the south, it’s finally cool enough to sleep in a tent. Monsoon season is over in the west, and, in the east, your risk of encountering ticks is greatly reduced. No matter where you live, one of the things key to a successful trip is making a camp menu that fuels your group and gets you excited about starting up that cooking fire. Ready to plan a weekend in the woods? Check out camping food recipes from several current and former volunteer Outdoor Afro leaders. 



Some camp chefs love to build on their repertoire of camp cooking by mixing it up a bit with a challenge. Antonio’s Dutch Oven Campfire Stew recipe is perfect for car or RV camping. You can prepare some things at home or pack a cutting board with you to chop up the fresh veggies at your campsite.   

Leader: Antonio Simmons

Network: Washington, DC


Dutch Oven Campfire Stew 

  • 1/4 lb. shaved ribeye (substitute mushrooms for a vegetarian option)
  • 3/4-1 lb. boneless short rib cut in bite-size pieces (substitute beans for a vegetarian option)
  • 1 chopped red onion 
  • 2 diced garlic cloves
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 chopped yellow and red pepper
  • 1 chopped medium-sized zucchini, yellow squash
  • 1 cup of baby carrots
  • 1/2 lb. of halved brussel sprouts
  • 1 stalk of chopped celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cracked pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sage, basil, curry, oregano, paprika, and salt of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon of Complete Seasoning and Oregano
  • 1 cup of half-cooked rice (you can add more if you would like)
  • 1 26 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of drained chickpeas
  • 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil



Now that your ingredients are prepped, it’s time to get your 8-quart Dutch oven ready. 

  1.  Place Dutch oven over coals or flames to get it hot.
  2.  Sauté shaved ribeye, onions, garlic, peppers, and seasonings.
  3.  Add short rib, and cook until pieces start to turn brown.
  4.  Add remaining ingredients, and cook covered for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally.

Imagine a hot bowl of this stew waiting for you after exploring the trails! Cooking with Dutch ovens can add a rustic feel to your adventures as well as help you scale recipes for larger groups. Check out this next delicious crowd pleaser.

Former Leader: Wandi Stew

Network: Atlanta, GA

Dutch Oven Campfire Lasagna 

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups pasta sauce (a 24 or 25 ounce jar is perfect)
  • 12 oz. FRESH lasagna noodles divided into 4 sets (thawed if frozen)
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or a blend of Italian-style cheeses
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Instructions

    PREHEAT: If cooking over a campfire, get your coals ready. You’ll need 25 total. If cooking at home, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

    ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA: Start by coating the bottom of a 10″ Dutch oven with the olive oil to help prevent the bottom layer from sticking. Add 1/2 cup pasta sauce and spread evenly over the bottom of the Dutch oven. Use the first set of noodles to create the base of the lasagna. Layer 1/2 cup sauce, 1 cup baby spinach, and 1/3 cup cheese. Repeat (one set noodles, 1/2 cup sauce, 1 cup baby spinach, 1/3 cup cheese) two more times. For the final layer, use the last set of noodles, 1/2 cup sauce, and 1/2 cup cheese. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the top.

    BAKE: Use 8 coals to create a bed to set your Dutch oven on. Place the Dutch oven on top of the coals. Cover the oven with the lid, and place the remaining 17 coals on top of the lid. If cooking at home, simply cover your Dutch oven, and stick it in your preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes until the noodles are tender and cooked through and the cheese has melted.

    SERVE: Take the Dutch oven off the heat. Carefully remove the lid and set aside. Cut the lasagna into 4 wedges, plate, and enjoy!

Looking for something a bit lighter for backcountry adventures? Check out this recipe for backpackers. You’ll need a saucepan and heavy-duty tin foil for this easy camp food recipe.


Leader: China Walker

Network: Washington, DC


Caramel Apple Cake 

  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple
  • 1 cup of mixed vanilla cake batter or plain pancake batter   

Cook butter and sugar on low, until a caramel is made. Then, add slices of Granny Smith apples on top of the caramel. Next, add vanilla cake batter (or plain pancake batter left over from breakfast). The next trick is to try to cook on low and not on directly on fire, as this will scorch the bottom of the cake. (We put the pan on embers, and then surrounded the pan and lid with the sticks/embers. )

Here are must haves from our volunteer Outdoor Afro Area leaders for easy backpacking meals:

-Minute rice + pouch of salmon

-Ramen + fresh carrots and broccoli + Field Roast vegan sausage + parsley

-Frozen cooked chicken + pesto + frozen bell peppers and onions (defrosts while you hike so you can just heat and eat)

If you are looking for ways to make sure you stay fueled in the backcountry, check out this recipe from our friends at REI for jerky. No dehydrator required! 


Homemade Jerky 

  • 2.5 lbs thinly-sliced meat (lean meat works best)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • ½ tbsp. onion powder
  • ½ tbsp. black pepper
  • ½ tbsp. liquid smoke
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • ½ cups water
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • Toothpicks 

In a large bowl, combine garlic, jalapeño pepper, onion powder, black pepper, liquid smoke, red pepper flakes, honey, water, and soy sauce

Add meat to marinade, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees.

Line the bottom shelf of the oven with baking sheets and aluminum foil.

Place marinated meat in the oven to dry for 2-4 hours. (Lay directly on the oven shelf or hang from the shelf using toothpicks.)

Part of planning a camp menu is doing your best to make sure that nothing goes to waste. When a camper brought an extra dozen donuts to breakfast, volunteer Outdoor Afro leader Beky Branagan knew exactly what to do with the leftovers. Introducing the easiest camp dessert ever made: the Bull’s Eye! If you aren’t counting calories, this is a fun way to get rid of all of that leftover holiday candy.

Former Leader: Beky Branagan

Network: Raleigh-Durham, NC

Bull’s Eye

Take 1 donut, place a marshmallow in the hole, and add as much or as little candy, nuts, chocolate, or bananas or other types of fruit as you’d like! 

Wrap with foil & bake!

No matter what is on the menu for your next camping trip, we encourage you to challenge yourself! You can explore with different tools like Dutch ovens or backpacking camp stoves as well as with recipes that stretch your abilities a bit.