We love our camp stoves just as much as the next person, but there’s just something special about cooking over an open fire. The smoke in the air, the crackling of the wood, the heat of a warm fire pit… Campfire cooking is culinary magic at its finest. With the right tools and ingredients, you can make just about anything over a fire, but we prefer our campfire recipes to air on the simple side, and we know we’re not alone there.
The five campfire recipes that follow are as delicious as they are simple, with a focus on fewer ingredients, less preparation, and maximum flavor. We’ve also included a few of our favorite tips, tricks, and cooking hacks below in the article, so even if you’ve been cooking around camp for years, we’re sure you’ll find something new to take with you on your next outing.
Alright, let’s get cooking!
Dutch Oven Beef Stew
Maximum flavor with minimum effort. That’s the name of the game for any good campfire stew. Our dutch oven beef stew is no exception, and is all but guaranteed to leave you wondering how something so tasty could be so easy to make…
Cookware of choice: Cast iron dutch oven
Feeds: 4-6 people
- 2 pounds beef chuck steak
- 3-ish yellow (yukon gold) potatoes
- 5 large carrots
- 1 large yellow onion
- 4 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 package beef stock (32oz)
- 1 can tomato paste (6oz)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
To get started, position your dutch over a few inches above your cooking fire, then add your vegetable oil to the bottom and let it heat up. We want to get the oven nice and hot initially, as we’ll be searing our meat with it in just a few minutes.
While you wait for your dutch oven to get good and hot, go ahead and chop all of your major ingredients down into bite-sized pieces (remember, you’ll be eating this with a spoon later). Cut your chuck steak down into roughly one-inch cubes, then chop your onion, carrots, and yellow potatoes down into similarly spoon-friendly pieces. Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste, then set it aside.
Now that you’ve got everything chopped up and your dutch oven is nice and hot, it’s time to put a nice sear on our chuck steak. Make sure your oil has coated the bottom of the oven uniformly, then pour your steak onto the hot metal. Let the meat sit for a minute or so to get a good browning, then stir it all around a few times to give the other sides a chance to cook. Remember, these are small pieces of meat, so we only want to spend about two minutes total on this step or we’ll end up with a pot of burnt ends.
Next, it’s time to throw in our chopped onion and minced garlic. Whether you opt to use store-bought minced garlic or fresh minced garlic is up to you, but we prefer to keep it simple with the store-bought stuff. Let this mixture cook until the onions start to soften up, stirring occasionally to keep anything from sticking/burning.
Once your onion has softened, it’s time to throw everything else in the pot. Pour in your beef stock, tomato paste, potatoes, carrots, and seasonings, and stir everything together. Let the stew heat until it starts to simmer, then throw the lid on top of your dutch oven to let everything cook.
Believe it or not, that’s all there is to it. Ideally, you’ll want to let everything cook for a good 2-3 hours to ensure your meat is as tender as possible, and all you’ll need to do now is give it a good stir every so often until it’s time to eat.
Pro tip: Some folks like their stew as thick as possible, while others prefer it more on the soupy side. If you want to thicken up your stew, let it cook for the last 30 minutes or so with the lid open to allow excess liquid to cook off.
We all love a good street taco, but they’re a little hard to come by out in the wilderness. Fret not, these simple campfire chicken tacos are a major crowd-pleaser, and also happen to be quick and easy to make.
Cookware of choice: Wood skewers and an open grill grate
Feeds: 4 to 6 people
- 4 boneless chicken breasts (this recipe also works great for carne asada or tofu)
- Taco-size tortillas (corn or flour)
- 1 cup Sunny Delight
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- Chili powder
- Your favorite salsa (personally, we love Frontera’s roasted habeñero salsa)
- Chili flakes (optional)
- Paprika (optional)
- Minced garlic (optional)
Your first step here will be preparing your chicken. Start by chopping your chicken breasts into medium-sized pieces (they need to be big enough to work on a skewer, but not too big to eat in one bite), then throw them into a large Ziplock freezer bag.
Good taco meat starts with a good marinade, and marinading chicken in good ‘ol Sunny Delight is arguably the best-kept secret of serious taco chefs. Add a cup of Sunny D to your freezer bag, then add in your chili powder, salt, pepper, and any of the other recommended seasonings from our list that you like. Seal the bag, give everything a good shake to mix it up, then set it aside.
When your chicken is done marinating (two to three hours is ideal) and you’re ready to start cooking, load your chicken onto the wooden skewers and place them over the fire. We like to use a cooking grate/grill like those found on most campground fire rings, but you can use a cast iron skillet here in a pinch as well.
Allow the skewers to sit until your chicken chunks are cooked all the way through. Make sure to keep an eye on all of them, flipping and rearranging as necessary, as the heat from a campfire has a habit of cooking some areas of the grill faster than others.
Once your chicken is done cooking, remove it from the grill, and pull the meat off the skewers. Load up your tortilla of choice (we recommend grabbing two per taco if you’re using corn, as they’re more likely to come apart) with the chicken, then top it all off with freshly chopped cilantro, onion, and a spoonful of your favorite salsa to taste. Bon appetit!
Pro tip: If you’re feeling froggy, throw your tortillas on the grill for about a minute to get the outsides nice and toasty. That “perfect crunch” happens fast, so keep an eye on them!
Toasty Pizza Sandwiches
For many of us, pizza sandwiches were a highlight of our youth on family camping trips. The good news is that they taste just as good as an adult as you remember them, and if you’ve got any kids in your crew, they’ll always be a hit. This also happens to be one of the easiest meals you’ll ever cook at the campground or at home, and requires almost no prep time.
Cookware of choice: Large cast iron skillet
Feeds: About 5 people
- 1 loaf of your favorite bread
- 1 can of pizza sauce
- 1 bag of mozzarella cheese
- 1 bag pepperoni
- 1 stick of butter, softened
Start by setting your cast iron skillet over your grill grating, and give it enough time to heat up. We don’t want this thing to be scalding hot, but a little sizzle when the bread meets the pan is our goal.
Spread your softened butter over your slices of bread. Whether you do one side of each or all sides is up to you. Personally, we’ve always been fans of “the more butter the better” with pretty much anything.
Spread a tablespoon or so of pizza sauce evenly over one side of the sandwich, and add your desired amount of shredded mozzarella to the other. Next, load up as much or as little pepperoni as you want on top of the cheese side (we typically go for four-five slices), then put your sandwiches together.
Carefully set your completed sandwiches down into your hot skillet. Ideally you’ll want to let each side sit for 1-2 minutes, giving the bread ample time to crisp and brown and giving the cheese plenty of time to melt completely. Cook times for each side will vary with the heat of the pan/fire, so keep your spatula nearby for regular checks/flips as needed. The entire process takes about 5 minutes or so, so keep a close eye on each sandwich to ensure you don’t end up with charcoal instead of toast.
Chocolate Caramel S’mores
We trust you’re all familiar with the joy of a classic campfire s’more. We’re not here to knock the original, but if you’re a fan of caramel, we’ve got a feeling you may never go back after trying our take on the quintessential campfire treat.
Cookware of choice: Good ‘ol fashioned pointy stick and a flat piece of firewood
Feeds: As many people as you’ve got chocolate for!
- Graham crackers
- Giant marshmallows
- Caramello candy bar
- Flat piece of wood (trust us here)
This is the most important and most underutilized tool in your s’mores cookbook: Take your flat piece of firewood and place it on the edge of your fire ring, away from the flames, but somewhere with plenty of heat. Next, get your two pieces of graham cracker and place one (or two) squares of a Carmello candy bar between them. Place this little sandwich on the warm piece of wood, and leave it alone for now.
If you’ve ever made a classic s’more, you’ll be familiar with the procedure from here. Pick out the perfect roasting stick, skewer a nice fat marshmallow on the end, and roast it until it’s cooked to perfection. Some folks like ‘em golden brown, others like them literally on fire: We’re not here to judge, so you do you.
Once your marshmallow is roasted to perfection, grab your two sections of graham cracker off the wood plank and have a look inside. If you did it right, you’ll have a warm/partially melted treat waiting for you. Add your marshmallow between the two graham crackers, give it a little squeeze to squish it all together, and enjoy!
S’mores are great, caramel s’mores are (arguably) better, but if you want to try something entirely new for your campfire desert, give our campfire churros a try. They’re just as easy to cook (all you need are three ingredients and a stick), and make for a satisfying cinnamon alternative for anyone feeling burnt out on chocolate.
Cookware of choice: Pointy stick
Feeds: Up to 8 people
- 1 tube of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
- ½ cup of cinnamon sugar
- ½ stick of butter (softened)
Start by picking out the perfect pointy stick (you can also use a metal hotdog roasting stick if you’ve got one handy), and whittle down the end as needed for a smoother surface (this will keep your dough from getting hung up on any bumps in the wood). Next, roll the business end of the stick in your butter (this helps keep the douch from sticking as well), then wrap one of your crescent rolls around the end.
With your crescent roll securely attached to the end of your stick, begin cooking the dough over your campfire, just like you would a marshmallow. Continue to cook the dough until it has a light golden brown color, but isn’t quite finished. We’re talking about 95% done here.
Now, quickly remove your dough/stick from the fire and (while the outside of the roll is still good and hot), roll it around a few times on top of your softened butter to get a good coating on the outside surface. Next, take your buttered roll and give it a few good spins around in your cinnamon sugar mixture. We recommend just pouring the cinnamon sugar out on a flat plate for best results.
Once your roll is coated to your satisfaction in delicious cinnamon goodness, quickly return it to the fire, and let it cook for a few more minutes to complete the process. We want the dough in the heat, but out of the flames, as our goal here is to create a nice crunchy caramelized cinnamon “glaze” on the outside of the roll.
Once everything is done cooking, remove your masterpiece from the fire, give everything a few minutes to cool off, then slide your delicious creation off the end of the stick and enjoy!
Campfire Cooking Advice
Cooking over a campfire is great, but it’s considerably different from your gas range at home or even your outdoor gas grill. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to get the most out of your campfire cooking experience.
Cook Over Coals, Not Flames
You know that nice bed of coals you’ve got at the end of a long night around the fire? When most of the logs have burnt down but everything still glows bright orange and radiates a ton of heat? Those are cooking coals, and they’re exactly what you want for campfire recipes.
We’re not suggesting you burn through a full stack of wood before you start cooking or anything, but definitely don’t make the mistake of trying to make dinner over a roaring fire either. Ideally you’ll want to get a few nice logs going, let them burn down a good 80-90%, and then cook your meal over the low flames and residual coals left over. You can always add in a small log here and there as needed to keep it going for longer cook times, but tall flames are a great way to ruin pretty much any campfire recipe.
Bring The Right Cookware
You may have noticed we recommend specific cookware for each of the recipes above. Sometimes the right campfire cooking kit is as intricate as a big dutch oven, other times it’s as simple as a smooth, sharp stick. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference, so make sure you come prepared.
The biggest thing you’ll want to avoid when cooking over a campfire is bringing your nice non-stick cookware along with you. Traditional teflon-coated aluminum pans aren’t ideal for cooking over an open fire, plus the carbon from the burning wood will dirty them up in short order. We recommend sticking to cast iron for most all campfire recipes, whether that’s a pan, a grill grate, or a dutch oven.
Don’t Forget About Fire Safety
Cooking over an open fire is a fun experience, but if you’re not careful, it can also be a quick way to start a forest fire. Just like any campfire, remember to have fire management tools like a shovel and a bucket of water in place before you light your first log.
It’s also important to note that when cooking greasy foods like bacon and other fatty meats, cooking over an open flame increases your risk for flame ups/grease fires in your pan. When cooking with open pots and pans, make sure your flames aren’t high enough to reach over the rim of your cookware. It’s also a good idea to keep a large container of salt handy (like a full salt shaker with a removable lid), as a quick dump of salt can quickly put out a grease fire in a pinch.
Now Get Out There And Start Cooking!
We hope our favorite campfire recipes have inspired you to get out there and try a few yourself. We like to keep it as simple as possible, but there’s plenty of room in each of the recipes above to get creative. Throw a Reece’s peanut butter cup on that smore, add some icing to that churro, or dump the whole kitchen sink into that beef stew. The sky is the limit, just make sure to drop us a comment and let us know how they work for your next trip!