Trail Meal Bases: 5 Grain Free Swaps

Trail Meal Bases: 5 Grain Free Swaps

If you have been following me for awhile, you already know some of the ways I assemble my backpacking meals without using pasta, rice, and beans for a base. Those foods are the mainstay of most backpacking meals but for those following the paleo lifestyle or who simple want to eat more nutrient dense foods, they tend to be avoided.  This year I tried a few new meal bases, so I decided to group all my favorites together for you in one easy place!

For most of the meals that I share here on Must Hike Must Eat, I start with one of the bases listed here and then add sauces, spices and veggies.  The great thing is, these swaps work for not only on the trail but for your “at-home” meals, too!

1. Shredded Veggies

Buy the big bags at Costco or Cash N’Carry or smaller ones at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  My first recipe, Eat Your Veggies, is my favorite way to use these (and talks about how to prepare it for the trail) but I have had them as a base with my Pumpkin Curry Sauce and my Nightshade Free Marinara, as well.  They are a superb noodle alternative, however, since veggies don’t have near the calories as pasta but provide good nutrition, you can add oil packets or nuts to your meals as supplement.


2. Sweet Potatoes

Mashed, shredded, or even noodled, sweet potatoes are an amazing backpacking staple!  Great for breakfast or dinner, depending on what you assemble with them. Check out my post, Sweet Potato Staples or Sweet Sage Sausage Mash for how to prepare them and meal ideas!  You can find sweet potato starch noodles on Amazon or your local Asian market.  I will preboil them and dehydrate them but even if you don’t they cook up pretty fast.


In effort to go totally rice free this year, I experimented with some new ways to bulk up my paleo meals and I’m excited to share them with YOU!

3. Riced Veggies

Okay, so these are similar to the shredded veggies above but “riced” veggies were a hit with me on the trail this summer. I picked up both broccoli and cauliflower rice at Trader Joe’s then steamed and dehydrated them to add with my meals.  So good and really had the texture of rice in my meals.  If you can’t find them at the store, you can throw the florets in the food processor to make your own “rice”.

But I have to say that my favorite new swaps were straight from Africa!  I was proudly telling my friend Ruth, who is from Nigeria, all about how I used cassava to make Paleo Polenta and Grits and she just started laughing at me.  She said, “You know you can just by that AT THE STORE!”


4. Gari

Yes, it turns out you can buy bags and bags of something called gari right at the African market near you. It is basically dehydrated cassava root already prepared that you can use like rice or couscous.  Some is even fermented to give it a tangy flavor.  She says gari is to Africans what rice is to Asians and told me stories about how they basically just dig it up from their backyards.  Her kids fight over it!  I can not tell you how amazing this has been and I will never feel the need to use rice in meals again.

Loaded with fiber and iron and about 100 calories an ounce, this nutty tasting staple is perfect for backpacking meals.  You can use either cold or warm water!  I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes using gari in upcoming posts.  In case you don’t have an African market near you, you can even find it on AMAZON.  Seriously, it doesn’t get much easier than that.

5. African Yam

And finally, the African yam.  If you remember in Sweet Potato Staples, I tell you that you actually can’t find yams in your typical grocery stores, they are all sweet potatoes.  However, if you are lucky, your African market sells the real deal and you can use these just like potatoes!  I think they taste like a cross between white potatoes and artichokes and I LOVED these with my Paleo Turkey Stroganoff.  They are loaded with fiber, vitamin C, copper, iron and potassium.

I just peeled and shredded them, steamed them a few minutes until soft and then dehydrated them about 8-10 hours on the veggies setting until crispy.  So delicious!  Tip: they were a bit “pokey” in long shreds when I went to package them.  Next time I will process them in smaller pieces like rice.

These you will need to find at an African (or International) store and often they will be delivered once a week and go fast.  Ask the store owner what day they come in so you can make sure you can find them.  Of course, if you look like me he will ask you (like he did me) if you are buying them to cook for your African husband so be ready with a witty reply!  Edit: I did find an online source, but I haven’t ordered from them so I can not vouch for the product.

What are some of your favorite paleo swaps for backpacking meals that you prepare? Have you tried any of these yet?

For more information on dehydrating vegetables, check out my Dehydrating 101 page!

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