Cold Soaking food help/suggestions

Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums General Forums Food, Hydration, and Nutrition Cold Soaking food help/suggestions

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 43 total)
  • Author
  • #3556964
    BPL Member


    Locale: Virginia USA

    I normally don’t cold soaker on a trip, but have tried it a few times. It have been interested in the idea more for hot and humid summer weather. This is when I don’t feel like cooking or eating a hot meal. All the info in the internet about cold soak is basically the same, take a hot meal add water to it, hydrate for a few hours and eat cold. This is not appetizing to me! During the summer I usually don’t want to eat much after hiking all day and these types of dinners make me less hungry. I love flavorful foods, something that has some tang, sour, zip, sweetness and a little heat. I’m looking for food ides that are served cold normally, a summertime dish that is filling and refreshing. I would love to hear of some your ideas or recipes that I could pre-make package in a ziplock and just add water too. I think this is also something others are looking to see to get then to try cold soaking. Thanks for any feed back

    Matthew / BPL


    Tabouli, instant retried beans, hummus and couscous are good bases for soaked cold meals. My $.02 is to skip the rehydration entirely and just eat tasty and calorie dense foods like hard cheese, nuts, etc.

    Adventure Alan has a good blog post on the topic.

    Here’s a BPL thread

    Brad P


    I haven’t tried them, but Packit Gourmet has several options.

    Terry Sparks


    Locale: Santa Barbara County Coast

    Buy a meat grinder for your meats and a larger coffee/spice grinder with a detachable stainless steel bowl to grind other foods. Buy a dehydrator that has the capacity to dry a fair amount of food per load. After that, your hiking food cost will drop by 50% or more and you’ll have much beet food and meals on the trail.

    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Cold soaking works OK, but everything starts resembling mush. Somethings I have had good luck with (eg, ramen noodles or spaghetti/flavorings) other things take too long without hot water (eg carrot bits, potato pieces.) Somethings cannot be dehydrated without cooking them first (eg, spaghetti.)

    Getting the proportions correct of each type in any dish (stews, soups, tacos, etc) so they all get done at about the same time can be a rather painful process when cold cooking. Each type of food item (we are always talking precooked) will absorb water at different rates. One way to even this out is to grind everything fairly fine.

    A Cheat-Chili works OK. A precooked mix of fine ground meat, red beans, tomato sauce, minute rice and spices (cumin/chili powder/black pepper/salt/ground red pepper) is all dehydrated separately. Then mixed in a baggie for the trip. (A 7oz baggie of dehydrated stuff is enough for supper, various proportions of stuff can change a lot.) I usually add about 1.5 cup of water per 1 cup of mix, wait an hour or so. Or you can boil water and drop it in a baggie and soak it for 5min. Makes about 2.5 cups or 2 big mugs of chili.

    The following works, OK:

    2oz fine ground meat (turkey/beef/chicken/pork or a mix, run through a blender)
    2oz red beans coarse grind
    1oz tomato sauce finest grind you can do
    1oz minute rice
    About an ounce of cumin, chili powder, fine black pepper, fine red pepper, salt all to taste.
    To reconstitute, add about 14oz water, stir well, wait about 1 hour, eat.

    OK. That is the BASE recipe. Adding just beans and rice (black beans, red beans, white beans or canneli beans are all about the same) makes Beans and Rice. Adding meat, tomato sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and ground red pepper makes taco filling. Adding dried green pepper bits, meat, tomato, onion powder, rice, Italian seasoning and salt makes Spanish rice. And so on.

    Soups and stews are much more difficult. I carry a small bottle of olive oil I can add after cold cooking. But cold rehydrating always means mush. Instant potatoes, ground celery, ground carrots, ground peas, ground onions just do not look appetizing in your cup. They taste OK, though, but there is no chewing texture.

    Even the Mountain House meals leave crunchy bits. Their lasagna is bad for cold soaking. All I can say is just try a few before you dive into it on the trail. Or, just bring a couple on the trail. Everything tastes good on the trail!

    BPL Member


    My $.02 is to skip the rehydration entirely and just eat tasty and calorie dense foods like hard cheese, nuts, etc.

    ^^^ That. Cheese, sausage, tortillas, nuts, Fritos, single-serve tuna/chicken salad, cereal w/powdered milk, dates/dried fruit, etc. Think about anything you eat in a normal day without cooking it as a candidate.



     something that has some tang, sour, zip, sweetness and a little heat.

    Make some dehydrated “beet soup” and use powdered sour cream added to it when soaking to rehydrate. There are instructions on the net for drying beet slices and recipes for cold beet soup for other ingredients. A drop or two of vinegar for the zip. A dash of something for sweetness.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Maybe have the bag next to your body so it at least gets to body temperature

    Or black bag and put it in the sun

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    I’m looking for food ides that are served cold normally, a summertime dish that is filling and refreshing. I would love to hear of some your ideas or recipes that I could pre-make package in a ziplock and just add water too. I think this is also something others are looking to see to get then to try cold soaking. Thanks for any feed back

    Mashed potatoes and Spam

    One of my favorites that is simple is instant mashed potatoes with a spam single, possibly some fresh cheese chunks, and a ton of real and spicy authentic olive oil or a few mayonnaise packets. You could add sriracha to anything to give it heat, including this. You could add some dehydrated onions or whatever if you really want, but by itself it’s tasty and filling.


    One that requires a dehydrator but comes out pretty darn good is to make dehydrated poke. I start with a base of dehydrated cooked brown rice. If you cook the rice and dehydrate it it rehydrates cold pretty easily. The poke part is dehydrated chunks of raw ahi tuna, chopped up cabbage, grated carrot, goma kombu which is a seaweed rice topper I’ve found but you can buy other kinds of rice topper at any Asian store that are already dried, chopped onions (regular or green, whatever you like), a sprinkle of chile peppers (the kind you get with pizza), some salt (or coat the ahi with soy sauce). After it’s dehydrated, I soak this starting at breakfast in order to eat for lunch or starting at lunch to eat for dinner. At the time of eating I add some toasted sesame oil. Mayonnaise is also good. Also good to add is shiso salt.

    Cous-cous salad

    I made this while hiking the PCT. Rehydrate some cous-cous, add some packets of mayonnaise (and maybe a mustard packet), some chunks of fresh broccoli if it’s the first night out, otherwise, use that cous-cous that comes in a box and has little dehydrated vegetables, and add some kind of foil pouch meat (I used to be able to find chicken breast in a foil pouch, but this is good with salmon, tuna, spam.)

    Mix and match

    As you can see from my list, with a base of dehydrated rice, instant mash potatoes, refried beans or cous-cous, add a protein (fish, chicken, spam, cheese), add a fat (mayo, olive oil), add a seasoning (sriracha? mustard? hot pepper flakes? shiso salt? Japanese rice topping? Taco-bell hot sauce? Other???), add anything else you might think goes with it.

    Dave B
    BPL Member


    Not too on point here and certainly not planned.  But just forgot propane on an 8 day trip where I was above 10,000 feet in no fire zone. Cold soaking freeze dried meals is not fun. I went oatmeal only last three days and had to ration. Lots of food returned in bear canister.  But it was nice not to have to cook when tired.  I may try it on a short trip with some of the  dehydrated real food suggestions.  Almonds, hard cheese,  jerky, and oatmeal (which was fine) seem good to go for 4 days.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Thread drift to other no-cook options:

    Hard cheeses and cold cuts (turkey, beef) are good for at least 2 days if you can keep them not-hot. Cool to room temperature is fine.  I’ve done 4 days sometimes.

    Of course a hard salami is good for much longer, but 3 out of 3 times that I’ve seen a California black get a backpacker’s food, they went for the pack/hang bag with the salami in it.

    I’ll bring Triscuits, carefully stacked back into the liner bag and reinserted into the cut-off bottom 2″ of the original box.  And serve hard salami and Parmesan cheese on those.

    Scott W
    BPL Member


    I just did a taste testing with a group planning to do a section hike in October.

    One of the dishes that got a big thumbs up from everyone was super simple.

    Ramen w/o seasoning pack cold soaked for 45 min in Talenti jar then added 2 packets for Starkist Teriyaki Chicken creations and eat it cold….that’s it.  Like a chicken pasta salad.

    560KCal, 21g Protein, 54g Carbs, 17.5g Fat

    There was non left and one lady was trying to lick the Talenti jar to get it all.

    Starkist Chicken creations are relatively new (just saw them for the first time around here last week) and I have to say they are big on flavor so no extra seasoning was needed.  Going to try them with CousCous next.  Only 4 flavors though:  Buffalo, Teriyaki, Classic BBQ, and zesty lemon

    John S.
    BPL Member


    Thanks for mentioning the Chicken Creations, Scott. The Starkist site shows one more flavor, chicken salad. I see two flavors of Salmon Creations. I’ll have to try some out.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    I did the Ramen and foil-pouch of teriyaki chicken thing on a July trip and it went over well.  Plus I added a FD veggie mix.

    I’ve told the story of being under a NZ shelter for lunch one day on the trail and an Aussie family being instructed by Dad to “get out your two-minute noodles” (Australian ramen is faster than American ramen) and they proceeded to eat them, raw, un-hydrated.  No way could I get my family to do that, but, wow!  only 39 cents, good calories/weight ratio because there’s some fat in there, no stove or pot or fuel needed!

    I razzed him about how do they consume the flavor packet, but subsequently found I prefer it sprinkled over the dry block of noodles.

    Cristina L
    BPL Member


    I’m curious is anyone has experienced gastrointestinal issues from not pre-boiling their food before starting the rehydration. I usually cook and dehydrate my own food, and store it in vacuseal bags in the freezer. Any veggies that weren’t pre-cooked were blanched. Then in camp I would add boiling water and soak for 20 minutes. After some unpleasant trips, I finally figured out that I could avoid GI issues (gas, diarrhea) by always boiling the food for 1-3 minutes before beginning the rehydration. Perhaps I have a sensitive intestine, but I’m curious if there are any other tips for food storage that could avoid this. As a result I am reluctant to use cold-soaking (e.g., for hummus).

    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Cristina L, it sounds like tainted water to me. It could be the cellulose in the veggies. That will take a LOT to rehydrate. I would suggest cutting them up to smaller pieces, then blanch before dehydrating. I have had a few issues with dehydrated green beans/wax beans and carrots. I cut them up about half the size I was and that was the end of the problem. Strictly speaking, I do not cold soak. It might take around 2-3 hours to rehydrate. So, I simply bring the water/soup fixings to a boil, then cozy it for around 40min. What you are doing sounds a lot like what I do, ‘cept you cook for 2 minutes. You will find that, usually, dehydrated foods want hot water to rehydrate well. Things like vegetables have pinched off vascular tubes. While they will pass water out, they could take quite a while to cold rehydrate because water needs to saturate a veggie, not just the surface. Sometimes, it works by: saturating one cell, it expands to pass water, the water rehydrates the next cell, a slow process. Things like green beans can be difficult to cook once dehydrated, let alone cold soaking.
    I found that simply cutting up smaller pieces to dehydrate, rehydrates easier, cold soaking or not.

    W I S N E R !


    I’ve yet to be convinced…Cold soaking strikes me as almost all of the fuss of cooking a proper, hot meal, but without any of the payoff. I’d just as soon eat cheese and jerky or nuts and a chocolate bar.

    Murali C
    BPL Member


    I actually do cold soaking with Mountain House “freeze” dried food for dinner. I tried these at home before I took them on the trail. Not all of them rehydrate very well. The ones that have worked great for me have been the following: Teriyaki Chicken, Italian Pepper fried steak, Spaghetti, Lasagna with meat sauce. These rehydrate very well within 15 to 30 minutes. I have done this on the CT, SHR, JMT, AZT etc. No issues with rehydrating at high elevations like 12K feet etc. I start the re-hydration  as soon as enter my camp spot, set up tent etc and then start eating.

    I just love eating these meals for dinner. They taste great. No difference between hot soaks or cold soaks for me. Absolutely no difference.

    I have tried cold soaking “dehydrated” food or not “freeze dried” – they don’t hydrate well. And within the freeze dried world as well, some may not re-hydrate well. So test it before you take it. Sometimes it may hydrate well at home and not at elevation. For example, Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles hydrated great at home and didn’t on the trail. So, now I don’t take them.

    But the ones I mentioned – they hydrate and taste awesome. I have tried Couscous – didn’t like it that much.

    Sarah Kirkconnell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW

    For those wondering, yes it is very normal to have GI distress eating cold soaked vegetables. It’s not uncommon. In fact….even rehydrated in hot water vegetables can cause it. Partly I feel it is because the veggies are small and we don’t chew them well, but also it’s fiber, and it isn’t soft. So you feel your stomach doing the chewing for you and end up with running to a privy or having gut aches.

    DWR D
    BPL Member


    PackIt Gourmet sells meals with both hot and cool water instructions.

    I particularly like their Many Beans Salad.

    But no meal is going to hydrate as well cold as it does with hot water.

    If things are a little crunchy, be sure to drink more water so it does not suck more water out of your bowls and leave you constipated.


    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Wisner wrote:

    I’ve yet to be convinced…Cold soaking strikes me as almost all of the fuss of cooking a proper, hot meal, but without any of the payoff. I’d just as soon eat cheese and jerky or nuts and a chocolate bar.

    This is a very common perception.

    I’ve been studying the physics behind food dehydrating and freeze-drying and rehydration over the past few years, practicing a lot, and here’s what I’ve learned:

    1. Freeze-dried ingredients don’t seem to make good cold-soaking candidates unless they are fishes or meats, because they get mushy.
    2. Meals that are prepared with ingredients that have been dehydrated or freeze-dried *separately* do not reconstitute at the same rates (because they’ve been dried to different water contents/consistencies) and are not great candidates for cold-soaking if they contain a variety of types across the fiber range.

    Here’s what I’m doing now, with quite a bit of satisfaction about how my meals are turning out:

    1. Prepare a meal on the stovetop (or oven) – with all the ingredients mixed in, cook to completion.
    2. Spread the meal slop on your dehydrator trays so that the entire thing is pretty thin (faster dry times and more consistent drying) but no “islands” of food bits – those islands will dry out too much and become hard to reconstitute.
    3. Dehydrate the meal at a moderate temp (150-160) until there’s no perceived moisture (it should absolutely be crunchy) or it will mold.
    4. Chop the meal up with a food processor (many short pulses), but don’t grind the ingredients into powder. That’s gross. We’re not making smoothies here.

    This is a pretty simple and reliable framework for prepping food that will taste good and have pleasing texture when cold-soaked, whether pasta, veggies, potatoes, or meats. Special care should be taken for fatty foods. Avocados should be freeze-dried and ground to add some pastiness to sauces, salmon should be dried to chewiness (jerky) texture and no further, and lean ground meats (chicken, beef, pork) work much better than fatty ones or meats cut into strips.

    Jon Solomon
    BPL Member


    Locale: Lyon/Taipei

    Some great ideas here.  I’m going to try some of this. Thanks!

    I’ve been cold soaking lunches for many years. Here’s a recipe idea:

    I use Haigamai, or partially polished “beige” rice, as the base. It works better than either brown or white rice and still has the germ and some extra fiber of brown rice. To the rice I add dehydrated beans. I also usually add my own homemade humus (tahini and chick pea) or South Asian Dal to up the oil content, flavor, and nutrition. To that base I then add a selection of different dehydrated sauces for different flavors. Taiwanese Wei Lih Jhajan sauce is nice and spicy. Local organic shops in France carry a range of potent premixed spice sauces in different flavors that also dehydrate nicely. Sometimes I cook my own. I usually gravitate towards Asian (East, South) and Middle East flavors but the choices are huge. Sometimes I add chopped dried fruit and/or nuts, but the rice itself provides plenty of interesting texture if not rehydrated too much. Basically it’s beans and rice, the staple food of a majority of the world’s population.

    BPL Member


    I have had some success cold soaking, but can totally see why people wouldn’t want to do it.  I’m currently preparing for an AZT section hike this spring and will be cold soaking again (I did it during my last section on that trail as well).  I really like cold soaking for arid climates, it makes water management easier.  I’ll often fill the jar to start rehydrating at a water source in the afternoon, eliminating that planning need for dinner.  Cleanup is easier as well – after eating dinner I put a few ounces in the jar with superfood powder, shake it up, and gulp it down.  Another quick rinse and drink and dishes are done with no water waste (drinking the powder mix is gross though).

    My fav cold soaking meals have something in there to provide texture, as well as some dehydrated veggies that rehydrate easily.  I mix and match from there, here are some examples –

    • Base options – couscous, instant white rice (~3.5oz/meal)
    • Protein/”meat” options – dehydrated refried beans, raw cashews (~2oz/meal)
    • Veggies – broccoli, spinach (~1oz/meal)
    • Add’l Items (texture fillers, more calories, etc.) – craisins, chia seeds, etc. (~1oz/meal)

    Total calories typically land in the 700-800/meal range.  I find the volume quite sufficient for an end of the day meal, and very much appreciate it being ready and waiting without any additional prep required.

    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan

    Have you all looked into No-cook Backpacking Meals  by the Backpacking Chef .

    Lots of good ideas and helpful answers to your meals and food preparations.



    Murali C
    BPL Member


    Ken – these require a dehydrator which not many of us own I suppose.

    I would like to re-iterate – try cold soaking Mountain House Teriyaki Chicken, Italian Pepper fried steak, Spaghetti, Lasagna with meat sauce. There is no difference between hot soak and cold soak for these meals. It is heavenly folks! I lick my spoon and zip-loc clean every night :-)

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 43 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Get the Newsletter

Get our free Handbook and Receive our weekly newsletter to see what's new at Backpacking Light!

Gear Research & Discovery Tools