Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


How To Make Delicious Campfire Food For Your Labor Day Weekend

The finishing touch on Campfire Bibimbap is a spicy gochujang sauce. (Photo by Emily Henderson)
Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

Aside from s'mores, which are hard to not love, camping tends to be a culinary disappointment. You're there to hike and inhale the fresh air and put down the cell phone and gaze at the stars not to eat.

"[I] never wanted to see another hotdog or peanut butter and jelly sandwich again," says outdoors enthusiast and food lover Emily Nielson. She was so fed up with her dining choices while camping that she and her friends formed Dirty Gourmet. They recently released a cookbook designed to help foodies who love roughing it everywhere except on their plates.

Emily Nielson stirs up the veggies and rice in the Campfire Bibimbap. (Photo by Emily Henderson)

How do you make food cooked over a campfire as tasty as what you can whip up in your kitchen? Nielson shared a few tips as well as a couple of recipes -- campfire bibimbap and campfire baked brie and -- for you to try.

Support for LAist comes from

1. Prep At Home: Measure your ingredients, chop up your veggies and pre-mix your marinades and sauces before you leave. If you run out of tupperware, try a mason jar, which Nielson says is the secret weapon of campfire chefs.

2. Avoid Messy Oils: Liquid oil tends to get on everything. Coconut oil is a better option since it's solid at room temperature. Cooking spray is also a good choice or you can find ingredients, like cheese, with a high fat content.

Scouts and Sea Scouts from London and the home counties cooking over a fire at a weekend rally in Raynes Park, South-West London, April 4, 1943. (Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

3. Be Careful With Meat: Taking meat on camping trips can present food safety concerns. Make sure raw meat is well sealed and keep it separate from other ingredients. It should remain chilled and shouldn't stay in the danger zone -- between 41oF and 135oF -- for more than two hours.

4. Team Cast Iron: Cast iron doesn't just look rustic, it does a great job distributing heat and bringing out the flavor in food. Remember not to clean cast iron pans with soap as they need to build up a layer of oil. Instead, wipe it down with a metal mesh and water.

5. Conserve Cooler Space: Pack your ingredients efficiently with one cooler for ingredients and another for snacks and drinks.

6. Travel To Flavor Country: Since space is a hot commodity, choose toppings and ingredients that pack major flavor. Nielson crowns her campfire bibimbap was crowned with kimchi, adds plenty of spice and tang to the dish.

7. Easy Appetizers: To start your meal, serve a simple dish that everyone can dig into while the main course is being prepared. After a long day of hiking, you aren't going to want to wait around before eating.

The Duchess of Cambridge looks on as a child warms a campfire twist bread at Overtjern in Oslo, Norway, on February 2, 2018. (LISE ASERUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Support for LAist comes from

8. Get Seedy: Chia seeds are a great way to thicken up puddings or sauces and they make a great egg replacement for baking, if you want to avoid perishables.

9. Eat With Your Eyes: This one's for all the Instagram fans. You'll really impress your fellow campers if you think about presentation. Nielson said the photography in the 'Dirty Gourmet' cookbook was serious priority.

The veggies that top the Campfire Bibimbap create a rainbow that looks as good as it tastes. (Photo by Emily Henderson)

Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minute, Cook Time:20 minutes

3 cups rice, uncooked 6 cups water
2 cups spinach
1 cup kimchi
1 cup carrots, julienned
2 cups mushrooms, sliced 1 cup bean sprouts

For the mushrooms
4 tablespoons soy sauce 4 teaspoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

For the sauce
4 tablespoons Gochujang 2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons brown sugar 2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

12" dutch oven with lid lifter Cast iron skillet
Cutting board
Wooden spoon
Small bowl
Measuring spoons


At Home

  1. Combine all ingredients for the Gochujang sauce and mix well. Store in leakproof container.
  2. Chop vegetables and store in separate containers.

At Camp

  1. Prepare your bed of coals in your campfire.
  2. Mix rice and water together in your dutch oven.
  3. Place the dutch oven over a bed of the equivalent of about 10 coals and cover. Place
  4. about 14-18 coals on top of the lid. Let cook until rice has absorbed the water, about
  5. 15-20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, add mushrooms to your cast iron skillet on the grate. Mix together brown
  7. sugar, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, and add to the mushrooms. Stir occasionally until the
  8. mushrooms have absorbed all the liquid, and set aside.
  9. Check on the rice every 5 minutes until cooked through. When done, remove the lid and
  10. place the dutch oven on the grate of the campfire over medium heat.
  11. Add the mushrooms, spinach, bean sprouts, kimchi, and carrots in piles around the top
  12. of the rice. Pour the sauce directly in the center of it all. Sprinkle the sesame seeds
  13. across the top of the spinach and carrots.
  14. Call everyone around to "ooh and ahh" at the beauty, and then stir the whole thing up
  15. together.
  16. Serve (or eat) straight from the dutch oven, scraping the bottom each time to include
  17. some crispy rice in each serving. Keep the dutch oven heating on the grate so that
  18. second servings will have even more crispy rice to eat.

The Campfire Brie was an easy recipe to cook but the sweet and savory ingredient combo made a tasty, complex dish (Photo by Emily Henderson)

Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes, Cook Time:15 minutes

1 Brie wheel, whole
1�?�4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Buttery crackers

Cast iron skillet


  1. Place the wheel of brie in the cast iron skillet.
  2. Place the skillet on the grate of your campfire and heat over medium heat.
  3. The bottom of the brie will begin to soften faster than the top. When it starts to sizzle out
  4. into the skillet (about 5 minutes), flip the cheese.
  5. Place pecans in the pan and let them toast (or fry in the cheese oil).
  6. After about 3 more minutes, the whole wheel should have softened and the pecans will
  7. have toasted. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  8. Cut an 'X' in the center of the brie, and sprinkle brown sugar inside. Scoop the pecans
  9. out of the skillet and into the slit.
  10. Serve with buttery crackers, and keep in the cast iron skillet to keep warm.

Now, get out there and get cooking.

An epic s'more. (David Steltz/Flickr Creative Commons)

You made it! Congrats, you read the entire story, you gorgeous human. This story was made possible by generous people like you. Independent, local journalism costs $$$$$. And now that LAist is part of KPCC, we rely on that support. So if you aren't already, be one of us! Help us help you live your best life in Southern California. Donate now.