My Top 5 Favorite Thanksgiving Camping Recipes

Enjoying the sunset in Yosemite Valley, Thanksgiving weekend
Enjoying the sunset in Yosemite Valley, Thanksgiving weekend

Looking for Thanksgiving camping recipes for your trip this year? I’ve got some favorites for ya!

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, mostly because I love that time of the year. I love boots and scarves and watching the leaves turn. But traditional Thanksgiving recipes haven’t always been my favorite. Growing up, I hated turkey. Actually, at each holiday dinner, there was always something that someone in the family didn’t like so my grandmother would make her delicious baked ziti, which everyone was happy with. Now that I’ve grown out of my picky food stage, I absolutely love Thanksgiving dinner!

To make things even better, I try to spend every Thanksgiving in Yosemite National Park, which can’t be beat. Living in San Diego, you find that most people around you are transplants from somewhere else, and they end up staying local for Thanksgiving rather than going home to their families. A few years ago, I decided to get some of those hungry, lost people together and I organized a trip up to Yosemite for the holiday weekend. The tradition continues, each year, inviting new transplants to experience the best way to spend your Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in Yosemite Valley with some winter frost
Thanksgiving in Yosemite Valley with some winter frost

Camping in Yosemite National Park for Thanksgiving

If you’re camping for Thanksgiving, you’ll need some Thanksgiving camping recipes! But, you’ll also need to plan your trip. We usually drive up late from San Diego Wednesday night. If we lave by 6:30pm, we generally don’t hit any traffic, but that means we get to Yosemite around 2am. We rent a tent campsite in Upper Pines for Thanksgiving night so that we can heat our camping meals (which we make in San Diego and transport to Yosemite) around the campfire.

Then, we move into Curry Village (now Half Dome Village) for two nights in their lovely heated canvas tents. They’re pretty basic – just a few cots and a heater – but the bathrooms are great and very clean, and there’s a dining hall with coffee and food, as well as a building where you can go sit by the fire with a book or play some board games with your friends. We go hiking or rock climbing during the day, put on warm clothes at night and lay in the meadow to stargaze, and go ice skating. I really can’t think of any better place to be than out in the middle of the wilderness with those closest to you – it gives you some perspective on what to be thankful for.

Chilly but lovely hike around Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley
Chilly but lovely hike around Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley

Thanksgiving Camping Recipes

Now, what about that Thanksgiving camping recipes for dinner by the fire….?

Of course, the first thing to consider when deciding WHAT to make is how you are going to heat it up. You’ll have your campfire (in a designated area/fire pit), so that’s a good start. This post from Design Mom gives a lot of great advice on how to set your fire up properly for cooking. If you have camping stoves or burners that you can bring, and you’re going to be in an area that allows for them, it never hurts to do so. I have a small MSR Backpacking Stove that I absolutely love, but for a group this size, it’s really only big enough to take care of heating up some cider.

I’ve recently invested in a 2 burner Stove that’s great for morning eggs and bacon! Also, consider what cooking tools you’ll need – for instance, I use those throw-away foil tins for turkey, ham, stuffing, etc. Things like corn can be rolled in foil and placed right on the campfire coals for space. Liquids can be heated in a heat safe pot over a stove. Remember to bring large spoons to dish out the food, and something to take the hot food off of the fire so you don’t burn yourself.

Next, you’ll want to consider what you can feasibly prepare beforehand to heat up over a fire. My top 5 favorite Thanksgiving camping recipes and meals are listed below:

1. Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

I love making turkey. I don’t love eating it necessarily, but I love making it. I’ve done the standard roasted turkey, the apple cider brine, and even tried baking it with bacon on top for that extra delicious flavor. Whichever way you do it, make sure you have enough time before your trip to make your turkey. I usually make mine on Tuesday, slice it up, and store it in the fridge until we leave on Wednesday night. And don’t forget to use the drippings for gravy and stock!

Thanksgiving Camping Recipes: Turkey
Thanksgiving Camping Recipes: Turkey
Turkey sliced, packaged, and ready for a Yosemite campfire
Turkey sliced, packaged, and ready for a Yosemite campfire

2. Sourdough, Cranberry and Apple Stuffing Recipe

Stuffing may be one of my all-time favorite foods. Ever. For those meat lovers, unfortunately I don’t add meat to my stuffing – I like it a little more carb-basic. I tend to mix together a few recipes because I like a little of everything…except sausage. For me, sausage should just be eaten separately as to not ruin the deliciousness of the carby stuffing.

My stuffing consists of delicious sourdough bread (you can usually find it on sale in the afternoon at the grocery store near the expiring bread – and that’s perfect, because you want it to be a bit crispier!), chopped green apples, celery, carrots, onions and craisins (those delicious flavored cranberry raisins). I break the bread into little cubes and bake them on a pan for about 10 minutes at about 375 degrees, and then add them to a large mixing bowl.

Separately, I saute the onions in a little butter, add the green apples, celery, and carrots until they’re all nicely cooked. I add the craisins towards the end to keep them somewhat fresh, then add in some broth (chicken, vegetable or beef – they’re all great) and voila! Yum. Major yum. You can find some great recipes on Food.com for portion sizes – I’m more of a “a dash of this” type of cook, so I’m unfortunately not great with measurements.

Thanksgiving Camping Recipes
Thanksgiving Camping Recipes

3. Easy Thanksgiving Ham Recipe

Ham is so deliciously easy, and it heats up really well as a leftover. No recipe needed, really. You can buy a nice ham at the grocery store, bake it in the oven before your trip (usually pretty simple – sometimes comes with a glaze, throw it on a pan and put it in the oven just so that it gets warmed up). When you get to your campsite, you can easily heat the ham slices in the foil tin with the turkey and stuffing, and you have a mash of deliciousness! Ham is even good cold the next morning, or cooked in with your post-Thanksgiving breakfast!

Thanksgiving Camping Recipes
Thanksgiving Camping Recipes

4. Cranberry Sauce Recipe with Grand Marnier, Apples and Walnuts

I’m not a huge fan of the gummy cranberry slices that come out of the can as they are. But, take the cranberry slices, mash it up with some chopped walnuts, chopped green apples, craisins, Grand Marnier, and a bit of juice from a lemon and an orange, and you’ve got major deliciousness to spice up your turkey. I start off sauteing the apples in some butter, then I add the rest and just let it simmer. This recipe leaves out some of my additions, but gives you a basic idea for the recipe.

Delicious Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Delicious Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce Recipe

5. Sweet Potato Soufflé Recipe With Marshmallows and Brown Sugar

I’m more of a savory than a sweet person, but when you have a sweet potato soufflé with brown sugar, butter and marshmallows, it’s a perfect mix of savory with sweet. It’s like a dessert that you can eat with your dinner, rather than after. I don’t think a Thanksgiving meal is really complete without it!

Thanksgiving Dinner Camping in Yosemite
Thanksgiving Dinner Camping in Yosemite

Last, you’ll want to consider what should be cooked over the fire, and what should be cooked on stoves. Also, make sure you consider what will take longer to heat up so that you get those going first – you don’t want to have your turkey ready while the gravy is still heating up!

And please, do not start a fire for your Thanksgiving camping recipes and immediately throw the food right on top – it will get burnt and taste far too smoked. Start the fire early so that the embers burn down and get real hot before putting any food on top. Stoves are a great idea if you have one, and they’re relatively inexpensive if you don’t!

Cooking our Thanksgiving dinner
Cooking our Thanksgiving dinner
Cooking our Thanksgiving dinner
Cooking our Thanksgiving dinner

Whatever you do for Thanksgiving, remember that there is always a lot for which to be thankful. Even in the worst of times, if you look hard enough, you can see the good peeking through the clouds. I wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around” – Willie Nelson


0 Responses

  1. […] Friendsgiving!! My favorite time of year. This year’s group was much smaller than last year – only 6 of us vs. last year’s 23 – but it was just enough to have a fantastic time. We ate delicious Thanksgiving food, drank delicious spiked cider, had hilariously delirious conversations, fell while ice skating more than once, and enjoyed the incredible granite and snow covered trails of Yosemite! All of this was possible because there were people who cared enough to fight a long time ago to protect and preserve our land. Could you imagine how these parks may have been torn down and developed with condos and malls had they not? Teddy, John….I thank you. […]

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