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Van life meals: Tips for cooking in a van

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Embarking on a van life journey is not just about exploring new horizons, but also about redefining daily routines, including meals. As the open road beckons, the confines of your mobile abode challenge you to get creative with your culinary endeavors.

From compact cooking gear to choosing recipes that are both nutritious and easy to whip up, van life meals become an integral part of the adventure. Dive into this post as we explore the art of crafting delicious and practical meals that will keep you energized for the journey ahead.

Camper Van Cooking

Meal Planning

Meal planning is a cornerstone of a successful van life experience, especially when it comes to ensuring nutritious and satisfying meals on the road. Let's delve deeper into the essential components of effective meal planning:

Plan Ahead

The adage "failing to plan is planning to fail" rings especially true in vanlife cooking. Before embarking on your journey, take the time to outline your meals for the days ahead. This not only ensures that you have all the necessary ingredients on hand but also minimizes the chances of resorting to unhealthy or expensive last-minute food options.

By planning your meals, you can also map out your grocery stops efficiently, ensuring you get fresh produce when needed and reducing the frequency of store visits. This proactive approach not only saves time but also helps in budgeting, as bulk buying often turns out cheaper.


In the confined space of a van, organization is paramount. Investing in high-quality storage containers is not just a matter of convenience but also of food safety. These containers, preferably airtight, ensure that your food remains fresh and free from contaminants.

Moreover, clear containers allow you to quickly identify contents, reducing the time spent rummaging for ingredients. Efficient storage solutions also maximize the limited space available, ensuring that everything has its place, leading to a clutter-free cooking environment.

Dietary Needs

Traveling in a van doesn't mean compromising on dietary preferences or needs. In fact, with the right planning, you can cater to a variety of diets, from vegan to keto to gluten-free. Start by understanding the dietary requirements of all the travelers. Once you have this information, you can source recipes and ingredients that cater to these needs.

For instance, if someone is gluten-free, stock up on almond flour or gluten-free pasta. For vegans, ensure a good supply of plant-based proteins like tofu or legumes. By being inclusive in your meal planning, you ensure that every traveler feels valued and taken care of, making the journey enjoyable for all.

Easy campervan meals

Easy Van Life Meals & Camper Van Food Essentials

  • Staples: Stock up on staples like pasta, rice, canned beans, and vegetables. They're versatile and can be used in various vanlife recipes.

  • Fresh Produce: While canned goods are essential, don't forget fresh fruits and veggies. They add nutrition and flavor to van life meals.

  • Spices & Condiments: They take up little space but can transform a meal. Salt, pepper, olive oil, and a few favorite spices can make a world of difference.

Tips for Cooking Easy Meals

  • One-Pot Meals: They are a savior in vanlife cooking. Less cleaning and maximum flavor.

  • Prep in Advance: Whenever possible, prep your meals. It saves time and makes cooking in a camper van more manageable.

  • Use Multi-purpose Tools: Invest in tools that serve multiple purposes, like a spork or a multi-functional cooker.

Cooking in a Small Space

  • Organization is Key: In a limited space, keeping things organized makes van life cooking smoother.

  • Ventilation: Always ensure proper ventilation when cooking in a van to avoid condensation and keep the air fresh.

  • Safety First: Always turn off cooking appliances when not in use and keep flammable items away from the stove.

Campervan cooking recipes

Best Easy Van Life Meals

Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a versatile dish that can be tailored to your liking. A cold pasta salad, especially during the warmer months, is refreshing and filling. You can use a variety of pasta shapes, from penne to fusilli, and toss them with fresh veggies like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and olives.

Drizzle a tangy dressing made of olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and herbs to elevate the flavors. Garnish with some feta cheese or olives for an added touch. It's perfect for a light lunch or a side dish for dinner.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The grilled cheese sandwich is a timeless classic that's both comforting and delicious. Using a good quality bread, like sourdough or whole grain, can make a world of difference. Layer slices of cheese, and if you're feeling adventurous, add some ham, turkey, or even slices of tomato for extra flavor. Grill it until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Pair it with a bowl of tomato soup for a complete meal.


Stir-frying is a quick and efficient way to cook up a nutritious meal. The beauty of a stir-fry is its adaptability. Whether you have bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, or snap peas, you can toss them into a hot pan with some oil. Add proteins like chicken, beef, or tofu, and season with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Serve it over a bed of steamed rice or noodles for a complete meal.

Best vegetarian campervan meals

Tuna Salad

A tuna salad is a protein-packed option that's both tasty and easy to make. Drain canned tuna and mix it with mayo, mustard, diced celery, onions, and a squeeze of lemon. For a crunch, add some chopped pickles or capers. It's perfect to spread on bread for a sandwich or to eat with crackers as a light snack.


Starting your day with an omelette ensures you get a dose of protein and veggies. Whisk some eggs, pour them into a hot pan, and as they start to set, add your choice of fillings. Cheese, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach are popular choices. Fold the omelette in half, let it cook for a minute, and you have a filling breakfast ready to go.


While canned soups are convenient, making your own soup allows you to control the ingredients and flavors. Whether it's a hearty chicken noodle soup, a creamy tomato basil, or a spicy lentil soup, the possibilities are endless. Fresh ingredients, herbs, and spices can transform a simple broth into a flavorful meal.

Easy van life meals


Pancakes are a breakfast favorite that can be customized to your liking. Whether you prefer them fluffy or thin, you can add ingredients like fresh fruits, chocolate chips, or nuts. Drizzle with maple syrup, honey, or a dollop of whipped cream for a sweet treat.


Salads are a great way to consume a variety of nutrients in one meal. Start with a base of greens like lettuce, spinach, or kale. Add proteins like grilled chicken, tuna, or chickpeas. Throw in some nuts for crunch, fruits for sweetness, and finish with a dressing of your choice. Whether it's a vinaigrette or a creamy dressing, it ties the salad together for a refreshing meal.

Easy vegan burger for camping

Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is a staple meal in many cultures, and for a good reason. It's nutritious, filling, and easy to make. Cooked rice paired with beans, whether black, pinto, or kidney, provides a complete protein source. Season with cumin, garlic, and chili for a flavorful dish.


Quesadillas are a quick and delicious meal option. Take a tortilla, fill it with shredded cheese, beans, and any other fillings like grilled chicken or sautéed veggies. Fold it in half and grill until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melted. Serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream for a delightful meal.

campervan dinner ideas

Making Coffee in the Van

Starting your day with a fresh cup of coffee amidst Iceland's picturesque landscapes is pure bliss. In van life, space and convenience are key. Opt for a compact brewing method like a French press, AeroPress, or pour-over, each offering a unique flavor profile.

Prioritize using freshly roasted beans and clean water to ensure a rich taste. A portable gas stove or electric kettle can quickly heat your water. With the right tools and quality ingredients, you can enjoy a barista-level coffee experience, even in the heart of nature.


Van life food doesn't have to be complicated. With a bit of planning and creativity, you can enjoy delicious meals on the road. And as you explore the mesmerizing waterfalls and landscapes of Iceland, remember that the journey is as much about the experiences as it is about the destinations.

And if you're looking to embark on this adventure, consider renting a caravan from Campervan Reykjavik. They offer a range of options to suit every traveler's needs, ensuring your trip is comfortable and memorable. Happy travels and bon appétit!


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