Introduction: Gourmet Backpacking Desserts

It’s summer, you’ve dusted off your boots, pulled your backpack out of storage, and cleaned out your pantry looking for those extra freeze dried meals you accidentally over packed from last season. However, as you look through your array of hardy equipment and tasty(ish) meals, you realize you are missing one essential component, without which your meticulously planned trip is ruined: dessert. Something just isn’t quite right ending your 15 mile day (or 21 if you’ve made that wrong turn) with a handful of the same trail mix you’ve been eating all week. In order to pioneer the fight against this unjust reality I have assembled three backpacking dessert recipes. Each recipe comes with directions for assembly at home and on the trail.

My inspiration for making backpacking desserts came 6 years ago when I went on my first backpacking trip in British Columbia with some friends and family. On the last day of the hike, we took a break and one of the guys who was hiking with us surprise us with some Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. He had packed them in from day one waiting until the right moment when everyone needed a little pick-me-up. It was such a welcome surprise, and ever since then I have always tried to bring a sweet surprise on my backpacking trips.

The following recipes will be included in this Instructable:

  • Turtle Rice Pudding (Step 1)
  • Orange-Mango Angel Food Cake (Step 6)
  • Lemon Berry Parfait (Step 10)

Step 1: Turtle Rice Pudding

This easy recipe featuring the classic combo of chewy caramel, buttery pecans, and delicious chocolate, makes a tasty dessert perfect for backpacking. Requiring little more than a run to the store, this recipe is ideal for backpackers looking to whip up something sweet to enjoy on the trail without having to go through all the effort that most backpacking recipes require. Best of all, this dessert doesn’t require a dehydrator! While this dessert can leave a little something to be desired in its aesthetic appeal, it reminds us that looks can be deceiving!

Step 2: Turtle Rice Pudding: at Home

To prepare this recipe for long hard days on the road start by assembling your ingredients, all of which can be purchased at your local grocer (with the potential exception powdered milk. You can get that walmart or target if need be).


  • 1/3 Cup Instant Rice
  • 1/2 Tsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Pecans
  • 1 Tbs Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • 5 Caramel Cubes
  • 14 Marshmallows
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • 1 Tbs Powdered Milk
  • Cornstarch (optional, not pictured)

Start by combining the instant rice, cocoa powder, powdered milk, and powdered sugar in a plastic bag. Then layer the marshmallows, pecans, and chocolate chips* into a separate bag. In the next step, we will see why it is important to put the marshmallows on the bottom! If you have space with your marshmallows, pecans, and chocolate chips, cut the caramels in half, dust them with a little cornstarch to keep them from sticking, and add them in with the other toppings. Otherwise, add the whole caramels into the bag with the rice. Once everything is packaged up, add the toppings bag in with the rice and wait with sweet anticipation to eat it on the trail!

*Lessons learned from the trail: make sure to mix up the pecans and the chocolate chips. On a hot day the chocolate will start to melt together. By mixing the chocolate and the pecans you will make it easier to break up if it has stuck together!

Step 3: Turtle Rice Pudding: on the Trail

To assemble this tasty ensemble on the trail: start by bringing 1/2 cup (4 oz) of water to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, add the rice mixture (setting aside any caramels that may have been added) to the water and let simmer for roughly 3 minutes (long enough that most of the water has been absorbed by the rice). If you did not mix the caramels in with the other toppings, this is the time to cut the caramels in half (this is an optional step, however doing so will help the caramel be more evenly distributed in the final product. Heck, if you’re feeling over-zealous, you could even quarter the caramels!). Once the majority of water has been soaked up, turtle-ify the rice by adding in caramel, pecans, chocolate chips. When pouring the toppings into rice try to let as few marshmallows out bag possible, they shouldn't be added until the end otherwise they will melt. After lightly stirring, take the pot off the heat, replace lid, and wait for 5 minutes. This period is essential as it gives the caramel and chocolate chips a chance melt in the rice. As soon as you’ve waited as long you can, stir the pudding one more time, and garnish with marshmallows. Serve and Enjoy!

Step 4: Turtle Rice Pudding: Variations

If you want to mix it up and modify the recipe to better fit your own taste, here are some suggestions:

If you enjoy dark chocolate, try adding in another 1/2 tsp cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips.

If you do have a dehydrator, try dehydrating the marshmallows to give them a really satisfying crunch! Marshmallows can be dehydrated at any heat, just throw them in with anything else you might be dehydrating. I dehydrated my marshmallows with a batch of berries, dehydrating them for 10 hours at 135° F. I actually prefer this recipe with dehydrated marshmallows as they add a whole new dimension to the texture of the dessert.

Step 5: Tip: Useful Conversions

On the trail one rarely brings measuring cups and spoons, making it difficult to measure out quantities for recipes. Luckily many cups and bowls are marked with measurements to give you a hand. Backpacking cups are usually measured in ounces, but it's easy to go from ounces to cup or tablespoons!

  • 1 cup = 8 oz
  • 1 oz = 2 Tbs
  • 1 Tbs = 3 tsp

With that, you should be able to make easy conversions on the trail!

Step 6: Orange Mango Angel Food Cake

This unique twist on a classic recipe brings a light, bright, and attractive dessert to your backpacking recipe book. Although it requires a fair amount of work at home, the work on the trail is pretty similar to that required for the turtle rice pudding.

I have fond memories of Christmas' where I would reach into my stocking and pull out a Chocolate Orange. There was something intriguing about this unlikely combination, and recently I've been finding myself trying to reproduce it in some of my own cooking. This recipe is the result after numerous trials of experimentation.

This dessert, a layering or oranges and mangoes, dried angel food cake, and chocolate sauce, results in a complex blend of flavors and textures; vibrant, chewy fruit combines well with the subtle but crunchy angel food cake. However as you dig around this dessert you will find pockets of bright flavor where the cake has absorbed the sweet fruit juices. Topped with a chocolate orange sauce, eating this dessert is an adventure in itself.

Before we get started, I have to give some credit to Instructables user Paige Russell for giving me inspiration with her Instructable on making citrus powders:

Step 7: Orange-Mango Angel Food Cake: at Home


  • Angel Food Cake*
  • 3 Oranges
  • 2 Mangoes
  • 1/3 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 heaping Tbs Orange Powder (See the previously referenced Instructable for details!)
  • 1 large pinch Salt

These ingredients will make about 3-4 servings.

*Note: because I was in a time crunch, I used store bought angel food cake, but I would totally recommend making it yourself!

Start by preparing the fruit for dehydration. After slicing of the oranges, trim off as much of the pith as you can as this has an unpleasant taste and strange texture when reconstituted. While you don't need to get every bit of pith, try to get the bulk of it. Next, peel the mango with a vegetable peeler, dice the fruit, and place on your dehydrator tray. Finish by slicing up your angel food cake into 1/2" slices and place them on a tray to dehydrate with the fruit. Run the dehydrator at 135° F for 10 hours or until you can break open an orange slice and not find any moisture.

You'll find that the dehydrated angel food cake doesn't shrink much, but it gets very crunchy. If you live in a humid environment, make sure to get the angel food cake into a plastic bag soon after it is finished dehydrating, as it easily soaks up the moisture in the air! In fact, while it isn't necessary, if you have a Foodsaver or some other vacuum sealing device, I'd recommend using it for the angel food cake. Plastic bags work fine; a freezer style bag will help keep it as airtight as possible.

Recipe for a single serving:

  • 2/3 cup Dried Angel Food Cake
  • 1/4 cup Dried Mango
  • 1/4 cup Dried Orange
  • 3 Tbs Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Cocoa Powder
  • 1Tsp Orange Powder
  • 1 small pinch Salt

While the dehydrator is running, you can put together the chocolate sauce by mixing the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and orange powder.

Finally, combine the powders and fruits into separate baggies, and add them to the bag with the angel food cake.

Step 8: Orange-Mango Angel Food Cake: on the Trail

Reconstitute the fruit with water equal to half of the volume of the fruit over medium heat for about 5 minutes (A single serving calls for 1/2 cup of fruit, so you would use 1/4 cup (2 oz) of water to reconstitute it). No need to reduce the juice to a thicker sauce, you want it to be easily soaked up by the angel food cake! While the fruit is reconstituting, slowly add water (I mean slow! We are talking a teaspoon at a time.) to the chocolate sauce until it reaches the desired consistency. You won't need much more than a tablespoon the sauce!

Once the fruit is ready to go, spoon the fruit and juice into the bottom of your bowl. Place the angel food cake on top, but don't stir! Rather, pat it down and let the stuff on the bottom soak up those delicious juices. Spoon a little more fruit on top, and drizzle with chocolate sauce. This tasty and interesting treat is perfect if you are looking to bring something new to the backpacking table.

Step 9: Orange-Mango Angel Food Cake: Variations

For those of you not interested in the orange chocolate this recipe can be easily modified to feature the classic strawberry angel food cake dessert. Just switch the fruit to strawberries and remove the orange powder! Simple, isn't it?

Like before, you can give it a dark chocolate sauce by adding another 1/2 Tbs cocoa powder to the sauce mix.

Step 10: Lemon Berry Parfait

There is nothing like a nice cool refreshing dessert after a long day on the trail. Unfortunately, backpacking doesn't lend itself well to whipping a nice cold glass of milk out of the fridge after making camp. This is where the Lemon Berry Parfait comes in: chilled lemon yogurt, packed with blueberries, strawberries and crunchy granola, brings dairy back to the backpacking scene. In order to get the most out of this dessert make it at a campsite where there is a lake or river nearby, as this will come in handy for achieving the "fresh out of the fridge" effect!

Out of all of the recipes, this is my personal favorite. Not only is it delicious, but it has an extra "Wow!" factor that can really impress your backpacking friends.

Step 11: Lemon Berry Parfait: at Home

This recipe doesn't require too much prep at home, just a run or two in the dehydrator!


  • 2 cups Lemon Yogurt (about 3 small yogurt cups)
  • 1 lb Quartered Strawberries
  • 1 12 oz package Frozen Blueberries
  • 1/2 cup Granola

The recipe above makes 4 small parfaits, just enough to top off a day of hiking.

To dehydrate the yogurt, spread a thin layer over parchment paper or fruit leather sheets (The Excalibur Paraflexx sheets works great!) and dehydrate at 115-125° F for 8 hours or until crisp. (If it turns out like a leather it should still work fine. It might have been layered a little too thick!) In order to get the dehydrated yogurt to reconstitute well, you'll want break dried into as small of pieces possible. Refrigerating the dried yogurt makes it more brittle, allowing the piece to break more easily.

Because the yogurt won't take much more than a few trays in your dehydrator, feel free the throw the berries in at the same time to give them a head start dehydrating. Once you take out the yogurt, if the berries aren't done yet, raise the temperature to 135 and let sit for a few more hours until they are crunchy.

Recipe for a single serving:

  • 1/4 cup Dried Yogurt
  • 1 1/2Tbs Dried Blueberries
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Dried Strawberries
  • 2 Tbs Granola

To prepare these for the road, package the berries in a small plastic bag, and include in a larger baggie with yogurt. I prefer to take the granola along separately as it is a great snack while on the road! Just make sure to leave some for the parfaits!

Important: Make sure to use fairly hefty baggies for the yogurt. The small prices of dehydrated yogurt can be sharp and poke holes in cheap bags!

Step 12: Tip: Frozen Blueberries Work the Best!

Due to their thick hulls, blueberries are notorious for taking a long time to dehydrate. To find out the best way dehydrate blueberries I decided to try 3 different kinds of blueberries: pricked, blanched, and frozen. Pricking the blueberries resulted in the dried fruit having strange flaky shells around them. Blanching proved be a fair amount work and resulted in very goopy berries (I may have blanched them too long. Oops!). In the end, frozen blueberries were most convenient and reliable option!

Step 13: Lemon Berry Parfait: on the Trail

To reconstitute the yogurt, add warm water (no need to boil!) equal to the amount of dried yogurt you have, plus a tablespoon or so (for example, if I have 1/4 cup yogurt, I would add a little less than 1/3 cup water). You don't have to be precise. If you find that it's too thick, add more water. Be careful to not add the water too quickly though or you'll end up with soupy yogurt! As long as your bag doesn't have any holes in it, it's easiest to reconstitute the yogurt in the plastic bag it came in.

Even with warm water, the yogurt will take while to reconstitute. The more you grind up the pieces at home, the easier it will reconstitute later (you can use a spice grinder to bring the dried yogurt to a powder).

Beware: Yogurt looks pretty gross while you are reconstituting it! Have faith and give it some time!

Step 14: Lemon Berry Parfait: Is Your Refrigerator Running?

This is where the fun begins! As I said before, for the parfaits to reach their highest potential, they must be served cold. Backpacking in the Sierra Mountains, where we had easy access to frigid mountain lakes. These lakes make for perfect refrigerators, though any river should work just as well! As long as the water is cold when you stick your toes in, it should work just fine for chilling the yogurt.

To take these parfaits to the next level, place the bag of reconstituted yogurt in one of your extra water bottles and fill with water (hopefully you brought two!). This is where it's important not to have hole's in your bags! Unfortunately, one of ours did and we ended up with really gross watery yogurt that wasn't really worth eating. Luckily the others fared well!

To make sure our yogurt was cold by the time dessert rolled around, we whipped it up and stuck in the the lake before we started making dinner.

Step 15: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Nature-Made Refrigerator

East Lake, King's Canyon National Park

Step 16: Lemon Berry Parfait: on the Trail Part 2

Dinner is finished, and it's time to start preparing the berries!

Over medium heat, simmer equal amounts of berries and water (for a single serving, that would be 1 1/2 oz (3 Tbs) of water). Again, the amount of water you add doesn't need to be precise; you'll end up reducing the water anyway.

After about 5 minutes, once the berries look soft, but not too squishy, spoon out the berries. The juice that is left is still a little too thin for the parfaits, so simmer for a few minutes until it reduces to a thicker sauce. Add the sauce to the berries and let cool.

Step 17: Lemon Berry Parfait: Present and Enjoy!

Half the fun of this recipe is that it is not only delicious, but with a little extra effort it can look beautiful too!

To assemble this scrumptious dessert, I started with yogurt and layered with berries, more yogurt, and some granola. With one last dollop of berries on top, the dessert was ready to serve. In this step, you can put your creativity to work and make this dessert into a work of art. Dig in and enjoy this truly unique backpacking delight.

Step 18: Lemon Berry Parfaits: Variations

One of my favorite things about this dessert is that it also makes for a great breakfast that you can prepare the night before. After cooking up the berries throw them back in a baggie and toss them in with the yogurt to sit in the "fridge" over night! In the morning, fish your water bottle out of the pond, and have a quick, tasty start to your day! As always, be wary of leaving food out overnight, even if in an airtight nalgene, as you don't want to be attracting unwanted visitors.

Because of the variety of yogurt flavors, you can use this recipe as a template for all kinds of creative concoctions. Why not make a strawberry-kiwi parfait? Or how about apple pie? With a little ingenuity you could create a plethora of tasty desserts using this recipe as a base.

Remember that chilling the yogurt isn't absolutely necessary for this dessert! Should you be camping where water is sparse, you can get away with just letting the yogurt cool. It's not quite the same but it will work nonetheless.

Step 19: That's All Folks!

Next backpacking trip, wow your friends and family by whipping out one of these fantastic gourmet desserts! There is nothing like being able to perk people up after a few days on the trail with a totally unexpected dessert.

I'd like to extend a thank you to Instructables for starting the contests that motivated me to get my ideas out there. I've been wanting to make an Instructable for ages and this was the perfect opportunity.

More importantly, however, I'd like to give a special thanks to two of my siblings: to my brother for organizing our trip at the perfect time, and to my sister for lending me her camera! And of course, to both of them for being my guinea pigs!

If you liked this Instructable, please give it a vote! If you have any great ideas for other desserts, share them in the comments; I always love getting new ideas!

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