10 best easy dinner recipes for van life

Are you a van life enthusiast looking for easy and delicious dinner recipes? Look no further! In this article, we have curated the 10 best easy dinner recipes specifically designed for those on the go in their cozy vans.

Meal preparation can often be a challenge when living life on the road, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor and variety. From quick one-pot wonders to simple and satisfying dishes, these recipes are not only tasty but also convenient for van dwellers.

Whether you’re a vegan, a meat lover, or somewhere in between, we’ve got you covered. Our selection includes a range of flavorful options to suit all dietary preferences. Plus, many of these recipes can be prepared with limited cooking equipment, making them perfect for small kitchen spaces.

So, grab your ingredients, fire up your portable stove, and get ready to treat your taste buds to these mouthwatering dinner ideas. Whether you’re parked by the beach or nestled in the mountains, these easy recipes will help you create memorable meals during your van life adventures.

Benefits of Easy Dinner Recipes for Van Life

Living in a van comes with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to mealtime. However, with easy dinner recipes designed for van life, you can enjoy several benefits:

  1. Time savings: Van life is all about exploring and enjoying the outdoors. Easy dinner recipes allow you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing what you love.
  2. Convenience: Limited kitchen space and equipment are common in vans. Easy recipes often require minimal cooking equipment, making them a perfect fit for van dwellers.
  3. Cost-effective: Cooking your own meals is generally more cost-effective than eating out. With easy dinner recipes, you can save money and still enjoy delicious and satisfying meals.
  4. Nutritional balance: Van life can sometimes lead to unhealthy eating habits. Easy dinner recipes ensure you have access to nutritious meals that keep you energized and feeling your best.
  5. Variety: With a curated list of easy dinner recipes, you can enjoy a variety of flavors and cuisines during your van life journey.

Essential Kitchen Tools for Cooking in a Van

When it comes to cooking in a van, having the right kitchen tools can make a world of difference. Here are some essential tools to consider:

  1. Portable stove: Invest in a reliable portable stove that is compact and easy to use. Look for models that run on propane or butane for convenience.
  2. Cookware: Opt for lightweight and space-saving cookware, such as nesting pots and pans. Non-stick surfaces are ideal for easy cleaning.
  3. Cutting board and knives: Choose a small cutting board that fits comfortably in your van’s kitchen space. Invest in a quality set of knives for efficient meal preparation.
  4. Collapsible kitchenware: To maximize space, consider using collapsible kitchenware, such as collapsible bowls, measuring cups, and utensils.
  5. Cooler or fridge: Depending on your van setup, a cooler or portable fridge can help you store perishable ingredients and keep your food fresh.

Using these essential kitchen tools, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any of the easy dinner recipes for van life.

Tips for Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping in a Van

Meal planning and grocery shopping can be a bit different when living in a van. Here are some tips to make the process easier:

  1. Plan ahead: Plan your meals for the week in advance. Consider the ingredients you already have and make a grocery list for the items you need.
  2. Focus on staple ingredients: Stock up on versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes, such as rice, pasta, canned beans, and spices.
  3. Shop at local markets: Support local farmers’ markets and grocery stores along your van life journey. Not only will you find fresh produce, but you’ll also get a taste of the local flavors.
  4. Consider shelf-stable options: Opt for shelf-stable ingredients like dried fruits, nuts, and canned goods. These items have a longer shelf life and can be easily stored in your van.
  5. Utilize storage space efficiently: Organize your pantry and fridge space to make the most of the limited storage available. Use labeled containers or bins to keep everything easily accessible.

By incorporating these tips into your meal planning and grocery shopping routine, you’ll be able to enjoy easy dinner recipes without the stress of last-minute ingredient searches.

Recipe 1: One-Pot Pasta with Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until fragrant.
  2. Add zucchini, red bell pepper, and cherry tomatoes to the pot. Cook for a few minutes until vegetables are slightly softened.
  3. Add pasta, vegetable broth, dried basil, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked al dente.
  4. Serve the one-pot pasta with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

This one-pot pasta with vegetables is a quick and flavorful meal that requires minimal cleanup, making it perfect for van life.

Recipe 2: Sheet Pan Chicken and Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 pound baby potatoes, halved
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss chicken breasts, baby potatoes, broccoli florets, and red onion with olive oil, dried Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  3. Spread the chicken and vegetables evenly on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
  5. Serve the sheet pan chicken and vegetables hot from the oven. Enjoy!

This sheet pan chicken and vegetables recipe is simple to prepare and requires minimal effort, making it an ideal choice for van life.

Recipe 3: Campfire Quesadillas

Ingredients:

  • 4 large tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a mix)
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chicken or black beans (optional)
  • Salsa, guacamole, or sour cream for serving

Instructions:

  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet or grill over a campfire or portable stove.
  2. Place a tortilla on the skillet and sprinkle half of the tortilla with shredded cheese.
  3. Add bell pepper, red onion, and cooked chicken or black beans on top of the cheese.
  4. Fold the tortilla over to create a half-moon shape. Press down gently with a spatula.
  5. Cook for a few minutes on each side until the tortilla is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
  6. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and fillings.
  7. Serve the campfire quesadillas with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream. Enjoy!

These campfire quesadillas are perfect for a cozy evening by the campfire, adding a touch of flavor and excitement to your van life experience.

Recipe 4: Mason Jar Salads

Ingredients:

  • Your choice of salad greens (spinach, mixed greens, or lettuce)
  • Assorted vegetables (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc.)
  • Protein of your choice (grilled chicken, tofu, chickpeas, etc.)
  • Salad dressing of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Start by layering the ingredients in a mason jar. Begin with the salad dressing at the bottom.
  2. Add the protein of your choice on top of the dressing.
  3. Layer the vegetables on top, ensuring they are tightly packed.
  4. Finish with the salad greens on the very top.
  5. Seal the mason jar tightly and store in the fridge.
  6. When ready to eat, simply shake the jar to distribute the dressing and enjoy your fresh and convenient mason jar salad.

Mason jar salads are a great option for van life as they can be prepared in advance and easily transported. Just grab and go!

Recipe 5: Slow Cooker Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions

Instructions:

  1. In a skillet, cook ground beef or turkey over medium heat until browned. Drain any excess fat.
  2. Transfer the cooked meat to a slow cooker. Add diced onions, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.
  4. Serve the slow cooker chili hot with your choice of toppings. Enjoy!

This slow cooker chili is a hearty and comforting meal that requires minimal effort. Let the slow cooker do the work while you explore the great outdoors.

6. One-Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken and Veggies:

  • Ingredients:
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 lemon, sliced
    • 1 bell pepper, sliced
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Instructions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
    2. Toss chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder.
    3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in a baking dish.
    4. Top with lemon slices, bell pepper, and onion.
    5. Pour in chicken broth.
    6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

7. Creamy Tomato Pasta with Sausage:

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed and browned
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 8 ounces pasta (penne, farfalle, etc.)
  • Instructions:
    1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
    2. Add sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up with a spoon.
    3. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
    4. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
    5. Stir in crushed tomatoes, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and basil.
    6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    7. Simmer for 10 minutes.
    8. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
    9. Drain pasta and toss with the tomato sauce.
    10. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

8. Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle Cream:

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/2 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato
    • 1/4 cup corn kernels
    • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
    • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Hamburger buns
    • Chipotle mayo or sour cream (optional)
    • Lettuce, tomato, and avocado (optional)
  • Instructions:
    1. Mash black beans in a bowl.
    2. Add sweet potato, corn, onion, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper.
    3. Mix well to combine.
    4. Form mixture into 4 patties.
    5. Heat a lightly oiled pan or grill over medium heat.
    6. Cook burgers for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and heated through.
    7. Assemble burgers on buns with chipotle mayo or sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and avocado, if desired.

9. Sheet Pan Fajitas:

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or steak, sliced thin
    • 1 bell pepper, sliced
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Tortillas
    • Fajita toppings (shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc.)
  • Instructions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
    2. Toss chicken or steak with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper.
    3. Spread chicken and vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer.
    4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.
    5. Serve with tortillas and desired fajita toppings.

10. Tuna Avocado Salad Wraps:

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cans tuna, drained and flaked
    • 1 ripe avocado, mashed
    • 1/4 cup chopped celery
    • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Tortillas or lettuce wraps
  • Instructions:
    1. Combine tuna, avocado, celery, onion, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
    2. Mix well to combine.
    3. Fill tortillas or lettuce wraps with tuna salad mixture.
    4. Serve with your favorite salad or fruit on the side.

These recipes are all quick, easy, and require minimal cleanup, making them perfect for van life cooking. Feel free to customize them with your favorite ingredients and seasonings to make them your own!

Conclusion

Living the van life doesn’t mean you have to compromise on delicious and satisfying meals. With these 10 easy dinner recipes, you can enjoy a variety of flavors and cuisines while on the road. From one-pot wonders to sheet pan meals, campfire favorites to make-ahead salads, these recipes are designed to be convenient, tasty, and perfect for van dwellers.

Remember to stock up on essential kitchen tools, plan your meals in advance, and make the most of local markets along your van life journey. With a little preparation and creativity, you can create memorable meals that nourish both your body and soul during your van life adventures. So, fire up your portable stove, gather your ingredients, and embark on a culinary journey that will make your van life experience even more extraordinary.