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Van Life Recipes: Mastering the Simple Art of Cooking in a Van

Van Life Recipes: Mastering the Simple Art of Cooking in a Van

When you hear “fuel” you probably think of sky-high gas prices—but your van isn’t the only thing that needs to be fueled properly!

It’s no secret that cooking in confined spaces can be…a challenge. While it might seem daunting at first, cooking in a van can actually be an enjoyable, fulfilling (and filling) experience. 

These van life cooking ideas are not only easy to prepare, they’re also versatile and able to be bursting with flavor. So whether you’re a culinary novice or a seasoned chef, these van life recipes and tips will help you whip up delicious meals on the road and energize yourself properly.

Simplify Your Kitchen Setup

Before diving into the recipes, you might want to take a look at your kitchen setup. Opting for space efficiency and versatility with multi-purpose tools, compact appliances, and minimal cookware can help keep your van kitchen organized and an inspiring place to cook.

Maximize Space, Minimize Hassle

  • Essentials: Portable or collapsible appliances, a small fridge, and basic utensils.
  • Multitaskers: Go for multi-purpose tools and compact appliances.
  • Smart Storage: Magnetic spice racks and collapsible bowls can be real space savers.

Easy and Nutritious Van Life Recipes

1. One-Pot Pasta

pan of cooked one pot pasta with red sauce on marble background

Photo + Recipe Source: From My Bowl


  • Pasta of your choice
  • A can of diced tomatoes or tomato paste
  • Garlic, onion, and other seasonings to taste
  • Optional: Veggies, meat, or cheese (the last one is highly recommended!)

How to Make:

  1. Lay the dry pasta at the bottom of a pot.
  2. Add just enough water to cook the pasta fully, aiming to have no excess liquid.
  3. Stir in the tomato sauce and additional ingredients.
  4. Boil, then simmer until pasta is al-dente.
  5. Serve and savor!

Why We Love It: It's a water-saving, single-pot wonder, easily customizable to your tastes.

2. Veggie-Packed Stir-Fry

woman cooking stir fry on electric stove


    • A medley of your favorite veggies
    • Cooking oil
    • Soy sauce, ginger, and garlic for flavor
    • Rice or noodles for serving
    • Optional: tofu, chicken, or beef

    How to Make:

    1. Quick and simple: stir-fry your veggies and add your chosen protein.
    2. Serve over rice or noodles.

    Why We Love It: It's a great way to use up veggies and pack in nutrients!

    3. Hearty Chili

    bowl of chili - photo by stephanie monfette on Unsplash


      • Canned beans, tomatoes, and corn
      • Onion, garlic, and chili powder
      • Optional: Ground meat or additional vegetables

      How to Make:

      1. Combine all ingredients in a pot.
      2. Cook until flavors meld into a comforting chili.

      Why We Love It: A comforting bowl of chili is perfect for colder evenings. It’s filling, easy to cook in a single pot, and you can make extra for easy, reheatable meals!

      4. Breakfast Burritos

      breakfast burrito with a side of salsa on a blue plate


        • Eggs
        • Cheese
        • Tortillas
        • Optional fillings: Sautéed vegetables, bacon, or sausage

        How to Make:

        1. Prepare fillings and roll into tortillas.
        2. Store wrapped burritos for an easy, on-the-go breakfast.

        An easy, on-the-go breakfast option! Make a batch, wrap them in foil, store them in the fridge or freezer, and reheat as needed.

        5. Salads

        colorful salad plated on a wooden table


          • Fresh greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber
          • Canned chickpeas or beans for protein
          • A simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper
          • Optional: Cheese (feta!), avocado, croutons, etc.

          How to Make:

          1. Chop up veggies as you like.
          2. Toss all ingredients together and add dressing to taste. 

          Why We Love It: Refreshing and requiring no cooking, salads are perfect for hot days when you don’t feel like firing up the stove.

          Tips for Efficient Van Life Cooking

          • Plan ahead. Meal planning can reduce waste and minimize grocery shopping trips.
          • One-pot wonders. Opt for recipes that require minimal cookware.
          • Prep in advance. Chopping vegetables or marinating proteins beforehand can save time. Batch tasks and pick a day to be your meal prep day for the upcoming week!
          • Get creative and be resourceful. Get creative with leftovers to create new meals.
          • Safety first. Always ensure proper ventilation when cooking inside your van.

          Savor the Flavors of the Road

          Van life cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. With some creativity and planning, you can enjoy varied and delicious meals that keep you fueled for your adventures. Part of the charm of van life recipes really is their simplicity and the joy of cooking in the great outdoors.

          For more tips and van life insights, keep following the Sandy Vans blog. Now go spread your wings and make some delicious meals to keep you fueled for your unforgettable journeys on the open road!

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