Meals from a Can

Exploring the aisles of the local supermarket, I am always astonished to see the variety of canned and boxed foods that are available nowadays. And since I like a good challenge from time to time, I decided I would try to create meal options for kayakers that all come from a can. Because, like it or not, cans come in very handy for paddlers who plan a multi-day trip in the wilderness. They can add a bit of weight and bulk, but it’s the safest food option after more than a few days of paddling without any corner store in sight. Often, it’s almost the only option available.

Granted, creating an entire meal out of canned goods will never be as delicious and special as something made from fresh ingredients. And almost all vegetables are a big problem because, except for tomatoes and corn, they are usually mushy. But when you are at this stage in your kayak or canoe trip, you’re looking more for a nutritious meal than for gastronomy.

Meals from a can are also interesting when you set camp too late and are very tired from a long day in your boat or when the weather is not cooperative. No question, they are the quickest fix. Even if you plan only a short weekender, it is also a very good idea to carry some canned goods, just in case your fresh supply gets lost or spoiled; it has happened to me, when my husband forgot to hang our supply of fruits, vegetables and cheese high in a tree. We were camping in bear country, so you can imagine that this mistake could have had serious consequences for us if I hadn’t also packed canned goods like mackerel, smoked oysters and camembert cheese…

Important rules to follow

If you want to make sure that your mix and match of cans and dry foods will provide you with sufficient proteins, carbs and calories for a meal without loading you down with bad fats, follow these basic principles.

  1. Add enough protein sources for each portion (4 oz of fish, meat, tofu, 2 oz of cheese, 6 oz of dry beans). Evaporated milk is also a good complementary source of proteins.
  2. Add enough carb sources for each portion (4-8 oz rice, potatoes, canned beans, noodles).
  3. Add at least one to two vegetable sources (tomatoes, mixed canned vegetables, dry vegetables). This is probably the most difficult part of the challenge because most canned veggies are not very appealing. But think "outside the can" by using olives, stewed tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes and hearts of palms, corn, green peas, mushrooms, or a mix of Asian sprouts and vegetables. Canned fruits also provide nutritious alternatives: pineapples, applesauce, oranges, mangoes, cherries, etc.

Here are my suggestions for meals created exclusively from a can, with a little help from a few dry foods.


A soup from a can

The most satisfying camp meal for me is always a steaming bowl of soup. So I created these recipes that would satisfy that hunger even after all the fresh items have been eaten.

Indian lentil soup  (4 portions)

  • One can lentils, drained
  • One can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cubes vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup quick cooking rice
  • 2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp dry parsley
  • 4 tbsp dry mixed vegetables

Put all ingredients in a pot. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is cooked.

Extra chunky chicken noodle soup (4 portions)

  • 2-10 oz cans concentrated chicken noodle soup
  • 20 oz water
  • 1 can white chicken meat, drained
  • 1 can mixed vegetables, drained
  • 2 tbsp dry chives

Put all ingredients in a pot. Cover and cook over medium heat until hot.

Shrimp bisque (4 portions)

  • 2- 10 oz cans cream celery
  • 1- 10 oz can creamed corn
  • 1 small can corn, drained
  • 1 small can evaporated milk reconstituted with half the amount of water
  • 2 small cans Nordic shrimps, drained
  • 6 tbsp dry bell peppers
  • 2 tbsp dry chives

Put all ingredients in a pot. Cover and cook over low heat until hot.

Moroccan stew (2 portions)

  • 1 large can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can chick peas, drained
  • 1 small can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 tsp dry mint
  • 2 tbsp dry parsley
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a pot, except couscous, water and olive oil. Cover and cook until hot. In the meantime, bring water to a boil in another pot. Add olive oil, salt and couscous. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for five minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork. When stew is hot, serve over couscous

Antipasto platter-as-a-meal (4 portions)

White Bean Dip (2 portions)
  • 1 can white beans, drained
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch chili powder
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
The Platter
  • 1 can smoked oysters, drained
  • 1 can mackerel, drained
  • 1 can mushrooms, drained
  • 1 can olives, pitted
  • 1 can asparagus, drained
  • 1 can roasted bell peppers, drained
  • 1 vacuum packed bag Italian croutons
First, prepare the bean dip by crushing the beans with olive oil, herbs and spices. Then, arrange on a large plate all the remaining ingredients, making sure that croutons sit in the centre of the plate. Serve with the white bean dip.
Potato salad from a can (2 portions)

  • 1 large can potatoes, drained and cut into pieces
  • 1 large can tuna in oil, drained
  • 1 can hearts of palms, sliced
  • 1 can stuffed olives, drained and sliced
  • 2 tbsp dry chives
  • 1 tbsp dry parsley
  • 1 tbsp dry paprika
  • 1 small tube mayonnaise
Mix all ingredients together and serve.
Asian salad (2 portions)

  • 1 large can mix of bean sprouts, water chestnuts and hearts of palms, drained
  • 1 small can ham, drained and diced (or chicken)
  • 1 small can clementines, drained
  • 1 small can pineapples, drained
  • 8 tbsp dry roasted peanuts from a can
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp roasted sesame oil
Mix all ingredients together, except the peanuts. Sprinkle peanuts on top of the salad. Serve.

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