Peanut butter is considered one of the best backpacking foods because it is calorie-dense and high-protein. While some backpackers might be fine eating peanut butter straight out of the jar for their entire hike, I prefer a bit more diversity in my hiking food. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do with peanut butter and nut butters – including savory backpacking dinners as well as sweet snacks with PNB.
Below are backpacking recipes ideas with peanut butter and other nut butters, plus what you need to know about PNB shelf life on the trail and how to pack it.
Also check out:
- 27 Backpacking Tortilla Ideas
- How much food to bring backpacking? (calculator)
- Backpacking food nutrition 101
- Best backpacking supermarket foods
- DIY freeze-dried backpacking meals from bulk ingredients
How Long Does Peanut Butter Last Backpacking?
Peanut butter doesn’t go bad in the sense that it will grow bacteria and become unsafe to eat. However, the fats in peanut butter will eventually start to go rancid. While still safe to eat, rancid peanut butter doesn’t taste great. In hot weather, peanut butter can go rancid in just a few weeks (which may be a problem if you are sending PNB by mail drops). In cooler temperatures, peanut butter can last for well over a year so it should be fine to take even on long backpacking trips.
How to Bring Peanut Butter Backpacking
Jars of peanut butter are heavy and bulky, so not ideal for backpacking. You can buy single-serving packets of peanut butter to bring on backpacking trips. However, these create a lot of plastic waste. It can also be difficult to get every last bit of PNB from the tiny container. Instead, consider buying peanut butter in pouches (peanut butter tubes) for backpacking. You can also repackage PNB from the jar into a plastic baggie. You might want to double bag it though in case it gets punctured as you won’t want that mess all over your pack.
Warning: PNB and Wild Animals
Peanut butter is one of the smelliest foods you can bring hiking and animals love it. Make sure you hang your food in a bear bag or keep it in a bear-proof canister. Do this even if you aren’t in bear country: you wouldn’t want to cut your hiking trip short because chipmunks ate all your food! Read how to hang a bear bag and which is better: bear bear canister vs Ursack.
Peanut Butter and Nut Butter Backpacking Recipe Ideas
There are a lot of backpacking recipes you can make with peanut butter. You’ll have even more options you upgrade from PNB to a different type of nut butter. My personal favorite is cashew butter. It has a more neutral flavor so is great in pasta sauces and as a base for spreads. Below are some recipes ideas with PNB and nut butters.
Want to take your backpacking meals up a notch? Check out my dehydrator recipes book. It includes over 50 calorie-dense, healthy recipes for backpacking plus tons of info on meal planning.
Dinner and Savory Ideas
1. Thai Peanut Butter Noodles
This works great with ramen. The easy method is to just add some peanut butter to the ramen after cooking. For a really gourmet version, also add:
- Dried peppers and scallions (rehydrate with the noodles)
- Hot sauce, sriracha or chili paste
- Powdered ginger
- Soy sauce
- Sesame seeds
2. Cashew Alfredo
This works great with spaghetti, freeze-dried peas and freeze-dried protein (meat or TVP). To prepare on the trail:
- Cook/rehydrate your main dish.
- Make sure there is a little bit of water remaining in the pot.
- Add a teaspoon of powdered milk
- Add seasonings (nutritional yeast, Italian spice mix, garlic powder…)
- Add 1 Tbsp of cashew butter, mix and enjoy.
3. Creamy Cashew Tomato Sauce
This is my family’s favorite recipe (and in my recipe book). I usually make this at home and then dehydrate it. On the trail, I just add hot water and it rehydrates back into sauce. To make it on the trail, you just add a heaping spoon of cashew butter to any pasta with marinara sauce. It’s an amazing combination. My picky eater daughter even licks the bowl on this one.
4. Spinach Cashew Sauce
I also do this one at home on my dehydrator. You could also make it with dried green powder. To make it on the trail:
- Cook your pasta and make sure there is a bit of water remaining
- Add some of the dried greens powder to the powder. Wait a couple minutes for the powder to rehydrate.
- Add a spoonful of cashew butter to the pasta and stir. Optionally, jazz it up with lots of seasonings.
5. Cashew Butter Gravy
To make on the trail, prepare a package of your favorite instant gravy from the supermarket. Then add a spoonful of cashew butter. I like this over instant mashed potatoes but it works anywhere you’d use gravy.
6. Chickpeas with Almond Butter Sauce
I dehydrate chickpeas at home. On the trail, cold-soak them or cook them to rehydrate. It only takes a few minutes. Then add a spoonful of almond butter. A spice mix of turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, onion and garlic powder really takes the meal up a notch.
7. Foraged Almond Butter Pesto
On spring backpacking trips, I can often find wild garlic. I’ll cut this up and mix it with almond butter. It’s delicious served on crackers or over pasta. You can also make pesto with other foraged greens like nettles, but those will have to be cooked first.
8. Peanut Butter Tomato Soup
This is a surprisingly good combination. Just add a bit of peanut butter to any instant tomato soup that you can buy in the supermarket. It adds calories and the fat from the PNB makes it much more satisfying to eat.
9. Peanut Butter Chili
Chili is one of the most popular backpacking meals you can buy. Jazz it up a bit (and boost the protein content) by adding a heaping spoonful of peanut butter to it after it has cooked. Wait a few minutes for the peanut butter to dissolve and enjoy.
10. Mole Sauce
I personally don’t like mole sauce very much but a lot of people love it over beans or meat with tortillas. To make mole sauce for backpacking:
- At home, mix together the spice mix (1/2 Tbsp. chili powder, ¼ tsp. cumin, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. garlic powder, ¼ Tbsp. cocoa powder, 1 Tbsp. of raisins, and a dash of cinnamon, clove and black pepper)
- On the trail: Mix the spice mix with some water. Add 1-2 Tbsp. of peanut butter.
- Serve over beans, rehydrated meat, or other protein. The spice mix is enough for 2 generous servings.
11. Coconut Peanut Butter Curry
This works well with freeze dried chicken. I make a version of it with tofu. To make:
- At home, mix together the spice mix (6 Tbsp. of coconut milk powder, ½ Tbsp. brown sugar, ¼ tsp. powdered garlic, ½ tsp. cum, ½ tsp. curry powder plus hot pepper and salt to taste)
- On the trail: add about 1/3 to ½ cup of water to the spice mix. Then mix in 4 Tbsp. of peanut butter. Serve as a sauce over your main meal.
12. West African Peanut Butter Stew
This is one of my favorite comfort foods. For backpacking, I’d recommend making it at home with less water and then dehydrating it (use this recipe). Without a dehydrator, you’ll need to mix up the spice mix with some dried tomato powder. On the trail, you will first cook up some instant sweet potato flakes. In a separate bowl, you add water and peanut butter to the spice mix then serve this over the sweet potato.
Backpacking Peanut Butter and Jelly Ideas
13. Classic PB&J
To make peanut butter and jelly when backpacking, you’ll need hearty bread which won’t crumble too much in your pack. You can bring jelly in single-serving packets or repackage it (which is less wasteful). If you want to lighten your load for a longer trip, you can dehydrate jelly and jam. Another option is to buy freeze-dried fruit powder and mix it with a bit of water to create a sugar-free jam. Or, if you are lucky, you can just forage some wild berries and mash them into a delicious jam.
14. PB & Fritos Sandwich
Fritos are one of the most calorie-dense foods you can bring backpacking (albeit not the healthiest). My dad just mixes them straight into the jar of PNB and eats it with a spoon. They are also good as a replacement to jelly as they add a nice crunchiness and saltiness to your sandwich.
15. PNB and Pretzels Sandwich
Another good way to add crunch and texture to your PNB sandwich is to add pretzels. While you are at it, go ahead and add whatever else is in your trail mix bag. You can’t go too wrong!
16. PNB and Toasted Coconut Sandwich
Toasted coconut is a good calorie-dense food for backpacking. It adds a really satisfying crunchiness to peanut butter sandwiches, with or without jelly.
17. PNB and Sriracha Sandwich
My broke best friend used to eat this throughout college. It’s way more exciting than just eating bread and peanut butter.
18. Scone PB&J
Mix together some peanut butter and jelly. Instead of jelly, you can also use foraged berries or dried fruit powder. Then dip a scone into this and enjoy.
19. PNB and Candied Ginger Sandwich
This is insanely good and will definitely cure you of your boredom of eating just PB&J sandwiches!
Breakfast, Snacks and Dessert Ideas
20. No-Bake 4-Ingredient Cornflake Bars
I’m not allowed to make these at home too often because they are too good and my family will eat the entire platter in one sitting. For backpacking, they are particularly good for breakfast or a snack.
- Put 1 cup of honey with 1 cup of peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave until it softens and is easy to mix.
- Next, smash 3 cups of cornflakes. Mix the smashed cornflakes into the PNB and honey mixture.
- Press the mixture into a tray. It should be about 1 inch thick when pressed down.
- In a double boiler, melt some dark chocolate. Pour it over the cornflake mixture. Then put it all in the fridge to cool.
- Cut into bars and put in baggies to eat on the trail.
21. Coconut PNB Dipping Spread
Just mix together some PNB with coconut flour or coconut flakes. You can eat it straight up. It’s also great to dip pretzels into or use as a spread.
22. Breakfast of Champions
This combo has peanut butter, raisons, Grape Nut cereal, and honey all on a tortilla. You can definitely mix up the combo to your liking.
23. Marshmallow and PNB Tortilla Dessert
Spread peanut butter on a tortilla then add roasted marshmallow and roll up. It’s an insanely good backpacking dessert.
24. Backpacking Breakfast Shake with PNB
To make this, make a packet of instant breakfast shake (chocolate shakes like the one by Carnation work best for this) according to the instructions. Then mix in a few spoonfuls of peanut butter.
25. Peanut Butter Energy Balls and Bars
It’s very easy to make your own energy bars with peanut butter. There are zillions of different options which include ingredients like dried fruit, nuts, seeds superfood powder, protein powder and other exciting add-ins.
26. Peanut Butter Coffee
To make on the trail:
- Put 1 cup of water in your pot and heat
- Add enough coffee for one cup plus 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter, 1 Tbsp. of milk powder and (optional) 1 tsp. of cocoa powder or nutella.
- Stir until thoroughly mixed and enjoy. It tastes good cold too.
What other peanut butter backpacking recipe ideas can you come up with? Let us know in the comments section below!
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“hiking noodles” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by bec.w,
“_MG_3050.jpg” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by oskarlin,
“Chicken in pumpkin seed and raisin mole” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by Neven Mrgan,
“PB&J” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Artform Canada,
“Breakfast of Champions: peanut butter, r” (CC BY 2.0) by OakleyOriginals,
“Fluffernutterdilla” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by osiristhe,
“peanut butter – the perfect hiking food” (CC BY 2.0) by Rick McCharles,
“Dates and Peanut Butter energy balls in” (CC BY 2.0) by wuestenigel,
“Jelly & Peanut Butter” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by zenhikrbobo