Man Food: 5 Homemade Snacks for Hiking

While there’s nothing wrong with the predictable hunger killers – peanuts, pretzels, a piece of fruit — these go-to mini-meals are distinctly uninspired. Our weekly Man Food series will help you fight the scourge of boring snacks.

The flowers are out, the birds are chirping, and the air is warm (but not too warm). Spring may just be the perfect season for hiking. And if you’re planning on getting out and enjoying the great outdoors, you’re going to need some nourishment, which means packing both snacks and water.

“Your food and water needs are generally higher than usual on activity-based excursions,” Jackie Newgent, a registered dietitian, wrote in an article for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dehydration can happen even on low-key day hikes, so in addition to drinking plenty of water before you head out, you’ll want to have at least 2 cups of water for every 1 hour of hiking, Newgent advised.

As far as food, “opt mainly for non-perishable foods that are relatively lightweight and nutrient dense,” Newgent suggested. Old standbys like nuts, energy bars, and trail mix are all good bets. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for yet another handful of GORP (good old raisins and peanuts) when you get hungry while hiking. Here are five more creative recipes for healthy snacks for while enjoying the great outdoors.

1. Hawaiian Fish Jerky

jerky in a bowl

Fish jerky | Source: iStock

Beef and turkey jerky are classic hiking snacks, but why not shake things up and pack some fish jerky instead for your next outdoor adventure? Tuna, snapper, bass, or trout all work in this recipe for from Field & Stream. The fillets are marinated with a mix of soy sauce and pineapple juice for a Hawaiian-flavored treat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fish fillets, such as tuna, snapper, bass, trout, or crappie
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Directions: Cut the fish into ¼-inch-thick strips, 1 inch wide and 3 to 6 inches long. Combine the remaining ingredients in a zip-seal bag and marinate the fish in the refrigerator, for at least six hours, or preferably overnight. Discard the marinade and dry the fish strips well, dabbing them with paper towels to sponge off any excess marinade.

If you own a dehydrator or smoker, use it to dry the fish. Otherwise, lightly oil your oven’s top rack and lay the fish strips on it. Put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack or cover it with aluminum foil to collect any drippings. Set the oven to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. (If your oven doesn’t go this low, set the oven to its minimum temperature and crack the door.)

After two hours, reduce the heat to 130 degrees Fahrenheit or open the door wider. The drying time will vary considerably. When done, the fish jerky will be dry but not brittle, so that the pieces crack but don’t break when bent, with a dark brown glaze. Allow the jerky to cool and keep it refrigerated, in a sealed container, until ready to eat.

2. Parmesan Ranch Snack Mix

freshly popped popcorn

Popcorn|Source: iStock

If you’re looking for a lighter snack for short hikes or camping, this super-simple parmesan ranch snack mix recipe from Averie Cooks is the perfect solution. Freshly popped popcorn is tossed with ranch seasoning, parmesan cheese, pretzels, and nuts for a delicious savory snack that’s ready in less than 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup canola, vegetable, or olive oil
  • 1 (1-ounce) packet ranch dip seasoning mix powder
  • 4 cups popcorn, popped (2 to 3 tablespoons unpopped kernels)
  • 3½ cups pretzels (preferably waffle-style)
  • ½ to 1 cup peanuts, almonds, cashews, or other nuts or mixed nut (optional)
  • 3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional add-ins: Oyster crackers, rye crisps, rice crackers, sunflower seeds, pistachios

Directions: To pop the popcorn, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of popcorn kernels in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top down twice, then microwave for 1½ minutes on high heat.

As the popcorn pops, combine the oil and ranch mix in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the popcorn, pretzels, and nuts. Add any other optional ingredients at this time. Toss to coat.

Microwave mixture on high for 1 minute. Toss the mixture, then heat for 1 minute more. Add the parmesan and toss to coat. Mixture will keep for 3 days in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.

3. Homemade Fig Bars

fig newtons with glass of milk

Fig bars | Source: iStock

Hearty fig bars are a tasty trail snack, but the long list of ingredients in the commercially produced variety turns some people off. Ambitious snackers can try making their own version of this classic cookie. This recipe from Serious Eats takes some time to prepare, but the chewy, fruity results are worth it.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3½ ounces sugar
  • 1 ounce honey or corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 ounce orange juice

For the filling:

  • 12 ounces dried black Mission figs
  • 2 ounces unsweetened applesauce
  • 1½ ounces honey or corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions: To make the cookie dough, sift the flour and set aside. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream together the butter along with the sugar, honey or corn syrup, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, and orange zest on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula, and continue mixing. With the mixer still running, add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Turn the mixer to low and add in the sifted flour all at once. Drizzle in the orange juice. Continue mixing until just combined. Shut off the mixer. The dough will be very soft and wet.

Prepare a large sheet of plastic wrap and use a rubber spatula to transfer the dough from the bowl to the center of the plastic. Fold the plastic over the dough and flatten into a disc. Wrap with remaining plastic and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

To make the filling, combine the figs, applesauce, honey or corn syrup, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula and pulse again to ensure no chunks remain (large chunks of fruit will clog the pastry tip during piping).

Use a rubber spatula to transfer the fig paste to a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain basket weave tip. Alternately, use a heavy-duty zip-top bag with a corner snipped off. Set the filling aside until needed.

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and have a parchment lined cookie sheet ready.

Even after chilling, the dough will be significantly softer than the typical rolled dough. Dust the rolling surface heavily with sifted flour to prevent sticking, and dust the surface of the dough as well. With a pin, roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Frequently lift and move the dough, redusting if needed, to ensure it does not stick. If any places do stick, slide an offset metal spatula between the dough and the counter to loosen and dust the affected area with more flour.

Use a ruler and a pizza cutter to cut the dough into several 3¼-inch wide strips. It is easiest to handle the dough if these strips are no longer than 6 inches. If your strips are particularly long, you may want to cut them into more manageable lengths. If the dough is heavily covered in flour, gently dust it clean with a dry pastry brush.

Pipe a strip of fig filling down the center of each dough strip, about 1-inch wide and about ¼-inch thick (use more or less filling to suit your taste). If necessary, use a dampened finger to pat the filling down into a flat, rectangular strip.

To make the bars, lift one of the long, exposed dough strips up and over filling (use an offset spatula if you have trouble lifting with your fingers). Take a hold of the folded side of the cookie-bar and roll it over the remaining flap of dough. Repeat with remaining cookie bars. The dough will be doubled where the two strips overlap on the bottom; this gives the cookies their bowed shape. You can use your hands to pat the bars down on their long sides to emphasize this shape if you like.

Use a dry pastry brush to dust off any excess flour from the cookies. Transfer the bars to the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the cookies have puffed and lightly browned. They will be just slightly firm to the touch; if they feel puffy or moist, continue baking a few more minutes.

To age and cut the cookies, use a sharp knife to trim each bar into several 1-inch long sections as soon as they are removed from the oven. While the cookies are still warm, transfer them to a plastic container with a lid or large zip-top bag. If you need to stack the cookies, place a piece of parchment between the layers. Seal the container or bag tightly. This step will keep the cookies soft and cake-like. The cookies will keep, at room temperature, for about two weeks.

4. Super Seedy Granola Bars

super seedy granola bars

Granola bars with seeds | Source: iStock

Munching on a granola bar is the perfect way to refuel during a long hike. These crunchy bars are packed with chia, flax, hemp, and sunflower seeds to give you energy, plus healthy rolled oats, nuts, and slightly sweet dates. Recipe from the Minimalist Baker.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw almonds, walnuts, or pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 heaping packed cup dates, pitted (deglet noor or medjool)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds (roasted or raw)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds (ground or whole)
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • ¼ cup agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast oats and almonds for 13 to 15 minutes, until just golden brown in color.

Process dates in a food processor for about 1 minute, until they form small bits. Dates should have a dough-like consistency. (For best results, use dates that are slightly sticky and moist; soak drier dates in hot water for 10 minutes before processing.)

Add the oats, almonds, and dates to a large bowl. Add the seeds and set aside.

Warm the maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar in a small saucepan over low heat. Pour over the oats and nuts and stir to combine, breaking up any large clumps of dates so they’re distributed throughout the mixture.

Line a 8-by-8-inch baking dish or other small pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Press the oat and seed mixture into the pan so that you have an even layer. Cover with another piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, then top with a book or other heavy object (this will make the bars denser and less likely to crumble). Transfer to the refrigerator or the freezer and chill for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove bars from pan. Slice into 10 bars of equal size. Bars will keep in an airtight container for several days.

5. Cheddar Corn Muffins

cheddar muffins

Cheddar muffins | Source: iStock

Savory, cheesy muffins are perfect for a bite-size snack on the trail or a quick breakfast while camping. These mini muffins are topped with a layer of protein-rich cheddar and are ready in just 30 minutes. Recipe from I Am a Food Blog.

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cups flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra to finish
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Position a rack in the top third of the oven. Grease a mini muffin tin.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cheddar, and green onions. Set aside.

Whisk together the oil and the melted butter in another bowl. Add the sugar and mix until combined, then whisk in the egg. Once smooth, add the buttermilk and sour cream. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Don’t overmix.

Pour batter into prepared mini muffin tin. Top with additional shredded cheese. Transfer to oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 8 to 10 more minutes, until cheese is golden brown. Let cool in tin for 10 minutes, then serve.

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