Man Food: 6 Recipes for Portable Snacks You Can Put in a Backpack

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.

When you were little, your mom always had snacks stashed in her purse to ward off your hunger-related meltdowns. Now that you’re an adult, you’re not going to throw a tantrum when you don’t get your cookies or juice, but having something on hand to eat is still a good idea, especially if you’re always on the go. Whether you’re a road warrior who’s sick of pricey airport food or a busy dad shuttling kids to and from soccer practice, always having portable snaks will save you time, money, and stress. Each of these six easy-to-make recipes can be stored in small containers or plastic baggies and then tossed in a backpack for a to-go mini meal.

1. Chocolate Granola Bark

granola bark

Granola and chocolate | Source: iStock

Chocolate lovers won’t be able to get enough of this crunchy granola chocolate bark, which requires just two ingredients and 10 minutes to make. Whether you use milk or semisweet chocolate, pick a high-quality brand for best results. For the granola, you can either use store bought or make your own. This recipe from Crazy for Crust yields 5 to 6 cups of bark.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 2 to 4 cups of granola cereal

Directions: Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until the chips are melted and smooth. If the chocolate isn’t melting properly, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil or shortening.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Spread the chocolate on the baking sheet to form a rectangle no larger than 10-by-15 inches. (The smaller the rectangle, the thicker the bark.)

Spread the granola over the chocolate, pressing lightly so it sticks. Chill in the refrigerator until set. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

2. Caramelized Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds in White Bowl

Caramelized spicy pumpkin seeds | Source: iStock

Pumpkin seeds, which are high in fiber, protein, potassium, and magnesium, are the perfect healthy snack. Plus, they’re lightweight and dry, so tossing a Zip-top bag full of them won’t weigh down your pack or cause an accidental mess. This recipe from Allrecipes.com coats the seeds in a mix of sugar, cumin, and ginger for a sweet and spicy snack.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds, washed and dried
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine 3 tablespoons sugar, along with the cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.

Spread the pumpkin seeds on the prepared baking sheet and coat lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly golden.

Warm the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds to the pan, along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar coats the seeds. Stir the pumpkin seeds into the reserved sugar and spice mixture and toss to coast. Let cool. Store seeds in an airtight container.

3. Mixed Dried Fruit Oatmeal Cookies

pile of cookies

Dried fruit and oatmeal cookies | Source: iStock

Craving a cookie? This oatmeal cookie recipe is sweet enough to appeal to kids but grown-up enough for adults to enjoy too. And because each cookie is packed with dried fruit like apricots, prunes, and cherries, you don’t have to feel quite so guilty about eating them. This recipe from Epicurious makes about 30 large cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten lightly
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups of old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped dried apricots
  • ½ cup chopped pitted prunes
  • ½ cup dried sour cherries or dried cranberries

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar and beat in the egg, baking soda mixture, flour, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the oats, apricots, prunes, and cherries then combine the dough well.

Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough about 4 inches apart onto greased baking sheets and with a fork dipped in cold water flatten and spread each mound into a thin round, about 2½ inches in diameter. Bake the cookies in batches in the middle of the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden. Transfer cookies with a spatula to racks, and let them cool. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.

4. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds

chocolate covered almonds

Chocolate-covered almonds | Source: iStock

Sure, you could buy chocolate-covered almonds at the grocery store, but making them at home is cheaper and more fun. Using fresh almonds and high-quality ingredients when making this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction will yield the best results. Once they’re ready, store in small containers for on-the-go snacking. Yields about 1½ cups of almonds.

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet high-quality chocolate
  • 1½ cups whole almonds, raw and unsalted
  • Sea salt
  • Turbinado sugar (or substitute any coarse/raw sugar)

Directions: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Use a double-boiler to melt the chocolate. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Add the almonds to the melted chocolate, stirring until completely coated. Use a fork or other dipping tool to remove the almonds from the chocolate one at a time, tapping to remove excess chocolate. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle the almonds with sea salt and the turbinado sugar. Let almonds sit until chocolate is completely set. (Place the almonds in the refrigerator to speed up this process.) Store the chocolate-covered almonds in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

5. Bite-Size Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls

freshly popped popcorn

Popcorn | Source: iStock

Toss a few of these miniature popcorn balls in your bag and you’ll always have a snack on hand when you need one. Made with a combination of popcorn, peanut butter chips (though we think chocolate chips would taste great too), and peanut butter, these snacks are both convenient and filling. Recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon.

Ingredients:

  • 5½ to 6 cups popped popcorn, lightly salted
  • 1½ cups dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup peanut butter chips (optional)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the popcorn, peanuts, and peanut butter chips in a large bowl. Set aside.

Add the sugar and the corn syrup to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugars reach 240 degrees Fahrenheit (use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature) add the honey, peanut butter, and vanilla. Stir until completely combined.

Pour the sugar mixture over the popcorn. Fold together until the popcorn and peanuts are fully and evenly coated. Let cool slightly.

Once the popcorn mixture is cool enough to handle, lightly grease your hands. Form the popcorn into spheres roughly the size of golf balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. Let cool completely for 2 to 4 hours, until set. If not serving immediately, wrap the balls in plastic wrap or wax paper to store.

6. Mexican Spice Cheese Crackers

bowl of cheese crackers

Cheese crackers | Source: iStock

Jazz up a box of boring Cheez-Its with some taco seasoning and cilantro for a deliciously spicy snack. Once you prepare a batch of these crackers, transfer them to individual snack bags so you can easily grab one to throw in your backpack on the way out the door. Recipe from the Cookie Rookie.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (13.7-ounce) box white cheddar cheese crackers, such as Cheez-Its
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 (1-ounce) package taco seasoning
  • 5 tablespoons chopped cilantro, dried or fresh

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour the crackers into a large bowl. Add the oil, then use your hands to mix until the crackers are fully coated. Add the taco seasoning and the cilantro, mixing until the crackers are well-seasoned.

Spread the crackers on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container or resealable bag.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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