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Backpacker’s Chili-Mac

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Backpacker’s Chili-Mac

Like the Mountain House stuff, only cheaper.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword backpacking, dairy-free, lactose-free, no tree nuts
Servings 4 people
Calories 995kcal


  • Dehydrator
  • clean kitchen towel
  • 4 oz Nalgene travel bottle


  • 1 lb ground beef extra lean
  • ½ cup panko
  • 1 onion diced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin ground
  • 2 tsp paprika sweet or smoked
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 8 oz elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 15.5 oz kidney beans canned
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 3 green onions sliced into rings
  • 4 oz olive oil


  • Mix the ground beef and panko in a mixing bowl. Then transfer to a fry pan and cook on medium heat until no longer pink (about 10 minutes). Dump cooked mixture into the center of a clean kitchen towel, wrap it up, and twist the neck of the bundle to express as much of the fat and moisture as possible. Wipe out the fry pan to remove excess fat.
  • Add 1 Tbsp of cooking oil to the fry pan and return it to medium heat. Then add the spices, stirring continuously for one minute. Then add the onion and garlic and continue to cook.
  • When the onions are translucent, add the tomato paste, broth, and pasta. Continue to cook until the pasta just begins to become tender. Meanwhile, make a slurry of the starch and 3 tablespoons of water. Pour this slowly into the pot and stir until the sauce thickens. The resulting dish should be more like a paste than a soup.
  • Line your dehydrator trays with fruit leather liners, parchment paper paper, or silicone sheets. Spread the chili mac onto the trays in an even layer. Place the sliced green onion on the trays (in an empty spot or scattered over the chili mac).
  • Dehydrate at 145F for 6-12 hours. A few times during the drying process, blot the chili mac with a paper towel to absorb any fat that has surfaced, and if using a vertical flow dehydrator, reshuffle the trays every couple of hours. Chili mac will be hard once completely dry and the sauce will no longer be tacky.
  • Remove the chili mac from the dehydrator and allow it to cool completely before storing it. (*see notes below)

In the field:

  • Place the meal in your cook pot along with about 1⅓ water per serving. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. After one minute, lower the heat and simmer until the meal has rehydrated, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add more water as needed and stir frequently to avoid burning. Try to turn the contents at the bottom of the pot to the bottom to promote even rehydration.


Storage Tips: If you’ll eat this chili mac within two weeks, it can be stored in zipper lock bag in a cool, dark place. I zip the bag mostly closed and then suck out as much air from the last bit of opening, finishing the zip as I do. If you will need to store the meal for longer than two weeks, vacuum seal the chili mac and store it in a cool, dark place for up to 1-2 months, or vacuum seal and freeze for extended storage (up to 6 months).


Calories: 995kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 55g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 32g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 2205mg | Potassium: 1395mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2234IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 155mg | Iron: 11mg

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