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Breakfast Recipe: Cheesy Potatoes

Cheesy potatoes, a hearty and large-volume backcountry breakfast recipe

Cheesy potatoes, a hearty and large-volume backcountry breakfast recipe

Of all the breakfast recipes that I have tried out on my backpacking groups, Cheesy Potatoes is a regular favorite. On the sweet-or-savory scale, it’s decidedly savory, due to a bland potato base that is flavored with cheese, green chilies, and bacon, plus some whole milk for creaminess.

Credit to Amanda for developing this recipe.

Key stats

  • Recommended meal weight: 4.5 oz
  • Calories: 500
  • Calories/ounce: 110

Because potatoes require so much water (4 oz water per 1 oz of flakes), this breakfast cooks bigger that its calorie count would suggest. For those with smaller appetites, reducing the potatoes by 0.5 oz is recommended. Alternatively, save some of the potatoes for later in the trip when you have a thinner meal and/or you are hungrier.

To increase  the caloric density, substitute olive oil or butter for some of the potatoes or the dried milk. To increase pure calorie count, keep the recipe as-is and simply add some fat.

Ingredients

At minimum, this recipe requires five ingredients. Pick either crumbled bacon or bacon-flavored soy bits. The taco seasoning is optional. Butter or olive oil can be added to increase caloric density.

At minimum, this recipe requires five ingredients. Pick either crumbled bacon or bacon-flavored soy bits. The taco seasoning is optional. Butter or olive oil can be added to increase caloric density.

Clockwise from the orange powder: Cheese powder, dried milk, green chiles, instant potatoes, soy bacon bits, crumbled bacon

Clockwise from the orange powder: Cheese powder, dried milk, green chiles, instant potatoes, soy bacon bits, crumbled bacon

At-home preparation

A solo hiker can keep all the ingredients in one bag. Note that crumbled bacon and canned green chilies are not shelf-stable, though there are shelf-stable alternatives.

To more easily accommodate dietary restrictions in a group setting, I keep the ingredients more separate:

  • Each group member is given one 2-oz bag of potatoes and one 1.2-oz bag of cheese powder and whole milk. Since they were sent the meal menus before the trip, they have had the opportunity to procure substitutes for the cheese and milk if they are lactose intolerant.
  • The crumbled bacon and green chilies are distributed in the field. Group members who are vegetarian can easily forgo their portion of the bacon.
A solo hiker can pack all of the ingredients in one bag. In a group setting, dietary restrictions and preferences (e.g. lactose intolerance, vegetarian) can be best accommodated by bagging the ingredients more separate and then distributing them in the field.

A solo hiker can pack all of the ingredients in one bag (left). In a group setting, dietary restrictions and preferences (e.g. lactose intolerance, vegetarian) can be best accommodated by keeping the ingredients more separate and then distributing them in the field.

Cooking instructions

For many reasons, I make all of my meals soupy. So my instructions are simple:

  1. Bring at least 12 oz (350 ml) of water to a boil, or a near boil.
  2. Add half the bag, stir to a uniform consistency, and then add the rest of the bag. Stir.
  3. If my alcohol stove is still burning, I may bring the meal back to a simmer to reduce the wait time before eating, but potatoes need not be simmered for a full cook.

If you want perfect at-home consistency, use 10 oz of water.

The watered-down version, which is my preference

The watered-down version, which is my preference

25 Responses to Breakfast Recipe: Cheesy Potatoes

  1. Denise March 3, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    Hi Andrew, where do you get the cheddar cheese powder? Thanks!

    • Miranda March 23, 2015 at 9:34 am #

      I’m not sure where he would get it, but I have found a variety of cheese powders, including cheddar, at Whole Foods (though, I’m not a fan of shopping there), and I have found some at spice shops that sell cheese powders in bulk. You could also order it through Amazon if you’re an Internet shopper.

    • Andrew Skurka July 13, 2016 at 9:59 am #

      From Hoosier Hill Farm, on Amazon

  2. Scott T March 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    Andrew, alternatively I have seen Hormel has antiseptically packaged bags of bacon bits. They come in small plastic bags, not cans or heavy stiff packaging at ~4oz p/bag. A king sized serving for a solo backpacker or half could be used one day and half the next, or perfect for two. I find cured meats last a few days wo/ refrigeration though I wouldn’t push it more than 1. Also, the cheese sauce packets from box meals like velveeta shells and cheese works well and can be purchased in individual packs and in different flavors.

  3. Patty Laushman March 4, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

    Denise, I had exactly the same question. If you just click on the ingredient, it takes you to a description of where he gets it.

    • Denise March 8, 2015 at 6:49 am #

      Patty–you’re right, and he also has a general link to ingredient sources that I saw just after I posted my question (doh!) and so posted to say “never mind” but…must have failed to submit.

  4. sylvie March 7, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    I’ll have these yummy potatoes for diner instead of my vegetable soup because I never have breakfast! So melty…

  5. doug July 11, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    wondering if I can get green chilis from grocer and dehydrate them? Would this be detrimental to taste or consistency? Could not find any canned ones..

    • Andrew Skurka July 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

      You couldn’t find any canned green chilies? This is a pretty standard item at grocery stores.

      Personally, I don’t think it’s worthy DIY dehydrating. When you factor in the time and energy costs, the online options look very good.

      • Geoff Frost September 12, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

        You can get dried chilis and lots of other dried spices at any latino food store. Cheap too.

  6. doug August 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Yeah, but I’m a guy, didn’t ask for help finding it.. 🙂

    I will next time, when I get the stuff for your Thai peanut recipe..

    I just added a few red chili pepper flakes, and it turned out really good, just like real mashed potatoes! Easily our go-to dinner option for hikes from now on..

  7. Bryan October 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    Andrew, where do you get/what brand are those scent blocking bags you use for your food?

  8. doug October 27, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

    for ease of measuring:

    57g potatoes, 14g cheese, 19g milk.

  9. Matt Swider July 13, 2016 at 6:53 am #

    when using dried green chilis, how much is recommended? Obviously peoples tastes vary, but there is a recommended weight for the canned chilis, just wondering if anyone knows a conversion for dried.

    • Andrew Skurka July 13, 2016 at 10:01 am #

      I think 0.1 oz would be fine, and maybe a bit too much if you’re not a big fan of them. Canned green chilies are mostly water.

  10. Randi Young July 25, 2016 at 5:52 pm #

    Hi, Andrew,

    When adding the Taco Seasoning to the Cheesy Potatoes, how much would you recommend per serving? Do you add it before or after cooking?

    • Andrew Skurka July 26, 2016 at 11:02 pm #

      0.1 oz max. Can be added before or after cooked.

  11. Randi Young September 16, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    I’ve been home from the trail for a week now. Missing the simplicity and flavors, I got up this morning and made a fresh “batch” of cheesy potatoes for breakfast. Sat out on the back porch, as the recipe really needs fresh air to make it complete.

    It’s going to be a long winter.

    • Andrew Skurka September 16, 2016 at 11:15 pm #

      Great timing on this comment. A few hours after you made it, I fed it to a 12-person group for breakfast. They loved it.

  12. LSU Rob November 25, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    Any idea if grits would be a good substitute for the potatoes? Down south, we like our grits!

    • Andrew Skurka November 25, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

      I’m well versed in that preference, but was never sold by it.

      I think grits would work well as a replacement for the potatoes. Obviously you’ll have to cook the meal a little bit longer, and you might hold off on adding the milk and cheese powder until it’s done cooking.

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