Breakfast Recipe: Cheesy Potatoes

This breakfast recipe has been a staple on our guided trips since 2015, when Amanda set out to create a savory dish to help balance sweet options like oatmeal or Quickstart Cereal.

The ingredients and ratios have been tweaked multiple times based on feedback, and I believe we now have a real winner. Among 100+ clients polled during the 2019 season, it was their top-rated breakfast, with an average score of 2.60/3.0.

Key stats

  • 4.5 ounces per serving (128 grams)
  • 575 calories
  • 119 calories/ounce

To increase the caloric density, use more butter and less potato, and substitute the canned green chilies for dried. To increase the net calories, add more of the goodies, specifically bacon, cheese, or butter.

The finished product, plus a little bit of green onion that I happened to have on-hand.


This is a deceptively large meal because the potatoes absorb a lot of water per their dry weight. If your breakfast appetite is suppressed, reduce the potato flakes by a half-ounce. Alternatively, save it for later in the trip when you have a thinner meal and/or you are hungrier.

The nutritional yeast adds a savory, Parmesan-like characteristic. It can also be substituted for real Parmesan if you’d like — add it at the end of the cooking process with the cheddar.

Find real crumbled bacon at your grocery store, or in 20-ounce packages at Costco. You can also cook bacon at home prior to your trip. Definitely pack the bacon fat, too, for extra flavor and calories. For vegetarians, there are many non-meat bacon products.

While canned green chilies add volume and texture to the meal, dried green chilies are more calorically dense and perhaps less wasteful. You can also consider taco seasoning, paprika, or similar.

The original recipe used whole milk powder (Nido) and powdered cheese, but last year we swapped these ingredients for butter and real cheese. The response from clients was very positive, so we’ll be sticking with these substitutions. This updated version is creamier, more calorically dense, and more flavorful.

The ingredients

At-home preparation

Package the potato flakes, nutritional yeast, and dried onion in a sandwich bag. For shorter trips, soloists can add the crumbed bacon, too — I’ve had no ill effects after it was repackaged and sat in a hot car for 10 days. The canned green chilies are more perishable, so use dried chilies or skip them.

On group trips, we package the bacon separately so that vegetarians and vegans can forgo their share.

Put the cheese in another sandwich bag, or keep it in its original packaging.

Unless it’s a cold trip, the butter is best stored in a plastic food container so that it doesn’t make a mess if/when it gets soft. On group trips, we divide these items in the field.

Cooking instructions

Per usual, preparing this recipe is very straightforward.

  1. Bring 6 ounces of water to a boil.
  2. Add the bag of potato flakes, then stir. This meal does not need to be “cooked,” and you shouldn’t need to reheat it.
  3. Remove from the flame, and mix in the butter and bacon. The cheese and chilies can be mixed in, too, or sprinkled on top.

If you want a soupier consistency, use 10+ ounces of water.

The watered-down version, which is my preference
The watered-down version, which is my preference

Have questions or an experience with this meal? Leave a comment.

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

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

    • Miranda on 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.

      • Elizabeth on July 26, 2019 at 11:46 am

        Winco has them too!! Cheaper

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

      From Hoosier Hill Farm, on Amazon

    • oliver on June 11, 2020 at 12:53 am


  2. Scott T on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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. […] Cheesy Potatoes […]

  8. Bryan on October 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm

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

  9. doug on October 27, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    for ease of measuring:

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

  10. Matt Swider on 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 on 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.

      • Ben on February 17, 2020 at 6:56 pm

        I tested the recipe with dried green chiles using Flatiron Pepper Co Green Chile Flakes, which I found on Amazon; the particular blend I got is of Big Jim, Sandia, Habanero, and Jalapeno. With that particular blend, one gram (0.05oz) adds more than enough heat, and likely way too much for many folks. My point is, definitely test at home.

  11. Randi Young on 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 on July 26, 2016 at 11:02 pm

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

  12. Randi Young on 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 on 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.

  13. LSU Rob on 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 on 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.

    • MarkL on March 16, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      I have made a similar concoction with instant grits. Works great! Not sure about the caloric comparison. I am trying with potatoes this weekend on a snow camping trip. Nice this about that is real cheddar cheese and bacon are refrigerated! 🙂 I’m only out for one night and not far, so weight isn’t the issue

      I suspect the whole milk isn’t that big of a deal when using real bacon and cheese. Plenty of fat. Adding a little butter could work, too.

  14. Boyan on January 20, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Far and away my favorite breakfast, slightly ahead of a spicy ramen noodle soup. I add a cube of chicken bullion to the water for extra flavor.

  15. Travis Bear on August 9, 2019 at 11:01 am

    All your measurements are in “ounces,” but this is an ambiguous unit — are you using them to refer to volume or weight?

    • Andrew Skurka on August 10, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      I think it’d be pretty difficult to measure dried potato flakes in liquid oz, but point taken. Use weight.

  16. Nick on November 15, 2019 at 6:03 am

    I see the recipe has changed quite a bit since since I last looked. Do you use less water now?

    • Jim on December 6, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Yeah, bit confusing. I take it no more Nido or cheese powder, but fresh cheese and butter? Ignore some pictures and most of the comments, which relate to an older version of the recipe…

      Canned chilies may be realistic split between multiple clients, but seems extravagant for one or two. Gotta be a lighter option for a bit of extra taste/spice…

      Nitpicks aside, looks delicious 🙂

      • Matt Swider on December 7, 2019 at 9:25 am

        I find crushed red peppers are an acceptable substitute, vary the quantity per your taste.

        • Andrew Skurka on December 7, 2019 at 7:40 pm

          Crushed red peppers add some flavor, but mostly it’s just heat. The best substitute for canned green chilies is dried green chilies, but you could also use other spices like taco seasoning or paprika.

      • Boyan on December 7, 2019 at 10:23 am

        Dried green chiles work great. I bought a large bag when they were on sale a few years ago and still use them. Since I live and hike in the southwest I find the old recipe a lot more functional. Butter and real cheese are a nogo in the desert, so it will continue to be Nido and cheese powder for me. Taco seasoning is a must for me too, so that ain’t going away either. Will tweak with onions and test what the yeast does.

        • Andrew Skurka on December 7, 2019 at 7:44 pm

          I can understand why butter would be a no-go in the desert, but it adds quite a bit more flavor, creamy texture, and calories then whole milk powder. Clients seemed more satisfied with this meal this year, and I attribute it to some of the small changes that were made.

          As far as cheese, you should be able to carry it in the desert, the shelf stability is much better than you would think. The exterior will get a little bit greasy, but it’s still entirely edible. On multiple occasions I have carried a block of cheese until the 6th night of a 7-day trip, and no problems at all. If you don’t like the greasy texture, you can get a hard cheese that will perform a little bit better. We can get away with a sharp cheddar because in most of our locations the nighttime temperatures are in the 30s or 40s.

      • Andrew Skurka on December 7, 2019 at 7:48 pm

        Yes, the new recipe eliminates the cheese powder and the powdered milk, replacing them with real cheese and butter.

        We found that this recipe was difficult for many clients to finish, just too much volume. So we knocked down the volume by adding butter and taking away some of the other ingredients. The results in a smaller meal that has more calories, and this year more clients were finishing it and not complaining about having leftovers. After every trip we do a extensive client survey, and the potato breakfast was regularly a complaint due to its volume. Everyone liked the taste, just the volume. In the client surveys this year with the updated recipe, we seem to have fixed this.

        That all said, you’re entirely welcome to use the old recipe, and if you like it I’d actually encourage that. Personally I’m a much bigger fan of this new edition than the old.

  17. Jim on December 7, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    Yeah, bit confusing. I take it no more Nido or cheese powder, but fresh cheese and butter? Ignore some pictures and most of the comments, which relate to an older version of the recipe…

    Canned chilies may be realistic split between multiple clients, but seems extravagant for one or two. Gotta be a lighter option for a bit of extra taste/spice…

    Nitpicks aside, looks delicious 🙂

  18. Chris on December 29, 2019 at 4:49 am

    Hi Andrew, thanks for sharing your recipes. Mashed potatoes have quickly become on of my favorite meal bases, especially when its cold and I am eager to whip up something hot fast. I haven’t tried adding yeast yet, but while experimenting, spiced croutons have become a favorite ingredient of mine. They don’t pack that small, of course, but I like that I can put some of that inevitable leftover white bread to good use and spice it however I feel like to get some variation. +1 for the butter, it really makes a world of a difference in taste when you add the real thing.

  19. Nancy on January 12, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Butter powder is a great option and weighs less -not a fake food.

  20. Pablo on June 20, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    For warm weather, has no one heard of ghee (clarified butter)? Tastes like butter, ’cause it’s butter. It is calorically dense and needs no refrigeration. Store in a nalgene bottle like oil.

  21. Sarah on July 12, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Really yummy. I used 1 Tbsp cheese powder (Anthony’s from amazon) and extra butter. Added a few dried veggies & bacon jerky. Really compact and bonus my kid loves it.

  22. Sarah on July 12, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    NB – I also used butter powder 1 oz per serving (Hoosier Hill farm from Amazon).

  23. Jered Rhoades on August 14, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    This is delicious! To get a few more calories, not hardly any pack weight and mainly some extra pop for taste and texture add french fried onions. Great meals on this site, have been implementing them into my trips for multiple reasons and all home runs so far. Thank you!

  24. Thomas Johnson on September 29, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    How does the butter go in warm weather?

    • Andrew Skurka on September 29, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      There are two parts of that answer:

      1. As far as food safety, there is no issue with it. I keep my butter in my cupboard at room temperatures and replenish my supply every few months, and it’s never gone bad on me.

      2. To avoid a buttery mess inside your food bag, I’d recommend:
      * Letting it cool down overnight, and then insulating it inside your pack (mostly by not packing it along the exterior of the pack).
      * Protect it with Tupperware containers. You can fit 3 x 4-oz packages in a 3-cup container.

      • Thomas Johnson on September 29, 2020 at 2:24 pm

        sweet, definitely taking some butter on my next trip

      • Leslie on April 25, 2021 at 10:21 am

        I can’t seem to find the old recipe…is there a link for it? Using the real milk & cheese sounds heavenly, but won’t be a realistic option for me. Just need to know how much nido & cheese powder to use. Also have ghee but have never used it before, any suggestions on how much per serving? Can I pre-pack the proportionate amount in the outer baggie of this meal (with the bacon & powders)?

        • Andrew Skurka on May 3, 2021 at 10:03 am

          Experiment at home to get it right.

          Cheese keeps much longer in the field than you might think. Easily a week, though it does get greasy; I think two or three weeks is very possible with harder cheeses.

  25. John P on November 10, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Hi Andrew. I noticed the “buy online now” option for the bacon links to Hormel crumbled bacon at Amazon. The package indicates the bacon crumbles are uncooked. If you add the bacon at the end of cooking, wouldn’t you want fully cooked bacon?

    • Andrew Skurka on November 13, 2020 at 10:27 am

      I buy the Kirkland variety from Costco, Usually $11-12 per 20-oz bag.

      I’m uncertain how they “crumble” the bacon, but it doesn’t need to be cooked. After opening the package, it’ll last about two weeks without refrigeration before I stop trusting it — mold is a pretty good sign.

  26. Steve on April 21, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    The ingredient list is now an error message saying “Sorry, the file you have requested has been deleted”

    • Andrew Skurka on April 24, 2021 at 10:31 pm

      It’ll get put up again this week. The embed code broke recently due to a platform change.

  27. Nathalie on June 26, 2021 at 7:01 am


    The google sheet with the ingredient list seems to be faulty (does not show up on any of my browsers, with the error message that the google docs encountered an error). Would you mind checking whether it can be fixed, please?

  28. Lee Hill on July 4, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    Hi i am wondering if the quantity amount per ingredient is per serving.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 5, 2021 at 9:32 pm

      Yes, per serving. So the total meal is about 4.5 oz per person. If you have two people, you’ll have 9 oz of ingredients.

  29. Justin on July 28, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    Andrew- I made the old version a couple of years ago and liked it. I still have a lot of Nido and powdered cheese. Do you have that version of the recipe somewhere? I couldn’t find it.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 1, 2021 at 7:59 am

      I’d have to dig pretty far back. I think it would be pretty easy to figure it out. Start with 2 oz of potatoes, at least 3/4 maybe an ounce of milk, maybe about a half ounce of cheese. But that only gets you to 3.5 ounces, and the recommended portion size is four and a half. That’s the issue with this version of the recipe, because you’ll be inclined to add more potato and that just really makes it voluminous.

    • Matt on August 1, 2021 at 10:24 am

      What we used based on all dry ingredients is below, all numbers are oz. Also, the chilis we added were dried, not canned. I like the idea of adding onion. I remember this making a big pot of potatoes, so again perhaps 1.2 oz of potatoes is more realistic. I’m assuming the 10z of water (or 12 oz for soupier) holds here as well, I just had a link to this page, which has obviously changed.

      2 mashed potatoes (instant, unflavored)
      0.5 cheese powder (cheddar)
      0.7 whole milk (dried)
      1 bacon crumbles (real or soy)
      0.1 green chilies (canned)

  30. Matt on August 1, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    Ok, my last try at submitting this comment. What we used based on all dry ingredients is below, all numbers are oz. Also, the chilis we added were dried, not canned. I like the idea of adding onion. I remember this making a big pot of potatoes, so again perhaps 1.2 oz of potatoes is more realistic. I’m assuming the 10z of water (or 12 oz for soupier) holds here as well, I just had a link to this page, which has obviously changed.

    2 mashed potatoes (instant, unflavored)
    0.5 cheese powder (cheddar)
    0.7 whole milk (dried)
    1 bacon crumbles (real or soy)
    0.1 green chilies (canned)

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