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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)
  • 537 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.

Ingredients

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.

For our guided groups we pack a can of green chilies. For soloists and smaller groups, a smaller amount of dried green chilies would 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 find a replacement 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 10 ounces (300 ml) of water to a boil. This meal does not need to be “cooked,” and you shouldn’t need to reheat it.
  2. Add half of the bag of potato flakes, then stir.
  3. Add the rest of the bag, and stir again. This two-step method will help prevent spills and clumps.
  4. 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 12+ 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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Posted in on November 20, 2019
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38 Comments

  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

  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.. ๐Ÿ™‚

    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.

  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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

      • 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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