Dan and I used to backpack a lot when we lived in Maryland. It satisfied our need to be outside and allowed us to find some solitude. We ate a lot of freeze-dried meals in the interest of saving pack weight on long backpacking trips. Some of these meals are good, but most are gross. And salt. So. much. salt.

In Colorado and Utah we can find solitude ALMOST EVERYWHERE! Weee! On many of our trips we see few people and therefore our desire to backpack has waned in favor of long hikes or canyoneering routes. And thus began our foray into car camping. This involves sleeping on a mattress in the back of our Subaru, drinking pour over coffee in the morning and craft microbrews at night. So super rad/hipster-like, I barf a little when I write it into words. But we aren’t doing this all in a Vanagon so we’re not too far gone?

This is all a preamble into the topic of being outside and eating. Car camping means we are eating much better!! Mostly because we can bring fresh food and better (heavier) equipment to cook nice meals. Here are four pieces of equipment that have vastly improved our car camping cooking:

  1. Coleman Classic Propane Stove – We used a DragonFly for forever, then upgraded to this stove after our Alaska trip. Dan found one for $20 on Craigslist. It’s a two-burner, but there are also three-burner stoves.
  2. Cast Iron Skillet – Game Changer. I can’t believe it took us so long. Our friends introduced us to the world of cast iron and life has never been better. Hah. But seriously, this is another awesome $20 purchase.
  3. Cast Iron Dutch Oven – Another Game Changer. With a lid for even more applications! Thanks to our best outdoor adventure friends E+E.
  4. Cabela’s Polar Cap 60 QT Cooler – Yes, very very expensive. And a really, really nice joint birthday gift from Dan’s parents. After driving to Alaska and back with a cheap, crappy cooler we decided that if we were to do more road trips in the future (especially ones out to the middle of Utah for a week, dozens of miles from ice), we’d need a better cooler. Our old cooler kept ice alive for ~2 days and this one can go up to 12 days. Hooray for no food poisoning.

Onto the good stuff. These Black Bean Tacos are the first in a series of car camping meals for your next adventure!

Black Bean Tacos

Black Bean Tacos
Don’t mind the half-ripped tacos. I froze them a while ago and they tend to stick together when you do that…

What you will need: a large frying pan or cast iron skillet, a large pot or cast iron dutch oven, a stove with two burners, a spatula, and a large spoon.

Black Bean Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2-3 servings

Black Bean Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

These vegetarian black bean tacos are fresh and filling, a great easier choice for car camping or for a weeknight dinner. Customize them with whatever toppings you like!


  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can of black beans, not drained
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn (omit if not making bean mixture at home)
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes if you like spicy
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (I used to hate cumin until recently, so omit if you don't like it)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6-8 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced or diced or mashed into guacamole
  • Favorite jarred salsa or this salsa recipe - 1/2 a pint of diced cherry tomatoes, 1/4 medium red onion diced, 2 tbsp minced cilantro, 2 tbsp lime juice, pinch of salt
  • Shredded or chopped romaine lettuce
  • Other optional toppings - shredded pepper jack cheese, minced cilantro, thinly sliced red onion


  1. I prepared the bean mixture ahead of time then stored in a Ziploc.
  2. Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the 1 tbsp oil to the pot. Check that it's hot enough by putting a small onion slice in the oil. If it starts sizzling, put the rest of the onion into the pan. Stir to coat in oil.
  3. Continue to stir occasionally for 5 minutes so that the onion turns translucent.
  4. Start heating a large pan or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.
  5. Add the diced bell pepper and corn to the pot, and stir. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Add the spices (chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper) and stir for 10 seconds to coat the onion.
  7. Add the beans with bean juice (gross), stir, and allow to get bubbly. It should thicken considerably, with little liquid left. Turn off the heat and put the lid on to keep it warm.
  8. Put 3 tortillas on the heated pan to warm them. If you brought cheese, sprinkle it down the center to melt it.
  9. Assembly time: layer lettuce on top of the tacos (+cheese) to help prevent liquids from over-saturating and tearing the taco. Then bean mixture, then [strained] salsa (you don't want too much liquid), avocado, and any other toppings. Enjoy!


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  1. Pingback: Tofu Stir Fry With Peanut Ginger Sauce: Car Camping Dinners Part 2 • Ashley Outside

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