Dan and I spent a week in Utah last month and aside from canyoneering and hiking, a lot of what we love about this type of trip is car camping. This includes taking in the spectacular desert scenery while hanging out around a campfire, cooking delicious food, watching the watercolor sunset give way to a radiant Milky Way. Etc.
But food! This is the second post in a series about car camping meals you can make on your next trip. Or try out at home and tweak to your liking in preparation for your next trip.
Dan and I make this tofu stir fry meal a lot at home. It is healthy, flavorful, and filling. AND it is easy to change depending on what vegetables or protein you have in the fridge.
I love making a tofu stir fry on car camping trips. It’s easy to prep most of the steps at home and spend only ~20 minutes cooking a fresh, healthy dinner. Tofu is great for car camping because I don’t have the same level of concern about food spoilage as I would if it were chicken. And browning the tofu on all sides in a cast-iron skillet gives it an awesome texture – crispy on the outside, soft/chewy on the inside.
What you will need
- large frying pan or cast iron skillet
- large pot or cast iron dutch oven
- stove with two burners
- large spoon
Notes on prepping at home
- If you will use the vegetables within a few days, you can chop them and store in a container in the cooler.
- I made the rice in my rice cooker, let it cool to room temperature, then put the cooled rice in a container to store in the cooler.
- I made the sauce and stored it in a glass tupperware. Before using it I whisked again to make sure it was smooth.
Active prep time is ~15 minutes. Passive prep time pushes that number closer to 50-60 minutes. Also, the directions look long but I included some tips/notes for your reading pleasure.
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter [Or sub creamy almond butter or tahini]
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar*
- 1 tbsp Sambal Oelek**
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp dry ginger
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes [only if you like spicy]
- 1/2 cup milk of choice [I used almond milk]
- 1 lb block super firm tofu***
- 1 yellow or red onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 small head of broccoli, diced into small florets
- Other optional vegetables - shredded purple cabbage, snow peas, diced zucchini
- 2-3 cups cooked rice [I used basmati]
- High heat cooking oil such as canola or avocado oil
- Cook the rice according to package instructions.
- Press the tofu at home****. Put the block of tofu between two plates and place something relatively heavy on top, such as a large cookbook. Let stand for 30 minutes, then drain off excess fluid. Store in a container or Ziploc to take with you.
- Make the sauce: add all sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth.
- Cube the tofu.
- The plan is to cook the vegetables and tofu at the same time.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. You want it to get pretty hot so the tofu crisps instead of absorbing all of the oil. You can always test by taking a small sliver of tofu and putting it on the oil. Once it starts sizzling, its ready.
- While you're waiting for the pan to warmup, heat up two tablespoons of oil in a pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. 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.
- Place the tofu cubes in the large sauté pan. They will need to cook for about 5 minutes per side to brown. I usually make sure that two sides are well-browned and crispy and then just do a cursory heating of the other sides depending on how much time I have. Check occasionally that it's not burning (see above burned tofu picture), and if it is lower the heat and flip the tofu.
- Once the onion turns translucent, add carrots and bell pepper and stir. You may need to add another tablespoon of oil here. The cast iron absorbs oil like a sponge.
- Once the carrot and bell pepper soften, add the broccoli and stir. Allow to cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the broccoli to turn vibrant green and soften slightly, tender crisp style.
- Time to put everything together. Add the pre-cooked rice and peanut sauce to the pot with the vegetables. Stir to coat everything in the sauce. Let heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the sauce doesn't burn on the bottom. Now add the browned tofu and stir so everything is mixed evenly. Serve and enjoy!
*If you don't have rice vinegar, try another acidic liquid like lime juice or white vinegar
**Sriracha can be substituted for Sambal Oelek
***If you don't like tofu you could substitute 1 medium chicken breast.
****If you are using chicken, here is a simple recipe on how to pan fry a chicken breast.