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Chile Relleno Casserole on the Trail

Good food should be a feast for the senses as well as the stomach, but does good food need to be complicated? Do you need a shopping bag full of ingredients to make a mouth-watering wonder? I am not a gourmand or slow foodie by any means, but a tired, shift-working, stressed out mom with the desire to have more free time to pursue my passions. I love good, simple food.

Simple food can be found in any culture, and playing with the different cultural flavors adds variety to your DIY trail meals without complexity. Chiles Rellenos is my favorite traditional Mexican restaurant dish: a union of flavors that screams "South of the Border." Poblano chile peppers stuffed with cheese, dredged in masa flour and egg batter, then fried golden brown and topped with red sauce. Simple, slightly spicy, and scrumptious!

DIY Trail Survival Backpacking food
The Cheesy Oooey Gooey Chile Relleno

Our local Mexican restaurant makes Rellenos with a potato and cheese stuffing. At first, I was like "Potatoes? This isn't real rellenos. Where's the cheese?!" But now I am totally hooked. I make a version of this at home as a casserole: layers of Hatch green chiles, mashed potatoes, and cheese, with batter poured on top and baked.
My Homemade Chile Rellenos Casserole

Fortunately, the flavor of the rellenos is fairly easy to replicate on the trail. The peppers dry easily in a home dehydrator, rehydrating very well in a freezer bag. The recipe can be made simply with tomatoes, or more elaborately with the addition of some homemade enchilada sauce that has been dehydrated.
The Chile Rellenos can be made simply in a freezer bag with instant potatoes, or layered in a baking dish.  I prefer the simple method, since I am usually very hungry and tired by the time I get around to make dinner in camp.

An aside about green chiles. Hatch chiles are grown in the Hatch valley of New Mexico and Mexico.  On the east coast we don't have the luxury of Hatch chiles, unless you can find a Tienda that supplies them. Should you live in the west, the chiles are available in the grocery store in a #2.5 can.  If you don't have Hatches, you can use the little 4 oz cans of Old El PasoThankfully, my parents live in Arizona six months of the year, and when they come back to Maryland in the spring they bring me a case or two of Hatch chiles. 

Chop the chiles in a food processor then dry them in a thin layer in the dehydrator.  The chiles take very little time to dry - perhaps 8 hours or so until crisp.  Add the versatile chiles to soups, casseroles, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian dishes. One of my DIY Trail Food posts - Spices, Toppings, and Putting it All Together - shows how the addition of some simple spices can completely change the flavor profile of a meal.

Chile Rellenos Freezer Bag Recipe:

  • 1/3 cup dried green chiles
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried cheddar cheese (or 3 T cheese powder)
  • Instant mashed potato flakes
  • Ova Easy egg mix
  • Nido instant milk powder
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • French Fried Onions for the topping (separate baggie)
  • Packet of salsa or taco sauce (I like Taco Bell's mild sauce)

Place all ingredients in freezer bag except fried onions and taco sauce. Rehydrate with just enough boiling water to cover ingredients, plus an extra quarter inch or so. Add more if needed.  Place in cozy for 10 minutes. Top with onions and salsa and enjoy!

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  1. Hi! This looks great. Do you have actual measurements for the recipe?

  2. Hi Jack, I tend to wing it with my recipes, but I would say:
    About 1/2 c mashed potato flakes
    2-3T Nido
    1T Cumin (more or less to taste)
    1 t Garlic Powder
    1/3 c fried onions

    Enjoy! Appreciate the feedback