Homemade Basil Pesto Couscous Backpacking Dinner (no dehydrator)

This basil pesto couscous makes such an easy homemade backpacking meal! In this post, I’ll show you exactly what you need, how to package everything up at home, and then how to prepare it at camp.

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Making your own backpacking food is actually a lot of fun, and it’s nice to be able to take control of the ingredients you put into your meals. The nice thing about this recipe is that it does not require a dehydrator!

Step-by-Step Video Tutorial:

For this homemade backpacking meal, start by watching the video below to see exactly how I do it!

EASY Homemade Backpacking Meal - Basil Pesto Couscous Recipe *no dehydrator*

How to make this backpacking meal:

This basil pesto couscous is cheap backcountry food you can make a home without a dehydrator!

I recommend that you try it at home for dinner before your trip so that you can make sure the serving size is not too big or too small for you when you’re backpacking.

You can get a sense of how it will cook and how large of a pot you’ll need in the backcountry.

Grab the printable recipe below:

Basil Pesto Couscous Backpacking Dinner

This basil pesto couscous makes such an easy homemade backpacking meal. The best part? No dehydrator is required!
5 from 1 vote
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Servings: 1 large dinner
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 1 cup pearl/Israeli couscous
  • 1 packet of Simply Organic basil pesto sauce mix
  • 3 TBSP olive oil (packed in a sealed container)
  • 2 TBSP chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan (the unrefrigerated kind)
  • 1 ready-to-eat flavored salmon packet (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups 12 oz water, for cooking at camp


At Home Prep:

  • Put the shredded parmesan into a small bag.
  • Put the sun-dried tomatoes into another small bag.
  • Measure the olive oil and seal it in a small sturdy container.
  • In a quart-sized bag, add the couscous. In the video, I used a reusable bag for this step.
  • Add the unopened pesto packet, sealed olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and cheese to the same bag with the couscous so everything is packaged together.
  • Pack the salmon packet in the bag with the rest of the ingredients, if using.

At Camp Prep:

  • Bring 12 oz of water to a boil in your backpacking pot*. Make sure the water is boiling.
  • Turn off the burner and remove the pot with boiling water from the stove and place it on a level surface.
  • Add in the pearl couscous, olive oil, and basil pesto packet. Mix and then cover.
  • Let the couscous sit for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, give it a quick stir, and then let it sit for another 8 minutes until tender.**
  • Next, mix in the sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, and salmon, if using. Enjoy!


*Before your trip, check to make sure your camp cooking pot is big enough to hold the couscous and the rest of the liquid!
**If the couscous still isn’t cooked, you can always carefully bring it back to a boil and cook for another minute or two until tender.
Tried this recipe? Mention @amandaoutside on Instagram or leave a review!

Cost Breakdown & Gear Needed

Not only is this homemade backpacking food fun and easy to make yourself, but it also saves you a lot of money!

Below I did a quick cost breakdown of this cheap backcountry dinner.

Cost Breakdown for 1 Large Serving:

Pearl/Israeli couscous: $1.50
Simply Organic Basil Pesto Sauce Mix Packet: $1.29
Olive Oil: $1
Sun-dried Tomatoes: $0.50
Shredded Parmesan: $0.50

Total Cost: $4.79
Total Cost w/ Salmon Packet: $5.79

Compared to a lot of the dehydrated backpacking food in stores nowadays, you can definitely save a lot of money making your own.

Before we wrap things up, I just want to list out all the backpacking kitchen gear I use to make this recipe in the backcountry.

Part of the reason I recommend testing this at home first is so that you can get a sense of what cooking gear you’ll need and if your backcountry pot is big enough.

As noted in the recipe above, make sure your cooking pot is big enough to safely hold all the couscous and liquid.

You don’t want to get into the backcountry and realize you have no way of cooking this!

Backpacking Cooking Gear I Use:

I hope you enjoy this backpacking dinner idea! If you have any questions about the recipe or how to prepare it, just chat with me in the comments below!

Want even more backpacking meal and snack ideas? Check out these 30+ backpacking food ideas.

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Recipe Rating

One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    This was seriously delicious! I was a bit nervous I wouldn’t have enough to feed our group of four or that it wouldn’t be filling enough or yummy enough and HOW WRONG I WAS. This was awesome and super simple and so delicious. I look forward to my next backpacking trip where I get to have this meal!