The word “gourmet” is relative. Especially when it comes to long distance backpacking. As a foodie and a long distance backpacker, I struggle to find a compromise. Here is a sampling of one of my recipes that takes a little extra time to make, but the reward is worth it!

Creamy Pesto Salmon Tortellini

A meal that tastes like homemade on the trail, and without too much extra work! My friend, Mountain Mamma came up with this recipe in 2004 when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to get more protein. I like it best with tortellini, but it can be made with angel hair pasta too.


At-Home Preparation

Combine the pasta, dry pesto mix, and milk powder into a quart-size ziplock (I prefer freezer). Package olive oil (or pesto paste) in a separate container. I recommend either a 1 oz. screw-top container or use the pre-packaged olive oil packets if you use olive oil (you don’t want this to leak). Package spinach and pine nuts in a small ziplock (store inside cook pot to keep from getting smashed in your pack).

On-Trail Preparation


Add pasta/milk/pesto powder mixture to your cook pot. Add just enough water to cover the pasta. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Turn off stove and let sit 5-10 minutes until done. If you are using the pesto paste, stir it into the pasta/milk mixture here.

Add salmon steak, spinach, and pine nuts and stir into pasta. Enjoy!


Any pasta would work. Also, a little shredded Parmesan wouldn’t hurt. If you don’t like salmon, pouch chicken is great!

If you liked this idea, watch for other “Gourmet Trail Recipes” coming soon. No way you would put this much work into trail food? Watch for upcoming articles entitled “Favorite Easy Trail Recipes”.