Lowest weight, highest flavor ingredients to pack
By Chef Corso
What’s the best way to add flavor without adding a lot of weight?
Come along as we dive into the pantry. I’ll share my favorite spices, spice mixes and other low weight, easy packin’ ingredients to bring along on any trip.
As I look into the cupboard, I notice A LOT of options and it can be daunting to know which ones to select for your trip.
Some notes before we get into it:
Be mindful of salt. Yes, sodium is an important micronutrient that we need to replenish but many spice mixes are FULL of it. I want my spice mixes to be full of quality spices, not salt and filler.
Quality and age of spices is very important. After they’re ground, they lose their flavor impact quickly so if your spices have been in your cupboard for more than 1 year, they’ve probably lost a lot of their zip. I know the grocery store is the easy place to purchase your spices, but it’s hard to know the quality and how long they have been on the shelf. Consider buying your spices from a local spice shop (support small businesses) or mail order shop. They will be the freshest and most flavorful spices they can be. Well worth the few extra dollars in my opinion. Here are a couple of my favorite shops:
First off, we have single spices like oregano, ginger, garlic powder and then we have spice mixes like chili powder (often a blend of chilis, garlic, cumin, paprika, maybe salt), Indian curry powder and other ethnic flavors.
Both single spices and mixes are great options to consider. It just depends on what you’re making.
I have broken our options down into 4 tiers. We will start with the basics and build and build as we head down the path to added flavor.
Check out my full video here that shares the tiers visually.
TIER 1: Basic
Acid – Lemon/Lime/Vinegar
(if you like spicy)
For our first tier, we have just a few things. Salt, a fat/oil and some acid. All three are key building blocks for a solid meal. The flavor may not hit you hard, but at least it won’t be bland. Why I include some sort of acid is it will bring together any. Think about squeezing lime on a taco or malt vinegar on some fish and chips. It gives you that last little bit of freshness to finish off your dish.
TIER 2: A little bit tasty
Indian Curry Powder
Packets – Mayo, mustard, asian sauce packets
Soy Sauce/Powdered Soy Sauce
Hot sauce of many types
Vinegars – white, rice, apple cider
In tier 2, we start to build in some flavor. And many of these included can be used across multiple recipes and cuisines. I’m not suggesting that you pack all of these on every trip. Just focus on the few you need to build out your backcountry pantry.
TIER 3: Lots of flavor
Thai curry paste
Japanese curry paste
Coconut Milk Powder
Other vinegars – Black, balsamic, sherry, etc
O man, here we go. Getting into some good stuff. Some of these ingredients in tier 3 may be very common to you, but others might be a little special. Note the pastes in this tier. Pastes of many styles are a fantastic ingredient to pack along. A little goes a long way to building a tasty soup, noodle or rice dish and they last for a long time away from refrigeration.
TIER 4: Special
Jamaican Jerk seasoning
Everything bagel spice
And finally we have tier 4. These are some special ingredients or blends that I really enjoy but only use on specific trips. Smoked paprika is a game changer for soups and stews, everything bagel spice on savory toast with eggs for breakfast is delicious and sumac is a sneaky one that provides some acidity with little to no weight.
3 easy packing, high flavor recipes
Thanks for coming along for a dive into the pantry. Hopefully these suggestions can guide your menu and ingredient choices to give you tasty meals without having to take everything and the kitchen sink.
Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions.
Get out there!