Saucy, hearty, and deeply satisfying, this backpacking red lentil marinara pasta is exactly what we want after a long day on the trail. The pasta brings the carbs, the red lentil sauce brings the protein, and the olive oil and cheese bring the fats. Time for a backcountry pasta party!
We are always on the hunt for ways to incorporate more red lentils into our backpacking meals. They’re inexpensive, available in bulk, and absolutely loaded with protein. The only problem is the cooking time. They can take a while to fully cook, especially if you’re using a lightweight backpacking pot & stove.
The solution: cook the lentils at home, dehydrate, and then rehydrate on the trail. What would have taken 15-20 minutes, now takes around 8 minutes. Magic!
We love pasta in red sauce. At home, on the trail, we’ll eat it anywhere! However, its nutritional profile is a little one-sided: it’s mostly just a blastwave of carbs (which we love btw). By incorporating some red lentils into the sauce, we are able to pump up the protein, thicken up the sauce, and give us a well-balanced meal to end the day with. So win-win on all fronts!
Why we love this Red Lentil Marinara Sauce:
↠ It has a thick, hearty sauce that’s reminiscent of bolognese
↠ Unlocks the protein-packed power of lentils
↠ Rehydrating pre-cooked lentils takes a fraction of the time on the trail
If you’re looking to up your protein consumption on your next backcountry adventure, give this red lentil marinara a try!
How to make dehydrated red lentil marinara & step by step video
Watch this 50 second video to see how this recipe comes together.
At home, prepare the sauce on the stovetop using a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add all the ingredients and cook the red lentils until they’re soft and begin to break apart. At this point, the sauce is what the end product will taste like out on the trail, so take a moment to taste test it. Do you want more salt? Some more spices? This is the time to make adjustments.
Dehydrate the Sauce
Transfer the sauce over onto your dehydrator sheets, set the temperature to 135 F and let it run. This is one of those meals that can’t be “over” dehydrated (like beef jerky or fruit leathers), so feel to run it overnight. Once dried, pack the completely dried sauce flakes and the pasta into a resealable bag.
On the Trail Preparation
At camp, the pasta and sauce get dumped into a pot and covered with water. As the water boils, the sauce will start to rehydrate and the pasta will begin to cook. The mixture will probably look a little soupy at first, but between the rehydration of the pasta and sauce and evaporation, the water will get fully absorbed pretty quickly. Once your sauce has reached your preferred level of sauciness, cut the heat and top with parmesan and drizzle of olive oil.
↠ Dehydrator: There are a lot of options out there, but we’re currently using the Nesco Snackmaster. It’s a budget-friendly dehydrator that’s good for those just getting started. Fancier models like the Excalibur feature auto-on / auto-off features.
↠ Storage Container: In our bid to reduce our disposable ziplock bag consumption, we’ve started exploring packing our dehydrated meals in reusable baggies. They’re great if you’re only going out for a few nights, but might not be the right solution for longer thru-hikes where weight is more of a concern.
↠ Humangear GoToob: We love GoToobs for carrying oils when we’re backpacking. They have a double lock feature that gives us extra confidence they won’t accidentally start leaking somewhere down in the depths of our bear canister.
More dehydrated backpacking meals you’ll enjoy
Backpacking Red Lentil Marinara
- 4 packets parmesan cheese, *omit for vegan prep
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Place the broth, tomatoes and their juices, lentils, garlic, and dried oregano and basil in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over medium-low until the lentils are tender, about 15 minutes. Add salt and sugar to taste.
- Spread the sauce onto dehydrator trays in thin, even layers along with the basil. Dehydrate at 135F for 8-12 hours until completely dry.
- Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Pack for the Trail
- To pack for the trail, pack about 1/2 cup pasta per serving of sauce (depending on how big of a meal you’d like). Separately, pack parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon olive oil per serving.
On Trail Preparation
- To cook on the trail, place the sauce, pasta, and oil in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the pasta and lentils are tender, about 12 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!