Campfire cooking recipes and tips for cooking over an open fire

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campfire cooking recipes
Campfire cooking recipes

It wasn’t until I sat down to eat Luke’s stir fry with cous cous that I realized just how badly Craig and I suck at campfire cooking. We usually just throw a couple of veggie sausages on the barbie and if we are lucky an odd potato or two wrapped in foil and tucked into the coals.

Watching Luke throw together delicious meals so effortlessly on our recent bush camping adventure in to the River Red Gum Forest in Narrandera inspired me to do better from now on.

cooking potatoes over an open fire
A favourite- potatoes in the open fire

Cooking over an open fire really isn’t that difficult. With a little thought and planning you can turn a good bush camping experience into a memorable one based on dishes alone.

Luke Starr was the perfect host for our camping weekend away. He graciously offered to share his tips for cooking over an open fire, with a couple of the campfire recipes he threw together.

Tips for cooking over an open fire:

cooking over an open fire
Cooking over an open fire
  • Get a good fire going at least an hour before you need it, and let it burn down to a point where you have a lot of hot coals.
  • You don’t want the fire to be too hot when you start cooking; you’re looking for a slower, more consistent heat. Remember, the heat you’re after comes from the coals, not the flames.
  • Most camping grounds in national parks have designated fire pits, which help to contain campfire heat. If there’s a fire pit in your campsite, use it.
  • Cooking on a campfire usually takes longer than it would on a normal hob. You’ll also need to keep the coals circulating; for example, if you’re cooking something like a rich pasta sauce or paella, you’ll need to drag fresh hot coals underneath the pan from time to time.
  • Don’t use your best cooking gear!  We bought a couple of $10 frypans from the local supermarket, and they were excellent in the campfire – and we weren’t too worried about them getting a bit scuffed up.

Campfire Cooking Recipes

Spaghetti Arrabiata


This is a rich tomato sauce flavoured with garlic and hot chillies, which we bulked out with eggplant. You’ll need a large wok-style pan and a second pot for cooking the spaghetti.

Feeds six.


  • Good quality olive oil
  • Two medium-sized brown onions, diced
  • Four cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • One large red chilli, deseeded and sliced into fine strips
  • 425g tin of crushed tomatoes
  • 700g bottle of passata (tomato puree)
  • Red wine
  • One eggplant, chopped into 1cm cubes
  • Fresh basil, hand-ripped into large shreds (not chopped)
  • Handful of kalamata olives (I prefer with seeds in, but you can use the seeded olives if you prefer)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thin spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese


1. Drag out your coals close to the fire itself, and make a level spot for your pan. Heat the pan for a few minutes before dropping in a couple of good lugs of the olive oil.

2. When the oil starts to sizzle, throw in the onions and let them sauté for five minutes or so.

3. Once the onions have started to glisten, add the garlic and chilli. Let that sauté for another five to 10 minutes.

4. Empty the tinned tomatoes and passata into the pan, along with about a cup of red wine.

5. Once that starts to bubble, add the eggplant, basil and olives. Add salt and pepper.

6. Let the results simmer for at least half an hour. Remember, the flavour comes from the cooking time…the longer this sits on the campfire, the richer your sauce will become. You want it to reduce slightly, and for the eggplant to go really soft and take on the flavour of the sauce.

7. About 20 minutes out from serving, get a pot of water into the coals to heat for the spaghetti. Once it’s simmering, add enough spaghetti to feed your crew – noting recommended cooking times on the packet.

Serve this up with a few extra sprigs of fresh basil and shavings of parmesan cheese.

Campfire paella

recipes for campfire cooking paella
Paella making campfire cooking delicious

This is a super-easy one-pan dish absolutely incredible on a cold night by the fire. Not only does it work really well cooked on a campfire, the woodsmoke will add to the flavour.

While this version is for carnivores, you could replace the meat with firm tofu cubes; just make sure you pan-fry the tofu in hot oil with the onion, garlic, chilli, extra paprika, saffron and salt and pepper until golden, before adding other ingredients.

Again, you’ll need a good-sized wok for this. Remember, the rice expands as it absorbs the liquid! This recipe will comfortably feed six hungry people.


  • Good quality olive oil
  • Two medium-sized brown onions, diced
  • Six cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • One large red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • One red capsicum, diced
  • Three chorizo sausages, chopped into chunks; cured is absolutely fine
  • Four chicken thighs, chopped into 1cm-thick slices
  • Smoked paprika
  • Two or three strands of saffron
  • Salt and pepper
  • 500g frozen prawns (which we bought before we arrived at the campsite and allowed to thaw in their packaging)
  • Two cups of Arborio rice (…which we couldn’t get, so we used sushi rice instead)
  • Four cups of good quality vegetable stock
  • Water in reserve


1. Drag out your coals close to the fire itself, and make a level spot for your pan. Heat the pan for a few minutes before dropping in a couple of good lugs of the olive oil.

2. When the oil starts to sizzle, throw in the onions and let them sauté for five minutes or so.

3. Once the onions have started to glisten, add the garlic and chilli. Let that sauté for another five to 10 minutes.

4. Add the capsicum, letting it sauté for a couple of minutes.

5. Add the chopped chorizo and chicken thighs; fry until the chicken is browned.

6. Add the spices and salt and pepper, to taste. I use a lot of paprika – a good three tablespoons worth – because I like the smokiness.

7. If you’ve got prawns, throw them in after the spices have had a couple of minutes in the pan. These are a bit of a luxury item when you’re camping…the recipe will work just as well without them, but they’re great to have if you can find a way.

8. Add the Arborio rice and the stock. On a campfire, it’ll take at least half an hour over coals for the rice to absorb the liquid…keep stirring every couple of minutes or so to stop the rice sticking to the hot wok.

9. You want the rice to lose any hardness, and the paella to take on a shiny, sticky consistency. Use the extra water if it turns out the stock isn’t enough to reach this point.

This is great served with a bit of chopped parsley sprinkled over the top – but really, all you need is a bowl, spoon and an appetite.

Chocolate Bananas

chocolate bananas campfire cooking
Throw them on the campfire- delicious


This campfire recipe was created by Elspeth Callendarwho was on the bush camping trip with us. It is a simple and delicious campfire desert.

Take a banana, cut in half lengthwise and leave in the skin. Put small pieces of chocolate in between the two halves of banana. Wrap it up in foil and put it on the hot coals. They are cooked once the banana is soft and the chocolate has melted.


The best!

A traditional American campfire desert and my favourite. In Australia they are harder to make as we don’t have Graham crackers and I don’t know of a substitute. I think some sort of thin wheat cracker.

All you do is roast a marshmallow over the fire, then when it is ready, place it between two graham crackers with a slice of chocolate in the middle. The roasted marshmallow will melt the chocolate and ooze together in the middle of the cracker. It is heaven.

Hot Whiskey

hot whiskey over the open fire
Hot Whiskey

No campfire is complete without alcohol to cook and eat with and to complement those campfire stories. Charlie brewed up some hot whiskey for us, a recipe straight from her English home.

Brew up some hot water. Pour some whiskey in a cup. Take a slice of lemon and poke cloves all around it. Throw it in the cup with some honey and then pour on the hot water. Stories have never sounded so good!

Want more great recipes?


What are some of your tips for cooking over an open fire and favourite campfire cooking recipes? 


74 thoughts on “Campfire cooking recipes and tips for cooking over an open fire”

  1. Frank from Our Hiking Blog, who also happens to be an Aussie has a great backpackers type good book available as an ebook –
    I’ve done lots of campfire cooking and put thought into the meals so they are tasty. It’s cleaning the black pots I hate but here’s a trick. Coat with a layer of dish soap before putting on the fire and the black scrubs off in seconds.

    1. Oh thanks for that tip! That is a beauty. I love cooking over hot coals and am excited now I have a few new dishes to try

  2. I can’t believe you made Paella on the campfire! That is brilliant, Caz – I am so impressed 🙂 It looks delicious too. Couscous is a staple for me when I am camping – but there are only so many ways one can be creative cooking with couscous…

    1. I kind of stood back and watched 🙂 BUT, I did cook the pasta the next week and it was delish! I really enjoyed the way Luke cooked the cous cous with an Asian stir fry. It sounds a bit odd but it worked

  3. Camp food for me has always just been hot dogs or hamburgers and smores, really simple stuff. I never thought about cooking pasta or paella. Thanks for the recipes.

  4. Wow, I like those idea, particularly the shrimp one. I hadn’t thought about that. I’m so used to eating “bad for me food” on camping trips that this will be a nice change

  5. Hi, I’m from America. Graham crackers have the texture and crispiness of normal butter crackers, but the taste is more like a molasses cookie. A ginger cookie is also similar, if it’s the sort of ginger cookie that tastes only mildly like ginger. In a pinch, a snickerdoodle cookie would probably work too.

  6. That arrabiata recipe looks good. May even try that on our stove. We tend to be at a loss for cooking sometimes.

    I love that you put in S’Mores. I really quite miss them here. Germany is missing the graham crackers too. The problem is not the structure aspect of the cracker, but the slight sweetness. A lot of crackers are salty which is a bit weird with chocolate.

  7. I’d never think to cook up some spaghetti while camping, but that looks pretty darn good. Not too sure about that hot whiskey, looks good enough to kick you on your ass before you even know what happened.

    1. The hot whiskey wasn’t too bad. It had a kick to it. I think the water really helped to not feel hung over the next day

  8. Great recipes! I would like to see a follow up for recipes that can be pulled off on a multi-day backpacking trip (i.e. no heavy cookware or canned stuff!)

  9. I love camping and cooking outside I have done a whole turkey over the fire I use a tri pod wrap the turkey double in foil then put it over the fire then wrap the chains with the grate with foil so it smokes it to about 2 to 3 hours later it is done alot of watching raising the turkey up and down and adding more wood but it is so good. People look real strange when it is cooking and i always say come back and see it have a taste. It is like thanksgiving in the summer

  10. Spaghetti arrabiata dish looks really delicious.. please excuse me while I go in the back yard and start cooking some! 😛

  11. I think that one mistake people make is trying to bring their gourmet cooking skills to an environment that is so different. My advice is to start slow and simple and move up with learning how the coals work, ingredients that travel/don’t travel well, etc.

    As for cooking gear, I have found some great deals on pots and pans at Goodwill that work just fine. I’ve actually been lucky enough to find actual camp cooking goods that people have given up.

  12. I regularly make S’mores with Girl Guides in Corowa NSW and we use Chocolate Wheaten biscuits and pop in the toasted marshmallows.

    1. We lived in the UK for many years and when my care package of graham crackers had not arrived, I just used chocolate covered digestives… Just as good!!!

  13. A great substitute for graham crackers when making s’mores is a crisp cookie. I have used chocolate chip, oatmeal, and shortbread. A breakfast biscuits like Bevita could also work.

  14. Never dream of banana and chocolate together. tried them a couple of months ago and they were delicious. Although, everything seems to taste better outdoors.

  15. I’m going to try the paella next camping trip!! When you said you loved smores, but didn’t know of a substitute for Graham crackers, I thought of McVitie’s oat biscuits, they’re a lot like Graham crackers, and you can even get them with chocolate on one side.

  16. There’s nothing like paella cooked over an open fire! If you want the authentic Spanish experience, though, you should stop stirring your rice one or two minutes after adding it to the pan. Give it one last stir and then leave it alone! The caramelized bottom is called “socarrat” and is actually one of the most highly prized parts of a traditional paella!

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