Foil Stew (aka Hobo Dinner, Campfire Stew, Tin Foil Dinner) is easy, fun, and so good that you'll want to make it even when you aren't camping!
What's the Story Behind this Recipe?
Foil Stew is my ultimate comfort food; each bite bringing to mind countless nights under the stars. Like some culinary scrapbook, just the scent of its exquisite, savory, caramelized deliciousness makes my mind dance through cherished memories of past camping trips - with dad and mom, Campfire Girls, my Girl Scouts, my CITs, Mr B and Em....
It is extraordinary that such a simple meal can hold so much.
What Goes into this Recipe
There really isn't much to making a great foil stew: just mix, wrap, and cook. Let me break it down for you.
What follows is a basic list of ingredients; however, there are more variations and combinations for foil stew than we can possibly list. You can add your favorite veggies (lots of people like corn), mix up your proteins, and use any "Cream of" soup your heart desires.
Basic Foil Stew Ingredients
Once you get the process down, you can change it up as much as you want to make it your own.
For each serving/packet of foil stew, you will need:
★ 1 medium potato: Use russets or Yukon golds for the best results. Potatoes should be sliced about ⅛-inch thick. Peeling is optional.
I use a mixture of regular and white-fleshed sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes are a relatively recent addition for me, and I love what they bring to the party.
★ 1 large carrot: Slice it about ⅛-inch thick. Once again, peeling is optional.
★ ½ large onion: Slice it about ⅛-inch thick.
★ 3-4 ounces of Protein: Ground beef is our protein of choice; however, ground chicken, boneless chicken pieces, sausage, and vegetarian/ alternative "meats" all work well.
DO NOT PRECOOK ANYTHING!! Put animal-based proteins into the stew RAW, breaking up any ground meats and distributing them evenly throughout your stew.
Some people do like to make a pattie with their ground meat and put it on top, but we are not fans.
★ ⅓ to ½ cup Cream of Mushroom Soup: Dump it on straight out of the can.
Any Cream of... soup will work fine. We also enjoy using Cream of Celery.
★ Seasoning as desired: Salt, pepper, garlic salt, etc.
PLEASE keep in mind that these amounts are estimates. Adjust them to your own tastes and appetite.
How to Make this Recipe
As you put it together, you may look at your uncooked foil stew and think, "Oh my gosh, I will never be able to eat all of that!" Which might be true - but remember, everything will cook down by at least a third; and when you are camping, you tend to be hungrier than when you are at home. Plus, Foil Stew makes great leftovers!
Mix the Stew
If everyone is eating the same thing, you can mix your foil stew up in a big bowl for everyone, and then just wrap them individually.
However, if there are any vegetarians in our group, we usually mix the basic veggies together in a bowl, and then mix in the protein and soup right on the foil.
Be generous with the soup - that's what provides the moist base for your stew to, well... stew in. Once you have your stew ingredients all together, toss it well with your hands to mix everything together. If it isn't very goopy, you don't have enough soup in it.
Wrap It Up
Use Heavy Duty aluminum foil. Try to keep the stew in the middle of the foil as you wrap it.
A. Put your mixed foil stew ingredients in the middle of a large piece of aluminum foil, and then bring the foil up so that the ingredients are resting inside in a slightly elongated pile.
B. Fold the top edges down together about one inch and crease. Fold the crease over and then fold it again, and then once again.
It helps to hold the foil stew up as you do this, because this allows you to keep some extra space in the packet, which helps in the cooking process. In other words, the folds themselves need to be very tight, but the foil stew inside should have a little wiggle room.
C. Push the two ends down so that your foil stew is safely in the middle of the packet.
D. Fold or roll the ends tightly.
E. Get a second piece of foil and repeat steps A-D.
F. The double-wrapped foil stew is ready to go on the coals.
Cook Over an Open Fire
To bake over an open fire, first allow the fire to burn long enough to create some substantial coals.
Once you have a nice bed of coals burning, place your prepared foil stew on a bed of coals for 25-50 minutes, turning every 10-15 minutes or so.
The time required to cook a foil stew depends upon many factors: the size of your foil stew, how hot your coals are, how cold it is outside, etc. It will start to sizzle after awhile.
I usually check my stew after 20-30 minutes or about 5 minutes after I first start smelling it, whichever comes first.
The trick is to take it off after the vegetables have started to caramelize, but before they start to burn.
This is where the double-wrapping helps immensely. When you think your foil stew has cooked enough, carefully use the tongs to lift it out and away from the fire. Set the packet, seam side up, on a solid, heat resistant surface. Carefully open the foil packet at check. Vegetables should be tender and proteins completely cooked.
If it needs more time, simply recrimp and seal the foil on the top and pop it back onto the coals, seam-side up.
FAQs & Expert Tips
If you don't have a camping trip planned any time soon (or you are simply not a camper), you can bake foil stew over prepared briquettes, on top of a BBQ, inside a Dutch oven, or in your oven at home 375°F | 190°C.
From years and years of experience, I can tell you that you will get much better results if you use Heavy Duty aluminum foil. Regular aluminum foil simply does not stand up to the coals of an open fire like the heavy duty stuff does.
A perfect camping dinner for us consists of Foil Stew, followed by my always-amazing, ridiculously easy Dutch Oven Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
If you do end up having leftovers, I strongly encourage you to fry them up for breakfast and top them with a fried egg. (You're gonna thank me for this.)
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- 1 Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil about 3 feet total for each foil dinner
- 1 Tongs
- 1 campfire
Suggested Amounts for One Serving
- 1 medium potato sliced ⅛-inch thick (peeling is optional)
- 1 large carrot sliced ⅛-inch thick (peeling is optional)
- ½ large onion sliced or chopped
- 4 ounces protein Ground beef, ground chicken, boneless chicken pieces, sausage, vegetarian alternatives (DO NOT PRECOOK ANYTHING)
- ½ cup Cream of Mushroom Soup Any Cream of… soup will work fine. (We really like Cream of Celery)
- salt & pepper Season as desired
- Put all foil stew ingredients in the middle of a large rectangle of heavy duty aluminum foil.Bring the foil up so that the ingredients are resting inside in a slightly elongated pile.
- Fold the top edges down together about 1 inch and crease. Fold over and do it again, and then once again. It helps to hold the foil stew up as you do this, because this allows you to keep some extra space in the packet, which helps in the cooking process. In other words, the folds themselves need to be very tight, but the foil stew inside should have a little wiggle room.
- Push the two ends down so that your foil stew is safely in the middle of the packet.
- Fold or roll the ends tightly.
- Get a second piece of foil and repeat steps A-D. Ready for the fire.
- To bake over an open fire, simply place your prepared foil stew on a bed of coals for 25-50 minutes, turning every 10-15 minutes. Check stew after 30 minutes, or 5 minutes after you begin to smell it cooking. See Cooking Time in NOTES below for more information.
If you don’t have a camping trip planned any time soon (or you are simply not a camper), you can also bake your foil stew over prepared briquettes, on top of a BBQ, inside a Dutch oven, or in your oven at home 375°F | 190°C.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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Yes!! We love, love, love the (heavy duty) foil stew dinner! It's perfect because as you say, not everyone likes/can eat everything - I can't do potatoes but my partner does, so we each have our perfect meal. (And I'm totally trying your breakfast fried egg trick the next time we camp!)
Kim Beaulieu says
I love this recipe. I grew up camping so I have a serious fondness for campfire recipes. We cooked pretty much everything over open fire when we were young. It's so much fun and you just can't beat the flavour.
Renée ♥ says
Thanks, Kim. You're right - a campfire imparts so much to any meal.
Citra Kale @Citra's Home Diary says
What a gorgeous background you have for your super yummy foil stew. Thank you for sharing your tips and recipe.
Renée ♥ says
Thank you for stopping by!
Nicole Hood says
Such a fantastic idea and what a gorgeous backdrop. Pinned this. Can't wait to try next time we go camping.
Renée ♥ says
Thanks, Nicole! I hope you love it as much as we do!
I too love that shot of your stew with the lake and the mountains in the background! What a fun and easy recipe to make while camping or glamping. I think your suggestion about using the heavy-duty foil is spot on too!
Renée ♥ says
Thanks, Michele! The heavy duty foil is wider too, which makes it much easier to wrap your stew.
Thank you so much for this. I love the directions for the wrapping. That is where your meal is made or goes up in smoke. The best part of this for me was a wonderful memory Of being with the campfire group making foil dinners under the great supervision of your mom and Dad! Thank you for the recipe and the trip down memory lane beautiful pictures
Renée ♥ says
When I was writing this up, I thought of you and that overnight trip we made up to Camp Nadaka when we were about 11. (You are in so many of my memories.) Good times, my friend.
Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious says
What fun this will be, even if we aren't camping!
Renée ♥ says
We have them every now and then at home. The vibe isn't quite the same, but the food is still delicious! 🙂
Marlynn @ UrbanBlissLife says
I love foil packet meals!! Love that last shot with the mountain in the backyard. Beautiful! Do you think this would work well with chicken stock combined with some sort of other thickener besides canned prepared soup?
Renée ♥ says
The whole point of the soup is to create a wet environment for stewing so the veggies don't dry out and start to burn, so in theory, that should work just fine.
Oh my goodness, that shot with the foil stew and the water and the snow capped mountain - perfection. Still won't get me camping (I like toilets...) but I love the idea, and so great to hear there is a vegetarian version by using Morningstar Crumbles! It looks so hearty after a day's hike!
Renée ♥ says
Thanks, Pech. You should try yurt camping at one of the state parks - they have nice bathroom facilities (including showers), a mattress to sleep on, and even electrical plugins and a heater. It's a good compromise for folks who like their luxuries. 😉