MY CRITERIA: delicious, nutritious, fast, easy, and with a minimal amount of clean-up. You may notice I don’t always use exact measurements because, well, you’re going to be cooking at Burning Man, and since all of these recipes originated at Burning Man I didn’t exactly measure things out. Things are a bit different out there.

These recipes are big enough to feed yourself and 5-10 others depending on how large they are and what else they may have ingested before stumbling upon your camp. All can be modified to be made carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan (unless otherwise noted). Please practice proper food sanitation. Happy burning!

1. Sushi bites

These are so easy to make, taste super fresh, and are an instant crowd-pleaser. Smoked salmon legitimizes the sushi without you worrying about the fish going bad. If you have leftovers just stand on the street and flag down passers-by. Greatest playa gift ever.

  • 3 packages instant rice (Uncle Ben’s works great)
  • 5 packages toasted seasoned nori snacks or 1 package sushi nori (Trader Joe’s or your local Asian store)
  • 1 medium sized package smoked salmon (for vegans skip or sub tofu or shiitake)
  • 2 avocados
  • wasabi
  • 1 bottle soy sauce

Additions: Cucumber, mango, carrot, green onions, cream cheese, imitation crab, siracha, sesame seeds.

Equipment needed: Cutting board, knife, stove, pot, serving plate, small dish for sauce, sushi mat if making rolls.

Pre-Burn: Actually, almost no pre-Burn prep. You can pre-slice additional vegetables if you would like. Buy avocados a bit under-ripe as they will ripen quickly on the playa.

On-playa instructions:

  1. Boil water.
  2. Cook rice by submerging in boiling water. Please read the instructions.
  3. Cut vegetables into chunks or strips depending on if you have nori snacks or sheets.
  4. If snack packs: Arrange all ingredients on platter and let people make their own sushi bites (put rice on nori and top with whatever). Word of advice: This nori gets stale very quickly, so don’t pre-make, just let your campmates make their own bites and eat one at a time.
  5. If sheets: Spread rice on nori paper sushi-style (it won’t be as sticky as sushi rice, but will work), top with thin strip of salmon and vegetables, roll tightly and either cut into sushi bites (if rolled tightly enough) or eat as sushi-rito.
  6. Enjoy with soy sauce, condiments, and preferably sake.


2. Cold Tomato Soup

After days of drinking in the desert, eating can become a chore. It just becomes too much effort to have to concentrate on chewing. I made up this recipe in 2007 and have been sharing it since. Perfect for revving up midday.

  • 2 boxes tomato-roasted bell pepper soup (I buy Trader Joe’s — theirs isn’t vegan, fyi. This stuff rocks, especially because it doesn’t have to be refrigerated until after opened.)
  • 3 avocados
  • 1 bag mixed greens or arugula
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 lb cooked chicken strips and/or 1 package smoked mozzarella and/or 1 package baked tofu
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Additions: Pesto, salsa, cucumber, sprouts, siracha, nutritional yeast, basil, bacon.

Equipment needed: Cutting board, knife, bowls, spoons.

Pre-Burn: If you want to be fancy you can cook your own chicken, bake your own tofu, or smoke your own cheese.

On-playa instructions:

  1. Divide up vegetables and proteins in bowls.
  2. Pour soup in bowls.
  3. Season to your liking.
  4. Eat.
  5. Save leftover soup for Bloody Marys.

3. Ultimate quesadillas

Easiest, no-mess, quick hot meal. These are not vegan. I think vegan cheese is gross. Sorry vegans.

  • 1 package big flour tortillas
  • 2 packages grated cheese: Mexican blend or Monterey jack

Additions: Chicken, steak, bacon, tofu, tempeh, vegetarian chicken (Morning Star hot wings are my favorite), avocado, salsa, black beans, jalapeños, spinach.

Equipment needed: Stove, frying pan, spatula, plates, knife.

Pre-Burn: Feel free to pre-cook your own proteins, make your own salsa, or grate your own cheese. Or take the easy route and buy it all.

On-playa instructions:

  1. Fire up stove.
  2. Put tortilla in pan.
  3. Place a layer of cheese on half of tortilla, add a layer of any additions, and sprinkle a bit more cheese on top for good luck.
  4. Flip over tortilla.
  5. Remove when cheese is melted.
  6. Cut into pieces.
  7. Eat while drinking margaritas.

4. Spring rolls with peanut sauce

These are a bit more advanced, but well worth it. Stupid rice paper.

  • 1 package rice paper
  • 1 lb cooked chicken or boiled prawns or baked tofu
  • 1 small bag mixed greens
  • 1 shredded carrot
  • 1 bunch green onions shredded or chopped
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • soy sauce
  • rice vinegar

Additions: Siracha, cucumber, mung bean noodles, kelp noodles, basil, mint, avocado.

Equipment needed: Cutting board, knife, food processor (recommended for pre-Burn but not needed), large shallow bowl, large salad bowl, serving platter, small bowl.


  1. Make peanut sauce: Put peanut butter, large dashes of soy sauce and vinegar, and ¼ cup warm water in food processor and blend until smooth (or mix by hand like a peasant). Add siracha for optional heat.
  2. Cook chicken, boil prawns, bake tofu, or just buy precooked.
  3. Precut all vegetables.

On-playa instructions:

  1. Combine lettuce and all vegetables in salad bowl. Season lightly with rice vinegar and soy sauce.
  2. Fill shallow bowl with warm water.
  3. Place a rice paper sheet in the water, as soon as it is pliable, remove it to cutting board.
  4. Line middle with small strip of protein of choice.
  5. Top with fresh vegetables.
  6. Roll as tightly as possible like you would a burrito.
  7. Repeat until all ingredients are used. You will most likely have leftover rice paper unless you destroyed half of them in the process.
  8. Serve with peanut sauce.


5. Spicy Coconut Curry Soup

The perfect thing to revive on a cold night. I usually save this for the end of the week around either the Man burn or the Temple burn.

  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Ginger-Carrot Soup
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 3 cups broth: vegetable or chicken
  • small container red curry paste
  • 4 large potatoes cut into small cubes
  • 3 bell peppers julienned
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 large onion
  • ½ bulb minced garlic (I love me some garlic. Keeps playa vampires away.)
  • soy sauce
  • splash olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Additions: Chicken, shrimp, tofu, mushrooms, eggplant, tomato, squash, ginger, garlic, rice, quinoa, naan.

Equipment needed: Cutting board, knife, stove, large pot, spatula, ladle, bowls, spoons.

Pre-Burn: Precut all vegetables. Wanna get crazy? Make your own curry. Or just make a quick cheater paste with garlic, ginger, and hot chilis to add to the store-bought curry paste.

On-playa instructions:

  1. Fire up stove.
  2. Sautee onion and garlic, add in ¼ cup or so curry paste.
  3. If you have raw meat add next and cook until done.
  4. Add in all other vegetables besides potato.
  5. Add liquids and potatoes. Add more broth/water if soup looks too thick.
  6. Cover pot and bring to boil.
  7. Test flavor, adding a touch more curry, salt, pepper, or soy sauce as necessary, but remember flavors will open up while soup cooks.
  8. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
  9. Readjust seasonings.
  10. Serve in bowls or cups and say “yum.”

***Post originally published on Matador Network

Photo by Zaskoda via Flickr



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