The truth is that there are plenty of meals that can be prepared using only water. This is great not only for “preppers” but also for people who like to save time and money. These meals enable people to buy in bulk and then pack the ingredients into prepared meals for the future.

Think about camping, hiking, or traveling. “Just add water” meals also make thoughtful gifts for aging or ill people, and are nice to include in care packages - especially for people who don’t like to cook.

Whether you want to prepare for an emergency or have robust options to take along when you’re in the great outdoors, consider putting together these “just add water” meals. 


What is a “Just Add Water” Meal?

There are some delicious dishes that simply require boiling water and adding it to the ingredients packaged in your container. These recipes should be simple to prepare and easy to pack, either for traveling or putting aside for long-term storage using mylar MRE bags

Though not every meal follows this format, most have a certain formula involving these: 

  • A base, usually made of carbohydrates
  • Fat or oil
  • Vegetables
  • Protein
  • Seasonings


You may have seen this type of meal as a ready-made option from a third-party company. These meals are certainly an option, but preparing them at home is better for a few reasons:

  1. You know exactly what’s in your recipe and how your family reacts to the ingredients. 
  2. Not only is DIY less expensive, but you can also control the cost even further by managing what’s in your recipes (for example, swapping out less expensive in-season veggies). 
  3. You can dehydrate your own ingredients. That means you can make the best use of things you have on hand or from your own garden. 
  4. Your meals can be packaged how you want - either in collapsible containers, jars, or mylar bags. Perhaps you already have some of these materials on hand, which saves even more time and money. 
  5. You can ask your family for ideas and feedback so that you can prepare meals everyone is more likely to enjoy (or at least not complain about)!


Furthermore, many convenience “survival” meals have additives like preservatives or MSG. Depending on what you can (or want) to consume, these meals may not be the healthiest option.


Short-Term vs. Long-Term MRE Preparation


It would be wrong to assume that any “just add water” meal is appropriate for long-term storage. There is a difference between meals that are prepared for consumption in the near future and those that are put away as part of a food storage plan.

If you follow our blog at all, you know there are specific foods that do well in storage long term. Items with high fat or oil content are more likely to spoil faster, so you have to carefully review ingredients before putting them in “just add water” recipes. 

Below, we’ve added a few sample recipes from experts around the web. 


Sample Food Storage Recipes


Chicken Alfredo

Since this recipe has cheese, it’s best for shorter-term consumption, such as a 72-hour emergency kit or camping. 

Combine the following ingredients. Some people like to add sour cream, which obviously won’t store well. You may be able to find a powdered sour cream and add a tablespoon of that if you like a creamier texture. 

  • Fast-cooking noodles (1 cup)
  • Chicken bouillon (1 teaspoon or less)
  • Powdered milk (2 tablespoons)
  • Dried, grated parmesan cheese (3 tablespoons)
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Dried broccoli
  • Freeze-dried chicken (1/4 to ½ cup)
  • Garlic powder
  • Italian herbs or poultry seasoning mix
  • Black pepper


Backpacker Beef Noodle Soup

Dried vegetables and noodles make a great base for almost any “just add water” MRE recipe. Jerky ensures that everyone gets some protein as well. This recipe is from a hiking expert. To prepare, the author combined: 

  • 1 tsp vegetable, beef, or chicken bouillon powder
  • ¼ c dried vegetables
  • 1 block (about 50 g) ramen noodles
  • About 25 g low sodium natural jerky


To cook: Boil about 2 ½ c water, then turn your heat source off. Add everything to the pot and stir to combine. Put the lid on your pot and wait about 10-15 minutes to make sure everything gets thoroughly rehydrated.

Then check to see if a little more water or time is needed. There should be a little extra liquid for soup-like consistency. Stir, and add a little more seasoning like chili powder if needed. 


Fiesta Burrito Bowl

As we mentioned, rice and beans tend to be staples when it comes to long-term food storage MREs. This recipe combines several dried ingredients that become a tasty meal when you add hot water. 

  • 25 g (about ½ c) dried beans (add up to 50 g for a large meal)
  • 25 g (about ½ c) dried chicken (add up to 50 g for a large meal)
  • 25 g (about ¼ c) instant rice (or pre-cooked and dehydrated rice)
  • 25 g (about ½ c) dried salsa
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin


When you’re ready to eat this meal, boil about 2 cups of water and add the ingredients.

Wait about 10-15 minutes to make sure everything is thoroughly rehydrated. Then, stir and check and see if more water or time is needed. Once the water is absorbed and the chicken is soft it’s ready to eat. 


No-Knead Bread Mix (in a Jar)

We suggest having several jars of this recipe on hand for making bread. Unopened yeast can last for up to two years when stored in a cool, dry place, and apple cider vinegar can also be kept for up to two years. Follow these instructions to make a few jars, but note that the recipe will need to be adapted if you aren’t using a traditional oven. 

For the jar: 

  • 3 ½ cups bread flour (all-purpose works fine, if using whole wheat, cut back to 3 cups)
  • 2 teaspoon active quick-rising dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • When it's time to bake
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar

When ready to bake: 

  • 1 and 1/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar


Stir the ingredients until no dry patches remain. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 1.5  hours.

Preheat the oven and baking stone to 450 degrees.

Punch the dough down and remove it from the bowl. Using your hands, pull the sides of the dough down and to the bottom until you have a round loaf. Place on a piece of parchment on a cast iron skillet or bread pan.

Let rest for 40 minutes, and right before baking, dust the top with flour and slash three times. Transfer the dough with the parchment onto the baking stone. Bake for 24-30 minutes. Let cool before slicing.


“Just add water” homemade MRE meals provide a versatile, healthy option for maintaining a variety of meals for any situation. Whether you’re out on the trail or building an emergency food supply, try these recipes and make sure to follow our blog for more food storage tips.