The Best Road Trip Food Ideas
Whether you’re headed on a long road trip or just a weekend jaunt, the healthiest (and most affordable) meals a la road are the kind you bring from home. We’ve got 16 recipes plus travel tips to get you on your way.
Healthier, better-tasting meals are easier than you think with help from Yummly! Try it free now.
Morning Glory Muffins by Cookie Rookie
My family is getting ready to head out on a three-week, cross-country road trip. We’ll drive on back roads, visit national parks and quirky museums, and eat plenty of great food. It’s the biggest excursion we’ve ever taken, but we’re veteran road trippers. Our road trip food list is solid.
In addition to food items, we’ll be taking:
A cooler (more on that below)
Refillable, insulated water bottles
Paper towels and napkins
Inexpensive, reusable cutlery
Three knives: bread, chef’s, and paring
A thin, flexible cutting board
A stash of bags, wraps, and containers
Plenty of ice packs (and ice cubes) for foods that need refrigeration
I know what you’re thinking: Three weeks is a long time! No way they’ll be bringing that much food! And you’re right. Although we don’t have all our lodging booked, we did reserve vacation rentals or hotel rooms in several spots along the way. Whenever we have access to a kitchen — or even a fridge and microwave — we’ll replenish.
Ready to see what’s coming with us?
Jump ahead to:
Note: The Yummly Meal Planner is available to paid subscribers.
How to keep food cold on a road trip
A sizable cooler is a must, of course. We’ll stock it with everything from prepped ingredients to prepared meals, and fresh fruit to anything with chocolate — which can get mighty hot in a parked car while we’re off taking in the local color. The more tightly packed the cooler is, the better, since that will help maintain the cold. And naturally we’ll refreeze the ice packs when we can, and replenish the ice frequently.
Road trip breakfast recipes
I live in New York City, so my family travel sometimes includes a bag of fresh bagels and a small container of cream cheese. Those individual boxes of dry cereal are pretty sweet, too. But we much prefer starting the day with something we cooked at home.
If you bring a cooler on road trips (which of course, you do), a stash of frozen, pre-cooked burritos filled with hash browns, sausage, bell peppers, scrambled eggs, and cheese could save you tons of time and money. Keep them on the bottom, close to the ice packs, and pop one in the microwave when you’re ready to eat. In my experience, even the most rinky-dink motels have a microwave accessible to guests.
Bake a dozen of these hearty muffins, pop them into a container, and stash ‘em in the back seat. Packed with shredded carrot and apple, raisins, pecans, coconut, and orange zest, they’ll get your morning off to a glorious start and keep you feeling full for hours. Pro tip: Swap in whole-wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose for a nutritional boost.
A batch of homemade granola will get my family through several days’ worth of breakfasts. This recipe is fantastic because it’s more of a formula — you start with three cups of rolled oats and add proportional amounts of nuts and seeds, fruit juice and sweetener, oil, flavor boosters, and dried fruit. It stays good for a solid month!
Creamy oatmeal with no cooking required is perfect for travel. Pre-fill mason jars with the dry ingredients (or combine them all into one large jar — that will work just fine) and once you reach your overnight stop, add your choice of milk and pop it in the fridge. Come morning, breakfast will be waiting for you. You’ll be back on the road in no time.
Road trip lunch recipes
Packing food for lunch is so much better for you than grabbing fast food, or even the chicken salad sandwich at some random deli. And there’s no chance of a condiment packet exploding in the back seat — I consider that a bonus.
Few things are more disappointing than driving for hours, finding a picturesque spot for a picnic lunch, and discovering soggy sandwiches. A pan bagnat stuffed with tuna, olives, artichokes, herbs, and other flavor bombs guarantees you’ll never experience the sad sog. This elegant-but-budget-friendly Provencal sandwich (that’s French for sandwich) is meant to be made hours ahead.
The right grain salads make terrific road trip food because they don’t have a lot of ingredients prone to deflating, wilting, or weeping. That means no chopped tomato, no delicate lettuce, minimal cucumber. (Yes, this recipe does call for a cuke, but seeding it removes a lot of the water.) I like this one because it uses protein-heavy quinoa as well as a can of chickpeas, so you’ll definitely feel like you’ve eaten a meal. Pro tip: As with pasta salads, add only half the dressing before packing it up — put the rest into a small jar and toss it in just before lunch.
Careful packaging, like in a bento box (or lidded container with additional small containers), helps foods stay fresh and vibrant longer. The moister foods don’t touch the drier ones, which keeps it all at peak texture. And the variations are endless! If you’re not in the mood for a pepperoni pizza box, maybe you’ll prefer one with salami and cheese; hard boiled eggs, veggies, and hummus; or whatever strikes your fancy.
Pack this refreshing, chilled soup in a thermos, add some bread and cheese and maybe a bit of Spanish chorizo, and you’ve got a delightful picnic lunch. The gazpacho takes its gorgeous green color from grapes, cucumber, and celery, with bread for body and plenty of piquant seasoning like sherry vinegar, garlic, green tomatoes, and a bit of jalapeño.
Road trip dinner recipes
When it comes to road trip meals, dinner is the one we’re most likely to enjoy in a restaurant — but we try to cut down on extra cost by eating our own food more often than not. Each of these options is hearty enough to get you through an evening (though I wouldn’t say no to stopping for ice cream).
Yes, the recipe suggests bringing this to work for lunch, but I think it makes a mighty fine road trip dinner. All you need is a cooler and access to hot water, since the rest of the soup ingredients go into the jar before you head out. Rice stick noodles, kale, carrots, tofu, Thai curry paste, and a splash each of soy sauce and coconut cream make a mighty tasty bowl.
Don’t be put off by the long ingredients list. This clever recipe is giving you three completely different options, Mediterranean 3 Bean; Cherry, Quinoa, and Zoodle; and Summery Blackberry Fig. Plus there’s a basic formula, so you can create your own salad-to-go. The secret: Put the dressing in the bottom of the jar and layer the ingredients carefully, with the most delicate/softest on top. Give it a shake when you’re ready to eat, and grab a fork. Variations on the theme include a South of the Border Salad and a Thai Salad.
Bowl meals work well for road trips, because you can keep each element separate until you’re ready to eat. Nothing gets jostled together! Here, seasoned black beans meet up with charred corn and zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and avocado over pre-cooked brown rice. You can warm the elements in a microwave or enjoy it cold, but either way be sure to drizzle on some of the cilantro-herb dressing.
A Spanish tortilla is nothing like the Mexican kind you use for tacos — it’s a luscious egg-and-potato dish, similar to a frittata, made with plenty of olive oil. Not only are they easy to make, they’re traditionally served at room temperature. Just the thing for a simple road trip dinner! Stow the tortilla in the cooler, and take it out an hour before you want to eat. This recipe includes a lovely little side salad, which I’d chop ahead of time and assemble at the last minute.
Healthy road trip snacks
I admit, I don’t only bring homemade nibbles for travel snacks. Good-for-you grocery store snack ideas include applesauce cups, string cheese, beef jerky, and protein bars. But those are to supplement the homemade stuff, not replace it.
At the intersection of munchy, portable, and healthy, you’ll find trail mix. And making it yourself couldn’t be simpler. This recipe comes with two variations, each the perfect combo of salty and sweet. The first mixes dried fruit like apricots and raisins with salted cashews, pepitas, and coconut chips. And the second is perfect for when you need a hit of chocolate — it’s got dark chocolate chips, almonds, salted peanuts, and banana chips.
You only need three ingredients and three steps to make these nutritious nibbles. First, whir dried apricots, oats, and shredded coconut together in a food processor. Then roll the sweet, sticky mixture into balls, and finally coat the bites in more coconut. Pop one in your mouth when you need a little energy behind the wheel.
Homemade pita chips are about a thousand times better for you than the potato chips you pick up at the gas station or rest stop. And they’re ridiculously easy to make, too. Portion these into single-serve pouches before you go, then just grab and eat. Even better if you’ve stocked up on those individual tubs of guacamole or hummus.
Granola bars are a classic road trip snack, and for good reason: They’re easy to eat while driving; they stay fresh a nice, long time; and homemade granola bars are usually on the lower-sugar side of things. This recipe hits my chewy-crunchy-salty-sweet spot with the addition of crushed pretzels, dry cereal, chopped peanuts, and mini-chocolate chips.
Healthier snacks, on and off the road
What's your craving? We've got lots of options to keep you satisfied.