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Backpacking Food: Knorr Rice Sides

Why do backpackers like Knorr Rice Sides so much

Knorr’s Rice Sides are a favorite backpacking food for thru-hikers, section hikers, and weekend warriors because they include all of the nutritional food groups important to backpackers: salt, carbohydrates, and easy. If you add a little protein like a can of tuna fish or chicken, sausage, or pepperoni slices, they become a filling and surprisingly nutritious meal with plenty of calories.

Calorie wise, each packet contains 675 to 700 calories worth of food with anywhere from 500 mg to 800 mg of sodium per serving with 2.5 servings per package. Unlike bulky freeze-dried dinners, they pack up flat, they’re very inexpensive at $1 each, and they’re readily available in the small food stores and supermarkets found near hiking trails.

Knorr’s Rice Sides cook quickly in 7 minutes or rehydrate if you’re into no-cook meals, While you need a cookpot to boil water, simmering isn’t required since you can just let them soak in the hot water to save fuel. This also makes them a good option for stoves systems like the Jetboil Flash and Jetboil Zip which are NOT designed for simmering (see Can You Cook Food in a Jetboil?). Clean up is also very easy and usually just requires a quick rinse of your cookpot, especially if you add a little extra water to make the rice a little more “soupy.”

Knorr’s Rice Sides are available in a lot of different flavors:

Knorr’s Sides are surprisingly free of toxic crap in this day and age, such as artificial flavors and coloring. On the other hand, none of their sides are vegetarian or vegan. While some of their meals are gluten-free, you need to read the labels of each meal packet, because the ingredients in them may change over time.

Knorr Rice Sides are much less bulky than freeze-dried meals, they're less expensive, and have more calories.
Knorr Rice Sides are much less bulky than freeze-dried meals, they’re less expensive and they have more calories.

While Knorr’s Rice Sides are great, my advice is to avoid Knorr’s Pasta Sides if you can. While they taste ok, they’re much harder to clean up after a meal. A lot of them have cream sauces like Creamy Garlic Shells or Fettuccini Alfredo that stick your cook pot and require more work to clean after eating. They’re also terrible as non-cook, soaked meals that don’t reconstitute as nicely as the rice dishes.

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  1. Classic. I usually add freeze-dried veggies and/or meats from, using the Knorr rice side like a base layer of clothing to add to as needed. That would be complicated for a through hike, but works well for shorter trips where you are preparing meals at home. For very short trips, it also works well to add fresh veggies with low water content, like spinach or onions.

  2. Knorr Red Beans and Rice is my favorite. Very mild flavor so some may wish to add more seasonings.

    • I like all the Knorr varieties but agree this is my favorite also. I pair it with a spicy tuna option such as hickory smoked, sweet & spicy, or honey BBQ tuna.

  3. Using Knorr products, I’ve committed first degree pastacide on hiking partners many times. The advertised prep time on the Rice Sides is generally less than with their pasta dishes and there’s no need to simmer any of them. Cleanup isn’t an issue for me, since I don’t prepare either type in my JetBoil. I put the contents of the Knorr package into a microwave cooking bag along with whatever else I’m going to add, such as dehydrated meat and veggies. The microwave bag goes into a homemade Reflectix cozie and I dump the boiling water into it all, go about my camp chores for a while and then enjoy the meal.

    • Bill in Roswell GA

      I do something similar. It just makes meals so easy that you can relax and enjoy the meal with your spices and flavors. No wonder bears are envious!
      ~Bill in Roswell GA

  4. I ran into a hiker awhile back who just put boiling water right into the Knorr package. Any thoughts?

    • might be a bit crunchy, but that should work.

    • You need to be careful pouring the water. I scalded myself doing this when the Knorr pouch flopped a bit. I had it in a homemade coozy but it still didn’t have enough rigidity. I’ve since gone back to cooking in my JetBoil. I just swish water around and drink it a couple times for post-meal clean-up.

    • I made pot cozies (for 1L snowpeak pot, my $3 Winn Dixie aluminum cup, out of that thin foil looking insulated wrap they put on duct work and tyvec tape) bottoms and top covers. I found you don’t even need to put your food pouch in the pot just put it in the pot cozy and add your boil water and cover. Wait 5 minutes or so and it’s ready.

  5. I like to dehydrate Hamburg and take it along as a terrific mix in for many of these packets.

  6. An interesting meat alternative I’ve tried with good success is to cut up an Epic (meat) bar and add it in to things like the rice sides. Sometimes you can also find Epic in small packets of thinner slices and you can sometimes find flavors that go with what ever you are cooking. Usually found near snack bars.

  7. You can get pre-cooked in Chunk White Chicken in 2 and 7 oz pouches. A 7 oz size and any of the Knorr sides makes a single pot meal for 2 or a large meal for one.

  8. I am not sure why you say that none of the Knorr Sides are vegetarian. I just went through all the dishes I found on Knorr’s site, and looked for their ingredients.
    In the Rice section, the following seem to be vegetarian
    Spanish Rice
    Yellow Rice
    Red Beans and Rice
    Beef Rice (*** I know! but the ingredients don’t have any meet products in it. I wouldn’t eat it, as a vegetarian)
    Cheddar Broccoli Rice
    Herb & Butter Rice
    Mushroom Rice
    Taco Rice

    And the following Pasta Sides seem to be vegetarian:
    Creamy Garlic Shells
    Creamy Pesto Pasta
    Garlic & Olive Oil Pasta
    Four Cheese Pasta
    Alfredo Broccoli Pasta
    Butter & Herb Pasta
    Butter Pasta

    These all include Enzymes as part of the cheese included, and I’m not sure it’s not rennet, which is extracted from animals. I know real Parmesan (from Parma), for example, is not vegetarian.
    Cheddar Broccoli Rice
    Garlic Parmesan Rice
    Alfredo Pasta
    Cheddar Broccoli Pasta
    Cheesy Cheddar Pasta
    Parmesan Pasta
    Cheesy Spinach Dip Pasta

    And these two contain Worcestershire Sauce. So if it’s the brand-name sauce, it’s not vegetarian either
    Teriyaki Rice
    Teriyaki Noodles

    So – there seem to be plenty of vegetarian options when using Knorr Sides. I lived off of it in my PCT thru-hike, and I’d be happy to do it again.

    Also, regarding the clean up instructions (for both rice and pasta) – it’s much easier to just boil water in a cup, pour the boiling water into the Pasta Side package, close it gently, and let it sit for ~10 minutes. It’s useful to have a long spoon or spork as well. I also add some Idahoan Mashed Potatoes at the end, to thicken it up a bit. Zero cleanup afterwards.

    • Because the manufacturer says they’re not.

      • Where did you find that info? I looked all over their site but couldn’t find anything. Thanks! :-)

      • If you are referring to this reply:
        “At this time Knorr does not have a line of vegetarian products. However, there are some meatless products such as Knorr Vegetarian Vegetable Bouillon Cubes. We suggest that you read the ingredient statements for more information. Gelatin is derived from the naturally occurring protein in animal tissue and it is used both to thicken and to stabilize (maintain desired degree of firmness). We cannot guarantee whether it is from beef or pork. It does not contain fat or cholesterol. For additional ingredient information, please contact us at

        The manufacturer did not say their products are not vegetarian.
        They did not say any of them were vegetarian, or label them as such. But they suggest to read the ingredient statements. I think most vegetarians will have no issues with eating the products that don’t contain any meet.

        Personal dietery restrictions might cover a large spectrum, and I am sure some vegetarians will not eat anything that is not clearly marked as vegetarian. But I’d be surprised if they were the majority of vegetarians.

    • I add instant potatoes to dehydrated soups from Harmony House

  9. YEA! And add some freeze dried peas.

  10. If one is worried about being in control of all the ingredients it is really simple to roll you own, especially if your cooking system resembles Grandpa’s. Just start with something like Minute Rice and a visit to the Spice Aisles should result in something at least palatable even if you are terrible at cooking. Mix in some of the “add on” suggestions here and it could be very yummy.

  11. Just got back from a trip and the meals I personally dehydrated tasted terrible so I was glad to see your review on something you consider tasty. My only question is are all the ingredients mixed in the box or is there a flavoring packet within the box of uncooked rice?

    • All mixed together. They come in packets, not boxes, making them much easier to pack.
      I just throw a can of tuna in with the mix. Really hits the spot.

      • Starkist and Bumblebee package tuna in foil packets which are lighter weight and more packable than cans. And definitely easier to compact the trash for packing out.

  12. So what is the secret to cooking these freezer bag style without them coming out starchy and gummy? I have tried different cooking times and water tremps to no avail?

    • Hey. I don’t have any problems making them in a tiny cook pot. Makes a good water scoop, cup, and it’s easy to clean.

    • I have the same question, which is what brought me to this article. I think I’m doing something wrong, because all the Knorr sides I’ve ever tried to make have come out chewy and gummy – despite experimenting with water quantity and soak-times. I’ve tried water at a rolling boil and water that’s just hot (not boiling) – all this to avail. Anyone have similar experience?

  13. Knorr also has the pasta sides. I often have the chicken noodles, or butter flavored noodles (at home) the recipe do call for added couple tablespoons of butter, but I beta bit of EVOO might work just as well. Have you, or anyone else tried the pasta sides as trail grub? Just wondering.

    • Oops, just saw you did include the pasta sides on your list.. my oversight. Might be a good idea for me to read ALL the comments, not just the heading. DOH…

  14. Funny, you mention Knorr Sides. My fav on the AT too. This summer, once my IRB is approved, I will be on the Trail in NE late July/Aug surveying what thru-hikers are eating on the Trail. This summer’s data collection will populate a survey for next year when I follow a cohort of thru-hikers on the entire trail. I will definitely add Knorr to my survey, now that Phil has included it on his Post. Phil has his finger on the pulse of NE hiking!

  15. Nobody mentioned SPAM singles! Two million British Soldiers can’t be wrong…

  16. I am curious to see if there is a common heat method for making hot water. Something that is easy to refill and does not require a propane cylinder of any size. I have some small pills I am supposed to light and will heat water but have not had a chance to try yet. My first long walk will be from Blanco, Texas to Terlingua Ranch

  17. I find they are really saucy and salty. So I put in a few scoops of plain cous cous. It cooks in a minute and stretches a pouch into two meals. I add some protein as well. Spam comes to mind

  18. Nice list! Would love to see a trail mix added in there! Believe it or not, many people would just survive on that all day! Great blog!

  19. Many of these store bought packaged foods have way to much sodium in them to be healthy. I have tried finding specialty niche camping foods but again too much sodium for those that are on low sodium diets. any suggestions.

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