An Easy-to-Make, Savory Backcountry Breakfast

And it's a hundred times better than an energy bar

This cheesy mashed potato breakfast recipe has been a staple on my guided trips since 2015. (Photo: Andrew Skurka)
This cheesy mashed potato breakfast recipe has been a staple on my guided trips since 2015.

This cheesy mashed potato breakfast recipe has been a staple on my guided trips since 2015. Its savoriness is an excellent balance to sweeter meals like oatmeal or cold cereal.

I’ve tweaked the ingredients and ratios multiple times based on feedback, and I believe we now have a real winner. Among the more than 100 I clients polled during the 2019 season, it was their top-rated breakfast.

Key Stats

  • 4.5 ounces per serving (128 grams)
  • 537 calories
  • 119 calories per ounce

To increase the caloric density, use more butter and less potato, and substitute canned green chilies for dried. To increase the net calories, add more of the goodies, specifically bacon, cheese, or butter.


For the seasoning, I pack a can of green chiles, and clients often add things from the general spice kit, like taco seasoning, dried green onions, red pepper flakes, or paprika. Many options work here.

In addition to these ingredients, I also add:

  • Nutritional yeast (0.15 ounce), which adds a savory, Parmesan-like characteristic
  • Dried onion (0.05 ounce), which enhances the overall flavor profile

This is a deceptively large meal, because the instant mashed potatoes absorb a lot of water per their dry weight. If you’re not that hungry, reduce the potato flakes by a half ounce. Alternatively, save it for later in the trip. 

Find real crumbled bacon at your grocery store or in 20-ounce packages at Costco. You can also cook bacon at home prior to your trip. Definitely pack the bacon fat, too, for extra flavor and calories. For vegetarians there are many nonmeat bacon products.

My original recipe used whole-milk powder and powdered cheese, but last year I swapped these ingredients for butter and real cheese. The response from clients was very positive, so I’ll be sticking with these substitutions. This updated version is creamier, more calorically dense, and more flavorful.

At-Home Preparation

The finished product, plus a little bit of green onion that I happened to have on hand
The finished product, plus a little bit of green onion that I happened to have on hand (Photo: Andrews Skurka)

Package the instant mashed potatoes, nutritional yeast, and dried onion in a sandwich bag. For shorter trips, soloists can add the crumbled bacon, too—I had no ill effects after it was repackaged and sat in a hot car for ten days. The canned green chilies are more perishable,  though, so find a replacement or skip them.

On group trips, I package the bacon separately so that vegetarians and vegans can forgo their share.

Put the cheese in another sandwich bag, or keep it in its original packaging.

Unless it’s a cold trip, the butter is best stored in a plastic food container so it doesn’t make a mess when it gets soft. On group trips, I divide these items in the field.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Bring ten ounces (300 millileters) of water to a boil. 
  2. Add half of the bag of instant mashed potatoes, then stir.
  3. Add the rest of the bag, and stir again. This two-step method will help prevent spills and clumps.
  4. Remove from the flame, and mix in the butter and bacon. The cheese and chilies can be mixed in, too, or sprinkled on top.

If you want a soupier consistency, use 12 ounces of water.

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Lead Photo: Andrew Skurka

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