Best Freeze Dried Foods Reviewed & Rated for Quality
Having a supply of nonperishable foods is a must, whether you are a backpacker or simply stocking up ‘just in case’. Once an industry dominated by a few major suppliers, the number of freeze dried foods has grown to a daunting degree over time. Luckily, smart shoppers don’t need to shortchange taste or value when choosing the right products for them. Let’s look at a few of the top items on the market today. Some are simple, straightforward meals, perfect for a multi-day trek. Others are compact kits intended as a long-term food supply in adversarial situations. Still more capitalize on sheer compact sustenance for only the direst emergencies. Regardless, we will be comparing and contrasting the benefits as well as a few of the downsides of each so that you can make the most informed decision possible as a consumer.
This is the best product on our list that is currently in stock:
Easy ten minute Prep time
30 Year shelf-life
No additional ingredients needed except water
Invigorating spicy flavor
Generous amounts of beef
- Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Supply
- MaryJanesFarm Santa Fe Pasta
- Mountain House Chili Mac
- Mountain House Beef Stroganoff & Noodles
- Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations
- Crispy Green's All Natural Dried Fruit
- Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai
- Datrex 3600 Emergency Food Bar
- Harmony House Veggie Soup Mix
- Mother Earth Products Dried Chives
10 Best Freeze Dried Foods Reviewed & Rated for Qality
1. Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Supply
Good variety of meals
Self contained meals, just add water!
Bucket is heavy but space efficient
Shelf life of one year once bucket is opened
Simple, straightforward food prep
Loose packaging can lead to rips and tears
Ungainly, heavy bucket can be difficult to open
While far from space efficient, this 29 lb tub contains everything you need for thirty days worth of meals. Depending on one's preference, the seven-gallon pail can produce between eight and twelve different types of meals and can endure a 25-year shelf life so it’s always there if you need it. Definitely, too much to handle for the average backpacker, but ideal for those storing food in case of emergency.
When considering the scenario in which this product is to be used, the value is all in the overall volume as opposed to quality. With thirty servings of more than a half dozen different types of meals, this product gets the job done.
This is a far more expensive item than many of the others on our list. However, when averaged out over a month it works out to just a few dollars a day. This makes it a much safer bet for emergency rations when compared to individually wrapped meals.
Cost and Value
While this would not be a good value for your everyday hiker, the volume of choices contained in this package makes it economical for long-term food storage. The price point is comparable to other products on the market.
2. MaryJanesFarm Santa Fe Pasta
Great Chili Mac taste
Convenient packaging makes cooking and disposal a breeze
Flavorful, but mild
Small serving size
More expensive than comparable products from other brands
Here we have an offering from one of the newer kids on the block. MaryJanesFarm is the creation of Idaho native MaryJane Butters, whose boutique products have quickly been gaining fans. Her spin on the classic Chili Mac recipe comes in a 4.9 oz bag for a quick, space-efficient single-serving meal. Even better, this Chili Mac is marketed as vegetarian for the health conscious.
For health-conscious consumers looking to stay away from meat, this is a great alternative to the other Chili Mac featured in this list. Not having to worry about rehydrating meat makes cooking a lot easier too!
MaryJanesFarm prides itself on producing quality, certified-organic products. This makes it the perfect choice for those looking to avoid consuming products treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
Cost and Value
Compared to other products this one is a bit pricier. As this is a smaller, boutique company dealing in Certified-organic products, one might be led to expect this. That said, the quality of the ingredients make up for the higher price.
3. Mountain House Chili Mac
Easy ten minute Prep time
30 Year shelf-life
No additional ingredients needed except water
Invigorating spicy flavor
Generous amounts of beef
Noodles can sometimes taste undercooked
The pouch is not resealable
Mountain House is featured prominently on this list, which is no surprise. They have been selling freeze-dried foods for over fifty years, and in that time have earned a sterling reputation amongst backpackers and fans of the outdoors. Their Chili Mac with Beef heads up our list of rich ingredients and a spicy kick, all within a quick and easy 10 minutes of prep.
While most Mountain House products get top marks for quality, their Chili Mac in particular gains praise for the spicy kick that places it a step above other meals that, while hearty, sadly lacking in the flavor department.
Make no mistake, this is a full-on meal. The ratio of sauce to meat in this offering is generous, with every bite loaded with stomach-filling nutrients. This is one meal that will leave you satisfied.
Cost and Value
In addition to tasting great, this Chili Mac is also a great deal. The price point is around a dollar less than comparable sizes from other vendors. When you pair that with the bold flavor and satisfying ingredients, this meal is a home run.
4. Mountain House Beef Stroganoff & Noodles
Heavy sauce with rich, mushroom flavor
Reasonably priced, given the contents
A good portion of meat
Pouch packaging is space efficient for backpacking
30-year shelf life
Flavor is a bit bland compared to other Mountain House meals
Sodium content is high compared to other similar products
Did I mention that Mountain House was a popular brand? Snagging the number two spot is their Beef Stroganoff meal, trumpeted by the company as one of their most popular offerings. The recipe is simple and hearty, featuring beef and savory mushrooms in a rich sour cream sauce. Like all other Mountain House products, it takes a mere 10 minutes to prepare.
While the packaging states that one pouch creates two-and-a-half servings, the filling ingredients create a meal that can be stretched out to more than that depending on who you’re feeding. This makes it a great value.
After a long day, you want something with body. The heavy, cream-based sauce of this dish has a substantial texture that gives you the sensation of a hearty, home-cooked meal even if your home is miles away.
Cost and Value
Price is comparable or a bit lower than many of the other items featured. This one gains an edge in terms of value, however, with a serving size that can be expanded dramatically given the heartiness of the meal.
5. Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations
5 year shelf life when sealed
Contains less sugar than similar products on the market
Made in the USA
Expensive when compared to other similar products on the market
Has Partially Hydrogenated oils
Rounding out our list is another survival product intended to stave off starvation. Each ration is contained within a 3600 calorie bar, with each case containing ten. While they are not described by flavor, each dehydrated bar is described as having a ‘cookie’-like consistency with a slightly sweet flavor. This is an American-made product produced up to the standards of the US Coast Guard.
These bars are built to last, no matter what conditions they go through. From extreme heat to extreme cold, this product is built to last no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.
As with any survival bar, taste takes a backseat to sustenance and energy. However, while this bar features most of the main pros of the others, it does so with a pleasant lemon-shortbread flavor that is easy on the palate.
Cost and Value
The price point is similar to other food ration bars. Once more, this is an emergency product intended to pack a lot of nutrients into a very space efficient package. As such the cost will be a bit more than other pre-packaged food items listed here. The trade-off is in the security of having a last-resort option.
6. Crispy Green's All Natural Dried Fruit
Fully organic, non-GMO product
Small, endlessly portable packaging for when you’re on-the-go
Variety pack includes three fruit varieties
Makes a healthy alternative for children
Fresh flavors that avoid chalky taste of similar products
Expensive when compared to other dried fruit products
Small serving size
These single serving variety packs from Crispy Green make a great snack for out on the trail. Each package contains eight pouches of freeze-dried apples and four apiece of pears and tangerines. This is a non-GMO, gluten-free product. At less than one ounce apiece per pouch, this is a space-efficient snack for any situation.
Compared to other products on this list this product is far and away the most versatile. Whether you need a quick fix on the trail or a healthy snack to keep the kids happy, these fruit packs fit the bill.
The pouches contain fruit and only fruit. This product is free of preservatives or any additional additives. For the health-conscious consumer, this makes it a great product for use anytime.
Cost and Value
Like many of the other all-natural products that we have reviewed, this one features a price point far above the more traditional dried fruit snacks out there. If you’re willing to pay a little extra, however, it's a safe bet for a healthy snack.
7. Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai
Easy to prepare
Nutritious and high in protein
Peanuts and peanut sauce packaged separately
84 month shelf life
Contains peanuts - Beware in case of allergy
Cheaper options are available
This rich, satisfying Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry makes two 13 ounce meals. Ingredients include rice noodles, sauce, vegetables, and even roasted peanuts. The vegetables, peanuts, and sauce are packaged separately, necessitating a bit of extra prep. With a shelf life of 84 months, this product is perfect for either long-term storage or immediate use on the go. It is also a vegetarian product.
This Pad Thai gets high marks for variety. Not only does it contain a rich sauce, noodles, and vegetables, but also peanuts and peanut sauce. Taken together, this makes for a varied meal in terms of textures and tastes, and one that is high in the Protein your body craves after a long hike.
The sturdy, stand-up packaging makes it easy to prepare with a minimum of extra equipment. Just open, add the ingredients, add boiling water and stir. Makes cleanup a cinch too!
Cost and Value
Compared to other meals in comparable sizes, this was mid-range in terms of price. There were cheaper options out there but few that received as high marks for flavor and ingredients.
8. Datrex 3600 Emergency Food Bar
No preparation necessary
Packs a full day’s nutrients into each bar
Vacuum sealed for freshness
Five year shelf life while sealed
US Coast Guard approved
Texture is crumbly and can be difficult to eat
Taste can be unpleasant
For the more extreme outdoorsman we have Datrex’s Emergency Food Bar, a product designed to provide a sudden influx of nutrients and energy in cases of extreme hunger. Far from a typical food company, Datrex specializes in survival equipment and supplies. Each emergency food bars contains 3600 calories and is coconut flavor.
Imagine fitting three meals into the palm of your hand. That is exactly what this product does. One single, easy to store bar can last through a full day’s worth of sustenance in an emergency situation.
Non Thirst Provoking
When the situation calls for use of a product like this one, the last thing you need is something that makes you need water as well. These bars are designed to be consumed without making you thirsty.
Cost and Value
The cost of one bar is equal to some of the full meals on this list, so it is not what one would classify as cheap. That said, it is not intended for everyday hiking or backpacking, but as a last resort emergency measure. As such, it is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
9. Harmony House Veggie Soup Mix
No preservatives or fillers
Great, long lasting value for the price
Features a wide variety of freeze-dried veggies
Simple prep -- Just add water!
Extremely versatile when used with other ingredients
No instructions provided on amount of water needed to rehydrate
Stock can taste bland or watery without additional ingredients
Harmony House is another highly regarded brand in the industry. Their Vegetable Soup Mix showcases the dependable flavor and convenience that has come to define their products. The name of the game here is a bulk convenience, with over 200 ounces of soup produced from one-quart sized jar of mix. Though dehydrated, the vegetables retain their nutrients, making it a perfect meal for hikers and backpackers on the trail.
If you’re looking for a possible bang for your buck, look no further. One quart container is enough for 24 servings of soup, making this the perfect staple item for any long-term pantry.
The contents of this product aren’t a mystery. Herbs. Freeze dried veggies. That’s it. Consumers can rest easy, knowing that what they’re eating contains no preservatives or other fillers of any kind.
Cost and Value
Value is where this particular offering stands head and shoulders above the rest. For the same cost, other meals produce a mere three or four servings, while this soup mix can help create dozens of meals over time.
10. Mother Earth Products Dried Chives
Fresh, pungent flavor
Perfect for long-term use
Cost-efficient when compared to fresh alternative
Organic, GMO free
Perfect for use in many different dishes
Texture can be dry if used in large amounts
Color is lacking compared to fresh counterpart
For those who prefer to prepare their own meals, we have Mother Earth Products Dried Chives. This Quart-sized container of freeze-dried chives has a 25-year shelf life and contains no GMO’s or gluten. The company also assures consumers that their products are hand-packaged, ensuring only the best produce. This is a highly versatile option that can be featured in an endless array of meals and savory snacks.
When dealing with freeze-dried vegetables, in particular, one of the most common complaints is the loss of flavor when compared to the fresh alternative. Not so here, as the chives retain their pungent odor and taste throughout the freeze-drying process.
When compared to the cost and lifespan of smaller containers of fresh chives, there’s no contest here. This quart jar can safely last for months, so you don’t have to worry about these vegetables going bad a week after you’ve purchased them.
Cost and Value
he price point is comparable to other freeze-dried vegetables, though the flavor is more highly praised. Additionally, the bulk-sized quart container is a steal compared to fresh chives.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Your food needs to provide you with the proper kind of nutritional value so that your body has what it needs in order to provide you with enough energy. While calories are important in determining nutritional value, you will also need to make sure that freeze-dried food has the proper amount of minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Every nutritionist will stress the importance of eating a well-balanced diet and this can be especially true when you are in survival situations where your body is under stress.
There are several things that you will want to look for on the food label. One of the things that you will want to check is the amount of sodium that is used to prepare the food. Many preserved foods are high in sodium because sodium removes water from the food which inhibits the growth of bacteria. The more sodium there is in the food, the longer the food will last because of a lack of bacteria that would normally break down the food.
Protein is another thing that you will need to look for in the freeze-dried food. Your muscles require protein to repair themselves when they are damaged from exercise so it is important for you to get enough protein in your diet if you are going to be doing strenuous activity. For example, hikers, rock climbers, or people in a survival situation may benefit from having additional protein in their diet because it will help promote muscle recovery between meals. Protein also takes longer for your body to digest so it can help you feel fuller for a longer period of time between meals which is also beneficial.
Carbohydrates are sugars which are broken down by the body and provide you with energy. There are two forms of carbohydrates which are complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Freeze dried foods that are high in complex carbohydrates will provide your body with nutritional energy for a longer period of time because your body needs to work harder in order to digest these foods. This means that you should look for freeze-dried foods that include grains such as wheat, oats, or brown rice as all of these foods will be high in complex carbohydrates. On the other hand, foods that are high in sugar such as sweetened foods will be high in simple sugars that will not provide your body with as much energy as complex carbohydrates.
The final nutrient that you will want to be aware of is fats. Although fats are important, you will need to make sure that you only have a little bit of fat in your food as your body does not need a lot of dietary fats. Once you have considered all of the nutrients, you will have a solid understanding of how well the food will nourish your body while you are eating it. You may have to mix different foods in order to get a proper balance in your diet in terms of nutritional value. However, the better job you do at getting the proper nutritional value in your food, the better you will feel.
It is almost impossible to get excited about a meal when you can’t stand how it tastes. All food tastes differently and the difference in taste increases when the food is freeze dried because it changes the chemical structure of the food. You need to make sure that you actually want to eat the food that you buy in the first place. Although it is generally the case that just about anything will taste better when you are extremely hungry, the reality is that eating should be enjoyable and pleasure rather than a chore. When you are picking out freeze dried food for any purpose, you need to make sure that you like how it tastes so that you will actually want to eat the food when you are hungry.
Freeze drying can also have aftertaste issues as well which you need to be aware of when you are purchasing a freeze-dried meal. Many manufacturers have worked around the taste and aftertaste issues by adding flavors to the food. This will help add flavor to the food and may also cover up any unexpected flavors that you would otherwise taste when you are eating the food. You should keep in mind that the additional flavoring may come in the form of seasonings and spices or it may also be artificial flavors as well. Some people have objections to artificial flavorings so once again, you will need to read the ingredient label to check what has been used to process the food.
Whether you’re hiking the Himalayas or preparing yourself for possible disasters, having a safe, accessible supply of nonperishable foods is a must. These freeze dried foods are a good start to stocking any well-prepped pantry or travel bag. Remember to carefully weigh the price of the product against its purpose, as not all of the above are intended for the same thing. Ask yourself what your immediate needs are – Recreation or Preparation? If preparing yourself for the worst-case scenario situation, it may be worth to spend a bit of extra money for an emergency ration. If it’s casual hiking you’re after, go with what’s safest for your pocketbook. How much space do you have? Do you have any food allergies? With a daunting variety of products out there in the marketplace, keep in mind what your unique needs are as a consumer.
There are plenty of people who require a specialty diet and if you are one of those people, then you will need to pick out your freeze-dried foods that comply with your diet. Many people eat a specialty diet because it is important for their health. Other people eat a special diet because of personal reasons that are not related to your health. Like regular food, freeze dried foods come in a variety of different foods that should make it possible for you to pick foods that meet your dietary requirements. There are some diets where it may be more difficult to find foods than others so you may have your work cut out for you if you are on a diet that isn’t widely practiced.
A reduced sodium diet is another diet that is commonly followed for health-related reasons. High sodium intake can cause high blood pressure which leads to heart disease and strokes. This is why many people who are on high blood pressure medication are told to follow reduced sodium diets because it will directly relate to their cardiovascular health. The problem with freeze-dried foods as it relates to people who need to reduce their sodium is that sodium is also a preservative. For this reason, many freeze dried foods tend to be high in sodium which can become a difficult problem for people who need to reduce their sodium intake.
Some people have to avoid gluten for health reasons. Gluten comes from the endosperm of different grains such as wheat, rye, or oats and some people are allergic to gluten or have other health reasons to avoid gluten. If you are somebody who has an allergy to gluten you are in luck when it comes to freeze-dried foods because there are plenty of freeze-dried foods that are available that are completely free of gluten. The important thing to keep in mind is that you have to make sure that the food is labeled as being gluten-free. You can also check the ingredient label to make sure that the food does not have any gluten so that you do not get sick while you are eating freeze-dried foods.
Some diets are not health based but are instead based on a person’s beliefs about food. For example, many vegans consider it unethical to eat any animal based product and there are some religions that prohibit eating certain animals such as pork. Once again, your decisions about the kinds of freeze-dried food that you eat will be based on your dietary requirements but reading the label will help you determine if there is a prohibited ingredient in your food.
Although we have not covered all of the specialty diets that are available, dietary requirements will determine what sort of freeze-dried foods you will end up purchasing and eating. The most important thing to remember is that there is freeze-dried food that can satisfy just about anyone’s dietary needs.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
For decades freeze-drying has been used to preserve food items that would otherwise spoil, creating a lightweight convenient product that has long been a staple for everyone from soldiers to astronauts. Due to their durability, freeze-dried products are a must-have addition to the food store of anyone looking for quick convenient meals in otherwise inconvenient situations.
Your food needs to provide you with the proper kind of nutritional value so that your body has what it needs in order to provide you with enough energy. While calories are important in determining nutritional value, you will also need to make sure that the freeze-dried food has the proper amount of minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Every nutritionist will stress the importance of eating a well-balanced diet and this can be especially true when you are in survival situations where your body is under stress.
In the United States, all food has to have a nutritional label that meets the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The European Union also has laws requiring that foods are properly labeled for consumers. The laws regarding food labeling will be different around the world so you will need to become familiar with your nation’s food labeling laws to see what is in your food. The food labels are intended to provide you with enough information so that you can make an informed choice about your food. This is because everyone has different dietary needs so consumers need to be aware of what is in their food.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Do freeze dried foods expire?
The shelf life of freeze-dried foods all depends on the brand, how it is sealed, and the different fat contents that are in different foods. The flavor is known to pull a little with higher fat counts over time. Some of the foods reviewed have shelf lives over 25+ years, while others are known to last 10+ years. Looking into the moisture content left over after these foods are dried out, will also help determine the shelf life. In the event these foods are needed after 20+ years, you should be able to eat them, no problem, with a small risk of an off-taste.
q: Who uses freeze dried food?
Anyone that enjoys these foods or needs these foods can use them. Freeze dried foods are most popular for people who are out in the wilderness hiking or hunting. The reason why they are so popular for this is that they are sealed, keeping animals away, and they can remain fresh until opened or last a very long while. Astronauts also used freeze-dried foods in space as they are convenient and available, in any atmosphere. It is wise to have this type of food on hand for emergencies, as well.
q: How long does freeze-dried food last after opening?
There is no exact time frame that the freeze-dried food will remain fresh. One of the things you will need to consider is the atmosphere the food is in. You will need to look at moisture, heat, cold, etc. When any food sits in the heat or moisture, it has the ability to go bad, a lot faster. It is said that the freeze-dried foods have the same rule of thumb as fresh foods, once opened. In order to keep your foods fresh, store in an airtight container in dark, cool places. This will help maintain the flavor and freshness that you get from freeze-dried foods.
q: Do freeze-dried foods have preservatives?
If you are looking to make foods last, you would think that you have to add a lot of preservatives and additives. With freeze dried foods, that is not the case. When these foods are made, they have the majority of the moisture sucked out of them, so you would not have to include preservatives and additives as much as you would with dehydrated food. By removing the majority of the moisture, you can give your food longer shelf life, rather than having to use preservatives.
q: Do freeze dried foods lose nutrients?
Freeze dried foods have been designed to maintain flavor and nutrition. While these foods are known to last a very long time and put in place for survival purposes, they do not lose nutrition like you think they would. The freeze-dried foods have a tendency to lose moisture but can maintain their flavor for very long periods of time.
q: What is freeze dried food?
Freeze dried food is food that has been dehydrated without using heat to remove water from the food. It is a two-step process where the food processor freezes the food first and then exposes it to pressure which turns the water from a solid directly into gas which evaporates from the food. Freeze drying is highly effective at removing moisture from food which is why it tends to last for a long time due to its low water content.
q: Why is freeze-dried food, lightweight?
Most of the weight of your food is due to moisture from water. The process of freezing drying your food is highly efficient at removing water from the food which in turn, reduces the overall weight of the food. This is why freeze-dried food tends to be popular in applications where you need to think about the overall weight of your food. Many hikers and rock climbers will use freeze-dried food thanks to its lightweight.
q: How do I reconstitute freeze dried food?
Freeze dried food is reconstituted by adding water to the food. Since the food is almost completely dried, it will soak water like a sponge. Once the food has been fully reconstituted, it will be ready for cooking or heating. You will need to make sure that you are using clean and safe water when you are reconstituting your freeze dried food since unsafe water will contaminate the food and make it unsafe for you to eat.
q: Why does freeze-dried food cost more than dehydrated food?
There are two reasons why freeze-dried foods cost more to produce than dehydrated foods. One reason is that the equipment used to freeze dry food is more expensive and the other reason is that freeze-drying has a slower processing time which means that the manufacturer cannot process freeze dried food as fast as dehydrated food. Both of these issues are reflected in the price of the food which is why freeze-dried food costs more.
q: How should I store freeze dried food?
One of the main advantages of freeze dried food is that it does not require refrigeration to keep the food preserved as long as the food stays in its original packaging. You should try and store the food in areas that stay consistently below 75F. It will not matter if your freeze dried food is stored in colder environments but when it starts to get too warm, the packaging may get damaged which can cause the food to spoil.