Camping Dinner Menu: Florida Keys Favorites

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When taking a camping trip, one of the most anticipated moments is when food is prepared, served, and we break bread. Whether we plan for a sunrise cup of coffee or a sit-down dinner by an evening campfire, it is at mealtime when we all unwind, relax, and appreciate our campsite. These moments often become the ones we remember and cherish most, all because of the food shared and the people we’re with. 

florida keys pixabay
Key West (Photo courtesy of Pixabay/DayronV)

Yet we often do the same, typical menu camping trip after camping trip. We know what works, what we can easily transport, and what we can cook at a campsite. We know which meals allow for an easy clean-up too. But what if we decided to change the menu? What if we decided to steer it towards a specific location, and perhaps even travel there through our food? Let’s do just that with a Florida Keys-themed menu.

There are many places to camp in the over-100 mile stretch of the Florida Keys. Multiple state parks offer opportunities to be outside among mangroves on the keys coastline at different campsites designed for tents and RVs. The Florida Keys are a great place to take a camping trip, and parks are open all year. But if we can’t go there in person, we can easily get there in spirit through a Florida Keys menu.

Here are a number of food options to consider adding to your camping menu from a classic Keys menu — complete with conch, fish, shrimp, and key limes. This way, you’ll be able to give your next camping menu a taste of the Florida Keys.

Not Chili, But Chowder

Chili finds itself on the menu for many avid campers. It’s easy to cook, easy to re-heat, and making a big bowl allows for an easily shareable meal through a crowded campsite. Plus the more we camp, the more we all seem to know someone who knows someone with a famous recipe. But why stick only to chili when chowder is also an option?

Conch chowder is a famous dish in the Keys, and appears on nearly every local restaurant menu. So why not replace the classic chili with a hearty conch chowder on your next camping trip? Both are delicious, both hearty, and both offer a spicy heat too. If you don’t have your own recipe, here is one to follow for a Florida Keys Conch Chowder.

red conch chowder flickr
Red Conch Chowder (Photo courtesy of Flickr/bionicgrrrl)

Key West Pinks and Grits

Grits are popular throughout the south, and in the Florida Keys the tradition continues — especially with shrimp and grits. With its origin in the Carolinas, many places put high importance on the grits. But in the Florida Keys, the importance is on the shrimp. They must be Key West Pinks. 

These delicious shrimps caught from the seas surrounding the Keys are hailed locally as one of the most succulent wild shrimp harvested in America. So make sure when you make your morning grits, you add some Key West Pinks to make it a Keys dish.

READ MORE: Your Ultimate Guide to Dry Tortugas National Park

Take a Dip with Smoked Fish

The idyllic camping trip often stirs up images of catching fish in a local stream or river and smoking the fish with a campfire. Not going to do that on this trip? Well, you can still make some (or take some) savory smoked fish dip to bring with you. 

Smoked fish dip is another popular menu item in the Florida Keys, as most restaurants make their own in-house version. The locally caught Wahoo and Spanish Mackerel often find themselves in the recipes of the Keys’ local fish dips. So pack some crackers, cucumber slices, and some special Keys hot sauce to enjoy with your Florida smoked fish dip.

smoked fish dip flickr
Smoked Fish Dip (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Artizone)

Fry Up Some Mahi Mahi Fish Cakes

Mahi Mahi is a popular fish found in the waters of the Florida Keys, and is normally the “fish of the day” on many restaurant menus. Served blackened, fried, or grilled on local menus, most tourists never realize it also makes a great fish cake. When locals in the Keys catch an abundance of Mahi Mahi, sometimes they take some of the cooked smaller pieces and make them into fish cakes to freeze for a later day since they don’t do crab cakes. 

Conchs (a nickname for the locals) would never use the highly sought-after, delicious (and expensive) local stone crab for crab cakes. If crab cakes appear on a menu, it’s usually imported blue claw crabs or another type of crab. Stone Crabs are too delicious by themselves.

Another added benefit: fish cakes are easily transported and can easily be reheated on a pan over the gas burner or even on a cast iron pan on the campfire itself. Easy delicious cooking is definitely a win-win on a camping adventure, so just bring a key lime to squeeze on some flavor.

No S’mores, but Keep the Graham Cracker for Key Lime Pie

Graham crackers are a staple for any camping trip, because they are an essential part of a s’more. For this menu, you can still keep your graham crackers, but let’s forget the s’mores. Instead, let’s make some graham cracker crust key lime pie.

Originally, Key Lime Pie was neither baked nor refrigerated. The origins of the pie date back to the early 1900s in Key West, when seafaring families would use only three ingredients: juice from Key limes, condensed milk, and egg yolks. They’d mix them together and just let the pie settle on the table. The limes cooked the pie just as limes cook the raw fish in ceviche today.

key lime pie food dessert
Key Lime Pie (Photo courtesy of Flickr/jimthompson)

You can do the old method, or you can use a more modern Key Lime Pie recipe to make (and bake) the pie ahead of time and then bring it along on your camping trip.

There are no worries about storing the pie, either (if you stop yourself from eating it all at once). And remember, it makes for a perfect breakfast too. 

Well, there you have it: six delicious Florida Keys dishes that are perfect for your next camping trip. If you can’t make it down to actually go camping in the Keys, take these dishes and bring a taste of the Florida Keys with you on your next camping adventure… wherever it may be!

READ MORE: 10 Things to Know About Wekiva Island in Florida

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camping dinner menu: florida keys favorites