Picture of van can stew

Van Can Stew

We call this recipe Van Can Stew because it’s simplicity and convenience make it one of our staple caravan meals, but in actuality it is a good ‘make-do’ dinner for a variety of situations.

The basic recipe requires no fresh produce, so no fridge is required to store your ingredients. This makes it a good store cupboard meal that you can have on hand for a quick supper, camping/camper vanning or even a picnic lunch if you have a gas stove handy. 

It is also a budget meal, so can help to make use of common canned foods that you might pick up at a food bank. No fancy ingredients are required and budget supermarket brands are fine. 

The basic recipe is the dish in its most primitive form, but it is easy to improve if the situation allows. The beauty of this recipe is that no fresh ingredients are needed, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t substitute for fresh when available. 

Basic Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 x tin of stewed steak
  • 1 x tin of new potatoes
  • 1 x tin of carrots
  • 1 x tin of garden peas
  • 1 x tin of mushrooms
  • 1 x tablespoon of mixed dried herbs


The method is extremely simple – 

  1. Open tins and drain liquid from potatoes, carrots, peas and mushrooms.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a suitable pan.
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Heat thoroughly on your camp stove or hob (around 15 minutes depending on the efficiency of heat source).
  5. Serve.

This will not be the most tasty stew you have ever tasted, but it is sufficient to feed 2 people and is a good enough for a camp meal. It works well served with bread, so can be surprisingly satisfying after a full day hiking. The entire dish is created in one pot, which is also a bonus when you are relying on site facilities on camp to wash your pots.The meal is suitable for eating with a spoon, so your trusty spork can be the only utensil needed for stirring, serving and eating.  This means less to carry to the sinks and hassle-free cleaning. 


The recipe is easily adaptable and can be improved by making a few easy additions –

  • Use fresh ingredients if available – this will improve the flavour but extend the cooking time substantially if you are using fresh meat, potatoes or carrots. Fresh mushrooms are simple to substitute though and frozen peas will cook just as quickly as tinned – if you are at home or have a freezer in your campervan.  
  • Onions are the basis for all great dishes.  If you are making this at home then you can always fry a small onion in the pan before adding your tinned ingredients. If camping though you might prefer to add spring onions or chives, as they can quickly chopped with scissors and need less frying time. If it’s the season, wild garlic (ramsoms) can be foraged and added if they are growing nearby.
  • Stock cube – this is another dried ingredient that can be added to boast flavour to the gravy. I tend to use half a cube when I make this dish, but a full one would be fine if you like your food well seasoned.
  • Alternative herbs – mixed herbs are easily available from most supermarkets, but if you prefer to use something more customised you can add almost any green herb – sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, dried nettles etc. Additions like dried garlic, paprika and pepper can also enhance the flavour of this recipe.

Happy Camping!

P.S – don’t forget your tin opener!

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