Bannock is one of the most iconic foods to cook on a camping trip. It’s easy to make and easy to pack, can be customized for any meal preference and tastes delicious. In this post I’ll be going over a simple campfire bannock recipe – how to make the batter and a few methods to cook it – and I’ll give you a few ways to add variety to an otherwise simple staple.
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Why is Campfire Bannock so Appealing?
The reason why bannock is such an appealing camping food comes down to the fact that it is so easy to make and it will last for any length of trip.
On a short camping trip, you could bring loaves of bread, wraps or biscuits. However, if the trip is long in duration or distance, you could run into problems. First, these items will likely go moldy after some period of days (or weeks, in the case of wraps). Second, you may be limited in space and weight. Pre-made bread may be light, but it takes up a lot of space per calorie of energy it provides. Biscuits are denser, but with all the water weight, are a bit heavy.
So all that to say, making your own bread on a camping trip is a great way to pack lighter and have it last longer.
Now, there are a few ways to make bread over the fire. Likely the most popular way is to make a classic loaf of bread in a Dutch oven. The only problem with this is that 1) Dutch ovens are heavy, and 2) It’s a little complicated. You need to activate the yeast, knead the bread, ensure it’s rising properly, blah, blah, blah. It’s a lot.
Bannock, on the other hand, is so much simpler. You don’t get the light, fluffiness of a loaf of bread, but you do get a hardy piece of tasty bread that can be cooked quickly. You can also make bannock on a stick, which is appealing to bushcrafters or parents’ wanting to give their kids a fun campfire activity to do.
Either way, bannock has become a popular food to cook around the campfire.
Basic Campfire Bannock Recipe
There are a few bannock recipes out there. The most basic recipe calls for just six ingredients:
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp oil (you could use olive, canola, coconut, lard, butter – I usually use either butter or olive oil)
- 1 cup water
You sometimes see recipes call for an additional 1 tsp of sugar or 2 tbsp of milk powder. I don’t usually add either of these in myself (unless I’m adding brown sugar for one of the recipes below).
Preparing the Bannock Batter
Mix dry ingredients. Prior to your camping trip, measure out the dry ingredients and store them in a ziploc bag. This makes preparation at the campsite easier.
Add oil. Once you’re doing the food prep at the campsite, add your oil to the dry ingredients (I prefer to do this in a pot, however, you can also do it right in the plastic bag if you want to avoid washing an additional dish). If you’re using oil like olive or canola, you’ll probably just need to stir. If you’re using something thicker, like butter, coconut oil or lard, you may need to be a little more aggressive in really working it into the mixture. Don’t stress if it isn’t 100% evenly mixed.
Add water. Next, pour in half of the water you have (1/2 cup). Stir everything with a fork, trying to break up any clumps that have formed. You’ll want to gradually add in additional water until you get a thick doughy consistency. Be careful to not add in the water too quickly, as you don’t want thin batter. It should be thick enough that it holds itself together (more like pizza dough, less like pancake batter).
Knead the bannock. Sprinkle a little flour on a flat surface (i.e. a cutting board) and knead the bannock for 1-2 minutes. Stretch it, push it, reform it, show it whose boss. To be honest, I’m actually kind of lazy about this step (occasionally I skip it entirely and just knead it in the air, pulling and pushing it for a minute or so).
Shape the bannock into six round patties. You can either make each pattie wide and flat (like a pancake) or smaller and rounder (like a biscuit) depending on your cooking method.
Cook the bannock. There are a few methods for cooking the bannock, so see the below.
Cooking the Bannock Over a Campfire
Pan Fry: This is the method I usually use. I simply pan fry each pattie on a frying pan with a little butter or olive oil. For this option, it’s best to have the bannock pattie very thin (like a pancake) so you can get the inside cooked without burning the outside.
Wrapped in Tin Foil: If you’re adding in extra ingredients (like blueberries, raisins or cheese – see below), I find this method works best. Shape the bannock patties into thick balls and flatten them (so they kind of look like hockey pucks or scones). Add some butter or olive oil to the shiny side of the tin foil, and then wrap the bannock patty like it’s a present. Place directly on hot coals (not flames) or on a grill above flames.
Wrapped Around a Stick: For this option, you’ll want your bannock patties to be somewhat flat, but not as flat as a pancake. Wrap each bannock pattie around a thick stick (best to clean the end of the stick before you do this). Cook it over a fire like you would a marshmallow.
Recipes to Make Bannock Way More Fun
Here are some ideas to make campfire bannock even more fun. Have fun experimenting and coming up with your own!
Beaver Tail Bannock
Have you ever had a beaver tail? I love making them on camping trips. I usually use pancake mix, however, you can also use bannock if you (I find bannock to be more filling than a pancake of comparable size – anyone else?).
A classic beaver tail is just cinnamon and sugar, but on bannock, this is a little dry (in my opinion). So I’ll also put some Nutella, banana and coconut flakes on top. Alternatively, peanut butter and/or jam is also a good option.
I find it best to cook the bannock until it is 95% finished, add all of the toppings, and then put it back on the fire with a lid covering it.
I do a lot of camping in places that have wild blueberries, so I love incorporating them into recipes. Stir a big handful (or two) of blueberries into the bannock mix. If you have a little strawberry jam or cream cheese, those both great spread on top of blueberry bannock.
Cinnamon Raison Bannock
In this variation, simply add a handful or two of raisins and a tablespoon (or more) of cinnamon when you mix the dry ingredients together. I also like to put a little nutmeg and brown sugar in too. While it’s cooking, I like to mix a little butter with brown sugar and cinnamon (I call it cinna-spread). Once the bannock is ready, I’ll spread the cinna-spread on the bannock. Delicious!
Cheesy Garlic Bread Bannock
Try adding a tsp or two of garlic and onion powder, and some finely chopped / grated cheddar cheese, to the dry ingredients. If you are on a shorter trip and can bring shredded cheese, I find that works a little better because the cheese gets more evenly distributed throughout the bannock. If you’re on a longer trip, bring a single block of cheese (cheese lasts longer when you minimize the surface area exposed to air) and finely chop or grate the cheese and add to the mixture.
Tip: I’ve heard you can also add in dried/dehydrated onion for extra flavour and a little crunch, though I haven’t tried this myself.
Bannock & Soup
If you make classic bannock, try dipping it in homemade soup. To make soup, you can rehydrate some vegetables in boiling water with a soup mix. To make the soup a little thicker, you can add in a handful of potato flakes while the water boils. I also find lentils are a great way to add some protein to a soup dish. Once the soup is ready, break off a piece of bannock, butter it (optional) and dip it in the soup. Yum!
Campfire Bannock Pizza
While writing this article I just had a new idea for a bannock recipe. Since I haven’t tried this recipe myself, if someone tries it, please let me know how it goes!
Anyways, I love making pizza on camping trips. I usually use pitas or wraps, but you could easily use bannock as well. I imagine the best way to cook this would be to make the bannock batter as normal, spread it out in a circle on a piece of oiled tin foil, add the topics (tomato sauce, onion, peppers, pepperoni, etc) and then cover it in tin foil. Place the whole thing over the campfire grill and check periodically. Next time I’m on a trip I’ll try this out!
The Actual Origins of Bannock
There’s some misinformation about the true origins of campfire bannock. I’m not a historian, so I won’t go into much detail about it, but I’d be remiss to not include at least a little information on where bannock actually comes from.
Most people attribute bannock to the Indigenous People of Canada. Bannock actually originates from Scotland (“bannach” in Gaelic) and was brought to present-day Canada via fur traders and explorers. It was made with flour (usually barley, peameal or oatmeal, and later, wheat), water, salt and lard (and occasionally baking powder).
Conventional history says that bannock was introduced to Indigenous people by the Scots in the 18th and 19th centuries. That said, it’s been determined that most Indigenous groups already had some variation of bannock as staples in their diet.
Different Indigenous groups have different names for bannock: Inuit call it palauga, Mi’kmaq luskinikn, and Ojibwa ba‘wezhiganag (source). Indigenous people often used alternatives to flour, like corn and other plants, because they were more readily available than wheat.
It’s common to see bannock being cooked on a stick, as detailed above. This is method was developed by Indigenous groups, not the Scots who more often used a special griddle called a bannock stone.
Campfire Bannock Recipes – Final Thoughts
I hope you’ve found this post helpful and have some new ideas for making campfire bannock on your next camping trip! If you want more inspiration or recipes for backcountry cooking, I recommend checking out my cookbook: The Voyageur’s Backcountry Cookbook! There are more than 35 recipes for easy, lightweight backcountry meals.