Cooking on the road is an important part of living in a van full-time.
Some people opt for a full kitchen in their van, complete with burners, a campervan oven, sink, a portable refrigerator and cupboards. Others just use a portable camping stove to prepare meals while living the van life.
We live in a small Chevy Astro van, so don’t have any sort of built-in kitchen in our campervan.
Whatever type of kitchen you choose, your kitchen essentials for van life will matter.
Here are some of our very favorites we can’t live without!
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1) A Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker
We’re obsessed with our 6-quart stainless steel pressure cooker. We use it for almost every meal. In the mornings, we love cooking steel-cut oats, and at night, we made soups, stews and rice dishes in the pressure cooker.
Since it cooks faster than traditional cooking methods, we use less propane.
We also love the consistency of food made in the pressure cooker.
2) A Camping Stove
One major decision when it comes to van life is which type of stove you’ll use. I started out with a single-burner butane stove, but found butane really hard to come by, especially in remote areas.
I chose the Jet Boil Half Gen as my next campervan stove and haven’t been disappointed. The only sucky parts are the plastic wind guard (it melted!), and that the non-stick pan it comes with doesn’t have a lid.
Otherwise, this camping stove has amazing simmer control and BTUs for searing.
3) Plastic, flexible cutting boards
Plastic cutting boards are easy to store in your campervan, and are lightweight and flexible. Color-coded boards ensure you don’t accidentally chop the veggies on the same board where you just sliced the chicken. These BPA free cutting boards are non-toxic and made from anti-microbial material. We’ve found them to be quite durable as well.
4) Bamboo utensils won’t rattle when you drive
The last thing you want when driving through a gorgeous national park in your campervan is to hear the rattle and shake of metal silverware in a drawer. One way to solve that problem is to buy forks and knives made of wood. One great choice is bamboo utensils. These utensils are heat and stain-resistant, and won’t absorb flavors. Plus, they’re finished with a top grade, food-safe wood oil.
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5) Collapsible colander is just the right size for a campervan
Anything collapsible is a boon to van life, and this collapsible colander is no exception. This amazing colander has a 6-quart capacity with extendable arms to hook over the edges of a sink. When stored, the colander takes up no more space than a plate. Perfect for the cramped quarters of a campervan kitchen.
6) Collapsible food storage containers
If you’re cooking all the time in your campervan, there’s no doubt you’ll have some leftover food from time to time. These collapsible food storage containers with airtight lids are perfect for the van life. They collapse to 1/3 their original size with a nesting design for easy storage, and are great for keeping both dry and wet foods fresh.
7) Plastic wine glasses
The last thing you want in your campervan is broken glass all over the floor from a dropped wine glass. Keeping a few plastic wine glasses on hand is a great way to enjoy your favorite drink without worrying about glass. We’ve been using plastic wine glasses when out camping for months now, and I wouldn’t dream of going back to a “real” wine glass anytime soon.
8) Collapsible measuring cups for a campervan kitchen
Yep, there’s another collapsible item on this list – collapsible measuring cups! If you plan on doing any baking or precision cooking while living the van life, you’ll want to be able to accurately measure things. These BPA-free measuring cups barely take up space in a campervan kitchen, and have handles that won’t bend with heavy wet or dry ingredients. They include a key ring for even easier storage.
9) One good knife
I bought one good chopping knife years ago, and haven’t needed another knife since. This Wusthof classic Santoku knife isn’t cheap, but will last forever. This Japanese-style cooking knife is made for chopping, slicing and dicing, and only needs to be sharpened on occasion. This knife is made from a single piece of specially tempered high carbon steel. The best knife I’ve ever owned.
10) Plastic camping dinnerware
Plastic camping dinnerware is rugged and sturdy enough to use inside your campervan or out at the campsite. GSI makes amazing camping products and this dinnerware set is no exception. This table set is BPA-free, non-leaching and fully recyclable. Plus, the bowls have sealable lids for simple storage.
11) An awesome insulated mug
You’ll be loving your insulated mug on those cold van life mornings. An insulated mug works for both hot and cold drinks – it keeps ice frozen twice as long as a plastic tumbler. This Yeti tumbler is made of high-quality stainless steel with double-walled vacuum insulation. A must-have for sweltering days and chilly nights alike.
Nobody wants to deal with a trash can inside a campervan, which is why this pop-up trash can is the answer. This camping trash can is made from heavy-duty, tear-resistant material with a zippered lid to keep pests out. It can hold almost 30-gallons of waste, and compresses down for easy storage when not in use.
13) A portable 12-volt refrigerator
If you’re going to be cooking a lot while living the van life, you might want to consider purchasing a 12-volt portable refrigerator. This high-quality compression refrigerator keeps food cold even when it’s scorching outside. It works just like the fridge in your house, and some can even freeze food. If you want to learn more about portable refrigerators, check out my in-depth post on the best 12-volt refrigerators for a campervan.
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Kristin Hanes is a journalist who founded The Wayward Home as a place to learn about alternative living. She currently lives on a sailboat and in a Chevy Astro van, and has written articles about alternative living published in Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Marie Claire and SF Gate. Read more about Kristin here.