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6 Popular ideas for Cooking in Your Car (2024)

Cooking in your car or van full-time can be quite the culinary adventure! Navigating the confined spaces and limited access to regular cooking amenities may seem like a challenge, but fear not! With a little planning and preparation, I have transformed my vehicle into a portable kitchen that perfectly fits my cooking needs. From the bare basics to practical long-term setups, I’ve got you covered with a variety of car camping kitchen ideas. Get ready to join me on this adventure as we explore the world of car cooking appliances and discover the art of cooking inside a van! 🚗🍳 #cookinginyourcar #carcooking #vanlife #roadtriprecipes

Top options for cooking in your car

Unless you are lucky enough to afford to be able to eat out for every meal for everyday, sooner or later when living full time in your car or when car camping you will need to be able to prepare and cook food in your vehicle. With space being one of the biggest limiting factors for the complexity of your ‘kitchen’ setup, choosing cooking equipment can become trial and error.

Here are some the most effective ways to cook and eat out of your vehicle:

Basic Car Camping Cooking set-up

For emergencies or those looking to take the cheapest/ minimalistic approach possible, having a portable gas camping stove will get you out of trouble.

6 Popular ideas for Cooking in Your Car (2024)

Stand Alone Kitchens for Car Camping

Portable stand alone kitchens (also known as camping kitchens) are another great alternative to having something permanently fixed for cooking in your car. Most good camp stores and online retailers now sell collapsible kitchens consisting of a sink and workspace to prepare food or house a gas burner. 

Stand alone kitchens are relatively cheap and are great for when space is tight, especially in small cars. Similar to folding tables the legs are usually collapsible making them easy to store when traveling. 

A downside of stand alone camp kitchens, especially in urban areas, is that it can draw a lot of unwanted attention making it unsuitable for urban stealth camping.

Plug In Appliances/ 12V Cookers

Recent innovation has shown the increase of ‘glamping’ cooking accessories for those cooking on the road. 12v appliances are readily available and reasonably priced and no longer just for RV’s and caravans. 

Common 12v cooking appliances include rice cookers, travel ovens, electric hot plates & fry pans and kettles which can be used to cook almost anything you desire. 

Be mindful of how much power 12v appliances are drawing on your car battery as nothing is worse than a flat battery when it comes to moving site. Using a dual battery setup or a battery bank can help run more appliances for longer and most of the time can be charged using a solar set-up. 

6 Popular ideas for Cooking in Your Car (2024)

Campgrounds/ Public amenities for Cooking

For those who can’t justify purchasing equipment for short periods of time living in their vehicle, making use of public cooking amenities is a great alternative. Most public parks/ campgrounds will have some means of cooking food, often a barbecue or cook top free to use. 

A downside of relying on public amenities for cooking food is that in some areas gas burners cooktops are not regularly monitored and are not refilled often leading to useless equipment. Public barbecues are also often left dirty and require rigorous cleaning prior to use.  

No Heat Cooking Method

Unfortunately everyone’s situation and reason for living out of their vehicle is different and for some the ability to afford and run portable cooking appliances isn’t always an option. No heat meals are easily made with a few utensils, typically consisting of cutlery and a plate or chopping board. 

Relying on a no heat cooking method can see a strict limitation on what you are able to make with the most common no heat meals inclusive of the following;

  • Sandwiches or Wraps
  • Salads
  • Granola/ cereals 
  • Overnight oatmeal
  • Processed meats/ jerky
  • Canned foods

Although some people choose to opt for the ‘no fridge, no stove’ diet, this can quickly become filled with heavily processed foods that are detrimental for your health. 

6 Popular ideas for Cooking in Your Car (2024)


MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat) are commonly known for their use in the military due to the ability to withstand harsh conditions without going bad. In recent years MRE’s have become increasingly popular with hikers, campers & preppers alike for their ease of use and storage capability. 

Preparing a MRE is easy with most coming with a flameless ration heater to prepare the meal, with alternative heating methods including boiling water, reducing the amount of utensils you need. 

Downsides of relying on consuming MRE’s is the purchase costs and high sodium/ sugar levels used to assist in supplementing caloric values. Although MRE’s are not ideal for every meal, having a few stored away in your vehicle is great to keep you going in an emergency. 

Things to consider when cooking in your car

Food safety is important to consider when cooking and preparing in your food to avoid premature spoilage and food poisoning. For more information on keeping food in your car make sure to check out our other article on How to safely store food in your vehicle.

FAQ’s on Cooking in your car

Can I cook inside the car?

Yes you can cook inside of your vehicle, however you need to be mindful of the equipment you are using to ensure you are safe. Using gas stoves in a confined space without adequate ventilation can become extremely dangerous. Portable electric (12V) cookers are the safest option as they do not emit harmful carbon monoxide.

How can I heat food in my vehicle?

There are many 12V portable appliances easily available from large physical and online retailers for heating or rewarming food. From electric lunch boxes, to car microwaves and travel ovens. 


  • Zaara

    Zaara, a kindred spirit of the open road, has nurtured a deep-seated love for RV travel since her childhood. Journeying with her parents, she learned early on to cherish the little things that make life rich and fulfilling. This emotional depth and appreciation for simplicity have become the cornerstone of her life philosophy. A firm believer in the idea that true happiness is found in nature's embrace, Zaara continues this legacy of exploration alongside her husband, Augustus. Her passion extends beyond landscapes to the joy of connecting with life's purest forms - the unconditional love of dogs and the innocence of babies. These connections reflect her nurturing soul and emotional acuity. Zaara is also a culinary enthusiast, delighting in creating meals that blend flavors from their travels, infusing each dish with memories and love. Her expertise lies in living fully, finding joy in every moment, and inspiring others to seek happiness in life's simple, natural wonders.

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