Close this search box.

Must-Haves for Van Life Cooking

Must-Haves for Van Life Cooking!

Embracing the van life means adopting a world where every square inch counts, especially in the kitchen. For many, the allure of van life resides in its simplicity. Yet, when it comes to cooking in your van, you shouldn’t have to compromise on quality, taste, or safety.

A functional kitchen can be the heart of your mobile home. This guide aims to help you equip your van with kitchen essentials that harmonize comfort, functionality, and space-saving techniques.

Van Life Kitchen Considerations

The Minimalist Approach

Venturing into van life often involves adopting a minimalist lifestyle. But what does minimalism mean in the context of a kitchen?

Quality Over Quantity: Instead of having multiple mediocre pots, pans, or utensils, invest in fewer, high-quality items. For instance, one durable, non-stick pan can serve the purpose of several cheaper ones.

Versatility is Key: Items that serve multiple functions are your best friend. Think of a pot that can be both a cooking vessel and a serving bowl or a utensil that combines the functionality of a spatula, fork, and knife.

Embrace Simplicity: While gourmet meals are lovely, van life is an opportunity to get back to the basics. Simplified recipes with fewer ingredients not only save space but also reduce prep and cleanup time.

Space Conservation and Organization

In a limited space, organization is not just useful—it’s crucial here’s a few kitchen tips for helping maximise the use of your space.

Every Item Has Its Place: Ensure each kitchen item has a designated storage spot. This reduces clutter and makes the cooking process smoother.

Use Vertical Space: Walls and the insides of cabinet doors can be used to hang utensils, pots, or spice racks.

Declutter Regularly: Just as in a stationary home, things pile up. Periodically review your items and remove those you haven’t used in a while.

Must-Haves for Van Life Cooking

Essential Van Life Cooking Appliances

Your appliances are the backbone of your kitchen. Choosing wisely can make your van life journey on the road a joy:

Portable Stoves

Gas vs. Electric: Gas stoves offer instant heat and are great for cooking that requires temperature control. They do, however, require proper ventilation and safety precautions. Electric stoves, while safer, might consume more power.

Decide based on your van’s power setup and your cooking preferences, make sure to read our guide to cooking power sources for van life.

Single vs. Double Burner: For most, a single burner is sufficient. However, if you foresee a lot of cooking or have multiple people in the van, a double burner might be worth the space.

Compact Refrigerators

Size Matters: While a larger fridge can store more, it also consumes more power. Assess your needs and choose a size that’s just right. Remember, van life often means shopping more frequently and eating fresher.

Energy Efficiency: Look for fridges designed specifically for RVs or vans, as these are optimized for low power consumption.

You can see our choices for the best portable fridges for van life.

compact refrigerator, mini fridge, portable fridges

Portable Water Purifiers

Importance of Clean Water: Whether you’re washing veggies or drinking, clean water is a must. Portable water purifiers ensure you don’t have to rely on bottled water, which can be both expensive and environmentally unfriendly.

Types of Water Purifiers: From hand-pump systems to gravity-fed bags, choose based on your consumption needs and storage capabilities.

Hand-Powered Blender/Mixers

These save on electricity and are often easier to clean and store than their electric counterparts. They’re great for making smoothies, whisking eggs, or even preparing a simple batter.

When choosing appliances, always keep in mind the balance between necessity and luxury, utility and power consumption, and most importantly, your own personal cooking style and needs.

Cookware Must-Haves

Embarking on the road shouldn’t mean compromising on flavorful meals. The secret lies in selecting cookware with careful thought.

must-have cookware for RV

Opt for nesting pots and pans that fit inside each other. They’re designed with compact storage in mind without skimping on quality. When considering materials, non-stick coatings offer easy cleaning, but you should also consider their longevity. 

On the other hand, a cast iron skillet, with its excellent heat distribution, is perfect for everything from searing to baking. Although it requires careful maintenance, such as minimal soap cleaning and thorough drying, it promises a lifetime of service. 

For your washing needs, a collapsible colander stands out. It’s essential for tasks like rinsing fresh produce or draining pasta, and its collapsible nature means it won’t crowd your cabinets. 

Lastly, don’t overlook heat-resistant silicone utensils. Not only are they gentle on your cookware, preventing scratches, but they also withstand high temperatures gracefully.

Compact Prep Tools

Efficient cooking starts long before the stove is ignited—it begins with preparation. In the confines of a van, compact tools become your allies. A foldable cutting board, for instance, provides the sturdy chopping surface you need then stows away discreetly after use. 

While choosing one, prioritize those made from easy-clean materials to avoid contamination. For multifunctionality, nothing beats a multi-tool kitchen utensil. Just think: a can opener, peeler, grater, and more, all in one compact device. However, ensure it’s made of durable material to endure regular use. 

Similarly, a manual food processor, which operates without electricity, proves invaluable for tasks like chopping and blending. Its compact design, often with detachable parts, simplifies cleaning and storage. 

And for those moments of mixing or marinating, stackable mixing bowls with lids become essential. They double as storage containers, saving precious space.

Storage Solutions for Van Life Cooking

In the limited scope of a van kitchen, organization is not a luxury—it’s a necessity. Spice enthusiasts will find joy in magnetic spice jars. These can be attached to any metal surface, such as the insides of cabinet doors, offering easy access to their flavorful contents. 

For dry goods, airtight food containers ensure prolonged freshness and act as a barrier against any pesky invaders. Those looking to efficiently utilize their overhead space should consider a hanging fruit and veggie hammock. 

Apart from ensuring longer life for produce by providing proper air circulation, it also frees up counter and cabinet space. Another smart storage solution is the under-the-cabinet storage racks. 

These are perfect for storing plates, mugs, and other flat items, providing both a space-saving solution and easy access.

We’ve covered more on food storage in both our fresh food storage techniques and how to safely store food in your vehicle.

Efficient Cleanup Tools

Keeping your van kitchen spick and span after a cooking session is just as important as the cooking itself. With limited water supply and space, it’s vital to have efficient cleaning tools. 

Consider a biodegradable, concentrated camp soap which not only works wonders on greasy pans but is also eco-friendly. Microfiber towels are another must-have. 

They dry quickly, are highly absorbent, and take up minimal space. For dishes that need a bit more scrubbing, a silicone scrubber is your best bet. It’s durable, easy to clean, and far more hygienic than traditional sponges, as it doesn’t harbor bacteria.

cleanup tools for RV kitchen

Creating a Comfortable Cooking Space

Your cooking space should be more than just functional—it should be a joy to be in. Start with good lighting. LED strip lights can be placed under cabinets to illuminate countertops, making chopping and prepping safer and easier. 

Ventilation in your van is crucial, not only to keep the air fresh but to prevent condensation which can lead to mold in your van. If your van doesn’t have built-in ventilation, consider installing a small fan near the cooking area. 

Lastly, personalize your space. Whether it’s with decorative magnets on the fridge, a small potted plant, or photos of loved ones, these small touches make the space truly yours.

Safety Precautions for Van Cooking

Safety should never be an afterthought, especially in a confined space. Always ensure you have a fire extinguisher accessible and know how to use it. 

When cooking, especially with gas, ensure there’s adequate ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide buildup. If you’re using propane, regularly check for leaks. It’s also wise to invest in a carbon monoxide detector. 

Non-slip mats are another essential, ensuring that spills don’t turn into accidents. With all cooking activities, be especially aware of the risk of fires and ensure that flammable items are kept away from the stove.


  • 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.

    View all posts