9 Best Mountain House Meals – Complete Reviews with Comparisons
Other than being defeated by Coalition forces at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte is also famous for coining the phrase, “an army marches on its stomach.” And though seeking thrills and adventure during a weekend getaway isn’t quite the same as a forced march of several dozen miles in a single day, having good food to keep you energized both physically and mentally is no small matter.
The folks at Mountain House know the score when it comes to food that is both delicious and wholesome. As an original forerunner of freeze dried foods for the military, Mountain House easily lays claim to being one of the largest and most well-known freeze dried food brands in the world.
With this in mind, we at WanderMighty felt it was long overdue to determine what the best Mountain House meals are. To that end, we have curated some of our own favorite Mountain House entrees, as well as a few fan favorites that keep plenty of folks coming back for more.
Here’s what we learned: While there are no bad meals in this lineup per se, each Mountain House meal does have its particular quirks which lend themselves well to satisfying even the most discerning and demanding taste buds. There’s absolutely no denying the fact that folks looking for a hearty, wholesome Mountain House freeze dried meal have a wide range of options to choose from.
We reviewed two vegetarian meals (Pasta Primavera and Macaroni and Cheese), two gluten-free meals (Chicken Fajita Bowl and Italian Style Pepper Steak with Rice), along with a smorgasbord of American and European inspired dishes. Here’s how things shook out:
|Mountain House Winner||Mountain House Runner Up||Mountain House Best Vegetarian||Mountain House Best Gluten Free|
|CHILI MAC WITH BEEF||BEEF STROGANOFF||PASTA PRIMAVERA||CHICKEN FAJITA BOWL|
|Topping our lineup with the highest marks, this Mountain House meal crushed the competition with its stellar Taste and Presentation scores.||This Mountain House classic earned high praise for its Taste and Presentation, landing it in good company with a second place finish.||Pulling a perfect “10” in Taste, this meal enjoys high Texture and Presentation scores, outclassing our other Vegetarian meal option, Macaroni and Cheese.||High Taste and Texture scores made this gluten-free meal a winner, barely edging out its direct gluten-free competitor, Italian Style Pepper Steak with Rice.|
|BUY ON AMAZON||BUY ON AMAZON||BUY ON AMAZON||BUY ON AMAZON|
Best Mountain House Meals: Our Comparisons
Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles
A perennial favorite among the “meat and potatoes” crowd, the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles meal is much loved for both its flavor and heartiness. A solid contender for any backpacking or hiking trip, this powerful pouch of delectable delight welcomes those who fancy a hot streak or enjoy DIY seasonings.
Try adding your favorite hot sauce or a couple dashes of garlic and onion powder to elevate this meal from extraordinary to a pure mouth-plosion experience. It is worth noting that this meal is ranked highest in our lineup for sodium content per serving.
A great choice for cold nights or a long day where a hearty meal does wonders for both your hunger and your morale. Very high in sodium.
- Filling and satisfying
- Tremendous ability to “flavor for effect”
- Good protein content
- A bit on the soupy side
- Beef takes a while to fully re-hydrate
- On the salty side (800mg per serving)
Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef
Chili Mac is about as American as, well, warm apple pie. Combine this American staple with seasoned Beef and you have a match made in heaven for your taste buds. Digging into the Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef meal will net you a full belly and a feeling of satisfaction.
As with the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles meal, it’s best to allow a bit more cooking time if you’re looking for that perfect al dente firmness in the Mac noodles. Overall, this meal is absolutely stellar as an at-the-end-of-the-trail hiking option.
A terrific option for those needing that extra 'kick' during meal time, this one should be on your (very) short list. Pasta can be difficult to get perfectly cooked.
- Zesty - just enough “zing” without overdoing it
- Excellent ratio of meat to noodles
- Good protein to carbohydrate ratio
- Macaroni texture is a bit finicky to get right
- Meal can benefit from additional cook time
- Folks with low alpha-galactosidase enzymes may experience interesting sound effects
Mountain House Italian Style Pepper Steak with Rice
Gluten free? Check. Dairy free? Yup! Soy free? You bet! The Mountain House Italian Style Pepper Steak with Rice entree is all about exceeding expectations when it comes to those with food allergens.
Terrific on its own or with a few choice spices added in for those looking for spicier feedback, this meal lends itself well to those wanting a wholesome meal option that is as easy on the stomach as it is to prepare.
For those without food allergens, dress this meal up with soft tortilla wraps and Monterey Jack cheese for a truly singular back country burrito experience.
A freeze dried meal pouch option that caters exclusively to those with food allergens. Meal can be a bit on the bland side, requiring the use of additional seasoning.
- Gluten, soy and dairy free!
- Lower than average salt content versus other meals
- Great meat to rice to veggie ratio
- Lower than average calories per serving versus other meals
- Rice can become soggy and “melt away” if cooked for too long
- May be a bit bland for some
Mountain House Pasta Primavera
Vegetarians rejoice! Replete with plenty of wholesome vegetables (broccoli, red and yellow peppers, cauliflower and zucchini) the Mountain House Pasta Primavera meal punches its ticket to the top of this list with a terrific Parmesan cheese sauce mixed with spiral macaroni.
A vegan-friendly meal option, it definitely does not sacrifice in the taste department, as you can enjoy it entirely on its own as is. For the more adventurous types, a quality Cajun seasoning blend can be added, giving your mouth and taste buds something to really smile about.
A legit vegetarian freeze dried meal option that absolutely crushes it in the taste department. Hindered by a lackluster appearance and stubborn to cook macaroni.
- Vegetarian meal option
- Extremely tasty and flavorful on its own
- Ratio of veggies to pasta is on point
- Overly soupy
- use 1.5 cups of water for best results - Difficult to achieve that perfect Macaroni texture
- Benefits from longer cook time
Mountain House Rice and Chicken
Never a marriage between two food groups been more successful than chicken and rice. The Mountain House Rice and Chicken meal is a best seller, and for good reason – hearty, filling and nostalgic, this is comfort food at its best.
Easily adaptable to a wide range of “fixings” to satisfy just about any palate, this meal plays very well with a vast array of add-on seasonings or inclusions such as freeze dried vegetables. After a long day on the trail, tucking into this classic will leave you both feeling full and reminiscent of the good old days.
A fan favorite, this meal focuses on simple ingredients coupled with easy preparation for a quick and wholesome meal. Taste department is lacking, may require additional seasoning.
- Familiar and nostalgic - comfort food
- Three serving sizes per pouch
- One of the highest calories per serving meals in the group
- Lower than average protein content per serving
- Chicken to rice ratio could be better
- Higher than average sodium content
Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl
A classic Tex-Mex meal meets dusty hiking trails and alpine mountain passes. The Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl is filled with all the good things you expect out of a traditional Mexican dish: Rice, black beans, bell peppers, corn, onions and choice seasonings.
This gluten free entree has zero artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and it packs a whopping 18g of protein and 260 calories per serving, the highest in this lineup. A fan favorite, especially when converting this meal into a portable hand held with soft tortilla wraps and a sharp cheddar cheese blend.
Hands down one of the best tasting gluten free options from Mountain House; easily adapts to a wide range of add-on's to assist those who enjoy spicy Tex-Mex dishes.
- No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives - Gluten free
- Highest protein content per serving in the lineup
- Wholesome and hearty
- High salt content
- Can be a bit on the soupy side - try using less water
- May be too bland for those with a spicy streak
Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese
It’s mac and cheese! What’s not to like? The Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese meal is about as synonymous to comfort food as bears are to honey. A tasty and legit vegetarian option, this meal is all about delivering a taste of simple home cooking for those hungry after a long day on the trail.
The cheese sauce offers a tangy, satisfying experience, with the noodles acting as the perfect vehicle to deliver that cheesy goodness to eagerly awaiting taste buds. As with most freeze dried pastas, additional cooking time may be needed to bring out the best texture in the noodles. Past that, this meal is both delectable and timeless!
Arguably the most ingredient-simple meal in the Mountain House lineup, this dish celebrates all things cheese and pasta. Additional seasonings may be needed to bring this meal to life.
- Vegetarian - three servings per pouch
- Highest calorie content per serving in the lineup
- Excellent cheesy taste
- Highest fat content per serving in the group
- Crunchy noodles - may require additional cook time
- May require salt and pepper for optimal taste
Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce
Lasagna? As a freeze dried meal? No, this isn’t April Fools, it’s the Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce dish. This delicious entree serves up generous portion sizes of this classic Italian staple, and does so with a tomato sauce that is both sweet and savory.
For those not convinced that this dish has the chops to deliver the goods, rest assured that this meal combines the perfect amount of meat sauce to pasta for a seminal dining experience. It’s one of Mountain House’s best sellers, and you’d be hard pressed to find a comparable freeze dried Italian meal that does it better.
A good interpretation of an Italian classic, this dish lends itself well to those who are looking for a meat sauce based meal with plenty of pasta. A bit on the bland side, additional add-on spices recommended.
- Lowest sodium content per serving in the group
- Tomato based sauce is on point - hearty and not too acidic
- Good ratio of meat sauce to pasta
- Can be soupy - using less water helps
- Cheese residue difficult to remove from utensils
- May need to add spices to achieve best taste results
Mountain House Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole
Who says you can’t take Thanksgiving with you on a back country hike? The Mountain House Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole meal option ups the ante with a traditional Thanksgiving spread that combines turkey, stuffing, carrot, green beans and celery in a savory broth.
Although high in sodium (790mg per serving), this meal is perfect for those that are sensitive to artificial flavors, colors or preservatives as this entree contains none of these. It also has no added MSG. Packed with flavor, this classic Thanksgiving meal tastes great right out of the pouch without additional seasoning needed.
This Thanksgiving-inspired meal is absolutely stellar in the taste department, with plenty of turkey, veggies and stuffing. Meal tends to experience texture issues post cooking.
- Hearty and tasty - plenty of turkey
- No added MSG - mo artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- Perfect ratio of vegetables to turkey to stuffing
- Among the highest sodium content levels in the group
- Vegetables can be on the chewy side
- Stuffing texture may not be for everyone
How We Determined the Best Mountain House Meals
Disclaimer – Seeing is Believing?
Let’s be honest; these are freeze dried meals contained in pouches, meals which are intended to be reconstituted with boiling water for an enjoyable, on the go dining experience. If you are expecting piping hot, freshly prepared dishes like Grandma used to make, you are going to be disappointed.
After all, there’s only so much you can do with freeze dried foods that boast a shelf life of 20 years or more. Keeping that in mind, it’s worth noting that while some dishes translate well to looking like the real thing (such as the Chili Mac with Beef meal), other dishes need a bit more creative license (such as the Lasagna with Meat Sauce option) to be taken seriously.
Regardless of the way that the meals look, you can rest assured that each and every meal option presented here have been vetted for both taste and appearance. Mountain House is a firm believer that our eyes “eat” just as much as our mouths do; therefore, each menu item they produce is down to an exact science, providing both sustenance as well as an appetizing appearance.
Since this article is all about comparing and contrasting the best Mountain House meals, we need to set a few ground rules due to the sheer size and scale of Mountain House’s menu inventory. In no particular order the meals must:
• Be entree pouches
• Cost less than $12 per meal
• Be ready to eat in less than 10 minutes
• Have a pouch net weight of less than 8 ounces (1/2 lb)
• Have a Lick It Clean score of 7 or higher (out of a possible 10)
And each meal will be judged by the following criteria, with a possible 10 points awarded for each area, where a perfect score would represent 30 points:
• Taste – We let our taste buds do the talking. This is an exercise in which every nuance of flavor is critically judged by what the meal pouch says it contains. This is not whether we like the food in the pouch as much as being able to taste each ingredient that makes up the meal.
• Texture – Pure mouthfeel. Wait, mouth-what? Basically, it’s our way of determining if the ingredients in the meal feel the way they should. We’ve all likely had poor experiences with mushy broccoli, rubbery macaroni and dried out steaks, none of which are likely contenders for a Michelin star.
• Presentation – If it looks good, it must be good, right? While there is an abundance of evidence which suggests that we eat with our eyes first, in general terms, we are referring to if the meal looks like it should. We’re interested in the finished product, in what we call an “appetizing appearance”.
A final score will be determined for each meal by simply averaging all three numbers together. This average, on a scale of 1 (terrible) to 10 (sublime) is the Lick It Clean score.
What The Heck is a Lick It Clean Score Anyway?
We’ve all been there: Ice cream sandwiches, cheeseburgers, your favorite Philly cheese steak, hand held food items that are so darn good we are compelled to lick their wrappers clean in an effort to enjoy that final, delectable morsel. And so it is with freeze dried food pouches.
A Lick It Clean (LIC) score is simply a fun way to definitively separate entrees that deserve our tongue love from those entrees that are better left alone. It’s a score that takes into account several important factors, including taste, texture and presentation. A higher score is, of course, a better indication of us wanting to lick the pouch clean.
To be sure, everyone has different interpretations on what makes a great freeze dried food, but through exhaustive testing and research, we are very confident in our rating system and we think you will be too.
Comparison Table – Mountain House Meals
In an effort to be as informative as possible, below is a handy table detailing the macro nutrients for each Mountain House Meal. Please note that the asterisks (*) beside each macro nutrient represents the amount per serving.
Each meal contains multiple servings per pouch, so be sure to account for this accordingly when determining if the macros fit your nutritional needs while hiking the trails or romping through the back country.
|Meal||Servings per Pouch||Calories*||Protein*||Carbs*||Fat*||Sodium*||LIC Score|
|Beef Stroganoff with Noodles||2.5||260||11g||29g||11g||800mg||8.7|
|Chili Mac with Beef||2.5||230||12g||31g||6g||780mg||9.0|
|Italian Pepper Steak with Rice||2.5||180||13g||29g||2.5g||590mg||8.3|
|Rice and Chicken||3||270||6g||41g||10g||750mg||8.3|
|Chicken Fajita Bowl||2||280||18g||30g||10g||690mg||8.7|
|Macaroni and Cheese||3||320||13g||31g||15g||680mg||8.0|
|Lasagna with Meat Sauce||2.5||240||14g||29g||8g||390mg||8.3|
|Homestyle Turkey Dinner||2||240||14g||27g||7g||790mg||8.7|
The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding Mountain House freeze-dried meal entrees.
How long are Mountain House meals good for?
The shelf life of unopened Mountain House freeze-dried meals is guaranteed at 30 years. This guarantee covers both the taste of the meal and freshness once prepared.
Freeze-dried foods do not spoil once they exceed their shelf life. However, you may notice a change in texture and taste when consuming Mountain House freeze-dried meals that are past their shelf life date.
How do you store Mountain House freeze-dried meals?
Freeze-dried entrees should be stored in dry conditions, avoiding prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures. To maximize shelf life, store below 75°F (24°C), and avoid storing in areas where damage to the packaging could occur.
How long will Mountain House freeze-dried meals last once opened?
A Mountain House freeze-dried meal becomes real food once it has been re-hydrated. Therefore, it is important to treat any re-hydrated and leftover freeze-dried food as though it were fresh food.
How much water does a Mountain House meal need?
This depends on the type of Mountain House entree you are preparing. Generally speaking, a typical freeze-dried meal pouch will require between 3/4 to 2 cups of boiling water. You can refer to the directions on the package for the exact amount of water needed for your meal.
Can you eat Mountain House meals using cold water?
Yes you can, although it certainly is not the most ideal way to consume the entree. All Mountain House freeze-dried meals have been fully pre-cooked and safely prepared and packaged; using cold water in a pinch will work, although the entree’s texture and taste may be affected.
How do you use Mountain House freeze-dried meal pouches?
Simply open the pouch, remove the oxygen absorber, add the correct amount of boiling water to the entree, stir the contents and seal the pouch for the specified amount of time. Most meals take less than 10 minutes to cook once boiling water has been added.
Can you eat freeze-dried food without water?
Yes, freeze-dried food can be consumed without water, but it is strongly advised against doing so. Besides the obvious issues of trying to chew food that is rock hard, the taste will likely not be complimentary either.
More importantly, however, is that eating freeze-dried food without water will likely dehydrate you, something to be avoided if you are relying on freeze-dried meals in preparation for an emergency or disaster.
Is it OK to eat freeze-dried food?
Provided that the food’s shelf life has not been exceeded or its packaging compromised, yes, it is perfectly okay to consume freeze-dried food! Check out our comprehensive article we wrote on the health benefits of eating freeze-dried food.
What do you think of our write-up? Did we get it right? Feel that we got it super wrong? Tell us! Feel free to reach out and let us know what you think of the article; we always appreciate thoughtful, constructive criticism, good or bad!