The golden hour has just passed and the sun’s warm rays are slipping away. The excitement of the day is starting to wear off and the anticipation of food and a cozy sleeping bag become the focal point. It’s time to stop, get some dry layers on and enjoy a warm meal before settling in for the night.

Time to layer up at Eagle Lake in Mineral King

That’s pretty much a typical end of a backpacking day for me. It seems no matter how much or little ground has to be covered in a day, I’m always racing to set up camp and get dinner going before the moon comes up. Luckily, on our trip to Mineral King, we had this Salsa Soup with Corn Dumplings planned for dinner.

Salsa and Corn Dumpling ingredients

Making salsa soup

In a nutshell, this is a spicy tomato based broth that gets covered in cornmeal batter dumplings. Let it simmer for 10 minutes until the batter is cooked. When you peek into the pot, your dumplings will probably have converged into one delicious cornbread-like pillow over the soup. In each bite you get a subtly sweet starch layer followed by hot and spicy broth. Soup naysayers stand down because this meal is comforting and will satisfy any ravenous hiker.

Salsa soup showing rehydrated bell peppers

Putting corn dumpling batter on top of salsa soup

In preparation for the trip, I used a dehydrator for the first time. I didn’t follow any recipes but rather put random stuff on the trays and let it go for a long time until it appeared to be completely dry. There are better ways to do things, but I’m impatient, and I was really excited to use this machine.

Salsa soup ingredients in a dehydrator

Fortunately, the homemade salsa and red bell pepper I added to the recipe rehydrated really well in the soup and added texture to the broth. My salsa was pretty basic (lazy), just fresh tomatoes, cilantro, salt and lime that I pureed in a food processor. If you don’t have access to a dehydrator, you can purchase dehydrated bell peppers and dehydrated salsa. Substitute the amounts called for in the recipe with 3 tablespoons dehydrated bell pepper and 3 tablespoons dehydrated salsa.

As for the dumplings, I’m not talking about Asian-style dumplings but the other kind which consists of steamed or boiled dough or batter. Read more about the origin of dumplings here.

This recipe is modified from my standby Backpacking recipe book Simple Foods for the Pack – also mentioned in this Grits Cakes post.

Salsa soup covered in corn dumpling

Eagle Lake in Mineral King at dusk

Full Story