4 Flexible Meals on a Boat

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pizza with tomato, onion, and broccoli

When I first started cooking on the boat, the galley was a wreck after every meal. 

As with all aspects of transitioning to life aboard, it takes time to find your groove – the kitchen is no exception.

The more experience you get, the more you’ll learn what works for preparing easy meals on a sailboat.

Some things to consider are:

  • Balancing fresh, canned, and dried foods in a meal
  • Using flexible recipes
  • Water conservation (both during the cooking process and during cleanup)
  • Meal prep in a small space

There are a few dishes that are always in the rotation on Sunnyside. Below are four of our favorite home-cooked meals on a boat that are flexible and easy to prepare onboard.


1. Curry

You can’t beat a good curry when you’re cooking on a boat. It’s an easy, flexible dish with the depth of flavor we love in a good Thai dish. 

You can make curry on a respectable timeline with the right balance of dried, fresh, and canned ingredients. 

two bowls of green curry on cockpit table

Why It Works

  • Curries contain veggies with a long shelf life – carrots, onion, peppers
  • Add any greens (spinach, bok choy, kale, chard) and fresh herbs (mint, basil, or cilantro) you have on hand
  • A filling meal with just vegetables or compliment with chicken, shrimp, or tempeh
CLEANUP: This is a 2-pot meal (curry and rice). You will have a few miscellaneous items from chopping veggies.

Recipes

Cookie & Kate’s blog has all my favorite curry recipes (links below). As she suggests, I use the Thai Kitchen brand red curry paste and green curry paste, and A Taste of Thai brand for Panang. They all make a delicious curry. Cut the paste back a little for less spice, or toss in more to bring the heat!


2. Pizza

I’m a big fan of selecting a dedicated pizza night.

It’s a treat to look forward to and a simple boat meal to put together. And if I’m honest, we would be eating pizza three times a week without a dedicated night!

pizza with pineapple and jalapeno

Why It Works

  • Toppings are flexible based on what you have on hand. Even if you don’t have fresh veggies, you can still come up with pizza toppings – canned pineapple and jalapeño, anyone?
  • Pizza is a quick meal to put together if you think ahead. Make the dough anywhere from two to three hours ahead of dinner to give it time to rise. You can make a big batch of sauce and freeze it for even quicker, tastier meals.
CLEANUP: Your onboard dishwasher will be dancing a jig on pizza night. You can practically wipe your sheet plan clean. You will have a few miscellaneous items from making dough and grating cheese.

Recipe

You can make pizza in various ways – from the dough to the sauce to the way it’s assembled and cooked. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Dough and Alternatives

  • Pizza dough is very forgiving. It’s a great place to start if this is your first venture into working with dough. I use this recipe recommended by a friend and cut it in half for one pizza.
  • A tip we picked up from a fellow cruiser is to use naan bread in a pinch. Cook the naan on the stove until browned on the bottom. Flip it and add your cheese, sauce, and toppings. Put on the lid and cook until the cheese is melted.
  • If you want a crisper crust and have limited time, tortillas are another good alternative.

Cheese & Sauce

  • Melty, creamy cheeses are going to work best for pizza. We use a combination of mozzarella and Munster with a little Parmesan on top. Freshly shredded if possible for the best texture. Provolone, cheddar, goat, or Gruyere also work nicely.
  • You can use sauce from a jar or get a little creative, starting with a can of crushed tomatoes. My favorite sauce has a little sugar and balsamic vinegar in addition to herbs and spices.

Here are our favorite topping combinations. Get creative. The sky is the limit with pizza!

  • Canned pineapple, red onion, pickled jalapeños with dollops of jalapeño cream cheese (trust me, try it!)
  • Broccoli (marinated in a little olive oil), spinach, red onion, and tomato
  • Kale (marinated with olive oil and salt), red onion, mushrooms

Lastly, below is a video we made the first time we attempted pizza. Luckily Captain Ross has some time in pizza kitchens, so we weren’t totally clueless.


3. Stir Fry

Stir fry is a great dish when you need to clean out the fridge. Being able to use whatever veggies are on hand makes this a great boat meal.

stir fry in pan on the stove

Why It Works

  • It’s very flexible – I’ve used carrots, cabbage, peppers, kale, spinach, sugar snap peas, chard, squash, bok choy, red onion, mushrooms, and green onion.
  • Even with only long-lasting veggies such as carrots and cabbage, you can add canned mushrooms and bean sprouts and still make a good stir fry.
  • Asian dishes are so flexible any protein would complement this meal. We eat mostly vegetarian, so sometimes I add steamed tempeh. You could also add chicken, shrimp, beef, or tofu.
CLEANUP: This is a 2-pot meal (vegetables and pot for noodles). You will have a few miscellaneous items from chopping veggies and making the sauce.

Recipe

I enjoy Budget Bytes’ version of a stir fry. It has a small number of ingredients, and it’s quick enough that you can whip it up for lunch on a boat. View Recipe

Tips

  • I absolutely love the Hakubaku Organic Udon in this dish, but any Udon or ramen noodle will work.
  • Top with toasted sesame seeds, Sriracha, more soy sauce, and chopped green onions to round out this dish.

4. Veggie Spaghetti

Spaghetti is a favorite with the Sunnyside crew. Captain Ross is always requesting this dish and Augustus (our feline first mate) loves begging for spare noodles.

vegetable spaghetti in a bowl with cheese on top

Why It Works

  • To save time, use a jarred sauce (our favorite is Bertolli® Olive Oil & Garlic). Then spice it up with seasonings and canned and fresh veggies. It gets that rich, homemade flavor without simmering for hours on the stove.
  • It can be as simple or complex as you want it. Chopped onion, a can of mushrooms, and some herbs can go a long way. Get creative with what you have on hand, and don’t be afraid to experiment!
CLEANUP: This is a 2-pot meal (sauce and noodles). Plus, miscellaneous items for chopping veggies.

Recipe

This is the most flexible recipe on the list, but the below recipe is a good place to start.

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 to one whole onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 can mushrooms
  • 1 cup broccoli, squash, or bell pepper
  • 1-2 cups spinach or kale
  • 1 jar sauce (24oz.)
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning (or combination of oregano, thyme, and rosemary)
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cayenne (for a little heat)
  • 1 tbsp butter

Directions

Sauté onions and carrots in olive oil and garlic with a little salt. Once they start to soften, add your veggies (except for greens). Let the veggies soften for 5-7 minutes, then add your sauce, seasonings, red wine, and kale if using. Simmer for 15 minutes. If using spinach, add it near the end with time to wilt. Lastly, add a pad of butter to richen the sauce.

Tips

  • Angel hair usually works best with a tomato sauce, but most any noodle will do.
  • I use a manual veggie chopper to make the dicing go quick (it’s on our list of Sailboat Galley Essentials).
  • For a creamier sauce, add 1/4 cup of hydrated powdered milk (I like to hydrate in vegetable broth instead of water).
  • Top with a little grated Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano for a real treat), crushed red pepper, and fresh basil.

Cooking Good Meals on a Boat

I hope this gave you some helpful ideas for boat recipes that you can make with what you have onboard.

The most challenging and rewarding part of the boat galley is pushing your boundaries as a cook.

Having limited access to provisions forces you to step outside your comfort zone. You’ll start cooking with different ingredients and making things from scratch that you would typically buy. You can even learn to catch your food! It’s a fun process if you let it be.


Want to learn more about cooking on a boat?

For more ideas on meals, provisioning, and how to outfit your galley, view our guide.


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bowl of green curry topped with herbs on teak boat table

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