Dehydrated Indian food on the trail – Dhal Rice Recipe

Ever been on a long trip away from home and craved for the comfort food that you are used to. Dehydrating Indian food has saved us tremendously from mom’s food cravings, especially on backpacking trips and long international trips. This is another way, we save money when we travel to expensive countries.

Most Indian food, especially the rice and dhal/lentil based recipes, dehydrate really well. Yes, the nutritive value of the food does get affected. However, there are ways to get around it. On a backpacking trip where the options are limited and you need high calories with less food, dehydrating Indian food is a great option, especially for vegetarians.

Article Contents

What is dehydration?

If you are reading my blog for the first time and not sure about what I am talking about in terms of dehydrating food, check out this post I made about what is dehydrated food. Pros and cons of dehydrating process.

What do I need for dehydrating?

  • A dehydrator. Well this is pretty basic. Any dehydrator would work.
  • Home cooked food or left overs
  • Patience

Dhal Rice Recipe:

As far as rice goes, its straight forward. Cook the rice like you would regularly.

Dhal Recipe: Dehydrated dhal can be bland. So, I spike up the sourness, spice and salt a bit.


  • One cup of dhal. ( I have tried this recipe with Moong, Toor and Masoor Dals )
  • 2.5 cups of water
  • Turmeric 1 tsp
  • Tamarind paste 1table spoon
  • Salt to taste + 1/4 tsp extra
  • Sambar powder / curry powder 2 tbsp. I make my own powder and it already has enough chillies in it. If the store bought curry powder is bland for you, add indian red chilli powder 1/2 tsp to spice it up.
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas, corn, carrot or whatever vegetable you have.

Cooking Method:

I am all about taking the short cut when it comes to cooking to save time. So, I would throw everything in the pressure cooker and bring it to 3-5 whistles or until they are cooked really well.

In pressure cooker Moong dhal cooks faster than others.

If you are using insta-pot, manual 10-mins works great.

Optional: Temper with a table spoon of hot oil, mustard seeds and curry leave.

At this stage, let the food come to warm temperature. It doesn’t have to become cold before starting dehydration. But, boiling hot might melt the plastic. IMO. Below is the link to the dehydrator that I use.

How to Dehydrate Dhal and Rice?

  • Spread thin layers of food on your dehydrator treys.
  • My method is to set the dehydrator to the max temperature.
  • Dehydrating Dhal takes 15-16 hours.
  • Dehydrating only rice takes less time. Say around 7-8 hours.
  • After about every two hours, I rotate the treys if I am dehydrating during the day time. Usually the hot air blown from the top and top treys tend to dry up more quickly than the bottom ones.
  • If its not possible to rotate treys every two hours, thats fine too. At least try to do it once in between. Preferably after 4 hours.
  • I generally start the dehydrator at night before going to bed. Clearly, I can’t rotate them every two hours.
  • When rotating the treys, I flip the food at each trey, so the moist side is facing up.



How do I know when dehydration is done?

Option 1: With Dhal it’s a bit easy to identify. I take big chunks in hand and crush them. They should crumble down into tiny pieces.

Option 2: Take random samples of the dhal pieces and eat them. You will know how crunchy it is. In fact, we use these as dhal chips on road trips. They are a great alternatives to store bought chips.

When in doubt, dehydrate a bit longer. It’s ok if they are over dehydrated than under.

Eventually, you will get a feel for the texture of the dehydrated dhal.


  • I store them in the ziploc cover and keep them in the back of fridge.
  • The longest we have kept the food outside the fridge was 10-days, with no preservatives. I haven’t experimented beyond that.
  • 10-day road trip in hot New Mexico, the dehydrated Dhal survived. The left overs, we just ate them like chips.

How to rehydrate dhal and rice:

There are basically couple of ways to rehydrate.

  • Cook them with water until you see the food has rehydrated enough. Simmer slowly. Might take about 30 mins with this method.
  • Use the old dry-freeze bags and add food and boiling water. Leave for 15-20 mins and its ready to be eaten. We bought some Kathmandu curry packs for Patagonia trip. (Chile doesn’t allow unsealed dehydrated food. )  We saved these empty packets that we currently use for rehydrating.
  • Buy a few Mylar bags, put the dried food and add boiling water to it. Set aside for 20 mins until the food is fully rehydrated.
  • I usually take a good mix of dhal and rice when I rehydrate, in the same packet.
  • I use these BPA free bags (link below) to rehydrate lately and it works great.


How does the rehydrated dhal taste ?

Imagine this scene:

You are in Ansel Adams Wilderness or Desolation Wilderness hiking at over 10,000ft elevation. You are gasping for air at high altitude. It’s a constant uphill and you are sweating. You have been eating cliff bars all along and by now you are sick of anything sweet.

You crave a warm, spicy, salty meal that is packed with calories for lunch. You need enough calories to get you through the afternoon, so you can reach the campsite before sunset.

Now, you open your backpack, set the Jetboil to make hot water. 2 mins the boiling water is ready. You pour the boiling water into the dry food pack. You stretch out and wait for 15-20 mins or you leave the backpack with your buddy and go filter water at the near-by lake.

After 20-minute, hot Indian meal is ready! You tell me how it tastes. I bet you, it’s delicious. No questions asked.

If you tried this recipe, please let me know how it turned out. Leave a comment below.