Whether you’re ensuring your family will be ready in a time of need, storing meals for the long term, headed to the mountains, or just supplementing meals for nutritional control, having the right mix of MREs can make (or break) the quality of your meals when you crack into them.
After 16 hours spent tasting, testing, and breaking down more than 15 of the most popular MREs – with freeze-dried and dehydrated food options – and then trying the best of the bunch in a variety of outdoor field trials with 5 committed testers (because food is harder to prepare in the wild – and often tastes different when you’re out of the house) our testers thought the Good-to-Go Food Pack MREs offered the best mix of flavor, satisfaction, and variety.
However, what makes for a quality meal can differ widely from one person to another, so we have provided recommendations for a variety of additional kinds of MREs, giving you lots of options to make sure mealtime isn’t boring.
We have selections for full meals, vegetarian/vegan options, and gluten-free MREs that should give even the pickiest eater a full range of nutritional long-term storage goodness.
Quick List: The Best Meals Ready To Eat:
Our Top Pick (Best Overall):
Hand-made in the USA by chefs who love to get outside – and engineered to meet the nutritional requirements of a massive variety of organizations – from government institutions, medical professionals, & law enforcement, to emergency preparedness programs & humanitarian needs, the Good-to-Go Food Pack MREs (one of, if not the best MRE brand in our opinion) provide self-contained, 700 calorie meals designed to be split into 2 meals with a variety of entree options – from the very popular Thai Curry to Mushroom Risotto & vegan-friendly Kale & White Bean Stew.
Preparing Thai Curry
Our testers said they were easy to prepare with hot water or a flameless ration heater – and the major surprise being a number of the testers felt the final product was near restaurant-grade.
These were consistently one of our favorite backpacking meals. The 2-serving packages provided more than enough calories for our daily needs, even while backpacking or hiking through the Oregon hills.
Although the Good-To-Go packs are more expensive than some other pack-based options – we found that if you plan on using these kinds of grab and go food packs – taking them into the woods, on a hunt, or for calorie or portion control – you’ll enjoy them much more if you actually want to eat them (rather than buying the cheapest option that’s miserable to consume.)
They also offer an emergency preparedness 5 day food kit that offer 5-year shelf life.
Just a few minutes later - saucy, delicious curry.
- 5-year shelf lfe
- Good variety of meals
- Good taste & texture
- Easy to prepare
- Good calorie range at 700 per pack
- More expensive than other options
- Each package has 2 servings – no single serving packs
Best Entree Only:
Captain Dave’s MREs are one of the most popular packaged MREs around. People who just want the main entree of an MRE – and don’t have a need for the side dishes, fruit and crackers, or nuts – will find Captain Dave’s MREs hit that nail on the head, and strip down the MRE to just the main meal – so you’re not paying for plastic utensils or other components of the MRE pack.
Holds their own when it comes to taste
In terms of taste the Captain Dave meals help their own against the competition. The dinner options run the gamut of proteins and regional meals – includes classics like beef stew, turkey chilli w/beans, chili and macaroni, BBQ chicken w/ black beans & potatoes, chicken noodle stew, & cheese tortellini.
For the many who grew up backpacking with MREs, and even those who didn’t, these meals can conjure up memories of campouts from childhood. All our testers liked the consistency of flavor & texture across the meals, and many struck a nice balance of spices, which make a number of the Captain Dave’s meals more interesting than many of the other MRE options.
Of note – the Asian Style Beef rehydrated quickly and offered stand-out flavor that satisfied even picky eaters.
One potential issue – the 12 packs can lack variety – some people report getting multiple of a single flavor rather than a consistent mix of MRE meals.
- Simple, straightforward meal
- Saves space
- Not a complete meal
- Can lack variety
Best Gluten Free/Vegan:
We’ve seen a lot of MREs that resemble dehydrated wood chips or stale fast food, but NorthWest Fork Gluten-Free MREs are not one of these products.
Great mix of flavors & portions
The black bean soup had a great-tasting flavor of corn, beans, and olive oil and reminded us of what you might get from a quality market – and a number of our testers said that – in some ways – the final product wasn’t unlike something they might pull together for a quick dinner at home.
The portions were good – although there’s certainly some room for improvement as the rationed meal size is in the 300-400 calorie range.
Packed when you order
One aspect of the NorthWest Fork meals we really appreciated was the freshness – these 30 Day supplies are packed when the order is placed, which means these products probably haven’t been sitting on a shelf for a year – and certainly makes them last longer once they get to you.
The food is packed in a facility licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, under quality-controlled conditions and the packages contain O² Absorbers, which prevents oxidation and degradation, and ultimately gives the product a 10 year shelf life.
- 10 year shelf life
- Packed when ordered
- Maximum freshness
- Quality ingredients
- Serving size could be larger
- Instructions could be clearer
Best MRE Variety:
Founded in 1969, Mountain House is one the best-known camping-food brands—and their products have been in our preparedness pantry for years. The flavors are great – and with such a deep catalog of dinner options you get lots of great options – pad thai with chicken, chicken fried rice, – even biscuits and gravy, all with solid amounts of protein and macronutrients.
Mountain House Chicken Fried Rice
Even though these meals are only available in two-serving pouches, we never thought there was too much food to prepare or finish – especially given how delicious the final product was. Smaller eaters, however, may want to split the meals. The good news is each pouch is resealable, so it’s easy enough to prepare half the meal in a pot or pan and save the second serving for preparation in the bag later.
Chicken Fried Rice Final Product>
One other note – these do have higher sodium than some other options, so if you’re not expending a lot of energy or sweating through the hills you may want to look for a lower-sodium option.
- Well established brand
- Quality ingredients
- Fantastic flavor variety
- Resealable bags
- No single-serving options
- Higher sodium than other options
Best Breakfast MRE:
When testing breakfast options our testers thought the Alpine Aire Strawberry Granola with Mike was a super-tasty way to start your day.
The package offered the right amount of strawberries, and if you time the cook just right you can have crunchy, chewy granola with perfectly rehydrated strawberries in a warm milky slurry.
This one was especially popular with our 2 younger testers, who thought it tasted a lot like a warm granola bar – and almost qualified as an MRE dessert. High praise indeed!
What are meals-ready-to-eat and where do they come from?
What is an MRE?
An MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) is a completely self-contained meal. One MRE can provide enough calories for a single meal, but commercial MREs with resealable bags are often designed around 2 meals.
They consist of freeze-dried or dehydrated foods paired with a beverage powder and simple foods like peanut butter or cheese spread. They’re designed to be portable, withstand exposure to the elements, be prepared quickly (which you might need in a survival situation) and last for years at a time.
Inside an MRE you will find an entree and often a variety of smaller food and drink items. Military MREs are packaged in case quantities of 12 meals per case, but you can often find MREs and survival-oriented meals packaged by dedicated days of food – e.g. a 5-day or 15-day survival pack.
Who uses MRS and why are they so popular?
MREs are very popular with a variety of people – preppers, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, & sportsman – because they last a very long time (often 5-10 years), require little space to store, don’t need to be refrigerated, come in a massive variety of flavors, are quick to prepare (generally under 10 minutes), are incredibly light and portable, and (depending on your taste preferences) can be fairly cheap.
In general, the more military-oriented the MRE the simpler, less expensive, but blander they will be (they’re pretty good but certainly not gourmet). Some commercial MREs are absolutely delicious – but will take more time to prepare and cost much more than a military surplus option.
Each of these MREs offers a variety of different features and flavors and our top picks are highlighted below.
- Best Overall MREs: Good-to-Go Food Pack MREs
- Best Entree Only: Captain Dave’s 12 Military MRE Entrees
- Best Gluten Free/Vegan: NorthWest Fork Gluten-Free Emergency Food Supply
- Best MRE Variety: Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals
- Best Breakfast MRE: Alpine Aire Strawberry Granola with Milk
These also met the criteria for any MRE we’d recommend:
- Good flavor & texture
- Easy to prepare
- Long shelf life
- Readily available
There are quite a few options out in this category, but we hope this article steers you in the right direction. If you have any questions or feedback please drop us a line.