Meal In a Jar: Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles
Just add water and a splash of coconut milk to make this fragrant curry noodle pot. A dynamic and feisty broth is bolstered with cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric enveloping egg noodles and whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand.
I’ve been trying to nail down a great curry noodle "in a jar" situation for months. My first attempt was late last year when we took the Airstream out to the desert south of Palm Springs. I’ve worked through five or six revisions in the months since, and learned some important lessons along the way. Once you have the core ingredients in a jar (or bag), all you need is water and a splash of coconut milk. You end up with a dynamic and feisty broth bolstered with cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, dried mushrooms and turmeric. It’s incredibly fragrant and delicious. The broth envelops tangles of egg noodles and whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand to toss in at the last minute. I tend to use shredded cabbage and some tofu, and broccoli florets if I have them. So easy, so good!
I think I finally cracked the code on the coconut curry noodles last week while parked at a stunning stretch of California coastline near Santa Barbara, but there have been some real fails in the attempts all winter. Getting the feisty broth to a place I loved was a breeze, it was getting the noodles right that gave me the most trouble. Turned out, the trick is using just the right noodles for a one-pot cooking approach. You need noodles that are happy to simmer along with all the other ingredients without getting overly goopy, or without making the broth too thick and starchy. I'll get into the specifics down below.
The "Meals In Jars" Series:
If you’re just stumbling on this I’ll back up a bit. I’ve done a few of these types of meals in jars lately. I love to keep them on hand for fast weeknight meals and take them out on road trips and camping as well. I keep the base recipes pretty strict and my general rule of thumb is to aim for “just add water.” Or, in this case a bit of coconut milk. With the Italian Barley Soup and the Tortellini Soup it’s just water and canned tomatoes. The idea is that if all you have is the content of the jar, water, and perhaps a pantry-friendly ingredient or two, you have all you need for a really good meal.
Let’s Talk about The Mushrooms
Let's get into some detail related to the ingredients in these curry noodles. I call for chopped dried porcini mushrooms in this recipe. They lend a really great earthy counter-balance to the spicy cayenne and ginger notes in the broth. They’re worth sourcing and using, and I’m calling them out here because I know a bunch of you are going to want to skip them (lol). I just want to encourage you not to. If you have another dried mushroom in your pantry, one you love, yes, you can absolutely substitute, but don’t skip the dried mushrooms altogether.
Coconut Milk Alternatives?
Use full-fat coconut milk here and not low-fat. If you want a more creamy curry by all means add more to the broth, and simply re-season to your liking. Also, if you’re looking for a coconut milk alternative, I’ve had a lot of success using homemade cashew milk with these curry noodles. I blend 1 cup soaked cashews with 1 cup of water as the ratio using a high-speed blender until creamy smooth. Any leftover coconut milk or cashew milk freezes nicely, so tend to save any into baggies for later use, and both work nicely here.
What Kind of Noodles to Use?
I ran through a lot of noodles before landing on Italian-style egg pasta nests as the best choice for this recipe. Here’s what makes the noodle choice tricky. This is a one-pot meal. That is the whole point. You’d have a lot more noodle options if you wanted to boil your noodles in a separate pot, and then add them, fully cooked, to your curry pot at the perfect moment. But that isn't what we're going for here.
I tried rice noodles of various thickness but they were never happy, and wanted to be cooked separately. Thinking through other quick cooking pastas, I tested angel hair pasta, and that was a hard no. I tried breaking spaghetti into segments, and that wasn't right either. But these tagliatelle egg nests, the kind you can pick up in an Italian deli, and many other grocery stores were great! Adding them after you've let the broth simmer a bit, they cooked into slurpy perfection.
An Outdoor Coconut Curry Noodle Pot
This is a brothy situation with turmeric involved. I’ve cooked it a number of times in the Airstream, but because the cooking space is cramped, this is definitely a meal I prefer to cook and eat outside. My little Iwatani burner paired with a donabe is a great light-weight, easy to set up combo. I love the donabe because the clay really holds the heat and keeps the curry warm in case you’re up for seconds. For anyone worried about traveling with a clay pot, I keep it in the box it was shipped in to keep it safe while driving. You can see the set-up below.
Here's a snapshot of the recipe in my notebook below (the final version is typed up below). I like to write up recipes in pencil, and then erase to make changes and evolve the recipe over time. I always have a line for "next time" and that is where I leave notes to self about what to do when attempting the recipe again. Leaving little notes about what has worked and what hasn't so I don't repeat past fails is also an important part of my template. And if I'm working and testing recipes for a book I take a slightly different approach. If I know a recipe is going to go into a book I type it up and move a printout to a binder, filing versions and changes there, and maintaining digital files. I did a series of posts about my Making a Cookbook process years ago (2015!) related to Near & Far - it might be helpful if you think you might want to write a cookbook someday but are overwhelmed by the process. A bit of a tangent, but that's how it typically goes down on the recipe front over here.
What if I'm Cooking for 2?
One last note related to the recipe, a lot of camping saucepans are small, and this recipe calls for 7 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of coconut milk. So, a good amount of liquid. You're going to want to use a sizable pot. If your pot is smaller, or maybe you're cooking for less than 4, here's the plan. As long as your pot can hold 6 cups of water comfortably (knowing you'll also be adding pasta and vegetables), you're fine. Use all the spices, etc. as written, and scale back the pasta nests by one or two, and proceed with recipe. Your broth with be a bit stronger (in a good way).
Other favorite Meals in Jars:
I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I do! I love it as a camping meal, especially if it is cold out. If you’re looking for more ideas along these lines I’ll just highlight this Italian Barley Soup and the Tortellini Soup again as well, or browse all the soup recipes. Also, in the time since this was originally posted, I've arranged more of these types of recipes into a downloadable collection: Recipes for the Road: A Small, Useful Collection of Meal-In-Jar & Just-Add-Water Recipes for Road Trips, Camping & Everyday Life.
You can get more information about the collection here. It includes my favorite adventure pancake mix recipe, a bunch of soup mixes, an A+ recipe for packets of instant oatmeal, and a bunch of other recipes, photos, tips & resources.
Beyond that, thinking about related links - I love using this homemade bouillon powder in soups. And here's a list of my favorite camping recipes. Keep your pantry stocked with a few of these for quick, low-lift homemade meals! And here's where you can explore all the soup recipes.
Meal In a Jar: Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles
The thing you have to get right here is the noodles. I tried a lot of different noodles here, and the Italian-style egg pasta nests, for example, tagliatelle or something similar, works the best if you want to cook everything in one pot here. I go into more detail about it, and explain the issues I had with other types of noodles up above.
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced dried onions
- 2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms, well chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon freeze-dried ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 vegetable boullion
- 6 oz egg noodle “nests”
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- Add ins: cubed tofu, shredded cabbage, broccoli florets, lime, cilantro
Combine in a quart-sized, wide-mouthed jar: cayenne, dried onions, mushrooms, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, and bouillon. Stack the noodles on top and close the jar.
When you’re ready to make the curry noodles, remove the noodles from the jar and set aside. Unwrap the bouillon and place it in a large pot along with the other spices and seasonings from the jar. Add 7 1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer along with 1/2 cup of coconut milk for 5 - 10 minutes. Stir in 6 - 8 ounces of tofu. Bring back to a simmer, and then add the noodles.
Simmer until nearly done, and add the broccoli and cabbage. Finish cooking, taste the broth and make any adjustments with a bit more salt if needed and/or a squeeze of lime. Serve topped with cilantro.
Post Your Comment
Truly appreciate the way you made this wonderful recipe. Everything is so nicely described that really helped me. I am looking forward for more such yummy recipes in future too.
I LOVE this series Heidi! Thank you so much for your creativity. I made a "fresh" version of this for dinner today. Meaning, I did not have the dried ingredients (onion, mushrooms, ginger) on hand and substituted fresh. The result was delicious! We lost our power from a storm today briefly. I'm thinking putting up a few of these jarred meals, just in case, would bring comfort in times of uncertainty.
Thanks Leah! Appreciate the comment. I'm never sorry to have a few of these jars on hand, and have been making them in batches of four. We always get through them faster than I think we will! And while I originally started making them for camping, I deploy them at home all the time now. xx!
This was amazing!!! Made this last night and my VERY picky family loved it. Will be making this MANY more times!!!! Thank you!
Found this recipe by searching for Jalama Beach on Google. Was just there on a super windy and cold April day and was inspired to try this even though I am not camping. That beach is super beautiful and super freezing! Used roasted mushrooms instead of dehydrated and also baked the tofu since I had the luxury of being at home. Added some curry powder too, and used some broccoli slaw mix. This is sooo freaking amazing. Going to call this Jalama Beach Curry from now on. Need some warming broth to counter the cold winds. Thank you for being awesome.
Wooohoo! Love this note Nate. The wind there is real!
Great soup. I like your adventurous soul of outdoor cooking. So clever. A blast from the past when it was the norm was to have roadside and seaside picnics. ❤️ LOVE IT ! ❤️ [I will be looking into your soups in a jar. Fabulous!
Hah! Being a UCSB grad AND having just returned from a stay along the SB to Santa Monica coastline a few weeks ago, I was drawn quickly past the recipe details to the pictures!! BUT intend to get back to anything with coconut milk and vegetables. Thanks!
Thanks! Looks easy and I pretty much love everything with coconut milk! Will see if I can find dried mushrooms somewhere. Didn't even know they existed.
Loving the "Meal in the jar" series as solutions for camping meals! We travel light, no fridge to store tofu, so I'd be curious to hear what alternative canned protein might be a good fit for this one? Chickpeas?
Hi Sara - chickpeas would be fantastic! I also have it in my notes to try freeze-dried tofu - could also work. Or use both!
I have never heard of this "in a jar" concept but will surely give it a go!
Looks fantastic, can’t wait to try this one. Have loved the soup in the jar. Off topic- what campground is this? Its gorgeous and as fellow campers we’re always in search of new spots.
Hi Ty - it's Jalama Beach north of Santa Barbara. Incredibly beautiful, can be windy.
I would love to dry this but… Dried onions? Freeze-dried ginger? Where to get these things?? I have Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market and Whole Foods right nearby but have never seen or purchased or made these things. Thank you.
Hi! Have a look in the spices section, that's where I picked up this round (at WF). Also! Let's say you can't find the freeze-dried ginger, just sub a bit of ground ginger powder. You're basically going after a great tasting broth here, so it's fine to play around some.
adding dried mushrooms to my shopping list (and eating some leftover tortellini soup from your original pre-jar recipe) right now!
Hope you love it Alix!
Heidi, look up the history of expressions like "cake walk." You won't want to use them again.
Thanks for the insight Nancy - I had no idea.
We love the Tomato Tortellini in a Jar and can’t wait to try this one as well! I’m curious if you’ve ever tried a substitute for bouillon cubes. The cubes readily available at my grocer have some nasty sounding ingredients. I’ve seen recipes for homemade bouillon powder that contain nutritional yeast and a handful of herbs & spices that I’m thinking of trying here.
Hi Lindsay - Yes! Absolutely. Homemade cubes or powder are fair game. You can also do a search for "all natural vegetable bouillon cubes" and poke around a bit.
As a busy mom of two teens, I'm loving this jar series for getting fast and delicious dinners on the table on busy nights. Looking forward to using the recipes as a traveling empty-nester soon as well. Where is this amazing campground? I want the whole "meal in a jar by the ocean" experience ;-) Also wondering if ramen noodles might work in a pinch?
Hi Melmel - Thanks! That is Jalama beach, and it is a stunner. Windy though! The drive out is one of the prettiest in the state. I think some ramen noodles could work. Give it a go.
Apologies for the silly question (especially if I missed it somewhere!!) - what is freeze dried ginger? Or I suppose more to the point, where do you source it? I have powdered and candied, but have not seen a freeze dried variety. Can't wait to try this, your recipes are *always* perfect!
Hi! And thanks! This is the freeze-dried ginger I've been using, I picked it up at Whole Foods. And if you have trouble sourcing it, go ahead and substitute some powdered ginger, go easy to start and then you can always add more to your liking. Enjoy!
I love these posts. I am a working wife who is largely responsible for meal prep and though I love cooking, some nights I need a healthy and quality short cut. Please consider more recipes in a similar vein. Would it be too much to ask for a whole cookbook?!
I'll keep them coming! I love them too. There are definitely days when I've been cooking, prepping, and taking photos all day, and then want something super simple to make for dinner. lol.
Heidi, I havent tried tried this recipe yet but it looks perfect for vanlife style cookouts, especially with that donabe in the photo. Looking forward to more recipes featuring that pot! Thanks for another great idea from a long-time follower.
Thanks Erin! I love my donabes so much. I've resisted the urge to buy one of those Blackstone grills so far (my sister loves hers)....Right now I have a grill insert for one of the Iwatani burners, and then can use donabe, cast iron, etc. for another and it's my go-to outdoor cooking / camping set-up right now.
Loving these meals-in-jars. You could do a whole book with this type of recipe!
Thanks Ann! They're fun to think about - the problem-solving, limitations makes me think about ingredients in a different way than I normally do! Appreciate the encouragement.
Heidi! Thank you so, so much for this (and other) meal in a jar recipe!! We are heading to a rental cabin in a few weeks and I always wonder what I will find in an unfamiliar kitchen. This absolutely solves all problems and eliminates the stress of having to pack all kinds of meal options. Can't wait to try the curry noodles which sound amazing and have other 101cookbooks soups pinned for future use on camping trips.
Thanks Ceejay - have a blast! And just remember, it's super adaptable - so toss in whatever vegetables you love along with some tofu or beans or whatever protein sounds good to you. have a great trip!