Wandering around the world is much easier on a full belly! Travelling with our vans, we are the lucky adventurers that carry a full kitchen with us anywhere we go.
Every morning, we can enjoy the simple luxuries of a good cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast. And during the day, we can barbecue, roast, bake, bend and steam pretty much food we fancy (*not specifically in that order).
Your van kitchen will ideally need space for a stove and/or oven, sink, fridge, and storage for cooking accessories and utensils. But like any other item that ends up included in your travelling gear, your kitchen essentials need a bit of thought. To achieve a compact and practical kitchen, you can't have too many gadgets around, and it also means shopping for multipurpose kitchen gear that maximises usefulness. Your kitchen items need to be durable, quiet when you drive, easy to clean and as compact as possible to save space. We will share our top kitchen essentials for camper van cooking in this guide.
A good chef's knife
You can downsize many items when moving into your van, but a full-size chef knife shouldn't be one of them. Cutting, chopping, slicing and dicing is still mostly done by hand, and with a quality chef's knife by your side, you'll save yourself a lot of effort and time. And since you can use a chef’s knife for all of your cutting needs, this is a valuable purchase that will serve you for your entire trip and more.
The Victorinox Cook's Knife
This knife is coming with an attractive and comfortable rosewood handle, a razor sharp stainless steel blade, ice tempered to retain its sharpness longer.
Why we love it: our go-to knife that we use daily, it’s an absolute workhorse, sharp, nicely balanced and a treat to hold. Plus, we like the retro look of the wooden handle.
Mercer Genesis Chef's Knife
The best budget chefs knife, all-around. Featuring an 8-Inch Stainless Steel blade and a comfortable and ergonomic Santoprene handle.
Why we recommend it: It delivers excellent value for its price point. This knife is sharp, durable and comfortable to hold. It will naturally find its place in your kitchen and we're sure it won’t disappoint you.
Food prep' essentials
Preparing the food is the first step in any kitchen. Cutting, peeling, processing, we've got you covered. We spent a long time looking for kitchen products that are highly functional, easy to use and clean, and that are built to last.
If you’re a fan of making dips, sauces, soups or smoothies, you’ll likely want a powerful blender. As you know, maximising space and function is key when living in a small space with limited storage - and it's particularly true regarding food processors, which can range from small to voluminous.
800W Homgeek Hand Blender
One appliance, many uses. Featuring a 8-inch Blending Shaft, a Food Chopper, a Whisk Attachment and a Mixing Beaker.
Why we bought it: Our go-to option is this hand blender htat is compact and easy to clean. It offers plenty of uses and it doesn't take much of your kitchen van space. May your humous, soups and smoothies be glorious!
Manual Hand Held Vegetable Choper
This manual chopper allows you to slice everything, quickly and easily. Just pull the ring few times to chop and blend your ingredients.
Why we like it: This choper is cheaper, it does not require electricity or an inverter, and does the same job as its electric counterpart. It is perfect for slicing and mixing vegetable and fruits - and you get a free workout every time. It's smaller size is perfect for the cramped quarters of a campervan kitchen.
The list is long... but if you cook like we do, you know that it takes great tools to get the job done. Here's a quick collection of the kitchen accessories that we are taking on the road with us in our van's kitchen.
A garlic press does make crushing garlic easier and quicker... but it's not a kitchen essential
Not an essential item to have: the garlic press made it in our kitchen as a luxury item. You can easily chop & crush your own garlic with your chef’s knife.
Small Vegetable Peeler
Life in the kitchen is easier when you have the right tool for the task. A vegetable peeler can save you time and avoid wastage. Hand-held fixed blades quickly remove skin and peel from fruit and vegetables.
Our verdict: You need one! Get a small peeler that is cheap, easy-to-use and durable.
Bamboo chopping board
One of the most basic tools you need in your kitchen is a good cutting board. You’ll be using it every time you cook so choose one that’s durable and well designed.
Our recommendation: get a cutting board that is large enough to fit over your sink to give you more kitchen counter to work with. We'd advise one in Bamboo, as it is naturally antibacterial and absorbs very little moisture, making it more hygienic than some other types of wood.
A paring knife is a kitchen knife with a short blade that can be used for delicate work, including peeling, hulling, slicing, mincing, trimming, segmenting and scoring.
Our advice: this is one of the few knives everyone needs one of in the kitchen. It's very sharp, light and durable.
Manual Can Opener
If you think you don't need one.. you're probably wrong! It's not the most exciting piece of cookware but this can opener does its job and you'll be glad to have it.
Our suggestion: Get a manual butterfly can opener. They are super small, pretty much unbreakable and very easy to use.
Pop Up Steamer / Colander
This steamer basket virtually transform any pot into a quick, efficient steamer. We also double its use as a colander to drain and wash vegetables and salad greens.
Definitely a tool you will always want within reach, for stripping herbs or cutting meats and vegetables. These kitchen shears from OXO are great. With a comfortable handle, these shears are extremely sharp and heavy-duty. The blades even separate for easy cleaning.
Salt & Pepper Grinder
It's difficult to cook without salt or pepper.. Get a pair of quality grinders that are easy to refill and use. These grinders from Oxo look great, are well thought out and will last a long time.
You don't need the entire collection of small and big pots, saucepans and skillets that you traditionally have in your home kitchen, it would simply be overkill and take too much space. Get 2 - 3 pots/pans and that will cover all your needs.
Stackable pots and pans can save on precious storage space in your camper van. All the pots and pans fit inside of each other using less storage area. Some nesting cookware sets come accessories like a colander or with one pot lid that can fit all the other pot sizes saving even more space. Whether you want to buy individual pots and pans or buy a set that fit into each other, it is your choice.
Cast Iron Combo Cooker
Sear, sauté, simmer, braise, bake, roast and fry - this cast iron combo cooker will do wonders in you kitchen van. It is a deep skillet, a fryer, a Dutch oven in one, plus a lid that doubles as a shallow skillet or griddle.
This is our cookware of choice: in our eyes, the most versatile, durable, easy to clean cookware you can have with you. It is a heavy set, but worth it because it simply does it all. You can use it on all cooking surfaces, grills and campfires. Get that one and you will be set!
This lighter is suitable for indoor and outdoor use, is USB rechargeable and features a long flexible neck for different lighting needs. Perfect for firing up your camping stove without burning your finger's hairs!
A good set of cooking utensils will get a lot of use. These non-toxic eco-friendly utensils are made from high-quality natural wood that will not deform easily and is highly heat resistant Also easy to clean and non-scratch.
Other cookware alternatives:
The Ridge Monkey toaster
A very versatile, fairly compact grill, composed of essentially two pans on top of each other, that you can use to cook pretty much anything, from toasties to fry ups, steaks, burgers, pies and more. It can be used on your normal hob, on camping gas stoves and even on campfires.
A true van life essential: After reading many great reviews, we had to try this grill for ourselves - and we were not disappointed! There is no limit to what could be done with it. It's extremely versatile, easy to use, small enough to store away, easy to cook in and easy to clean - a van life no brainer.
Cast iron skillet
Cast iron is far from light, but it's very versatile, and easy to clean once it’s seasoned (it saves water in the long run). The other advantage of cast iron is you can cook with it right over the camp fire.
Great to have: A cast-iron skillet is the perfect multi-purpose, durable cookware for your camper kitchen. It evenly heats food, making a delicious brown sear on meat. If you've got the skills, you can also attempt to bake bread or cakes in your cast iron pan. Not only they are great to cook with, and cleaning is a breeze: when you've finished cooking, all you need is a little water and a metal scrubber et voila!
GreenPan 9-pieces Cookware Set
This gorgeous 9 piece set includes most of the cookware essentials you will need in a van. This set is 100% free of Forever Chemicals and other toxins at all temperatures and still non-sticky. The set includes:
- 2 frying pans
- 1 skillet with glass lid
- 1 saucepan
- 1 slotted turner, solid turner, solid spoon & slotted spoon
Why we like this cookware set: These are beautiful looking pots and pans, with an authentic design and vintage colour. They are also highly functional, feauting a ceramic non stick surface 100% non toxic.
A real oven or is a gas stove top enough?
A gas camping stove to cook meals while living the van life makes sense: they are relatively cheap, compact, simple and easy to fix or replace - and they run on gas which means, no drain on your battery.
But if you are like us and want a full kitchen in your van, a real oven complete with burners is an item you won't regret having.
Voyager 4500 Oven Grill
Designed as a marine oven, this is a compact, efficient and very practical cooker that will be a game-changer for your tiny home on wheels. Who said you couldn't bake or do pizzas on the road? This oven remains affordable, at about £400 at the time of writing, and has the potential to quickly become one of your van's favourite's items.
What we think: featuring two practical hobs at the top for your essential cooking needs, this oven is an amazing addition for van-lifers who aspire to have a full kitchen wherever they go. From baking to roasting, the possibilities are endless.
2 Burner Gas Camping Stove
This classic two stove burner is an excellent choice for vanlife. It features a minimalist, simple design that packs small and can fit in tight spaces. Its overall build quality is good and we don't expect it to break easily. This stove features two independent powered burners each with a piezo ignition switch control as well as two pot stands, a flat plate and one ribbed plate which can be added or removed depending on what your cooking needs are.
A great solution: This compact stove feels really sturdy despite its light weight. We found the burners to be powerful, efficient and big enough to take large pans. We would recommend it for its versatility, ease of cleaning and portability.
Eating & drinking utensils
Difficult to eat without them, these kitchen utensils will find their place whatever your kitchen setup is: a good cutting knife, some cutlery, plates and cups, and a few kitchen accessories to make your cuisine on the road a little bit easier!
Stainless steel or enamel plates are the best suited for living outdoors. Sturdy, they won't get scratched or break easily.
Stainless Steel Stackable Cups
Stackable to save valuable kitchen space, these drinking cups are ideal for van-life, as they are very strong and durable. The last thing you want in your campervan is broken glass all over the floor from a dropped glass. Take these steel cups anywhere without the fear of breaking them at the first bump in the road.
Stainless Steel Cutlery
A set each ( 1 knife, 1 forks, 1 spoon, 1 coffee spoon) is all you need. Stainless steel for easy clean up and durability.
Coconut Serving Bowls and Spoons
Amazing set of coconut bowls and spoons, 100% natural, hand-made and polished. They are sustainable, biodegradable, durable & lightweight. We are not worried about how they will hold up on those bumpy roads.
Wine Bottle Opener
How else are you going to open that bottle of wine?
Coffee & Tea on the road
Portable Coffee Espresso Maker
One of our pleasures in life is a good espresso in the morning. If you feel the same, you can't go wrong with adding the WACACO Nanopresso to your kitchen setup. There is no better luxury than enjoying a delicious espresso wherever you are.
Bialetti Moka Express Coffee Maker
Very simple to use, with a good quality built and tested through time, this coffee maker works with any stove and will get you the best authentic Italian coffee you could possibly make in just minutes. A true essential.
Manual Coffee Grinder
However you chose to take your coffee, with a good grinder you can have total control over the coarseness of your coffee. This manual grinder have 18 positions to ensure you get the perfect size, plus it's quieter than the electric ones. Feel free to buy those special beans from that Kenyan farm and enjoy them in any way you want.
A set of insulated cups
On those cold van life mornings, you’ll be loving your insulated cup. Eco-Friendly, thick, durable, unbreakable and recyclable. Those are the adjectives you want for your drinking cups! These will keep your drink cool or hold in the heat.
Glass Electric Kettle BPA-free 1500W
This glass electrical kettle with 1.7L capacity can make up to 6cups at a time. It is an Eco water kettle, BPA-free and 1500W, which is fairly low for a kettle but you would still need a powerful electric system with a good inverter to be able to run it.
Our view: Having an electrical kettle in a van is one of those decisions, that touches the personal side and lifestyle. It's not a kitchen essential, but if you are constantly gulping tea and coffee, you will probably want to consider it. You should check that your electrical system can handle its power requirement, otherwise you might not be able to use it in the van.
Stainless Steel Milk Pitcher 600ml
The cheapest and most practical solution for van life is to go with a stainless steel pitcher. This multipurpose pitcher is great to warm up any sort of liquids on the stove (not just water, but milk, sauces, soups,...), plus it's easy to clean and store, doesn't take much space and is unbreakable. It's also a great asset for your camping gear.
Our view: We highly recommend it from a minimalism perspective. Storage and multipurpose-wise it is the best solution. It does the job!
Smart kitchen storage
Having a compact and practical kitchen makes life so much more easier when you're living in a van, where space is limited. Here are some storage options to store food properly, make your van's kitchen more organised and optimize the space even more.
Magnetic Spice Rack
Kit of 9 magnetic spices tin with magnetic board. Perfect to keep all our favorites spices at hand. Your small kitchen will look cute and tidy.
Magnetic Knife Rack
A Magnetic stainless steel bar to store your knifes and silverware safely on the road, while keeping the space optimized and tidy.
Wooden Spice rack
This small wooden shelf is a fairly cheap solution (£5!) to keep your cooking essentials at hand while holding them securely while driving. It would also look great in other places, perhaps to store some books or decoration items.
This Veggie hammock net is a great solution to hold veggies and fruits on a van kitchen. It looks great hanging under a cabinet and gives a bit of extra space.
Great to protect your surfaces from your drinks marks. These pretty sustainable cork coasters are a great solution to have around the van.
Drawer and Shelf Liner
When driving, things will tend to move and slide within your drawers, especially when you brake too hard or take a corner too fast. One solution is to add this non-slip & non-adhesive lining at the bottom which will help protect your items and keep them in place.
Campingaz Camping BBQ
One of the most versatil barbecue you can have. It runs on gas, and you can cook on it pretty much any meal you can think of.
BioLite CampStove 2
When car camping, this is one of our favourite stove to bring with us as we can pretty much burn anything inside it. It runs on wood, and achieves fast and perfect combustion thanks to its powerful internal fan. In emergencies, you can also turn fire into electricity, although it's not the most efficient way to charge up your gadgets.
A multi-purpose biodegradable soap that can be used to clean camp dishes, utensils, hands, hair and clothes. The best part is a few drops go a long way. This stuff is highly concentrated, so it lasts a long time.
In Sink Drying Rack
A mini dish rack designed for small spaces. This is a simple, sturdy and stylish drainer to air-dry dishes right in your sink..
Chainmail scrubber for cast iron
Great for cleaning your cookware such as your cast iron pan or skillet. The smooth ring edge will not scratch your pans and keep their seasoning.
Travelling with a fully working kitchen is a daily treat on the road, but it can also turn real quick into a safety hazard. You are living in a confined space, with the fridge, the heater and the stove often just feets apart, and where ventilation is sometimes lacking. It's important to know the risks and keep yourself safe from carbon monoxide and other natural gases by ensuring appropriate ventilation and instaling appropriate campervan carbon monoxide and gas detectors in your vehicle.
We recommend to always read the instructions and setup manual given by the manufacturer to know where to place the co alarm for it to be effective, as the sensors can be sensitive and may respond to steam and condensation as well as other gases.
Small Fire Extinguisher
Living in a van, you have your entire life with you. Stay safe by keeping a fire extinguisher at hand to stop fire expansion and put out a minor fire. The day you need it, you will be so glad to have it.
Carbon Monoxide Sensor
Easy to install and small in size, this battery powered carbon monoxide alarm is a must have in your van for safety reasons and peace of mind.
What to do if your carbon monoxide detector’s alarm goes off?
If your alarm goes off, immediately turn off all potential sources of CO (stove, heater, fridge), get some fresh air and ventilate your vehicle by opening the doors and windows.
Call the emergency services immediately if anyone is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning (symptoms include headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, feeling faint, and shortness of breath).
In our mission to stock a fully functional and multi-purpose minimalist kitchen, we’ve used some accessories that haven’t stood the test of time or that we thought wouldn't be ideal to take with us. We thought it might be useful to share with you why we decided not to take them. Here's the list of items we decided not to take in our van:
Collapsible bowls & water bottles: Great for saving space in your kitchen during short travels, their downside is their poor durability. You certainly don't want to struggle to eat and drink from flimsy plastic bowls and bottles everyday. We would always recommend finding a lightweight metal or bamboo equivalent.
An ever evolving list
Making freshly brewed coffee without stepping out of the van in the morning, firing up a barbecue at the beach or cooking a gourmet meal with local ingredients bought from stalls along the road are all parts of the joys of our life in the van.
In this guide, we tried to present the best high quality and versatile kitchen essentials that provide the most value for your money. Of course some of these may be different for you and a lot of this depends on your cooking preferences. But this is a list of our must-haves and things we wouldn't be without.
If you like the guide, or feel like we missed an important item, please let us know in the comments.
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