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Backpacker's Pantry Santa Fe Chicken

rated 3.5 of 5 stars
photo: Backpacker's Pantry Santa Fe Chicken meat entrée

A meal that'll make better friends with your appetite than your tentmate(s). Backpacker's Pantry offers up a spicy combination of chicken, chiles, cheese, corn, and rice in a Mexican sauce flavorful enough on its own to forego any additional seasoning. Although well-seasoned and generally democratic in the proportion of one ingredient to the next, the amount of rice does outweigh the rest the ingredients. Tasty and filling, but not without obvious flaws. As with most (if not all BP meals), factor in additional time for re-hydration.


  • Variety of flavors
  • Textural variety within each bite
  • Pre-seasoned well: no need for additional seasoning


  • Spicy! Save this one for the solo trips!
  • Large rice-to-inrgedients ratio
  • BP bags not as stable as MH freeze-dried bags


Visually, their packaging is appealing.

Silver foil as shiny as the chrome fender on a just-polished '57 Chevy. Slick. Clean.

Much like MH, the meals from BP are re-sealable (and can double as trash bags for packing things out).

However, I find the BP bags don't stand up as well as MH's bags. I actually prepped this one with the bottom folded together and jammed inbetween two boards on my table. Believe it or not, it had better stability that way.

Here's a shot of the 2-serving bag:


Ingredients: sauce [black beans, chicken (cooked, diced and freeze-dried), cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, annatto), tomato, onion, super sweet corn, tomato, potato starch, nonfat milk, maltodextrin, green chili pepper, salt, sugar, torula yeast, new mexico chili pepper, garlic, vegetarian soup with imitation chicken flavor (maltodextrin, salt, autolyzed yeast extract, yeast extract, onion powder, turmeric extract (color), sunflower oil), dextrose (from corn), cumin seed, oregano, soy sauce (soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt), maltodextrin and salt), cayenne pepper] precooked parboiled long grain brown rice.


Milk, soybean, gluten, wheat, may contain traces of tree nuts.



All I need to cook this is a stove and small pot: boil 2 1/4 cups (540mL, just a smidge more than half a liter) of water, pour it inside the re-sealable pouch, and let it sit for 13 minutes. 

Contents prior to re-hydration

Had to re-seal it and give the bag an extra shake to break up clumps

I'd actually suggest pre-stirring the contents together before adding water, to avoid some of the components settling toward the bottom and leaving a majority of the rest on top (especially for rice dishes)

In reviews of MH meals prior, I've mentioned - and learned - that it is usually a good idea to add time to the "recommended" rehydration time. More often than not, opening them anytime sooner will leave you with a little more crunch than you'd like.

If MH requires extra time? BP requires time and a half.

Moreover, since this is a rice dish (which I find lengthier in rehydration times over pasta/noodles), you have to factor in additional time, there, too.

I waited 16 minutes, and still, that left some considerable crunch to the dish. Not enough to stop me from beginning to eat dinner, but enough that - in retrospect - I'd have found myself happier with the food had I waited the extra time.

Wait "13" minutes, open the bag, and here's what it looks like:


All I need to eat this is a spork or spoon: you can eat straight from the bag, and better yet, once you've finished eating, you can pack your trash into the bag and seal it up to keep the scents inside. 


Spicy? Yes.

Hot? No.

I'm not the type of guy to sprinkle his food with hot sauce like the Pope blesses folks with holy water, but I do like a little bit of heat. The green chiles used do find a good halfway point between tasting enough to know it's there, and not tasting so much it makes the dish unedible.

I don't mind it when my food looks like a bag of mush, and I prefer dishes with smaller components because I usually then can get a little bit of everything in a single bite. Here y'all can see the rice, chicken, cheese, beans, corn, and peppers in the sauce. The bit of sweet from the corn pairs well with the heat from the green chiles, and there is a pretty fair amount fo everything, provide you stir it well enough to prevent the items from seperating from another.

Here're a spoonful to give y'all a better view of the dish:


Two servings was what they advertised, and two is what I got. I didn't stop to cook myself lunch the day I had this, and had already hiked 7 or so miles, so I came to the dinner table with an appetite. This was just the right amount of food, and if anything, a little too much because of how much rice it contains. Still, though, I prefer rice to noodles when it comes to my starch. 


Mexican food is usually a really solid bet when it comes to finding meals that don't require seasoning. As mentioned, if you want a real kick, add some hot sauce or Tabasco, but for the better majority of all y'all, there's enough flavor inside to keep you happy as-is.


Solo backpacking trips.

Or anything, really, as long as it's a solo trip.

This gave me more gas than would wrapping up White Castle Sliders inside a Taco Bell Double XL "Stuft" Burrito. All kidding aside, it is something to be considered, and if you're camping with a partner, you may want to opt for something, well...a little more polite.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $11.99

Made this on a recent backpacking trip with two fellow hikers and it found no fans.

Of the three of us, I liked it most and found it OK to eat. Another hiker ate half his serving and swore off and the third just took a pass and had more ramen.

My impressions: Rice is good, chicken is tasteless and cooked almost to the point of being jerky, sauce has a funky aftertaste.

I wouldn't buy it again as I think there are plenty of other backpacker meals (ChiliMac and lasagna come to mind), 

Price Paid: $9

As part of our outfitting trip in the BWCA this meal was included. Backpacker's Pantry Santa Fe Chicken With Rice is very tasty. Especially if you enjoy Southwestern or Mexican cuisine.

Our biggest complaint was that no matter how long we let it "cook" in the bag the black beans and rice were still slightly crunchy.

I love these cook in the bag meals. Little mess to clean up and little trash to pack out.

I'd eat it again, but might let it stand longer than the recommended time.

Price Paid: not sure

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Price MSRP: $9.90
Current Retail: $12.95
Historic Range: $6.94-$70.00
Reviewers Paid: $9.00-$11.99
Dry Weight 7.5 oz / 212 g
Serving Size Two 13 oz Servings
Product Details from Backpacker's Pantry »

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