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Camper Van Kitchen Essentials: For the Best Van Life Meals

A decent kitchen setup with the right products is one of the most important factors that determines how much you enjoy your van life experience. In this article, we share our camper van kitchen essentials, which are useful, compact, and help make cooking fun!

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1. Electric Fridge (12V)

Woman kneeling behind a 12V fridge in a camper van
A 12V fridge, one of the most essential items in our van

If you have questions about whether to get an ice cooler or spend a bit more to get an electric cooler, we recommend the electric cooler.

It’s a little pricey, but the Dometic 45L Electric Cooler/Freezer is a fantastic product that has kept our food cold during our five years on the road. It is easy to set up by hooking up to the leisure batteries.

Our Experience: Our electric cooler model uses roughly 1amp per hour, so even a 100Ah battery can keep this fridge powered all day and night. It’s been working great for us without any issues in the five years we’ve been on the road.

Top Fridge Recommendation
DOMETIC 45-Liter 12V Fridge

A 12V fridge is a top van life essential. It keeps food cold & fresh and allows us to wild camp for more days. We recommend getting a top quality fridge with a durable compressor, electric components, and frame. Our Dometic fridge has handled all the crappy roads we've driven on.

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Learn more: Read our 12V Dometic fridge review

Budget Alternatives

Thanks to the popularity of camping and RV living, there are many brands offering more economical options with the same features.

2. Coleman Camping Stove

Cooking outside on a picnic bench with a Coleman camping stove
Using our two-burner Coleman camping stove

We prefer having a cooking stove that is portable and can be put away when not needed. Having a cooktop that can be packed away help free up countertop space when we’re not cooking. And when the weather is nice, we often bring our cooktop out of the van and cook on a nearby picnic bench.

We recommend our Coleman Triton camping stove. It’s been with us the entire five years that we’ve been on the road and has a relatively-thin profile for easy storage.

  • Comes with two burners
  • Potable & Space Efficient
  • Strong Power – Cooks Fast
  • Easy to control the flame level
  • Adjustable Wind protection
Coleman | Gas Camping Stove

We've been using our Coleman stove for five years and love it. It's efficient with gas (11lb tank lasts us 6 weeks) and easily packs away under our sink when we travel.

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3. Instant Pot

If you don’t want to spend much time cooking yet still keeping a healthy diet, the Instant Pot (Duo Mini) can make it possible. After a full day of exploring, we often return to the van late in the afternoon and exhausted. Usually we don’t have much energy left to prepare a full home-cooked meal. That’s why the Instant Pot has been so critical for us.

It’s as simple as throwing in some diced vegetables, meat of your choice, spices, soup stock, and water. Close the lid and pressurize. Then you can lounge around and 30 minutes later, you have a perfectly cooked, delicious hot meal. You don’t have to babysit your pot once you press the button.

Our Experience: There are days we are exhausted from exploring and driving all day and simply don’t have the energy to put together a time-consuming meal, but Instant Pot has been delivering us healthy, warm meals with one push.

Instant Pot Duo Mini (3QT)

The perfect companion when cooking in a van. Throw in your favorite meats, vegetables, and spices, and press the 'start' button when ready. It's that easy. You must have at least a 2000-watt inverter to power this device.

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4. Le Creuset Cast Iron Rice Pot

I have to say, as a Japanese person, that Le Creuset Rice Pot is the best purchase I have made for a rice cooker.

While some people purchase fancy electrical Japanese rice cookers to perfect the art of cooking rice, the Le Creuset Rice Pot is designed specifically for cooking rice and does the perfect job for its price.

Le Creuset cast iron rice pot with rice inside and side of sushi

In Our Case: I have tried a series of rice cookers from multiple brands in the past, and overall, this is the best choice considering the reasonable price for its high quality. The best thing about this rice cooker for us is that we don’t have to buy expensive Japanese rice to have soft and fluffy rice. With the Le Creuset rice pot, we can make any rice how we like by adjusting the water level.

Le Creuset | Enameled Cast Iron Rice Pot
$251.95

Not only do we love the quality of the cooked rice, but this pot is also space-efficient and efficiently packs away when not needed.

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04/07/2024 09:07 am GMT

5. Magic Bullet Blender

A blender is another great tool to prepare quick & easy meals. The great thing about this Magic Bullet Blender is its compact size and versatility, that you can make smoothies and you enjoy them without serving to another cup or bowls, which is perfect for van lifers who are always conscious of water usage.

  • Compact & Easy to Store
  • Easy to clean
  • 250W cross blade & powerful speed
  • Comes with short & tall cups with lids
  • So many recipes available online
Magic bullet blender making pesto sauce
Making pesto sauce with our Magic Bullet blender

Our Experience: Not only for making smoothies, we love making our own pesto sauce using whatever greens we can get her hands on; basil, cilantro, spinach, and even carrot top greens! We love it especially because it is compact, easy to store in our kitchen drawers.

Magic Bullet | Blender
$39.88

This small, compact blender is powerful enough to make smoothies, chop nuts, salsa, and pesto sauce. Its space-efficient design means it doesn't take up much space in your pantry when not needed.

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04/07/2024 09:12 am GMT

6. RV Sink & Faucet Combo

Faucet spraying water in the middle of a sink in a camper van.
Washing our pan in our Ruvati sink

Look no further if you’re still hunting for that perfect camper van sink and faucet. The Ruvati RV sink is deep enough to wash pots and pans while maintaining its compact design unlike other RV sinks.

Learn more: Read our Ruvati RV sink review.

To maximize efficiency, it is the best choice to pair Ruvati sink with pull-down faucet, which allows you to rotate the faucet 360 degrees that makes doing dishes breeze.

Learn more: Read our RV faucet buyers guide.

7. Collapsible Food Storage Containers

Space is at a premium in a camper van. These items collapse flat when they are not used, helping you to save extra space in the tiny kitchen storage. 

Collapsible Food Containers

Space efficient, collapsible food containers. Minimal footprint when not needed, but larger containers can hold a good amount of leftovers. Lightweight and easy to wash.

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8. Pour Over Coffee Kettle

For making coffees, teas, instant noodles, or just to warm up your van in the winter (YES, it works!), you will be surprised by how often you boil the water during van life. Pouring hot water with a regular pot is always an annoying experience.

Our Experience: Two things we really like about our kettle is the thermometer attached to the top of the lid. We like the water for our tea and coffee boiled to different temperatures. So we’re always glancing at the thermometer when we turn on the camping stove.

Tea Kettle with Thermometer

We use our water kettle daily. The gooseneck makes it easy to direct water over the coffee filter cone.

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9. Water Filter

Water filter is one of the most important van life essential, so you don’t want to be cheap about it. This is the smallest size of Berkey’s portfolio, it packs much more compact than travel Berkey, it is also suitable for backpacking.

Our Experience: When we camp where there are no clean water source like Latin America, it has been literally our life saver. We simply filter tap water from each countries, and we had no problem so far in last 3 years.

Go Berkey Water Filter Kit

The ideal travel companion. Filters out over 99.8% of contaminants, heavy metals, pesticides, and viruses. Packs up quickly when not needed and takes up minimal storage.

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10. Stick and Peel Backsplash

Kitten laying on a butcher block countertop
A visiting cat modeling our backsplash

What is great about NextWall Stick and Peel Backsplash is that it is easy to peel (so it’s easy to adjust if you make a mistake when installing) yet stays on semi-permanently and doesn’t come off easily unless you really try to pull it off.

It’s also water-resistant vinyl wallpaper that makes cleaning super easy as well.

Our Experience: We made the decision to install backsplash stickers instead of real tiles because of weight issues, and they still stay on perfectly after five years. Currently, we’re able to fool about 50% of our visitors into thinking this is a real tile backsplash 🙂

Best Tile Alternative
Moroccan Style Peel and Stick Wallpaper

It's lightweight, easy to install & clean. Remarkable durability, which we've proven over the last four years of extensive use in our van.

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Our Camper Van Kitchen Tour

Check out our camper van kitchen tour, which is part of our greater van tour. The video below focuses on the kitchen part.

The video is in Japanese! (Turn On English Subtitles)

Conclusion

Thanks for making it to the end! We genuinely believe that in order to live full-time van life, having the right items with you can make or break your experience.

If you have any questions or any recommendations of your own, please let us know in the comments section below.

Happy traveling!

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