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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Backpackers Pantry Cuban Beans - Rice > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Backpacker's Pantry Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice
By Raymond Estrella

June 15, 2014


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 53
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 213 lb (96.60 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Backpacker's Pantry
Web site:
Product: Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice
Year manufactured: 2013
MSRP: US $7.50
Net weight listed: 8.7 oz (247 g)
Actual gross weight (incl. packaging): 9.9 oz (281 g)

Cuban Coconut Beans and Rice

Field Locations

Over the past year I have had four of the Backpacker's Pantry Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice while solo hiking and shared one with my daughter. They were consumed in Paul Bunyan State Forest, Smoky Hills State Forest, and on private land north of Halstad, Minnesota.

A fall and early winter trip saw low temps from freezing to below 0 F (-18 C) but the rest were pleasant summer trips with highs in the 80's F and lows around 48 F (29 to 9 C).

Product Description

I have been using freeze dried meals since 1978. They were not very good back then but by the early 1990s I was having success with them and enjoying the taste of most of them, with a bit of added ingredients (see below). I have been using Backpacker's Pantry meals since 2004 and right now they make up about 85% of my backpacking dinners.

One of things that I like about the Backpacker's Pantry line is that they supplement their meals with added vitamins and minerals. On long trips I worry about getting my vitamins and often will bring supplements along with me. Eating the Backpackers Pantry meals lets me leave the extra vitamins at home.

open and closed pleat

The meals come in a plasticized foil bag. On each side of the bag is a notch to facilitate tearing the top off to get to the contents. A half inch (1.2 cm) below the tear notch is a press-to-seal strip inside of the bag. On the top of the bag a "best when used by" date is stamped into the material. The bottom of the bag is pleated, which allows it to lay flat in a pack. But when the pleat is spread open it creates a stable base for the bag to stand on.

Directions: Remove and discard enclosed oxygen absorber before beginning food preparation. Remove Organic Olive Oil packet and add to other ingredients. Add 2-1/4 cups (540ml) of boiling water. Stir well. Seal and let sit for 13 minutes. Stir and serve.

Ingredients: precooked long grain white rice, black beans, bananas, organic extra virgin olive oil, onion, vegetarian soup with imitation chicken flavor (maltodextrin, salt, autolyzed yeast extract, yeast extract, onion powder, turmeric extract (color), sunflower oil), garlic, coconut milk powder (coconut milk, maltodextrin, sodium casseinate), salt. Allergy information: milk, coconut



The Backpacker's Pantry Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice is a pretty good addition to their line-up in my opinion. It will especially appeal to those who prefer vegetarian meals, of which I was one for 10 years. To look at it I think immediately of red beans and rice but the flavor takes that comparison away quickly. The first thing I notice about the dish is the slightly sweet taste of the coconut milk. The banana adds to that sweetness I am sure, but the flavor of the banana is very slight. I like Cuban cooking and like plantains in their food. I think that the Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice could use more of the banana.

The meal is huge. It is all I can do to finish one by myself (but I do bolster them too) and my daughter and I had no problem sharing just one. (Sometimes we make two different kinds of meals and split them.) My daughter is a rice lover. Her favorite backpacking meal is Chicken & Rice and she figured she would really like the Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice. But she said that it was too "blah". She wanted more salt which unfortunately I don't carry any longer while hiking. The meal has plenty of sodium, I think the sweetness underlying the dish made her want the salt to balance.

Dinner in summer

Personally I wanted a bit more flavor too, even if it meant going more over-the-top with the sweet contributors. I only eat "real" food at the end of my hiking day so really want it to kick me in the mouth. As may be seen in my other food reviews I like to bolster my evening calories by adding more fat and protein to my dinners. With the Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice I added cheese (both fresh and packaged) and chicken, which I thought paired nicely with the ingredients. The chicken was either in the form of Backpacker's Pantry freeze dried add in, or small cans of shredded chicken breast from the store.

I like the Cuban Coconut Black Beans & Rice well enough to keep it in the rotation (I buy a big box of meals direct from Backpacker's Pantry each year) but will just have it a couple times a year most likely. Emma says she is sticking with her Backpacker's Pantry Chicken & Rice. I leave with a shot of dinner time in the vestibule of my Tarptent on a rainy (and later snowy) fall trip. Coconut Black Beans & Rice with cheddar and chicken anyone…?

Dinner in fall

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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