Happy Yak Meals: Freeze-Dried Flavour
In our ongoing quest to ride longer, carry less, and eat more, we turn to Happy Yak to sample their line of nutritious freeze-dried meals, all of which are made in Canada. Find Miles’ thoughts on a few of their most popular options here…
Launched in 2013, Happy Yak has made it their mission to redefine camping food. Founders Christine Chénard and Guy DuBuc have a focus on and passion for creating simple, tasty, and nutritious meals for outdoorsy people on the go. Happy Yak’s meals are made in Quebec, Canada, and they also donate 1% of their annual sales to Leave No Trace, Scouts Canada, and other organizations. I’ve been sampling some of their most popular recipes over the last few months, bringing them along on almost all of my spring bikepacking trips to see what I think.
Like other small brands we’ve highlighted on the site, Happy Yak is a freeze-dried meal company that prioritizes real ingredients and wholesome nutrition over pretty much anything else. These days, there’s no real reason to be consuming pre-made meals with ingredients that you can’t pronounce. To be sure, these types of meals aren’t the most economical option out there, but for some of us, including novice bikepackers, it’s one less thing to have to think about before heading out for the night.
Without overstating, the Happy Yaks I tested are easily some of the tastiest dehydrated meals I’ve ever had. There’s a real homestyle vibe to each of them that quickly had me forgetting about the processes that transformed them into their dehydrated state. They offer lots of vegan, vegetarian, and lactose-free options, and although they have some expected recipes, they throw in a few curveballs such as Shrimp Curry with Rice and Cheese and Mushroom Risotto, which both turned out to be as delicious as they sound.
All of their meals are packaged in a paper pouch with a foil liner, and the majority are designed to be rehydrated directly in their packaging by simply adding hot water. Some meals are designed to be fried in a skillet though, and although you could rehydrate them in the pouch, I imagine the consistency might end up being a little off. It’s worth double-checking the preparation instructions before purchasing, depending on how involved of a cooking experience you’re seeking.
As far as nutritional value goes, most of Happy Yak’s meals are right on par with other real dehydrated options out there, including Nomad Nutrition, which is also based in Canada. While the single-portion meals (~175g) are a little light for me, they are often packed with nearly 800 calories and are low in sodium and high in protein. They also offer a two-serving version of most of their meals, as well as freeze-dried ingredients such as ground beef, chicken, and soy protein to add to your favourite recipes.
While the ingredients list is far easier to understand than some of the bigger-name dehydrated meals out there, there isn’t as much of a focus on organic or natural ingredients, especially when compared to Nomad Nutrition’s offerings. Still, they do feel well-rounded and sophisticated enough to offer some real flavour and texture that’s reminiscent of a home-cooked meal.
Currently, Happy Yak is available at dealers throughout Canada, and a few in the United States, as well as directly through their online store. You can check out their dealer map here. US orders are also now shipping from Vermont, so customers can expect faster shipping times and no interruptions at the border.
- Real ingredients
- Great flavour and texture
- Unique recipes feel a step above the big brand options
- Made in Canada
- Not as allergen-friendly as other brands
- Single servings won’t be enough for hungry bikepackers
- Some meals require a skillet or additional prep
- Pricey, but on par with the competition
- Weight: single serving: ~175g / double serving: ~350g
- Place of Manufacture: Quebec, Canada
- Price: $12.99 – $15.49 CAD ($10.40 – $12.40 USD)
- Manufacturer’s Details: HappyYak.ca
Overall, I’ve been quite happy with the Happy Yak meals I’ve been trying out. The ingredients lists include real food, the taste and texture don’t feel as manufactured as other brands, and the fact that they are made in Canada is the cherry on top for me. Although Happy Yak might not be as sensitive to dietary restrictions and allergies as some other brands we’ve tested, they’ve clearly invested some serious time into their recipes, and the final product is quite impressive. As always, dehydrated or freeze-dried meals aren’t the most affordable option when it comes time to prep for your next bikepacking trip, but they’re incredibly easy to prepare (and are a few hundred steps above instant ramen). My personal favourite recipes were the Shrimp Curry with Rice and Chicken Orzo Soup—both highly recommended.
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