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Jerky Spaghetti Recipe

This Jerky Spaghetti Recipe is the perfect meal for your next backpacking adventure

Jerky Spaghetti Recipe
Make this recipe your own by adding your favorite Italian spices. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)
Print Recipe

I suggest simmering the sauce for about an hour over low heat to help soften the jerky for better texture. But if you’re really hungry, thirty minutes will suffice. Use a thinner pasta, such as angel hair, for faster cooking, but I prefer regular spaghetti pasta for a more substantial texture. Beef jerky is the easiest option, but if you’re into making homemade jerky, deer, goose, elk, duck would work just as well.

Also, add as much jerky as you like to your sauce. I was conservative, since jerky is already high in sodium and I wanted to avoid over concentrating the pasta sauce with salt. If you can find/make low sodium jerky, that’s better yet.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes to 1 hour


  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 1 package (3 ounces) of original or pepper flavored beef jerky
  • 8 ounces uncooked pasta noodles
  • Optional: grated parmesan cheese, freshly chopped or dried parsley


  1. Cut beef jerky into bite size pieces. Set aside.

  2. jerky spagphetti recipe beef pieces
    Simmering jerky in a pasta sauce helps to soften the bite-sized pieces. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  3. Add pasta sauce to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add jerky pieces to the sauce. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes to 1 hour to soften up the jerky, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching. If sauce gets too thick, add a splash of water when necessary.

  4. Ten minutes before sauce is ready, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente. (I undercooked the pasta by a couple minutes to prevent it from getting too mushy later.)

  5. jerky spaghetti recipe pasta
    Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

  6. Remove sauce off heat and mix in drained cooked pasta. Add pasta water if sauce needs thinning out.

  7. Serve Jerky Spaghetti with grated parmesan cheese and parsley if available.

  8. jerky spagphetti recipe bowl
    If the pasta sauce is too thick, add a splash of water to thin it out. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

About This Jerky Spaghetti Recipe

This jerky spaghetti recipe came from a backpacking trip in the Sequoia National Forest, which culminated in a hike up Mount Whitney. My group and I packed everything in, including 10 days’ worth of food, and this meal was one thing we ate.

To cut down on weight, spaghetti sauce was repackaged in vacuum sealed bags. Dried pasta required no special storage and was a great source of carbohydrates. And always a trail favorite, jerky was a convenient source of protein, and the saltiness helped replenished the electrolytes we lost through sweating. It was also useful to add to our meals when fresh meat wasn’t available.

Looking back, storing the pasta sauce in vacuum sealed bags probably wasn’t the best idea. Vacuum sealed bags do not provide a completely bacteria-free space, not like keeping the sauce in their original sealed jars would have. I never got sick eating these meals – albeit we ate these meals early on in the trip – but I’m also not suggesting that you try this yourself.

jerky spagphetti recipe pot
This recipe requires no refrigerated foods, making it a delicious option when backpacking. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

These days, there are safer alternatives for storing spaghetti sauce. Some backpackers dehydrate the sauce into leather, then add water later and reheat. An easier option is to use dried tomato powder – just add different amounts of water for soup or sauce. Or if you’re really watching your pack weight and space, tomato paste can work in a pinch: add water to thin out, then add your favorite Italian spices, such as garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, etc.

However, if weight isn’t an issue, don’t bother. Keep pasta sauce in their original jars, drive them into camp and call it good.

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