Being on a boat all day sure takes it out of you. Whether you’re the skipper making sure all is well, or you’ve got your hands full making sure the kids are safe, or perhaps have been lazing around in the sun and water with your guests – it’s all hard work and it makes you hungry!

We’ve been boating as a family for a number of years now and have had plenty of parties on board our pontoon boat, but most of the time it’s all about family time.

But whatever the occasion, people will want feeding, so it helps to have some easy boat food recipes at hand that you can prepare before your trip. Some of them were inspired by The Boat Cookbook – click the book image if you want to buy it on Amazon.

Below you can see our favorite easy boat food ideas, with links to other guides we have also written about the best type of food to take on a boat trip. Keep scrolling, as I’ve split the recipes up into sections for kids, vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters like myself who love to grill or for those who have a galley set-up onboard. 

Easy boat food recipes that (almost) everyone will love

1. Cooler corn on the cob

This is one of our favorite boat food ideas, because it’s simple, fun, and so easy to do that you won’t believe you’ve not thought of it before. The premise is very straight-forward so no need for a recipe.

Cooler Corn

Corn on the cob cooked in a cooler! Image copyright thekitchn.com

All you do is get a cooler box – we have this cooler we bought on Amazon – lay down some corn on the cobs inside, and then cover them with boiling water before you set off to your boat.

You can quite happily leave them in the cooler box for a few hours as long as the lid is secured down properly, as they cook away inside. Then when you’re ready, spring the lid open, be careful of the steam and hot water, and get them out.

For best results we use some spray butter on them.

Quite simply, delicious… and fun and easy too!

2. Thermos hot dogs with steamed buns

You wanted easy, so I hope you are finding the ideas so far to be simple. Continuing on with the simple theme, and very similar to the cooler corn on the cob are thermos hot dogs – in fact, it works on exactly the same premise.

Hot dogs in a Thermos Flask

You can cook hot dogs and keep them warm in a Thermos flask or cooler. License: Creative Commons Uploaded by: Wikivisual

Get a large thermos bottle, at least 64 ounces (here’s the thermos we use from Amazon). Slide as many hot dogs into it as you can, and then pour boiling water inside.

Just like the corn in a cooler, you can do this before your day on the water, and then take them out when ready. Just be careful of the hot water, it’s not one for the kids to help with.

Once you take them (the hot dogs, not kids) out of the bottle, and this can be hours later, they will be cooked to perfection.

If you also want to add buns, we have a great hack for making those too.

Just leave the buns in their clear sealed bag somewhere on deck. The sun will beat down on them for 15 minutes, by which point they will be steamed, warm, and soft – just the right temperature for your thermos cooked hot dogs to slide into!

3. Firecracker potato salad

This one you make in advance and take in your cooler box to the boat. The preparation is well worth it though, as this stuff tastes like the bomb!

Potato salad recipe

Image and recipe from the Taste of Home website.

You will need:

  • 3 pounds small red potatoes (about 30), quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • DRESSING:
  • 1 to ½ cups mayonnaise
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cut the potatoes into quarters and then chuck them in a bowl with the oil, salt, and pepper, mixing them all gently together so not to break the potatoes up too much. A little wear and tear is good though!

Place the mix into a grill wok or basket, grill at a medium heat until the potatoes go tender. You will need to stir occasionally.

Once ready, take out and let them cool off in a large bowl before adding the other ingredients which you will have pre-mixed together. You can see this full recipe on the Taste of Home website.

4. El Paso mini taco boats

This recipe is an absolute winner when you have guests coming out with you for the day. It’s a simple recipe too but does require a little more preparation than most.

Taco boats

Why wouldn’t you want to eat boat tacos when on a boat… makes sense!

You need to grill up chicken beforehand, then create a mix-up of Havarti cheese, pickles, and mayo. Place the mixture into those small El Paso taco boats, and you have a nautical themed recipe that is filling and fun.

It can be very messy, so you might want to keep your kids away if you have new carpet on board.

Easy boat food recipes for meat eaters

A few of these recipes can be made in advance, but for best results invest in a boat grill (here are my recommendations) and cook them up once you’re on the water.

For more grilling recipes on a boat, please click here.

5. Salsa chicken

This recipe can be cooked in the oven at home before your trip, or easily on a larger boat where you have the right facilities. It’s a salsa chicken recipe that is tender, tasty, and provides some much-needed protein.

salsa chicken

This recipe was found on the excellent cruisingsea.com website – check them out for more ideas.

You will need:

  • 4 pieces of boneless and skinless chicken
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 4 teaspoons of taco seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream

You prepare your chicken, making sure it has the taco seasoning sprinkled all over and then the salsa mix poured all over. Then place into the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius.

It should all be ready after 30 minutes – just make sure that the juices run clear and the chicken is a nice golden brown color.

Before you take it out, sprinkle the cheese over, and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Once the cheese is bubbling, the dish is complete. For extra taste you can also top it off with some sour cream.

(recipe found on cruisingsea.com)

6. Grilled cheese hot dogs

Hot dogs are always served up on our boat, and I’ve already shown you a great idea on how you can take them into your boat so that they are cooked just in time in your thermos flask, but for something a little more extravagant, I present to you grilled cheese hot dogs… and yes, you will need a boat grill!

grilled hot dogs

The smell, the taste, I present to you the grilled cheese hot dog boat recipe!

No need for a full recipe breakdown here, as it’s ridiculously simple and easy.

All you have to do is grill the hot dogs and about 5 minutes before they are ready to serve, get your bread buns on the grill too to crisp those up.

And then with 2 minutes before it’s time to take them off, get the hot dogs into the buns, put the cheese on top, and you will get this lovely melted, gooey, messy treat to eat!

7. Quick and easy grilled fish recipe

One for the fishermen and women amongst you is an easy grilled fish idea. This works even better if you’ve caught something that day and can grill it on your boat, as nothing tastes better than freshly caught fish.

grilled fish idea

Click the image to see some awesome boat grilling recipes.

You will need:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 (6 ounce) of fish

Just mix the oil, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon and herbs together as a marinade to be drizzled over the fish. If you can, let it soak in for an hour.

When you’re ready to grill it by lifting the grill up about 4 inches or so. I find that 5 minutes of grilling on each side is just about right.

8. Stuffed jalapeno poppers

If you like spicy food, then this is for you. If you don’t mind greasy fingers, this is an absolute treat when on the water, and is easy to prepare and make.

stuffed jalapeno poppers

These are amazing, but can give you greasy fingers (Image copyright themountainkitchen.com to find full recipe).

It’s something that’s best made at home before you set sail, so take some jalapenos, then stuff with cream cheese, wrap in bacon, and grill at home or take in a container for grilling on your boat.

Easy boat food recipes for the kids

9. Tacos in a Doritos bag

When I first saw this, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. But since trialling this last summer on our pontoon boat, the kids request it almost every weekend. And who can blame them!

Taco bags

Tacos in a bag… simple yet effective food to take on a pontoon boat

No recipe needed here, just a bit of guidance. 

The night before your boat trip, cook up a taco mix and put it in a container. Then the next day, once out at sea or on the lake, open the mix up and put some into an open bag of Doritos.

Yes, it will be messy. But it’s a fun and easy boat food recipe that can be eaten straight out of the packet to fill up even the hungriest of passengers. 

10. Make ahead pancake mix

Who doesn’t like pancakes? It’s not just the kids, but it gives you a great excuse for this simple recipe idea… all of which can be prepared before you leave for the dock. But you will need cooking facilities on your boat to get the final result shown below.

pancakes

For this simple boat pancake recipe you will need a boat grill or cooking facilities.

You will need:

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup custard powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 cups milk powder (full cream or skim)

Just one cup of all the recipe ingredients listed above is needed to make 4 small pancakes. It really is that easy.

All you do is put the dry mix into a shaker jar to take on your boat. When it’s time to cook, add in ¾ of a cup of water into the jar, and mix (or shake) really well – for best results wait 10 minutes before cooking up the now wet mix.

Get your pan sizzling with a little butter or oil, pour the batter mix in, and wait until bubbles start to appear. That’s your sign to flip the pancake to the other side for another couple of minutes until it’s done.

Easy boat food recipes for vegetarians

11. Tofu vegetarian kabobs

These are really tasty, and I’m a meat eater but could munch on these all day when out on the deck. You can cook them up really quickly on a boat grill or make in advance as they still taste great even when cold.

You will need:

  • ½ cup smooth, unsalted peanut butter
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium tamari, or soy sauce (use gluten-free tamari if you are gluten-sensitive)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine, available in most supermarkets)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 400grms extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 red capsicum, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and cut into chunks
  • 225 grams mushrooms, quartered (or halved if small)

Visit the One Green Planet website for this easy recipe in more detail (click here), but it’s relatively simple.

You soak 10 bamboo skewers in water for half an hour, then place the first 7 ingredients listed above into a big bowl, stirring it really well until the peanut butter is fully mixed in to everything else.

You then remove the tofu cubes from the mix bowl and stick them onto the skewers with the veggies. You can then cook up on your boat grill for 10 minutes, making sure to turn them every minute or so to get them evenly cooked through.

12. Pasta salad

This is perfect for those on a vegetarian diet being simple to make in advance, and meat-free. Taking no longer than 20 minutes at home, you can throw some pasta in a pan, get it cooked right, then add in oil, pesto, veggies, and peppers.

pasta salad

You can cook this up the morning or night before and customize until your heart’s content.

In truth, it’s pasta, and pretty much anything goes with pasta so be creative here. It’s so easy, I don’t even need to give you a recipe.

13. California veggie wraps

Any suggestion that is going give you the energy you need after a hard day swimming or playing on the boat is a winner. And none more so. My cousin is vegetarian, and this is something that she first brought onto our pontoon boat in 2016.

veggie wraps

Tasty, healthy, and simple to prepare (Image copyright WonderBagels.com)

We’ve been making them ourselves ever since because they are so darn tasty!

It’s just a simple wrap filled with as much veggie goodness you can pack in. They don’t leave you feeling bloated either, meaning you can probably get straight back to what you were doing before you broke for lunch.

14. Grilled vegetables

You will need a boat grill for this one if you want to make these just before you eat on the boat – read which grills I recommend here. My advice if grilling on board is to place some foil onto the grill to stop them falling through the gaps.

Grilled vegetables

Beautifully crisp and easy veg with a hint of smoke flavor.

This easy boat food recipe can serve up to 4 people, using the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups mixed fresh vegetables including carrots, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers or sweet potatoes (completely up to you)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or non-stick spray
  • Garlic pepper, Italian Seasoning or just salt and pepper for seasoning

Just chop the veg up, put your chosen seasoning on, and mix in a bowl. For best results use a non-sticky oil spray onto the foil or grilling sheet, then mix the veg into the seasoning, and grill on the foil for about half an hour.

Easy boat food ideas for vegans

15. Vegan zucchini boats 

What better as a boat recipe than a food that actually looks like a boat? Well, almost. Take a look at the image below, mine never look this good but I don’t care as zucchini boat taste great! 

Vegan boat food

Image and recipe credit: myzucchinirecipes.com/vegan-zucchini-boats/

This recipe can serve up to 4 people and takes about 20 minutes of preparation followed by 20 minutes of grilling – and you can grill on the boat or at home before you set-off. Here’s what you need:

  • 3-4 medium zucchinis
  • 3-4 medium potatoes
  • 1½ medium red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 100 g grated (vegan) cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • salt
  • pepper 

All you do is slice up onions and simmer them for a few minutes. Then you slice the zucchinis in half and scoop out the flesh. You can re-use the zucchini flesh as a filling, so mix that up with filling in a bowl, adding salt and pepper to your taste. The potato will need to be boiled separately before going into the mix.

Then fill your zucchini boats with your fillings, sprinkle some vegan cheese over the top, wrap in aluminum foil, and place straight onto the grill for 20 minutes at a high temperature.

16. Zucchini chips

More zucchinis again I’m afraid, but don’t let you put that off, as these are one of the tastiest snacks I’ve ever had. They are very health, and vegan friendly too.

Zucchini Chips

Image copyright of SparkPeople.com – tasty and healthy chips.

Just slice a few zucchinis, mix them up in some olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and paprika, then cook in your home or boat oven for half an hour.

Then you can place them into Ziploc bags and take them on your boat trip for a quick hunger pang fix when required. 

17. Sliced vegetables and fruit 

I’ve placed this in the vegan section, but in truth I advise this as a snack for everyone on your boat as it can boost you back if you are dehydrated in the sun.

Fruit slices

Sliced fruit or vegetables can keep you hydrated when boating.

Just slice up a selection of fruit and vegetables the morning before, and then wrap them up into a small container or into some foil.

Easy boat recipes if you have an oven or galley onboard

And what about those with bigger boats and yachts how might have an oven on board? It’s not something that I have personally done, as we have a pontoon, so I’ve done some research online to find some suggestions. 

But as I said earlier, The Boat Cookbook has some great ideas, and here’s just a few of them that I really liked.

18. Sautéed squid with parsley, lemon and garlic mayonnaise

Something a little adventurous, but sure to keep the hunger pangs at bay for all you busy sailors out there is this squid recipe.

simple squid recipe

This squid ring recipe comes from The Boat Cookbook.

You will need:

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • Few dollops of good mayonnaise
  • 450g small squid, cleaned
  • 1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 tbsp chopped chilli (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

Crush the garlic, and mix it in with the mayo. Remove the squid’s tentacles, pat it dry and put them to one side to use later. Now cut the squid up into little 2 cm rings, and have the oil heating in a large saucepan until it starts to smoke.

Next lower the squid rings and tentacles into the oil as the first layer, then butter on top, then the other crushed garlic clove and parsley. You mix will now start to cook, but you will need to toss it gently as it does so for 2 minutes.

You will know when it’s ready because the squid will go opaque, meaning it’s fully cooked.

Season it, serve it with lemon and garlic mayo, then eat it. Lovely stuff.

19. Red Curry Lamb Stew

For a larger crew of hungry mouths, try this red curry and lamb stew combo. It will serve up to 6 people, or just 2 if you’re really gutsy!

red curry

Image from the excellent www.recipes.co.nz website.

You will need:

  • 1 lb lamb roast or chops, precooked and cubed
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 16 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Some advance preparation is required here, and you can do this at home by pre-cooking the lamb, chopping it up, and placing in secure container in your cooler.

Once on your boat, mince up the garlic hot olive oil cooking in a pan. Cook the garlic until it’s golden color, then put the lamb pieces in.

It all comes together when you put the rest of the ingredients in, mixing and cooking it until it’s ready to serve.

20. Southern spiced trout fillets with chilli sweetcorn fritters

This is a little more complex, but still simple enough as a boat recipe that’s simple. It serves 4 people as you end up with some fish and 2 tasty fritters per person. Here’s what it could look like:

fritters and fish

This fish and fritters recipe comes from The Boat Cookbook.

You will need:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1x275g tinned sweetcorn, drained
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp red chillies, deseeded and chopped
  • Handful of coriander, chopped
  • Rapeseed oil for frying
  • 3 tsp spice mix no. 4 (1 tbsp dark brown sugar, 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp dried thyme, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp mild chilli powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1
  • tsp salt)
  • 4 trout fillets
  • Salt and pepper

Take a large bowl, drop in the flour and a little salt and a couple of pinches of baking powder. Then mix the eggs and milk together, before making a little hole to pour the mix into in your bowl of flour. Just like mom used to do when baking at home!

Whisk it all up together until it’s nice and smooth before adding the sweetcorn, chili, coriander, and spring onions in, stirring well.

Heat up the oil in a frying pan, adding 2 tablespoons of batter for each of the fritters you want to cook up. Most boats will only have space for a small frying pan on board, so you might have to fry the fritters one at a time.

Fry each fritter until golden brown on both sides, then keep them warm whilst you cook the trout.

To cook the trout, rub your mixture of spices into both sides of the fish, and then grill on boat sides for around 4 minutes before serving the whole meal up together.

21. Spaghetti with tuna, olives, capers, tomatoes and basil

Nothing says simple as a spaghetti recipe. But turn that boring old pasta into something a bit more exciting and filling with the addition of some tuna, olives, capers, and tomato – it’s very Mediterranean and very tasty. Just look at it!

tuna spaghetti

This tuna spaghetti recipe comes from The Boat Cookbook.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
  • 1 medium onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp green or black olives, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1x400gr tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 500gr spaghetti
  • 1x200g tinned tuna, drained
  • 8 basil leaves, torn, or 1tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oil in a pan, then throw in the chopped onions for 5 minutes to let them soften up. You then put the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, garlic and capers in, cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes.

It’s then time to get the flavors going, and you can do that by adding the wine and timed tomatoes, simmering the whole mix for around 10 minutes. It will thicken up into a great looking sauce.

Whilst that’s all going on, boil the salted water in a saucepan, and once brought to the boil you can put the spaghetti in to cook until it’s just how you like it.

Once the spaghetti is done, add tune and basil into the sauce, stir, season, put the spaghetti into the mix, stir some more and it’s ready to eat. Very tasty!

Easy boat food appetizers and snacks 

Appetizers and finger foods are ideal for boats. It means you can eat something straight out of a wrap or packages, don’t need to take plates and cutlery, and dramatically reduces the amount of trash you generate.

It’s simple and easy too, with some not needing refrigeration or the bare minimum in cold storage.

Rather than list out all those boat food appetizer ideas on this page, I’d like to instead refer you to a new guide on the website which shows you all our best finger food ideas.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to go read out boat food appetizers guide, it includes items such as: 

  • Frozen grapes and frozen strawberries
  • Sliced fruit and vegetables
  • Vegetarian snack kabobs
  • Pressed sandwiches and muffulettas
  • Non-messy wraps
  • Candy, popcorn, and trail mix containers
  • High protein granola bars
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Tasty tacos in a Doritos bag (has to been seen to be believed!)
  • Homemade cookies
  • Cooler corn on the cob
  • Thermos / cooler hot dogs with steamed buns
  • El Paso mini taco boats
  • Stuffed jalapeno poppers

You might also want to see some boat snack ideas, which includes snacks and easy to eat food such as:

  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • California veggie wraps
  • Cheese
  • Fruit
  • Sliced vegetables
  • Tuna or chicken sandwiches
  • Hummus and crackers
  • Oven roasted almonds
  • Zucchini chips
  • Grilled cheese dogs
  • Grilled veggies

Consider your guests dietary requirements

It’s easy to forget that some of your guests might have different dietary requirements to you and your family when planning a boat party. But it’s a very important consideration, as your guests could have:

  • Food intolerances and allergies regarding nuts, shellfish and gluten
  • Health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Diets such as vegetarian or vegan

Whilst I’ve tried to offer a selection of recipes and ideas here, I would encourage you to explore the Internet as there is so much information and inspiration available online.

Consider food safety and storage

How you store and prepare food on a boat is critical. The sun and water can quickly contaminate foods, leading to illness.

I’ve put together a guide on how to keep food fresh and contamination free which I advise you read if you are unsure on what you need to do.

The last word…

Whether you have a large boat with full-blown cooking facilities, a grill on your deck, or just a small boat where you need to prepare and take food in advance, I hope you’ve found a simple recipe idea here that you can try out.

If you have any more ideas, I would love to hear from you!