Fall is a great time to enjoy the Maine outdoors. The humidity is gone, the bugs are few and far between and everything from the foliage to the sunshine to the midnight stars sparkles with extra brilliance.

And for those of us who eat vegan food, we no longer need to brown bag it. That’s because several Maine companies that cater to outdoor adventurers are responding to an uptick in customer (and staff) demand for plant-based fare. These companies also are finding that the logistics of cooking vegan can be simpler in off-the-grid situations.

At the four huts in western Maine that make up the Maine Huts and Trails lodging network, visitors ask for vegan food every day, so it is always on the menu.

“We see a lot of vegetarians and a huge influx of vegans,” said Sarah Pine, Maine Huts and Trails operations manager and a vegan. “I’ve set up the menu so that most side (dishes) are going to be vegan because it’s easier. And then the main dish without the meat makes a well-rounded vegan meal.”

Dinner menus at the huts feature hearty vegan choices such as Moroccan shepherd’s pie with sweet potato or roasted butternut squash with marinated mushrooms and minted couscous salad.

When the season is in full swing, the huts serve guests breakfast, a bagged lunch and dinner. At quieter times of the year, guests must carry in and cook their own food.


A take-out lunch – often vegan soup and fresh bread or a sandwich – can be purchased on the weekends at each hut during the season even if you’re not staying there.

Demand for vegan food is also evident at the Northern Outdoors Adventure Resort in The Forks. Rafters stop for lunch on riverbanks, and a vegan veggie burger is always among the choices, as are vegan side dishes, such as vegetable fried rice.

“During the height of the season, there are people eating veggie burgers every day,” said Liz Berry, restaurant manager at Northern Outdoors, who added that some of the guides are vegan.

Like many of the rafting companies in The Forks, the Northern Outdoors resort also caters to hikers, kayakers and snowmobilers with a base lodge, a brew pub and a restaurant.

Berry said when Northern Outdoors hosts college groups, requests for vegan food spike. But she noted that requests for vegan eats are coming from “a widening demographic.”

Operating off the grid, as Northern Outdoors does on its river trips and Maine Huts & Trails does at its lodges, is another reason these companies serve vegan dishes.


“We really have limited space and we’re running on solar, so I can’t have 30 or 40 cartons of eggs” in a refrigerator to make pancakes and muffins, Pine said. Instead, the Maine Huts & Trails pancakes and other quick breads are usually vegan.

Unopened boxes of plant-based milks, such as almond and soy milks, and flax seeds (used as an egg replacer when ground and mixed with water) don’t need refrigeration.

Vegetarian and vegan food is familiar to hikers, Pine said, because on the trail “it’s safer and not as perishable” as meat-based meals.

Aboard the schooner Ladona out of Rockland, chef Anna Miller has ample refrigerator space and a clientele looking for a luxurious vacation experience, yet she too fields regular requests for vegan food.

When she has one or more vegan guests on board, Miller quietly switches her pancakes and quick breads to vegan so everyone can enjoy them.

“I have fun” cooking vegan food, said Miller, who grew up eating vegan and vegetarian food. “I have a collection of vegan cookbooks and in the winter I try all these recipes.”


The best ones, such as a West Indian curry with chickpeas and sweet potatoes, show up aboard the ship the following summer.

Meg Maiden, the marketing director for the Maine Windjammer Association, said all nine schooners in the fleet regularly get – and meet – requests for vegan food. Many crew members on the ships are vegetarian, she said.

When a vegan is on board, Miller makes a plant-based entree that is “as similar as possible” to that day’s meat-based entree.

For instance, if she is serving pork chops with ginger beer and apples, the vegan diners get tofu with ginger beer and apples.

Back at the Northern Outdoors restaurant in The Forks, vegan options include dishes such as red quinoa tabouli with grilled broccolini, and chicken-less wings made from broccoli dipped in Kennebec River Brewery beer batter and deep fried. Berry said the menu features more vegan items than it used to.

Vegan food has become “something you have to accommodate,” Berry observed. “It’s something you have to view as here to stay rather than a passing fad.”


And when companies catering to outdoor enthusiasts keep their menus relevant with plant-based choices, we vegans have plenty to eat when we’re in the wilderness.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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