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The 5 best (and 5 worst) MREs reviewed

MRE is short for Meals Ready to Eat. These are meals designed for use as military rations. They are self-contained complete meals. And, as the name suggests, they are ready to eat as-is without the need for you to cook or heat them.

Even though these are military rations, surplus supplies are available for civilians to buy. They have a long shelf life, designed to last up to five years with proper storage. Thus, they’re popular with preppers and people building food supplies in case of emergency or disaster. They’re also popular with campers and backpackers.

You might guess that these kinds of meals aren’t always going to be the tastiest. But according to military veterans and others who eat them, they vary in quality quite a bit. So what are the best MREs? And what the worst? Here are our rankings.

Chili macaroni – Best MREs

It’s almost unanimous among vets that the chili and macaroni MRE, aka chili mac, is one of the best MREs, if not the absolute best. This meal includes:

  • Chili macaroni.
  • Meat snacks.
  • Crackers.
  • Jalapeno cheddar cheese spread.
  • Crushed red pepper.
  • Lemon pound cake.
  • Candy.
  • Beverage powder.

The military blog Medals of America has it ranked as No. 1, as does Vetfriends. Reviews say that “Chili Mac is known for being the best MRE of all time!” Reddit user and Marine veteran MikeNew513 said “chili mac is love, chili mac is life.” Redditor ErrorAcquired, a civilian, said about it,“It was REALLY tasty! This seems to be a great choice for people who are new to MRE’s. Everyone at the camp was pretty amazed by it.”

Veggie burger – Worst MREs

The veggie burger MRE is one that is universally agreed upon for being horrible. It includes:

  • Veggie burger.
  • Barbecue sauce.
  • Wheat snack bread.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Chocolate banana muffin (or a chocolate brownie if you’re lucky).
  • Beverage powder.

Medals of America warns, “Red-meat loving servicemen and women don’t get too excited about the cardboard-tasting veggie burger.” Vetfriends said, “Although filled with all the necessary nutrients to get the job done (like all MREs), this one was not popular among Service Members. The mixture of stale bread and rubbery patty made the veggie burger heavily disliked.” And in an article for ClearanceJobs, former military strategist Steven Matthew Leonard said, “I would go hungry before eating this again.”

Meatballs and marinara – Best MREs

Meatballs with marinara sauce is another popular MRE. Most versions of this MRE include:

  • Meatballs in marinara sauce.
  • Italian bread sticks.
  • Jalapeno cheese spread.
  • Meat snacks.
  • Peppers.
  • A cookie and/or berry cobbler.
  • Beverage powder.

These menus change and there are several versions out there, so be sure to check the specifics if you’re getting it for any of the sides or desserts.

Reddit user and Canadian cadet BenShimizu wrote, “I love the marinara sauce with meatballs, 10/10.” Medals of America ranks it second only to chili mac. They said, “Even for non-Italians, the meatballs in marinara sauce have a lot to offer.”

The one complaint about this MRE is that certain versions of it included potatoes au gratin, which many dislike. But as the menus change often, you are likely to get an version that does not include this side.

Chicken a la King – Worst MREs

Almost 100% of those who tried it agree that Chicken a la King tops the list of worst MREs.. Reviews say it’s gelatinous at best and inedible at worst.  The meal includes:

  • Chicken a la King.
  • How sauce.
  • Crackers.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Fruit.
  • Cocoa.
  • Beverage base.

Medals of America has it as one of its top three worst MREs. They said, “It is a gelatinous goo with shreds of an unrecognizable protein, which is why it is known as the Chicken a la Death.” Vetfriends said, “Chicken a la King is possibly the worst of the bad MREs. Ask any Soldier, Sailor, Coastguardsman, Marine, or Airman what their least favorite MRE was – 99% of the time, this is what they say.” And former military strategist Steven Matthew Leonard wrote, “Try as I might, I never got to the bottom of a bag of chicken a la king without getting nauseous.”

Beef stew MRE – Best

The beef stew MRE is one that almost everyone agrees tastes great and fills you up. The kit includes:

  • Beef stew.
  • Multigrain snack bread.
  • Cheddar cheese spread.
  • Hot sauce.
  • Pound cake.
  • Candy.
  • Beverage powder.

Marine veteran and Reddit user cpldeja wrote, “Beef stew with Tabasco and crushed crackers was my go to.” Vetfriends ranks it at No. 3 among MREs. They said, “Good MREs are hard to come by, and this is one of the best.” Many reviewers state that this MRE tastes as good as Dinty Moore’s popular canned beef stew.

Beef enchilada MRE – Worst

Everyone seems to hate the beef enchilada MRE. This meal includes:

  • Beef enchiladas.
  • Refried beans.
  • Crackers.
  • Jalapeno cheese spread.
  • Picante sauce.
  • Pepper flakes.
  • Cookies.
  • Beverage powder.

Not only are the enchiladas themselves bad, but the refried beans and cheese sauce that accompany them don’t do them any favors. Vetfriends said, “This may sound good in theory, but Military Personnel avoid this one at all costs. The strange texture and flavor of this MRE sent service members scrambling to trade for something better, or at least something they could stomach.” And Marine veteran Reddit user Warfightr wrote, “As for the worst … Beef Enchilada was pretty terrible.”

Cheese tortellini MRE – Best

Cheese tortellini is another favorite MRE. The meal consists of:

  • Cheese tortellini pasta in tomato sauce.
  • Crackers.
  • Hot sauce.
  • Vanilla pudding.
  • Chocolate peanut butter.
  • Trail mix.
  • Beverage powder.

Navy veteran and Reddit user happybadger wrote that for his favorite MRE, “Cheese tortellini is the only answer. You can mix in so many different things and as long as they go with pasta and cheese it’s delicious.” Joseph W. on MRE Info seconded that opinion. He wrote, “The actual main, the Tortellini, is pretty good as well. Couldn’t really taste the cheese inside them, but it gave them a pretty nice squishy/chewy texture. The tomato sauce was pretty thick as well compared to most other pasta/sauce MREs. Really nice.”And when responding to which is their favorite MRE supernoodle15 said “cheese tortellini and it isn’t close.” Reddit user Sarthe44 agreed, “Easily the best. Comes with peanut butter which makes it all the more better.”

Dehydrated pork patty MRE – Worst

The dehydrated pork patty is another MRE you never want to end up with. The meal includes:

  • Dehydrated pork patty
  • Crackers.
  • Cheese spread.
  • Applesauce.
  • Cookie.
  • Cocoa.

Vetfriends has it on their list of top five worst MREs of all time. They said, “Rehydrating them was like doing a small science experiment.” Steven Matthew Leonard for ClearanceJobs wrote, “Assuming you could rehydrate the main entree, it had the consistency and flavor of an old shoe.” And Reddit user UncleEffort commented, “Hands down the worst MRE was the Dehydrated Pork Patty. It was basically a sponge you added water to.”

Maple pork sausage MRE – Best

The maple-flavored pork sausage comes in at the top for the best breakfast MRE. It includes:

  • Maple pork sausage patty.
  • Crackers.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Smoked almonds.
  • Maple syrup.
  • Maple muffin top.
  • Beverage powder.

The meal also comes with coffee, creamer and sugar, an important part of any breakfast anywhere. Military blog Medals of America says “The troops’ favorite breakfast option is the maple sausage. It’s partnered with an on-trend maple muffin top, trail mix, cheddar cheese and crackers and an orange beverage powder.” And Reddit user A_Traveling_Man reviewed it by saying “Maple flavored pork sausage. It doesn’t have great sides, but it’s so good. And it always has that muffin top with the syrup. Super good.” We are the Mighty ranks it as the No. 5 best MRE. They said, “The sausage, if heated up, isn’t half bad. But the big takeaway here is the Maple Muffin Top. Unfortunately they couldn’t jam a full muffin in there, but hey, the top is the best part anyway.”

Veggie omelet MRE – Worst

Here we have the veggie omelet, aka the Vomelet. This is at the top of almost every list of worst tasting breakfast MRE. And it’s among the worst MREs in general. The meal includes:

  • Cheese-and-veggie omelet.
  • Salsa verde.
  • Crackers.
  • Apple butter.
  • Granola with blueberries.
  • Cinnamon scone.
  • Beverage bags with a cappuccino and apple cider.

The one saving grace with this meal is the sides that come with it. Otherwise, almost everyone who tried it would rather have gone hungry. Medals of America said, “Its texture, smell and taste are so legendary that even recruits in basic training know it takes a true American hero to chow it down.” Daniel Sharp for American Grit wrote, “It looks, and tastes like, what you’d imagine they give prisoners in space prison. Even Afghan wolf-dogs wouldn’t eat it.” And Reddit user Skinwalker_WA said named it the worst MRE, writing “Veggie (v)omelet. Absolutely terrible.” But perhaps the most colorful review is from Reddit user and veteran HGWingless, who commented, “Worst MRE is the vegetarian omelet. No argument. It looks (and I’d fathom, tastes) the same coming out as it does going in. No amount of Tabasco sauce can fix that”. Bottom line: Avoid the Vomelet.