The Military MRE That Ranks Highly

MREs are Meals, Ready to Eat. They were created by the U.S. military in 1975 and are still used to this day, per Meal Kit Supply. Canned foods and rations evolve like all military technologies from Civil War era hardtack to World War II era k-rations to MCIs (Meal, Combat, Individual), which were prominent during the Korean and Vietnam Wars (via MRE Info). MREs are just the newest iteration.

Pre-packaged, vacuum-sealed food designed to feed soldiers, MREs contain three courses (entrée, side dish, and bread/cracker) as well as drink mixes and desserts (via Meal Kit Supply). Fiercely utilitarian, each MRE shoots for roughly 1,250 calories with 51% carbs, 36% fat, and 13% protein (via MRE Info). Three MREs a day constitute a full day's sustenance for a soldier on duty. They also contain utensils, napkins, and a flameless ration heater. Conveniently, they require neither refrigeration nor cooking, making them easy to store, transport, and consume. Plus, they stay fresh for years, so they can come in handy during emergencies when food sources become unexpectedly scarce. If that sounds appetizing, don't worry; MREs may be exclusive to the military, but there are equivalents for civilians on the market. Those might be relatively flavorful, but do the military issue MREs taste any good?

The good and the bad

Not all MREs are created equal. Per MRE Info, there are 24 unique types. The entrées cycle in and out through the years, but can include jambalaya, pork chow mein, and spaghetti. Side dishes range from fruit and veggies to trail mix. Bread and crackers come with peanut butter, cheese, or jelly. Desserts could be anything from brownies, to cookies to pound cakes. Drinks can be coffee, juice, or tea. Extras like condiments and seasoning are sprinkled in as well.

Opinions regarding the taste of MREs vary, but some consensus exists. For example, Vet Friends lists beef enchilada, chicken a la king, dehydrated beef and pork patties, the veggie burger, and veggie omelet (nicknamed "vomelet") as the five worst MREs of all time. Meanwhile, the beef ravioli, beef stew, chili with beans, and shredded BBQ beef were among their top five MREs. Number one on that list? Chili mac.

Today echoes this sentiment, saying veterans and active duty military members alike enjoy chili mac MREs. Trying it out, Today writer Kait Hanson found the chili mac was accompanied by a beef stick, carrot pound cake, crackers, grape drink, jalapeno cheese, and Skittles. Using the provided plastic bag and water-activated heat source, Hanson heated up her MRE and found that it wasn't bad — definitely filling and the desserts were great. So, if you ever find yourself eating MREs, you might want to try to get your hands on the "serviceable" chili mac.