40 Picnic Side Dishes That Are Easy and Portable
Summer shindigs may look a bit different this year. Even if the guest list for your annual potluck has shrunk down to just you and your pod, you'll still need something delicious to serve. We love turkey and cheese on white as much as the next person, but these 40 picnic side dishes will blow everyone at the table away. Better yet, they’re a cinch to make and pack, from the homemade coleslaw to the slow-cooker baked beans to the avocado chicken salad. So, bring one of these fresh ideas to the gingham blanket and let the compliments roll in.
1. Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Salad
Because the picnic don't start 'til pasta salad walks in. (The best part is the garlic-lemon breadcrumbs on top.)
2. Grilled Peach and Halloumi Salad with Lemon-Pesto Dressing
Isn't she lovely? Charring the peaches and halloumi cheese offers a smoky quality to their natural sweetness and tanginess, respectively.
4. Veggie Sushi
Ever made sushi rice before? It’s a miracle what a huge difference rice vinegar, salt and sugar can make. Your kids will love helping you assemble these before scarfing a few down themselves.
5. Light and Tangy Coleslaw
Is any outdoor meal complete without a batch of slaw on deck? We think not. This version is mayo-free, too. Add some crunch to sandwiches or burgers or have it on its own.
6. Summer Skillet Gnocchi with Grilled Corn and Burrata
Sweet corn, grated Parmesan, a creamy ball of burrata—it's the one-pan meal of our dreams. Simply put foil over the skillet and head to the car.
8. Slow-Cooker Baked Beans
You can get a lot done in six hours. Add the beans, brown sugar and everything in between, turn the Crock-Pot on low and carpe diem.
10. Buffalo Cauliflower Nuggets
It’s no fun hitting the playground (or holding a beer) with sticky fingers. Ditch the chicken wings for this boneless, easy-to-eat alternative. Don't forget to bring forks or toothpicks for serving.
11. Summer Rolls
These are beyond refreshing on a hot day, packed with crisp veggies, plump shrimp and fresh herbs. They last in the fridge for two to three days, so feel free to make them ahead of time.
12. Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Strawberries
Sweet summer fruit is just the match for salty miso dressing and slightly spicy shishito peppers.
13. BLT Pasta Salad
Lettuce, tomato and avocado lighten up the noodles. Dijon, mayo and vinegar add creaminess and tang. But what takes it over the top is baked black-pepper bacon.
14. Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Psst: Want to know the secret to getting crispy fries minus the oil? Browning them in the oven. Kids will eat these by the fistful, so make a big batch and pack a big bottle of ketchup.
15. Avocado Deviled Eggs
This cocktail hour mainstay just got a facelift. Ripe avocados are mashed right into the yolks with lemon juice, mayo and mustard, giving the filling a vegetal, buttery sweetness. Add hot sauce for a kick.
16. Spring Panzanella Salad
Yup, bread salad is a thing. And it's downright delicious. (You'll never look at croutons the same way again.)
17. Beet Hummus
Cucumbers, pita chips, crackers, oh my! You can dunk just about anything in this unique-looking (and awesome-tasting) spread. All you need is a food processor and a soft spot for the color pink.
18. Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce
Chicken coated in seasoned lemon-yogurt sauce and grilled to smoky perfection? Don’t mind if we do. (Fry or bake some pita to serve with the tzatziki instead if chicken feels like a tall order.)
19. Italian Deli Pinwheel Sandwiches
This is literally the easiest makeover you can give a sammy. Layer your ingredients in a tortilla, roll it tightly and let it chill before slicing into bite-sized pieces.
20. Avocado Chicken Salad Recipe
Grapes are so yesterday. Blended avocado is the secret to this overdue upgrade. You’ll love the vinegary, herbaceous dressing, plus the crunch of scallions and celery. It’s even better with a glass of Chardonnay.
22. Sriracha Shrimp Skewers with Collard Peach Salad
Nothing says grilling season like a platter of charred skewers. These shrimps are dressed in fresh lime juice, zesty grated ginger and spicy sriracha before being put to the flames. Bring the shrimp on their own, or pair them with this Asian-inspired salad.
23. Beef Empanadas
These are awesome to hand out between innings at the annual office softball game or after a few dozen cannonballs at the lake. After all, any food that’s fried and forkless is a guaranteed hit.
24. Cuban Sliders for a Crowd
These grab-and-go bites get major bonus points for transportability. Assemble, melt and deliver these cuties all in the same dish. Add roast pork for double meat.
25. Carrot Pigs in a Blanket
Is it just us, or is anyone else totally over hot dogs? We swapped cocktail weenies for two-inch pieces of carrot and yellow mustard for green goddess dressing. Yeah, we thought that sounded better too.
26. Salami, Artichoke and Ricotta Pasta Salad
We dare you not to add this refreshing side to your arsenal permanently. While it’ll keep in the fridge for up to five days, we love it warm with a sprinkle of sharp Parmesan.
27. Mini Quesadillas
There’s no such thing as too many finger foods at a picnic, especially when they’re super customizable (we filled these with refried black beans, pepper jack and scallions). Trade mini tortillas for wonton wrappers and fry them for a gorgeous golden-brown crust that will make your guests ask for the recipe.
28. Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Stuffed Peppers
These adorable little peppers travel well in layers in a big container or can be stuffed once you get to the picnic. Our favorite part? The store-bought rotisserie chicken. We won’t tell if you won’t.
29. Homemade Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
The quintessential greasy slice just went handheld. Make the dough from scratch or buy it at the store—your guests won’t know the difference.
30. Cold Sesame Cucumber Noodles
Careful, this sweet-and-spicy dressing is addictive. Sesame oil, soy sauce, tahini, sriracha, ginger and garlic turn spiralized cucumbers and baked tofu into a savory masterpiece you’ll want to make again and again.
31. Lunch Kebabs with Mortadella, Artichoke and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
A meal this cute deserves a special spread, so we went with pesto. While kebabs look fancier than a typical ham and Swiss, they’re just as easy to make. (Oh, and you could totally recreate this with other deli meats, cheeses and condiments.)
32. Vegan Sriracha ‘Meatballs’ with Noodles and Grilled Vegetables
Once your kids dunk into the sriracha sauce sweetened with maple syrup and ketchup, they’ll be sold—and they'll never guess the juicy meatballs are made of tofu. Serve with veggies, rice noodles or nothing at all.
33. Skillet Blueberry Cornbread
This dish is beyond versatile. It can be breakfast, a side or dessert. It’s a cross between a blueberry muffin, coffee cake and cornbread. What’s not to love? Cover the skillet with foil and load into your backseat as is.
34. 15-Minute Lemony Broccolini Pasta
It's just about as simple as dumping jarred marinara into a pot, but ten times as elegant.
35. Tomato Salad with Grilled Halloumi and Herbs
Give the summer's juiciest, most gorgeous tomatoes the spotlight they deserve by making this five-ingredient salad that's made entirely of seasonal produce, fresh herbs and pantry staples.
36. Avocado and Black Bean Pasta Salad
If you're tired of gloppy, mayonnaise-based, store-bought pasta salad, turn to this homemade alternative. It'll only take you 20 minutes.
37. Quick Guacamole Quinoa Salad
Aka the best 10-minute recipe to lean on when you have leftover quinoa in your fridge.
39. Lemon-Raspberry Whoopie Pies
Our favorite kind of picnic is one without any official entrees, so you can just keep noshing on individual snacks instead—including this sunny lemon cake filled with tart raspberry cream. They’re sturdy enough for a lengthy trip in the picnic basket.
40. Jammy Shortbread Bars
Brown sugar shortbread can handle whatever filling flavor you throw at it. We used tart, seedless raspberry jam, but we’re betting this recipe lends itself to every filling from apricot to chocolate. Keep them in a cooler so the frosting doesn’t melt.