Summertime is amazing for entertaining. With clear skies and warm temperatures, there are so many ways to entertain both indoors and out. Summer is the perfect time for families and friends to gather for poolside parties, reunions, and cookouts.
One easy way to get together with friends is to host a potluck picnic. In a potluck, everyone shares the work of cooking. And everyone gets a chance to show off their signature dish. As soon as the temperature rises and the days grow longer, many are looking for summer potluck ideas for the coming season.
There are a few limitations and special considerations for picnic foods, however. If you’re holding your picnic outdoors, you’ll need to consider food safety. That means providing plenty of cooler space with ice for food, as well as choosing foods that don’t spoil rapidly. Cleaning up can be a problem, too. Keeping safe hygiene practices can be more difficult than usual outside.
Here are a few summer potluck ideas for fast, easy, and most of all safe picnic foods for your next outdoor get together.
Easy-Peasy Summer Potluck Ideas
Depending on the facilities at hand, you’re going to want to choose dishes that are simple, popular, and furthermore, need no refrigeration. Many people choose processed foods because they often fit those three conditions pretty well. Junk food, like snack cakes and chips, are very simple and popular, plus they keep forever. But, that’s because they’re filled with preservatives and “stabilized” fats. So, they’re not the healthiest choice.
Instead, grab fruit for your potluck picnic. It’s so much healthier, and nearly everyone likes fruit. Plus, it often comes with its own packaging. If you want to serve it cut or sliced, take it to the picnic already washed, but whole, and cut it for serving on the spot.
Fresh vegetables can also be cleaned and packed for picnics. Most veggies won’t spoil in the heat very quickly, though they may go a bit limp. Choose ripe tomatoes, snow peas, carrots, and cucumbers. Like fruit, you can peel and cut to serve at the table, keeping them fresh and delicious until it’s time to eat.
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If you have room in the refrigerator or cooler, add a dipping sauce, like ranch dressing or sour cream and onion dip for crudités like broccoli flowers and cauliflower spears. Make sure you only put out a little dip at a time, because it can spoil quickly. Additionally, it’s just so much nicer when it’s cold.
You can also make your own “chips and dip” out of veggies. Bake or air fry slices of zucchini, sweet potatoes, and eggplant to make healthy snacks that are great for outdoor picnicking.
No-Cook Picnic Dishes
Other summer potluck ideas include dishes that don’t need any cooking. To reduce competition in the cooler or fridge, use ingredients that don’t need cooking or refrigeration. Dishes that contain no animal products won’t spoil as quickly.
1. Tex Mex Salad
This salad includes black beans for protein, along with avocados for healthy fats. With no dairy or meat, this salad will remain safe to eat on your picnic table. Plus, if you do want to add more protein, you can top with chicken strips, cheese, and sour cream for a more filling dish.
The great thing about antipasto is that you can serve it as an appetizer or meal. An attractive plate of fresh mozzarella, salami, and tomato slices is simple and delicious. Add fresh basil, a swirl of virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and some cracked salt and pepper. For a more substantial dish, mix with added vegetables and cooked pasta for a cold summer salad that’s a meal by itself. Prepare and refrigerate the day before, allowing plenty of time for the flavors to marry.
Hot Food Summer Potluck Ideas
It may seem counterintuitive to eat hot food in the summertime, but it’s also easier to keep a hot dish hot — and therefore safe to eat. Besides, sometimes a hot meal is just the thing after a long day in the pool. Especially after dusk, when swimmers have started to turn a bit blue and become ravenous.
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Savory pies are an excellent choice for summer potluck picnics. Filled with meats and vegetables, they’re easy to keep warm until dinner time. Wrap in foil with the shiny side in, then wrap in towels, and carry in a thermal bag. Here are a few great hot dishes that make great summer potluck ideas.
3. Cornish Pasties
These delicious meat pies were a traditional lunch for British coal miners who went so deep into the earth; they didn’t have time to surface for lunch in the middle of the working day. Devoted spouses stuffed a flaky pastry with meat and vegetables and wrapped them fresh out of the oven, so they’d stay hot for hours. Easy to eat with the hands, Cornish pasties are a super dish for a summer potluck.
This is another savory meat pie dish, but a South of the Border version with a great kick. They’re easy to make, and even better, their spicy flavor profile can help cool you down.
5. Potato Knishes
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option for savory meat pies, a batch of potato knishes will fit the bill. Loaded with seasoned potatoes, these carb-filled packets are so much safer than the usual potato salad.
Picnic Food Safety
If you’re hosting a Backyard Bash with a potluck picnic, keep food safety in mind. Nothing ruins a party like a trip to the ER for food poisoning. Some tips to keep you and your friends safe:
- Check your refrigerator the day before the party to make room for your guests’ contributions.
- Keep hot food hot and cold food cold until serving time. Utilize spare towels and thermal bags for insulating dishes of food.
- Don’t leave food with animal products or oils out on the table for too long. These spoil quickly.
- Don’t put all the food out at once. If people are eating throughout the day, only set out small portions and replenish from the fridge or warmer when needed.
- Wash containers as you go, so everyone can take their empty dishes home. This also prevents bacteria from growing in empty containers and possibly cross-contamination to other dishes.
- Pick up some disposable serving utensils, which go in the garbage if they end up on the ground or in a dish that’s been sitting out too long.
- Keep some hand sanitizer on the serving table along with napkins so guests can clean their hands when serving themselves.
Summertime lends itself to entertaining. With the beautiful weather and long hours of sunshine, it seems the perfect time for a backyard barbeque or pool party. Use these Summer Potluck Ideas for your next picnic, family reunion, or poolside party.