One of the true joys of the summer months is a picnic with family or friends. Whether you travel to a favorite picnic spot, head out on an adventure, or spread a picnic blanket in your garden, eating together outdoors can be pure bliss.
When choosing picnic food, we can sometimes get stuck in a rut and go for the same things all the time. Why not try shaking it up with exciting new picnic food ideas that will please everyone at your picnic party?
Our Irresistible Picnic Food Ideas
Take some refreshing drinks, especially if you are on vacation and hoping to enjoy a long, leisurely picnic lunch. A good thermos is a must to keep drinks cold (or hot!).
A fruit smoothie is a great picnic beverage for a healthy boost of nutrition. Blend your chosen ingredients, add some frozen cubes of fruit juice to keep it very cool, and store it in a thermos to keep it fresh. Select your favorite fresh berries and fruit juice; for a thicker option, add banana or yogurt, or opt for a green smoothie with fresh veggies such as kale.
Adult Fruit Punch
Fruit punch is a classic beverage staple for picnics, barbecues, and summer get-togethers. Its adaptability means you can create your punch with the freshest produce available. If you want to liven up the punch, add a splash of alcohol for adult picnic guests.
Strawberry Watermelon Lemonade
Lemonade is a classic picnic drink. But why not try a twist on traditional lemonade with a strawberry watermelon lemonade recipe? This lemonade is refreshing! It’s also a lovely pink color that will look amazing on any picnic blanket.
Iced tea is perfect for the ultimate thirst-quenching beverage on a hot day. From the traditional lemon or peach iced tea to more unusual combinations like lavender-earl grey or rosemary-lemon, a picnic is a perfect time to experiment with new iced tea combinations.
Main Dishes for a Picnic
Depending on how many people you serve, having a few different main dishes will please everyone. Try including as many flavors and colors as possible to create the ultimate picnic spread.
Southern Fried Chicken
An absolute classic, southern fried chicken is a true crowd-pleaser. It is ideal for preparing in advance and serving cold the next day at a picnic. Choose a simple, classic southern fried chicken recipe, or add your favorite blend of spices to the batter to create your signature taste.
Grilled corn is the perfect picnic food idea, from traditional grilled corn slathered in butter to the more exotic and spicy Mexican street corn.
It is the ideal picnic food since it is easy to prepare, and you can create it in many variations with various toppings to suit every guest at your picnic party.
A classic summer dish, quiche can be rich and indulgent or light and packed with fresh veggies. You can opt for the traditional Quiche Lorraine or get creative with different vegetables, cheeses, and meats to experiment with flavor combinations. You can also try using different kinds of pastry as a base for your quiche.
At its most basic, a kebab is one of the most straightforward summer picnic ideas; marinate some meat, skewer it, and grill it.
However, kebabs are also an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen. Why not try lamb kofta (it’s tasty with fresh mint), Japanese yakitori (cooked over charcoal), or skewers al pastor with a chili marinade? Veggie options are also great for picnics and non-carnivores in your group.
Classic Macaroni and Cheese
It might be the ultimate comfort food, but did you know that your favorite mac’ n’ cheese is also a fantastic picnic food? You can make your macaroni and cheese in individual cupcake cases (silicone ones work best and are reusable). Then, allow them to cool and refrigerate. Warm them up at home and take them to your picnic the next day.
This picnic idea is sure to be a hit with kids!
Salads are great picnic meals as there are so many options to choose from. Create a light summery snack or add ingredients to make it a hearty, filling meal. Why not experiment with some new flavor combinations?
Pasta salad is a picnic staple; not only is it a crowd-pleaser, but it can also be quick and easy to make with leftover ingredients.
Simply add chopped veggies, cheese, and cooked or cured meat to your favorite pasta. There is an endless supply of pasta salad recipes on the internet.
Black Bean Salad
Black beans are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, and they are a tasty and filling option for a picnic salad. Canned black beans, finely chopped veggies, and a light salsa-style dressing make for an incredible black bean picnic dish.
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Watermelon and feta cheese salad is summer in a bowl! Not only does the burst of color look divine on any picnic table, but it is also an excellent flavor combination. The watermelon’s sweetness and the feta cheese’s salty crumbliness work so well together, especially when paired with the freshness of mint leaves.
There is a reason why Greek salad is consistently one of the most popular salad options. Veggies, olives, and feta cheese combined with a simple dressing make this a delicious summer classic. Serve with pita bread for the perfect picnic salad meal.
When it comes to chicken salad, everyone has their go-to tried and tested recipe they love.
Try shaking up your chicken salad game with some unusual flavors and ingredient combinations. Have you considered adding strawberries? What about avocados, almonds, or apricots? And those are just the ‘A’s!
Sandwiches that are Great for a Picnic
Where would the picnic be without sandwiches? Forget bland bread and flat fillings and explore some new, exciting picnic food ideas with some fantastic sandwiches.
Roast Beef Baguette
Roast beef, cooked to perfection, and packed into a fresh baguette, is sure to be a winner at any picnic.
To make it more manageable as finger food, slice the baguette into small slices and secure each piece with a cocktail stick or skewer. Why not add some mild mustard or horseradish sauce to add a subtle kick to the flavor?
Ham and Cheese Sandwich
A lunchtime staple, the humble ham, and cheese sandwich can become a much more exciting picnic dish by simply using some unusual loaves of bread, cheeses, and deli meats. Slice the sandwiches into smaller pieces so your picnic party can sample different options.
Chicken Salad Sandwich
It’s a classic because it works well; the chicken salad sandwich won’t disappoint! Try adding some fruit to twist your usual recipe; chopped grapes or strawberries are a fantastic choice!
Pita wraps make great picnic foods as they are easily transported and eaten.
Pita wraps spread with hummus and packed with roasted vegetables are one of the best vegetarian picnic foods. Alternatively, fill them with salad, deli meats, or beans.
Italian Submarine Sandwich
A hearty Italian sub is a great picnic addition; it is tasty, filling, and a hit with kids and adults. Mini subs can be a great option for picnics as they are easier to handle.
The muffuletta sandwich is a New Orleans specialty and was introduced to New Orleans by the Italian immigrant community who settled there. The muffuletta is an impressive sandwich; many layers of charcuterie and a punchy olive salad inside a sesame-crusted round loaf make it the ideal picnic dish.
Picnic Dips and Toppings
Any picnic, barbecue, or summer meal needs a few dips and toppings to serve with veggies and chips. Great dips can transform a picnic from classics like hummus to something new and exciting, like marinated mushrooms or muhammara.
Hummus is classic, creamy chickpea goodness and is a picnic essential. It is incredibly delicious, alongside olives, salads, and pita bread. Or use it as a tasty dip for chips or sliced veggies like carrots and cucumbers. You can also use hummus instead of butter or mayo in a sandwich or wrap.
Tapenade is so easy to make; simply chop up some pitted olives and mix with your favorite herbs and a few sundried tomatoes. This topping is perfect on toasted ciabatta bread as a delicious Italian-style bruschetta. You can also use it as a topping on pasta salad or as a dip with chips or pita bread.
Mango salsa is a twist on the traditional salsa recipe, bringing a touch of exotic, juicy sweetness to a family favorite. It has a lovely summery flavor that works well with tortilla chips, pita chips, or as an accompaniment to spicy marinated, grilled meat. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.
Tzatziki is a yogurt-based dip or sauce originating in the Middle East and Southern Europe. It is the perfect accompaniment for many of these ideal picnic dishes, including kebabs, bread, olives, and antipasti. Tzatziki provides a lovely cooling flavor that works well with spicy dishes.
Marinated mushrooms are ideal for vegetarians and vegans; they deliver nutrition and a satisfying texture that makes them great as a side dish or a topping. Best of all, you can prepare this recipe before your picnic.
It only takes 10 minutes to create, and you can refrigerate the mushroom overnight or for a few days to let the marinating flavors infuse into the mushrooms.
If you have never tried muhammara, you are in for a treat. This unusual dip comes from Syria and is made mainly from walnuts, breadcrumbs, red peppers, and pomegranate molasses. The result is a sweet, earthy, delicious spread that will elevate any picnic. Serve it with pita bread for a truly memorable combination.
You can’t serve tortilla chips without guacamole, and no picnic is complete without some great dips. Use fresh ingredients to create your guacamole, like avocados with fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños, and you have a delicious, nutritious crowd-pleasing dip.
Get Bread for Your Picnic
From Southern biscuits to Italian focaccia, the world of bread is infinitely varied. Choose the perfect carb for your picnic outing from our list below.
For a flavor of France, a baguette keeps well on journeys and is deliciously crunchy on the outside and temptingly soft inside. Serve it with the olive tapenade listed above, or provide lots of charcuterie and cheese and let the picnic guests serve themselves.
If you want a classic American dish for your picnic, it must be biscuits! Southern biscuits are one of the most versatile picnic choices because they can be served savory or sweet. Often traditionally served with gravy, they are amazing with bacon but just as delicious with jam and preserves.
This Italian favorite will be a hit at any picnic. You can serve focaccia in bite-size pieces with various toppings such as tomatoes, rosemary, garlic butter, or parmesan cheese.
The perfect picnic needs some great dessert options. Check out these picnic dessert ideas, from crowd-pleasing cupcakes to the sharp deliciousness of a lemon tart.
Where do we start with cupcakes? They have enjoyed a true revival in recent years, and whatever your taste, there will be a cupcake for you. From classic vanilla to cinnamon snickerdoodle, once you master the basic recipe, there will be no stopping the variations you can dream up.
Cupcakes store and travel well as long as they’re not in direct sun, making them a great sweet treat for picnics.
Lemon Meringue Pie
A lemon meringue pie could be the ultimate showstopper dessert for any picnic or barbecue. It’s sweet, citrusy, classic nostalgic food. It is also surprisingly easy to make once you get the hang of creating a meringue that is soft and squishy on the inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside.
A fresh fruit salad is always a big hit for a lighter dessert option and one that is a lot healthier than some of the delicious baked goods we are suggesting. Try the delicate flavors of a melon medley or the tropical punch of mango, kiwi, and coconut.
Elevate your picnic by creating the atmosphere of a British afternoon tea with proper English scones served with jam and cream. These are easy to make and store well in an airtight container. They are perfect when served with a hot cup of tea, so make sure you add your thermos to your picnic basket.
Sharp, citrusy desserts work so well for summer picnics as they are refreshing and light but also temptingly sweet. Lemon tarts are a true crowd-pleaser; you can keep them simple or pile them high with fresh berries. Make your tart on the picnic day and ensure it is kept cool.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Whether you bake them or treat yourself to some of your favorite bakery cookies, these are always a hit. Chocolate chip cookies are a classic dessert and ideal for picnics when you want something simple, sweet, and delicious. Of course, you can add nuts and fruits to make your cookies more varied.
Additional Picnic Snacks
A few snacks on the picnic table (or blanket) for everyone to nibble on and accompany the dips and toppings will keep everyone chatting. These are also great to take along on a walk after your picnic.
Just a quick warning – spiced nuts are deliciously addicting, so make sure you bring enough for everyone to snack on! As an added benefit, they are easy to make. Choose your favorite nuts and spices, mix them, and roast gently.
Tortilla chips are not only a great party food idea, but they are also ideal for picnics. Simple salted tortilla chips are a great snack or side dish alongside salads and sandwiches.
Of course, you can always opt for flavored versions – chili and cheese are especially popular! Or take it one step further and serve tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole for the perfect picnic pleaser.
If you haven’t tried pita chips – an often healthier alternative to potato chips and tortilla chips – you must add them to your next picnic.
The best thing is that pita chips are very easy to make. You can make them using old pita bread, reducing food waste. Serve with creamy hummus or tangy feta for a taste of the Mediterranean.
Final Thoughts on Picnic Food Ideas
Hopefully, this has given you lots of new picnic food ideas. To make life easier, keep a few picnic essentials at hand: a good thermos for keeping drinks hot or cold, a set of airtight containers with secure lids, and a sturdy picnic blanket so you always have somewhere to sit and enjoy your picnic.
Now all you have to do is decide where you are going to picnic!
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.