Plan the Perfect Picnic With These Recipes


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Picnic season is here, and there’s nothing better than enjoying a meal outdoors with family and friends. To make planning your picnic easy, I’ve rounded up over 50 picnic food ideas that are easy to prepare, transport, and, most importantly, so good! From classic sandwiches and salads to snacks, finger foods, and sweet treats, this list has something for everyone.

I’ve personally tested and loved each of these recipes, making sure they’re not only tasty but also practical for an outdoor setting. Many of these dishes can be made ahead of time, so you can spend more time enjoying the picnic and less time prepping. So grab your picnic basket, pack your favorite blanket, and get ready to enjoy some fantastic food under the open sky!

Image Credit: Mariya Volkova / istockphoto.

What are Picnic Foods?

  • Portable, easy-to-eat foods. Think of your favorite flavors that can be wrapped up into individual serving sizes and kept well during transport. Some common picnic foods include sandwiches, wraps, veggie sticks, and potato salads.
  • Refreshing and seasonal produce. Maximize the summer’s bounty by including lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapes, strawberries, bell peppers, and cucumbers. Prep them at home to have easy picnic finger foods ready to eat.
  • Simple yet satisfying meals. Make sure your picnic foods list has lots of hearty meals that will keep everyone full. Some healthy picnic foods that fit this bill are macaroni salads, sandwiches, and even vegetarian picnic foods with hearty plant-based protein like beans and quinoa.
  • Have a variety of foods. Make sure you have a well-rounded picnic spread full of different flavors, textures, and colors. This has an impressive visual appeal and makes a more nutrient-balanced meal overall. 

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Tips for Making Picnic Foods

  1. Choose equipment carefully. Make sure your cooler doesn’t have any leaks and you have the proper containers to transport your food.
  2. Prep ahead of time. To minimize stress on picnic day, prepare as much food as possible in advance. This includes washing, drying, cutting fruits and vegetables, and making salad dressings and dips. 
  3. Keep components separate. Avoid soggy salads and sandwiches by keeping crunchy components such as dressings, toppings, and fillings in separate containers or small zip-top bags.
  4. Consider making individual servings. Make picnic prep easy by choosing picnic basket foods that can easily be divided. If needed, cut and package them at home so they’re ready in easy-to-grab individual serving sizes.
  5. Stay well hydrated. Bring plenty of drinks (better yet, freeze them if they’re in freezer-safe containers) to keep you and your picnic guests well-hydrated.
  6. Bring extras. Always pack extra napkins, paper plates, utensils, and wet wipes for easy cleanup. Don’t forget to bring a picnic blanket or camping chairs for comfortable seating. Throw in a bottle of hand sanitizer to clean those hands before digging into your picnic basket foods.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

How to Plan a Menu for a Picnic

  • Decide how many people to accommodate. Your menu will largely depend on whether you’re just feeding your family or a large group of people.
  • Pack a variety of foods. Include lots of flavors, textures, and colors in your picnic spread. Mix and match sweet and savory for a well-rounded meal.
  • Consider diet restrictions. Be sure to take into account any dietary restrictions or preferences of your picnic guests. This is especially important when you are considering picnic food ideas for large groups. Offer plenty of gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian picnic foods.
  • Choose hearty salads. Save the leafy salads for another occasion and go with heartier salads that keep well over time and are deliciously satisfying.
  • Go heavy on fresh veggies. Just because you’re skipping the green salads doesn’t mean you can’t add veggies to your picnic foods list. In fact, a crudite platter or cut veggies like celery and carrots are some of the most perfect summer picnic foods and a must-have.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Best Picnic Food Recipes

Now that you’re convinced you want to eat outdoors more, here comes the fun part—actually choosing summer picnic foods. This roundup covers everything; from picnic finger foods to easy-to-transport salads and vegetarian bites and sweet, healthy picnic foods to end the day with. There are also lots of ideas for large groups, so there’s something for everyone here.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Snacky Picnic Basket Foods

  • Apple Chips – Perfect for throwing into your picnic basket, these apple chips are incredibly simple to make either in your oven or the air fryer. Seasoned with cinnamon, they have a natural sweetness without any added sugar.
  • Fruit Leather – You will love this homemade version of a popular snack. It’s made with seasonal fruit, lemon juice, and your choice of sweetener and makes a great snack to add to your summer picnic foods.
  • Roasted Cashews with Coconut – If you’re looking for healthy picnic foods that you can munch on while setting out a full spread, this snack mix is your answer. It packs in loads of flavor and is irresistibly addicting.
  • Oven Baked Potato Chips – Skip the storebought chips and make your own. These homemade chips are baked in the oven, making it so easy to add some crunch, saltiness, and flavor to your picnic foods list. Enjoy these chips as a snack, or pair them with French onion dip for a tasty finger food idea.
  • No Bake Energy Bites – Made with just 6 ingredients, these energy bites are full of protein, fiber, and good fats, which will keep you feeling satisfied and away from processed snacks.
  • Air Fryer Popcorn – Crunchy puffy popcorn is the ultimate snack. It’s light, airy, and delicious and makes a great addition to your summer picnic foods. Plus, this version shows you how to make a batch in your air fryer.
  • Baked Kale Chips – Light on calories and high in nutrition, these homemade kale chips are perfect when you want an easy and healthy snack on the go. You can also customize the taste by adding your favorite spices, herbs, or even cheese.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Picnic Finger Foods

  • Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites – This is one of the best vegetarian picnic foods because it has all those delicious buffalo flavors but is completely plant-based. They are spicy and delicious and make an excellent addition to your picnic finger foods lineup.
  • Cheese and Fruit Snack Box – These Starbucks copycat snack boxes take minutes to prepare and are perfect for outdoor adventures. They are filled with fruit, various cheeses, crackers, and other favorite add-ins.
  • Cucumber Sandwiches – Easy to make with Greek yogurt spread (instead of mayo), these make one of the best healthy picnic foods. Light and refreshing, these bites are perfect for a warm summer day.
  • Homemade Pita Chips – Made with regular pita bread, olive oil, and a few spices, these oven-baked pita chips make an excellent dipper for your favorite dips like cream cheese spinach dip, roasted garlic hummus, or spinach artichoke dip.
  • Stuffed Dates – Dates are great for that instant energy boost and these are stuffed with the most delicious savory and/or sweet filling. You can make these up to a day before and store them covered in the fridge, making them one of my favorite picnic basket foods.
  • Bean and Cheese Quesadillas – Easy to throw together, these quesadillas make satisfying and delicious picnic finger foods. They are ready in less than 10 minutes and are great for the whole family.
  • Homemade Ranch Dip – One of the easiest summer picnic foods is a veggie platter with homemade ranch. It’s creamy, tangy, refreshing, and oh-so-delicious and the best way to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Pinwheel Sandwiches – Looking for picnic food ideas for large groups? These tortilla rollups are always a hit. They are simple to make and you have the option of four easy flavors to choose from.
  • Pizza Quinoa Bites – Vegetarian picnic foods have never tasted so good like these savory and satisfying pizza bites. Packed with flavors of pizza, they’re a healthier alternative to traditional pizza and make such flavorful grab-and-go picnic finger foods.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Best Picnic Salads

  • Tahini Pasta Salad – If you’re looking for creative and unique summer picnic foods, this pasta salad is your answer. It’s fresh and full of flavor made with pasta, seasonal veggies, hearty chickpeas tossed in a wonderfully creamy tahini dressing.
  • Chopped Asian Chicken Salad – Light, healthy, and packed with flavor, this is one of the best picnic food ideas for large groups. You can make a large batch, and it keeps well when chilled.
  • Tuna Nicoise Salad – If you’re wondering what to bring to a picnic with friends, there’s no better way to spoil them than with this fresh, vibrant, and satisfying salad. The crunchy veggies and wholesome protein makes it filling and delicious.
  • Waldorf Salad – Timeless classic made with fresh, crisp ingredients, the Waldorf salad makes an excellent addition to your picnic foods list because it has everything you need for a satisfying yet light picnic lunch: veggies, protein, and delicious dressing.
  • Macaroni Egg Salad – This is one of the most popular summer picnic foods, and for good reason. It’s a classic summer dish that’s satisfying, simple to make, and oh-so-delicious. Plus, kids and adults both love a good macaroni egg salad.
  • Greek Orzo Salad – Made with fresh ingredients like tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, feta cheese, olives, and tossed in a lemon vinaigrette – this salad is a must-have addition to your list of picnic food ideas for large groups.
  • Yogurt Chicken Salad – Bright and fresh, this yogurt-based chicken apple salad is tart, tangy, and savory. And it’s one of my go-to’s when thinking about what to bring to a picnic with friends.
  • Asian Noodle Salad – If you want something different from the classic picnic basket foods, you will love this noodle salad. It’s made with rice noodles and a spicy, creamy peanut butter dressing that is oh-so-delicious!

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Vegetarian Picnic Foods

  • Vegan Macaroni Salad – Creamy, tangy vegan dressing is tossed with crunchy carrots, celery, sweet red peppers, and al dente macaroni noodles for a salad that will have you and your friends coming back for more.
  • Mediterranean Potato Salad – Packed with nutrients, flavor, and texture, make this your go-to potato salad next time you’re thinking about what to bring to a picnic with friends. You’ll love the ease and simplicity in making it and they will enjoy the irresistible flavors.
  • Vegetarian Avocado Sandwich – Quick and easy to make and perfect for a light and healthy picnic lunch, this sandwich is anything but boring. It’s made with creamy feta and crispy veggies – every bite is perfection!
  • Veggie and Hummus Sandwich – Bold, vibrant, and easily customizable, this hummus sandwich is a must-make on your list of picnic basket foods. It’s a great meal to grab-and-go and it even tastes better when enjoyed out in nature.
  • Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad – This salad is made with healthy ingredients and makes a delicious alternative to traditional salad. Tuna is replaced with mashed chickpeas for one of the best vegetarian picnic foods that is rich in protein, full of fiber, and easy to make.
  • Crispy Falafel – This Middle Eastern traditional dish gives picnic finger foods new meaning. Mashed chickpeas, herbs, and seasonings are formed into patties and fried to golden brown perfection. It’s a delicious treat that you won’t be able to resist.
  • Quinoa Patties – Whether served cold or hot, inside or outside, these quinoa patties will be a hit with everyone. They have a crispy exterior and a delicious that lends way to a flavorful and savory interior. You won’t regret adding these to your picnic foods list!

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Picnic Food Ideas for Large Groups

  • Sheet Pan Pizza – If you’re thinking that pizza shouldn’t be on your picnic foods list, you’re wrong. This isn’t your ordinary pizza – it’s sheet pan pizza, it’s irresistibly delicious, and it feeds a crowd.
  • Cheese Fatayer – These savory Lebanese pastries offer delicious flavor and comfort in every bite. They’re one of the best picnic food ideas for large groups because you can make a batch to accommodate everyone.
  • Red Kidney Bean Salad – Made with basic pantry staples and three types of beans, this bean salad is rich in flavor, texture, and nutrition. This protein-packed vegetarian salad can be scaled up, making it one of the best picnic food ideas for large groups.
  • Mustard Potato Salad – Creamy and tangy, this is a popular choice when you’re looking for suggestions on what to bring to a picnic with friends. The dressing is egg and mayo-free, made with Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard instead.
  • Cheese Manakeesh – This simple yet satisfying dish has soft, fluffy dough and a delicious cheese topping, making it one of those irresistibly delicious picnic finger foods. It’s a crowd-pleaser everytime.
  • Kale Tabbouleh Salad – Fresh, flavorful, and easily feeds a crowd, this light summer salad is based on my traditional Lebanese tabbouleh recipe and made with kale, tomatoes, bulgur, mint, lemon, and olive oil.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Healthy Picnic Foods

  • Turmeric Rice Salad – If you’re looking for vegetarian picnic foods that can also serve as a full meal, this Mediterranean-inspired rice salad is your answer. It’s satisfying, incredibly flavorful, and also happens to be one of the excellent picnic food ideas for large groups.
  • Chicken Burrito Protein Bowl – This Chipotle-inspired burrito bowl is packed with 36 grams of protein, satisfying fiber, heart-healthy fats, and lots of fresh goodness. It’s one of those perfect picnic basket foods that checks off all the boxes. Easy, delicious, and nutritious!
  • Oven Roasted Chickpea Shawarma – If you love healthy picnic foods, you will love this vegan version of the popular chicken shawarma. This recipe has the same seasoning but includes more vegetables for a fuller and more well-balanced meal.
  • Healthy Egg Salad – This is one of my go-to favorite lunches and will make an excellent summer picnic foods idea. It’s light, simple to make, and oh-so-delicious. Mayo is swapped with Greek yogurt giving this classic dish a healthy twist.
  • Grain Bowls – These are a nutritious way to maximize your vegetable intake in the most delicious way. Loaded with fresh ingredients and a homemade cilantro sauce, these grain bowls are hands-down one of the best healthy picnic foods.
  • Bulgur Chickpea Salad – Full of Mediterranean flavors, this dish is easy to make with no cooking involved and makes an excellent option next time you’re looking for suggestions on what to bring to a picnic with friends.
  • Vegetable Spring Rolls – Full of colorful veggies rolled up in rice paper and served with a dreamy creamy peanut sauce. These spring rolls are great as picnic finger foods or even as a light meal.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Easy Picnic Sweets and Treats

  • Healthy Rice Krispie Treats – Add this sweet treat to your list of picnic basket foods. They are made with better-for-you ingredients like almond butter, honey, and brown puffed rice but taste just as delicious as the more popular version.
  • Date Snickers – Made with Medjool dates, peanut butter, nuts, and dark chocolate, these will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth and give you that quick energy boost. They’re perfect for packing along on picnics.
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip – You won’t go wrong with adding this sweet treat to your list of healthy picnic foods. It’s the perfect way to end the picnic – just add some sliced fruit and vanilla wafers and enjoy!
  • Vegan Trail Mix Cookies – These treats are made with rolled oats and loaded with peanuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, and chocolate chips. They are sweetened with applesauce and make one of the best sweet vegetarian picnic foods to end your fun day with.
  • Greek Yogurt Brownies – You’ll feel good about adding this to your picnic basket foods. It’s made with Greek yogurt, which helps give a boost of protein, and makes them rich in flavor with a fudgy chocolatey center.
  • Cake Pops – These are always a delightful treat – whether for a special celebration or just as part of your lineup of tasty summer picnic foods. You can easily double the batch if you’re looking for picnic food ideas for large groups.
  • Strawberry Oat Bars – Made with fresh strawberries, these bars are chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, making them a delicious treat to enjoy all summer long. They can also be conveniently packaged into single servings, ideal for adding to your picnic foods list.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

How To Keep Food Chilled

  • Insulated coolers: Use a good quality cooler to keep food chilled. Fill it with ice packs or ice to keep food cold for longer periods. You may also want to use insulated bags or lunch boxes for smaller items to provide additional insulation.
  • Freeze drinks: Freeze beverages such as water bottles or juice boxes and use them both as refreshments and cooling elements for your food. They’ll keep the cooler cold as they thaw and you don’t have to waste that limited space with ice packs.
  • Layer strategically: Alternate layers of ice packs or frozen items with your food items in the cooler. This helps distribute the cold evenly and maintains a consistent temperature. Similarly, place sturdier items at the bottom of the cooler and more delicate foods on the top to prevent crushing.
  • Chill ahead: Refrigerate perishable foods overnight before packing them into the cooler. Chilled foods will stay cold longer when they start out cold.
  • Avoid direct sunlight: Keep the cooler in the shade to avoid direct sunlight, which can quickly melt the ice and warm the food. Also, keep the cooler closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

How To Store Picnic Foods Properly

  • Use airtight containers. Pack your picnic foods in sealed containers to keep them fresh and prevent leaks. This is especially important during transportation and when you’re packing up the cooler.
  • Keep cold foods cold. Use a cooler with ice or ice packs to keep perishable foods like sandwiches, salads, and dips chilled as much as possible. After serving, put your food back on ice to prevent it from sitting out in the sun all day.
  • Wrap sandwiches securely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep them fresh and prevent them from getting soggy. You can also use sandwich containers to protect them during transport.
  • Store salad components separately. Some salads benefit from the dressing being stored separately from the rest of the salad. Similarly, keep crunchy toppings and add-ins like croutons and nuts separate and add to salad last to maintain texture.
  • Use insulated bags for other foods. Store non-perishable snacky picnic basket foods like chips and nuts in insulated bags to keep the warm heat out. They don’t need to be chilled but will taste better when they are kept at moderate temperature.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are safe foods to add to a picnic basket?

Fresh, firm vegetables, such as bell peppers, cucumbers, and celery, and fruit like grapes, apples, and stone fruits are good options for your picnic basket. Nuts, seeds, and dry snack-type picnic finger foods are excellent. Make sure anything perishable is properly stored in a chilled cooler. And avoid foods that will wilt, melt, or spoil easily in the heat.

What summer picnic foods last a long time without refrigeration?

Choose shelf-stable snacks that are convenient and perfect for outdoors. This includes dried fruit, nuts and seeds, granola bars, and jerky as they don’t require refrigeration. If you don’t have access to a cooler, avoid perishable foods like creamy salads made with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt and meats that can spoil quickly in the heat.

What to bring to a picnic with friends?

Some of the easiest picnic foods that feed a crowd are those that you can make in large batches. This includes macaroni and pasta salads, dishes with beans and legumes, and picnic finger foods like pita chips with dip.

Whether you’re looking for healthy picnic foods for your immediate family or wondering what to bring to a picnic with friends and a large crowd, I hope this collection inspires you to enjoy delicious food outdoors more. Food just tastes better when out in nature, and these simple and tasty ideas make that experience more enjoyable.

This article originally appeared on FeelGoodFoodie and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Feel Good Foodie.

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