Our Favorite Summer Picnic Recipes That Aren't Sandwiches


For summertime meals on the go, think beyond the sandwich. Anything that can be served cold or at room temperature has picnic potential. Here, we share our favorite easily portable recipes for picnicking, including chilled soup, summer slaw, flank steak, and tempting desserts.

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picnic spread with fried chicken, corn, watermelon, and mascarpone butter cookie sandwiches
Kate Mathis

You love picnicking? So do we, and so does Martha! Food just tastes better when eaten outdoors. A sandwich is an easy option for a quick picnic, but when you feel like something different, you'll be glad to know that there are so many other options well-suited to open-air dining. When the weather is glorious and a trip to the beach or park beckons, make a day of it by packing an outdoor-friendly meal you can linger over for hours. Whether you're looking for a recipe for a refreshing gazpacho, hearty salad, or tangy slaw that will stay fresh until its picnic time, you'll find ideas in the slides ahead. And don't be afraid to get creative and mix-and-match your menu: Our recipes are all worth spreading out your picnic blanket for.

Have you ever thought about serving a steak for your picnic main? Flank steak is an economical cut that's full of flavor. Bonus: Our picnic-friendly Skirt Steak and Corn with Chimichurri only takes 30 minutes to make, and the steak and the corn can be cooked a day ahead and packed into separate containers. Make the chimichurri on the day of the picnic and cover it with a layer of oil to prevent the zesty herb sauce from browning. Another unexpected but entirely delicious meal option for your picnic? Make the fried chicken that's pictured here and build your picnic menu around it. Our recipe creates the crispiest chicken that stays crunchy all day long, which is exactly what you need when you're packing it for a picnic.

Other foods you might not have considered picnic fare that we advocate for? Coins of grilled corn, skinny sticks of watermelon—which are much easier to handle than a wedge—and refreshing slaws. Made with thinly sliced seasonal vegetables and tossed in a tangy dressing, slaws are a worthwhile side to any warm-weather meal. Whatever direction you decide to go in for the savory options, don't forget to pack something sweet to end the meal with. While cookies and brownies are the easiest options, a stunning pie will instantly elevate your outdoor fête. We recommend filling it with some sort of summer fruit, like blueberries or peaches.

While crafting a great menu is important, don't forget to think about how you'll transport and serve each dish. Maybe you're hauling a robust wheelie cooler, or maybe putting that pretty wicker picnic basket to use. Either way, be sure to pack any necessary forks, knives, spoons, cups, plates, and napkins. Now, get out the picnic basket and start packing.

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Chilled Spanish-Style Tomato Soup

chilled tomato soup plated crop
Alpha Smoot

Pack a flask of this easy, make-ahead soup and bring along a variety of toppings; for a picnic, we recommend sliced ham or prosciutto, Spanish olives, Marcona almonds, manchego cheese, and crackers.

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Grilled Ratatouille and Bulgur Salad


This toss-together vegetarian salad is an easygoing dish. It can be made and refrigerated up to two days before using. Add the basil and croutons just before you set off on the picnic.

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Dill, Potato, and Egg Salad

Dill, Potato, and Egg Salad
Petrina Tinslay

Potato and egg salad team up to make one fan-favorite side dish that's flavored with lemon juice, vinegar, sliced cornichons, and fresh dill. No mayo is needed, the eggs provide plenty of richness.

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Walnut Brownie Cookies

Ryan Liebe

If you've always belonged to the camp that believes nothing finishes off a picnic like a brownie, it's time to meet this cookie with a brownie twist. You'll soon see that a dessert that offers the best of both worlds is exactly what your outdoor meal needs.

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Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Green Beans, and Basil

Pasta Salad with Green Beans and Basil
Ren Fuller

A crowd pleaser at picnics, this easy-going farfalle salad features chickpeas, green beans, ed onion, and salty capers in a delicate, creamy mayo-based dressing with lemony undertones.

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Roast Chicken with Broiled-Vegetable-and-Bread Salad


Salad doesn't have to be a side dish. Make it the main at your picnic with this hearty rendition, which tosses a simple bread salad with crispy chicken pieces. Finish it off with a drizzle of homemade dressing that's made by mixing the excess baking dish juices with oil, lemon juice, and vinegar.

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Peach Lattice Pie

peach lattice pie
Christopher Testani

Everyone at your picnic will want a bite of this golden brown pie. Ripe peaches are tossed with lemon juice and vanilla bean to give the sweet stone fruit an added tang and subtle warmth. The slices are then baked into a flaky pie crust with a beautiful lattice top.

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Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

herbed celery-potato salad
Linda Pugliese

Tossed with vinaigrette not mayo, this potato salad is light, transports well, and doesn't need refrigeration. We call that a winning picnic recipe.

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Tortilla Espanola with Romesco Sauce


Cut thick wedges of this Spanish-style, potato-zucchini tortilla for a hearty vegetarian main. Bring a container of the rich romesco sauce in your picnic basket.

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Chicken, Artichoke, and Orzo Lettuce Cups


Pack this chicken salad in a to-go container, wrap the romaine leaves separately, and you're ready to go. When it's time to eat, spoon some salad onto each leaf—but that spoon is the only utensil you'll need.

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Skirt Steak and Corn with Chimichurri


Quick to make and very tasty, this main requires just a few ingredients and gives great results. For a picnic, make the chimichurri and put it in a lidded container with a thin layer of olive oil on top to prevent oxidization.

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Summer Squash Slaw

summer squash slaw
Martyna Szczesna

Use zucchini or yellow squash—or both!—in this easy summery salad that also features carrots, bell peppers, and sweet Vidalia onion. It's a colorful addition to a picnic meal.

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Rotelle with Onions, Cucumbers, and Herbs


Have to have a pasta salad? So do we. Try this light, herby recipe and you'll never go back to mayo-heavy dishes again.

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Spinach-Feta Pizza Slab Pie

spinach-feta pizza slab pie
Linda Pugliese

Spanakopita—savory spinach and feta wrapped in phyllo—transforms nicely into a more portable slab pie, here. To keep prep easy, we used store-bought pizza dough and added mozzarella to make the pie more substantial.

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Potato-Cabbage Slaw

Marcus Nilsson

When potato salad met coleslaw: This tasty salad combines the best of these two popular summer sides. And it's a sturdy, fresh-tasting salad that will stand up to being taken on a picnic.

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Butter-Waffle Cookies and Mascarpone

butter-waffle cookies and mascarpone
Linda Pugliese

Are we cheating? We said this was a sandwich-free picnic spread! There's no bread here, and no ice cream either, in these inventive "ice cream" sandwiches that won't melt. Instead of the cold stuff, spread creamy mascarpone cheese between two cookies.

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