Perfect Picnic Recipes for Your Next Gathering in the Backyard or Park

mediterranean mixer picnic spread
Linda Pugliese

As the weather heats up and the sun shines brighter and longer, what's the best way to get outside and make the most of summer? Packing a picnic and heading to your favorite local park, lake, or beach! Before you plan the menu, make sure you have the essentials for al fresco dining, like airtight food containers and an outdoor blanket. Summer picnics are a great way to curate a casual gathering with friends without the pressure to dress up or clean the house. Just head outside, spread out a blanket, and start the feast.

These easy picnic food recipes will inspire a beautiful spread. They're family-friendly and nearly all can be made in advance. While picnics tend to blur the lines of mains and sides, here we have gathered together recipes for small dishes and bigger bites, plus something sweet at the end. Pack a pressed sandwich, a sandwich that gets better over time rather than soggy or limp as some other options do. Of course, no picnic would feel complete without pasta salad, and we have a few iterations in this collection that will be a welcome refresh to the routine. Beyond pasta, we have plenty of other salad recipes ahead. From ones made with seasonal fruit to one featuring sliced vegetables and a zesty dressing, there's a side everyone will want a bite of.

When it comes to dessert, we suggest serving something that's easy to transport. Bars and cookies are perhaps the easiest sweet treat to pack and carry to your destination. If you're up for a challenge, a pie made with fresh fruit, like peaches, is a worthwhile addition to any outdoor summer fête. Ours is made with a lattice crust that makes it picture-perfect when displayed on your picnic blanket.

Your picnic will be the event of the season when you let our menu be your guide. Ahead, our best-ever picnic recipes that are easy to make and transport.

01 of 18

Summer-Veggie Melts with Caper Sauce

Summer-Veggie Melts with Caper Sauce
Con Poulos

Assemble these grilled vegetarian sandwiches before you head out for your destination and enjoy them once you spread out your picnic blanket. Bell peppers, onion, and broccolini are grilled and added to warm bread. Provolone cheese binds the sandwich together as it melts under the heat of the vegetables. Wrap them in wax paper and the flavors will meld as you transport them to your picnic.

02 of 18

Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Green Beans, and Basil

Pasta Salad with Green Beans and Basil
Ren Fuller

A favorite for potlucks, pasta salad also aces the picnic challenge. Here chickpeas add some protein and green beans, red onion, basil, and capers bring color and flavor. The real star though is the dressing—a creamy, tangy blend of mashed garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, and mayonnaise.

03 of 18

Dill, Potato, and Egg Salad

Dill, Potato, and Egg Salad
Petrina Tinslay

No mayo here! This zesty potato salad travels well and the tangy dressing, made with plenty of fresh dill, means this is a refreshing side for an outdoor meal.

04 of 18

Hold-the-Cabbage Slaw

Hold-the-Cabbage Slaw
Petrina Tinslay

Just right for a picnic, this colorful slaw tastes better after the flavors of the minty cider-vinaigrette have had time to mingle with the golden beets, celery, and fennel.

05 of 18

Peach Lattice Pie

peach lattice pie
Christopher Testani

Sweet with a hint of acidity, peaches are the quintessential summer fruit for a pie. Ours encases the stone-fruit in a lattice pie top that's golden brown and beautiful with peach filling peeking through. Transport your pie in a pie carrier if you or wrap carefully at the top of your picnic basket or tote, using kitchen towels as padding.

06 of 18

Pressed Picnic Sandwich

pressed picnic sandwich
Bryan Gardner

You can't squash this hearty sandwich in your picnic basket! It actually tastes better when pressed as the vinaigrette permeates the cured meats, grilled peppers, marinated artichokes, and goat cheese in the filling.

07 of 18

Greek Taverna Salad

Greek-Taverna Salad
Petrina Tinslay

There's no lettuce to wilt in this colorful main dish salad that's prepared by tossing tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, fresh herbs, and feta in a lemony dressing. It can be made-ahead, so it's a great dish to tote on a picnic.

08 of 18

Marinated-Artichoke and Green-Bean Pasta Salad

artichoke pasta salad green bean
Ren Fuller

Likely a little different from your go-to pasta salad recipe, this one combines cavatappi with artichokes and green beans. Plus, it skips the mayonnaise and opts for rich olive oil, artichoke brine, and lemon juice as a dressing instead.

09 of 18

Big-Batch Triple-Chocolate Brownie Bars

big-batch triple-chocolate brownie bars
Marcus Nilsson

You can freeze these bars for up to a month, which means a big batch will last you through many picnic outings. We love the combination of chopped chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit.

10 of 18

Tropical-Fruit Juice Salad

tropical fruit juice salad with pineapple and kiwi
Kate Mathis

Rather than setting out a bowl of berries or bag of grapes, make this unexpected, colorful fruit salad that takes less than 30 minutes to put together. Kids will love the bright rainbow of cut fruit and adults will cheer for the bounty of health benefits.

11 of 18

Pasta Salad with Peas and Summer Beans

Bryan Gardner

Hearty as a main or side, this bright pasta salad is a summer picnic no-brainer. Lots of herbs and seasonal beans give it an appealing green color and crisp flavor.

12 of 18

S'mores Bars

smores bars in heart and square shapes
Kana Okada

Achieve the smoky-sweet flavors of s'mores without a fire by making these elevated rice cereal bars, which combine miniature marshmallows, chocolate chips, graham crackers, and puffed-rice cereal.

13 of 18

Snap-Pea and Melted-Leek Tartines

snap pea and melted leek tartines
The Ingalls

Make the most of spring snap peas while they're in season and whip up plenty of these garden-fresh open-faced sandwiches. Modify the recipe so it's picnic-ready by toasting the bread and sautéing the leeks in advance. Place everything in separate to-go containers, then assemble the tartines on-site.

14 of 18

Butter-Pecan Blondies

butter pecan blondies
Ren Fuller

This easy recipe for rich, chewy blondies makes 24 bars. Bring all of them on the picnic or save some of the caramel-flavored pecan-studded treats for later.

15 of 18

Carrot Slaw with Caraway and Raisins

carrot slaw with caraway and raisins
Lennart Weibull

We love a picnic side that can be made in advance and served at room temperature, and this carrot slaw is the perfect example. Don't buy pre-shredded carrots as their flavor is not nearly as crisp and fresh; instead, run whole carrots through a food processor or slice them on a mandoline set with a julienne blade.

16 of 18

Mixed-Olive Tapenade

mixed olive tapenade
William Abranowicz

Spoon it onto pita bread, pile it on fresh mozzarella, or just dig in with a toothpick. This blend of mixed olives, anchovies, and capers is the salty, savory bite that we just can't get enough of. Store the tapenade in an airtight container, which will transport seamlessly from fridge to field.

17 of 18

Raspberry Applesauce with Chia

raspberry applesauce with chia served in a mason jar with a silver spoon
Kate Mathis

Applesauce may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think picnic snacks, but it's a crowd pleaser that's easy to make. Plus, this extra colorful version is a genius way to use an abundance of fresh raspberries.

18 of 18

Black-and-White Sablés

black and white sable cookies on white tray
Mikkel Vang

These cookies are buttery just like classic shortbread and rich with chocolate flavor from both cocoa powder and chopped white chocolate. A sprinkle of good-quality flaky sea salt is a luxurious contrast to the rich dessert.

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