The Best Foods To Bring To Your Next Picnic

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The Best Foods To Bring To Your Next Picnic

Picnic season is finally upon us in most parts of the U.S. It’s warm enough to enjoy an afternoon outside without bringing a coat along, but it’s not so hot that you’ll be sweating through your t-shirt if you can’t manage to find a spot in the shade. The days are getting longer, but that late-summer malaise that makes you want to stay in the air conditioning in the evenings is still months away.

Whether you’re just heading to the park with your partner or family or you’re going to a large picnic party with a bunch of friends, you’ll want to make sure you bring along dishes that are easy to eat, aren’t that messy and that will hold up after some time in the hot sun. Wondering what you’re going to contribute to the menu? Let’s take a closer look at some of the best foods you can bring to a picnic.


Salads are obviously a top choice for picnics because they’re fresh, easy to prepare and generally pretty portable. But you’ll want to think carefully about the kind of salad you decide to make. Salads with delicate leafy greens like arugula and baby spinach will likely wilt quickly in the sun, and they can get soggy in transport. Instead, you’re better off going with hardier greens, like kale. Of course, you don’t have to make a greens-based salad at all. A chopped salad with ingredients like cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, chickpeas and feta is a great option, as is any pasta- or potato-based salad.


Sandwiches in any form are popular for picnics, but a sub is a particularly good option if you’re looking for a dish that’s easy to share. Make your own sub at home or grab one at your favorite sandwich shop, then cut it up into several individual-sized pieces for your fellow picnickers to grab. Running late? You can even bring the ingredients along and construct your sandwich at the park if you’re running late.

Cut Fruits and Veggies

It doesn’t get much simpler—or fresher—than cut fruits and veggies. They’re easy to snack on as a side dish, and they take essentially no prep work. Just cut them up (or buy pre-cut), throw them in a sealable container and show up at the park. Add dips like hummus or ranch if you want a more flavorful experience.

Spring Rolls

I personally believe that spring rolls are one of the absolute best dishes you can bring to a picnic. They’re handheld, so you don’t need any utensils to eat them, and they’re filled with fresh, crunchy produce, which is exactly what hits the spot during a sunny day at the park. You can add whatever vegetables, meat or protein sources you want, and you can easily bring a dipping sauce along as well.

Fried Chicken

Fried chicken may not be the all-time most popular picnic food out there, but hear me out when I say it’s a great way to feed a crowd at a picnic. You can’t let it sit out too long, but while it’s still nice and hot, it’s great for grabbing and gnawing even if you’re not using a picnic table. Can it get a little messy? Sure. But bring plenty of napkins, and you’ll be fine. I like pairing my fried chicken with a fresh green salad (and maybe a cold beer or glass of wine). Although you can always make your own fried chicken for your next picnic, ordering a bucket to-go is the easier option.

Tinned Fish

Tinned fish has seen a lot of hype over the past few years, but I for one am not over it yet. While tinned fish may seem more at home at a trendy restaurant or your own kitchen table for an at-home date night, it’s also a great option for a picnic (providing you make sure not to spill the fish-infused oil the seafood is packed in). Bring some crackers or fresh bread along, and you have a summery seafood spread that requires basically no prep.

You don’t have to stick to these dishes to have a picture-perfect picnic, but they can help you get started on planning your next outdoor culinary adventure. Don’t forget to pack a comfortable blanket, some plastic cups, and of course, plenty of cold drinks.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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