Healthy Picnic Food Ideas for Every Summer Gathering
With these picnic food ideas and recipes, you'll be able to host an outdoor breakfast, happy hour, or dinner that no one will soon forget.
The Breakfast Bash
Picnics don't have to be in the middle of a hot afternoon-and these breakfast picnic food ideas prove just that. Step 1: set out a lavish pancake bar. Griddle up a stack ahead of time, and serve with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. Think fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt, honey, nuts, muesli, cacao nibs, hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, herbs, capers, and kimchi. Create your own, or try the combos here. (Whatever you do, don't use the bland boxed mix for your picnic 'cakes. These recipes will create the best pancakes you've ever tasted.)
- Smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion, capers, chives
- Ricotta, raspberries, honey, hazelnuts, muesli
- Vanilla yogurt, sliced banana, peanut butter, cacao nibs, pecans
Wine & Cheese Happy Hour
PSA: Picnic food ideas don't need to be complicated. For a happy hour-style picnic, just grab a bunch of bites, some rosé, and you're good to go.
You'll want to include hard and soft cheeses, fruit, nuts, crackers, and vegetables. Check out the delicious dip recipes below, but these munchies should help get your board started. (BTW, there's an entire Instagram account that will teach you how to build cheese boards.)
- Heirloom cherry tomatoes
- Red wine cheddar cheese
- Grilled halloumi cheese
- Nuts and seeds crackers
- Sliced plums with shredded basil
Orange and Olive Oil Whipped Feta
A wine and cheese outing doesn't limit you to rounds of Brie. One option? Whip feta into a refreshing dip flavored with olive oil and orange zest. Then, slather it on your crackers and cucumber slices, or eat it by the spoonful. There are no wrong answers with this picnic food idea. (Have a few plant-based eaters at the party? Make these vegan dips to keep them satisfied.)
Blueberry, Corn, and Cilantro-Pesto Succotash
For produce at your picnic, you can stick to your go-to fruit salad and crudité platter-or you can throw together this addictive succotash. It takes advantage of corn, blueberries, jalapeño, and cucumber, all of which are in season right now. And if you're #TeamSpicy, leave in the jalapeño seeds for an extra kick.
Curried Sweet Potato-Mango Dip
Salads On a Skewer
With no dressing, no tossing, and no need for silverware, salad kabobs are your new picnic BFF. Try these combos inspired by the classics (and then check out more food on a stick here).
- Wedge chicken salad: chicken, grapes, iceberg lettuce, blue cheese
- Greek salad: cherry tomatoes, dolmas, feta, olives
- Meat and potato salad: steamed baby potatoes, red leaf lettuce, roast beef, pickles
An Elegant Outdoor Dinner
The evening is, without question, the best time to take your meal outside. The setting sun won't leave you dripping in sweat, and the picnic food ideas become the most creative. Create a sophisticated and healthy spread with the following chilled soups, toasts, and wraps.
Persian Cold Yogurt Soup Jars
Chilled soup? For summer? Groundbreaking. But in all seriousness, this Persian cold yogurt soup is a must for any dinnertime picnic. The reason: It doesn't even need to be cooked-meaning you don't have to stand over a hot pot for hours. Just whip it up in advance and keep it chilled. Then serve it in small jars for a pretty starter or side. (These chilled soups will keep you cool on toasty evenings too.)
Hoisin Mango-Chicken Cabbage Wraps
Wraps make evening picnicking easy. Assemble these chicken cabbage wraps beforehand, or lay out all the ingredients-including rice, chicken, mango, bell peppers, and more-and let guests have fun creating their own. (Everyone will also love these tuna lettuce wraps.)
While there's nothing like a classic bruschetta, sometimes the heart wants something a little more adventurous. When that's the case, turn to this hearty picnic food idea. A mixture of pistachios, peas, and peppers spread upon a baguette transform a carb-heavy appetizer into into a delicious (and healthy) side dish. (Next, check out these creative recipes for a healthier picnic.)
Green Bean Slaw with Dill and Burrata
The browning bag of vacuum-sealed green beans at the grocery store simply can't compete with fresh green beans from the farmers' market. So when you do have the pleasure of cooking them, make sure you create a dish where they can truly shine. And this picnic food idea does just that. The green beans are cooked until just tender, giving them a crisp bite that pairs perfectly with the ultra-soft burrata. (Love burrata? You'll go gaga for this cheesy squash pizza.)
One of the best characteristics of corn is its adaptability, something this picnic food idea makes the most of. Whole ears of corn are grilled and smothered in a kimchi-mayonnaise mixture, then sprinkled with chives, sesame seeds, and gochugaru (a ground red pepper used in Korean cuisine). You definitely won't be needing salt and pepper for this one.
Gochujang Chicken and Vegetables
For a Korean-inspired main meal, make a batch of this hot and spicy grilled chicken. The marinade of gochujang, mirin, sake, vinegar, oil, garlic, and ginger create a flavorful crust on the chicken thighs, while the side of fresh veggies give your tongue a bit of relief from the spices. Just note that you'll need about three hours to make this dish from start to finish, so plan your picnic accordingly.
Multi-Grain Rice with Chickpeas
This picnic food idea is sure to make your plant-based guests feel warm and welcome. The sushi rice, black rice, and millet in this power bowl are a refreshing change from the usual brown variety. Plus, the chickpeas offer a punch of protein and fiber, no animal products required.
Fresh Vegetable and Kimchi Platter
This picnic food idea is truly freestyle eating. Just pile any of the vegetables below and kimchi on your plate, along with the chicken, grilled vegetables, green bean slaw, and rice, and top with Ginger-Scallion Sauce. Or make lettuce wraps using any of the ingredients you choose.
- Kimichi, like Napa cabbage or daikon
- Radishes, halved
- Fresh basil
- Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
- Carrots, peeled and shaved into ribbons
- Fresh cilantro
Triple Berry Oat-Quinoa Crumble
It's not a true picnic without a berry-bursting dessert. This picnic food idea is loaded with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, and it packs a few health perks thanks to the fiber-filled oats and quinoa flour. Just bring a ladle and pint of ice cream, and dig in!
Plum and Aperol Spritz
The Aperol spritz has long been the Official Drink of Summer, and it's time for an upgrade. This version contains juicy plums to sweeten the cocktail and add unexpected flavor.
Braised Artichokes and Spring Vegetables with Preserved Lemon-Fennel Relish
This picnic food idea may be a bit messy if you're eating out of styrofoam plates on a blanket, but its flavor profile makes it well-worth the clean-up. The hearty artichokes, carrots, leeks, and turnips involved will help you use up your farmers' market haul, and the wine-infused sauce and lemony relish bring some much-needed brightness to the dish. (And that's just one of the delicious ways to use your leftover wine.)
Za'atar-Sumac Asparagus with Lime and Whipped Goat Cheese
This isn't the soggy asparagus your mom made you as a kid. The picnic food idea involves roasting the veggie until it's crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, combining it with homemade croutons, and balancing out all the crunch with super smooth goat cheese. You'll want to break out the real silverware for this dish. (Related: How to Play Up Texture to Make Your Meal More Satisfying)
Chiles, Carrots, and Chickpeas with Radish-Avocado Salad
You can't go wrong with a Greek salad, but if you're looking to bring something new and exciting to your outdoor get-together, turn to this picnic food idea. The carrots pack some heat, thanks to the guajillo chiles and chipotles in adobo, but the earthy, creamy avocado offers some balance to the spice and crunch. Don't forget to stash some tortillas in your picnic basket serve alongside the dish.
Sugar Snap Peas and Butter Beans with Dill, Feta, and Coriander Crumbs
This picnic food idea proves that canned beans aren't just for chili. The side dish features creamy butter beans and crunchy snap peas - both of which have been simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce - as well as a base of bulgar (though you can swap for quinoa or couscous if that's all you have). Hunks of sheep's milk feta give the dish a creamy finish that will have you going back for seconds.
Turmeric Rice-Stuffed Leeks
You've probably had your fair share of stuffed peppers and squash, but chances are, you've never tried leeks filled with thoroughly seasoned rice and peas. And luckily, you can now get your fix with this picnic food idea. The dish features basmati rice dressed in mustard, vinegar, and miso, oven-roasted leeks, and dried apricot for a touch of sweetness. Just know that it takes nearly an hour to create, so plan your pre-feast schedule accordingly.