Perfect Picnic Food: Packing Summer Flavor

family picnic food

This summer, pack picnic food for lunch or dinner.  Read on for delicious recipes you can use to create on-the-go meal plans, feeding happy people, and keeping the kitchen clean.

It’s summertime. That means eating outside, and while watermelon and snacks go a long way, sometimes you still need a meal. Picnic recipes need to be crowd-pleasing and easy to grill or pack. I also require quick prep for my picnic menu because when six people need sunscreen applied, my cooking time is limited.

Read on for some easy picnic food ideas for the pool, beach, park, or even backyard.

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Beautiful photo of an outside picnic setup by @myprettypicnic.cali

What Food Do You Bring on a Picnic?

The name of the game is simplicity. You don’t want something you’ll have to hear up, nor anything that needs to stay icy cold. You don’t want anything with a delicate construction (think tacos). That being said, salads, sandwiches, and one-dish meals are going to be your best friend. Chicken salad, lunch meat roll-ups, egg salad, and dry snack foods are all good options. A charcuterie board like the one below by Kindra’s Kitchen has the perfect mix of savory and sweet healthy treats!

Picnic Food: Salads

Salads are easy to prep and transport. While potato salad, egg salad, and fruit salad all make great sides, the right salad can be the main course. Especially if it’s loaded with tasty vegetables and proteins. Here are some of my picnic favorites.

Shauna Niequist Summer Salad

Shauna posted about this easy-to-make recipe on her Facebook page years ago, and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since. Raw corn! Finally! Here’s all you need: 6 ears of raw corn cut off the cob, halved grape tomatoes, crumbled feta, cut cucumber, minced red onion, salt, and pepper.

Yes. That’s IT: perfect picnic menu item, make-ahead, family-friendly, and a colorful crowd-pleaser. You didn’t even have to cook the corn.

Picnic Pasta Salad

This picnic pasta salad does double-time as the main dish, as it includes everything you could need for any meal, ever. Use this picnic idea for the kid who just wants to load up on cheese balls. Eat this first, and then let him loose. It’s summer!

Picnic Pasta Salad

This is a yummy and light recipe that can be easily modified for picky eaters!
4.17 from 6 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 10 people
Calories 430 kcal


  • 1 box macaroni (or pasta of choice) (cooked according to package directions and cooled) 16 oz.
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese diced
  • 1 cup diced salami
  • 1 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 1 6-ounce can pitted black olives
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 1/2 cup diced dill pickle
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • salt and pepper (to taste)


Picnic Pasta Salad

  • Combine pasta, cheese, salami, peas, olives, celery, onion, and pickles in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir into pasta mixture, then cover.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until served.


Calories: 430kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 13gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 11gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 544mgPotassium: 242mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 298IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 108mgIron: 1mg
Keyword dinner, salad, summer
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Greek Chickpea Salad with Lemon Dressing

Chickpeas are full of protein and perfect for a light, summer salad to take along with you. These hearty beans are versatile, tasty, and easy to prep. This chopped Greek chickpea salad recipe comes together in 20 minutes or less. Its packed with Mediterranean flavors, chickpeas, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, olives, and a light lemon juice dressing. Chickpea salad is great on picnic sandwiches, too!

Berry Spinach Salad with a Raspberry Vinaigrette

Berries are a great addition to a summer salad, especially when they’re fresh and in season. Try a power berry spinach salad loaded with delicious sweet berries, baby spinach, sliced almonds, and crumbles of feta or blue cheese. Then toss it with a homemade sweet and tangy raspberry vinaigrette! Yum!

What Are Some Good Picnic Foods for Kids?

You have to please the masses, and sometimes those masses are picky. Here are some kid-friendly picnic food recipes that your kiddos will enjoy.

5-ingredient Pizza Skewers

Pizza isn’t the easiest to transport, but if you pack these ingredients, the kids can construct them themselves when they get to the picnic. I love a gross motor activity combined with a no-cook meal. That means more time I get to relax and sip my iced tea. Bring along a container filled with cherry tomatoes, sticks of string cheese cut in three sections, pepperoni slices, and Sabra pizza hummus singles for dipping. If your kid is adventurous and likes more variety in pizza toppings (like olives) pack those, too!

Corn Dog Mini Muffins

Most kids love old-fashioned corndogs, and what’s not to love? These bit-size mini-muffin versions are so much easier to transport. While you can make the batter from scratch, you can just as easily use a box mix like Jiffy. After pouring your batter into the muffin pan, put one-inch pieces of lil’ smokies into the center of each muffin and bake. Kelly from The Anthony Kitchen perfected these corn dog muffins and our mouth is watering just looking at her photo below!

Mini Taco Hand Pies

Do your kids love tacos, but struggle with the inevitable taco collapse that happens mid-bite? With these adorable mini hand pies, they get all the same flavors in a much more picnic-friendly way. Use a boxed pie crust, cut into 3-inch circles, fill with black beans, cooked meat, and cheese, then top with another circle. Press the edges with a fork to seal, brush with an egg wash, then bake! We love these cute taco hand pies made by @tshellbriggs_ and @cookingupmemoriesinsta.

What should I Pack for a Picnic for 2?

So…you’re planning a romantic meal al fresco, huh? Skip the fried chicken and bbq baby back ribs, your sweetheart will appreciate it. Start with a big picnic basket, a soft blanket (that you are able to wash in case of spills), a cooler or ice to keep your food or beverages chilled, and all the right cutlery and utensils. Don’t forget some wet wipes, too, so you can tidy up after your outdoor meal.

If you’re looking for picnic food ideas, pick something light, but filling. Try charcuterie with an array of meats, crackers, dried fruit, cheeses, bread, and antipasto bite-sized appetizers. Bring fruits like grapes or strawberries. Have popcorn or a baguette to share. Bring sparkling wine for some refreshment, too! Kelly Miller brought out all the stops in the delicious-looking picnic meal below!

Grilled Picnic Food You Haven’t Thought of

Want to grill but tired of burgers? Kabobs are easy to prep and pack. Wholesome Foodie Mom on the Street Amy Rains recently posted a new twist on classic kabobs, using the delightful summertime taste blend of pineapple and shrimp.

Wrapped Picnic Main Courses

But if you want to arrive at the picnic or pool with grab-and-go finger food, try a wrap or sandwich recipe. This cobb salad wrap sandwich is a winner for all the picnic food groups. Hummus and Veggies, cheese and crackers, and cookies are always good go-to’s too like in the picture below!

Chicken avocado roll-ups use a mayo-free chicken salad for a pre-made, pre-wrapped, one-handed dinner.

But if your dinner crew is one of the highest culinary tastes…give them homemade uncrustablesPeanut butter and jelly hits the spot in the summer, and you can do your own ahead of time, freeze, and with less sugar. So they are primed for the popsicles.

Picnic Food: Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and Veggies are a must for every meal. So how do we make them more festive for an outside event? One magic word: dip. As in this Farm Stand Fruit Dip, gluten-free, made with cream cheese and marshmallow cream. Keep the fruit coming!

Looking for a friend for your veggies? Make use of my favorite Trader Joe’s seasoning and make this Everything but the Bagel dip and watch even the celery disappear.

We love how Melissa Geraghty made this adorable platter for her kids filled with lots of fruit including mini watermelon slices, strawberries, and banana slices. Those cute toast slices, sausages and dip, and crackers look super delicious too!

Win Dessert at the Pool or Picnic

Dessert outside in the summer can be as easy as fudge pops. (And really, what is better?) But if you want to make a sweet-it’s-summer statement, go for the Dirt Cake. People just don’t make this enough. And it’s so thrilling when it appears. Let’s, together, make More Dirt Cake a goal.

Poolside Party Fluff had me at the name. There are a million ways you can vary this recipe to please your Fluff Eaters, i.e., more chocolate, less coconut, all the fun.

Picnic Friendly Is Summer Friendly

Summertime is time to be out – out of the kitchen, house, and out of the water just long enough to grab some yummy food. Hot dogs and potato salad are only the beginning. Get creative with what you pack in the cooler! Enjoy the flavors of pools and summer picnics all season long.

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