Picnic lunch inspiration...go!

There’s nothing better than eating outdoors on a beautiful day, but sometimes landing on what to make for a picnic doesn’t come as naturally as the decision to host or attend one did. With this in mind, we know our community would love a little inspiration—share your fave ideas and go-to’s below!

Emily Kochman


Kristen W. May 7, 2021
I love a good pasta salad on a picnic! My recent favorite: some nice toothsome pasta with baby arugula (I throw it in when the pasta is hot to wilt it), either toasted pine nuts or walnuts, pickled red grapes (quick pickled in red wine vinegar, salt & sugar), tossed in a pistou of basil, olive oil and garlic. I like to add chunks of sautéed chicken breast for a more complete meal but depends on how hot the day is and how long the chicken would sit if used.
Emily K. May 10, 2021
Yum! Thanks so much, Kristen.
HalfPint May 6, 2021
Sesame noodles are my favorite picnic food. I like the recipes from Nigella Lawson (https://www.nigella.com/recipes/sesame-peanut-noodles) and from Ree Drummond (https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a9398/simple-sesame-noodles/)

The former has peanuts and the latter does not.
HalfPint May 6, 2021
For Nigella's recipe, I use a neutral oil & add a small amount of minced garlic, in lieu of the garlic olive oil. For the sweet chili sauce, I use sriracha.
Emily K. May 10, 2021
Love these recommendations—thanks, HalfPint!
702551 May 6, 2021
A large part of this comes from the facilities available at the picnic site: particularly a grill and running potable water. At my usual football tailgate, we have gas grills to cook a manner of items onsite.

Something else to consider would be how the items are transported. In the trunk of a car in a large ice chest? Or in backpacks while riding bicycles (or public transit)?

Another important factor is the audience. A Japanese "eki-ben" might be more welcomed by some than others, the latter who might be yearning for cold roast chicken and potato salad.

In that sense, a picnic is similar to any other menu plan: choose wisely based on who will be at the table.
Nancy May 6, 2021
702551 - Agree with what you wrote.
A few related points.
If the occasion calls for it and budget allows, buy take out. I find this allows for luxury and/or trying new foods without stocking up on ingredients which - after tasting them - I may not regularly want to use.
For all, consider safety of ingredient selection (mayonnaise a well-known one to avoid) and duration of time food is outside of safety zones (deeply chilled, cooked recently and still hot).
For recipe ideas, also look to BBQ and camping lore (where you cook at the destination) and cuisines that feature room-temperature dishes (for foods cooked at home).
Nancy May 6, 2021
702551 - agree and useful comments.
Also - sometimes get take out, for luxury and/or way to try new foods without investing in new or exotic ingredients you nay not use regularly.
For cooking at the picnic site, in addition to tailgates/BBQ, look at camping menus.
For bringing from home, think of foods already served at room temp in their usual formats...e.g, many Italian vegetable dishes.
Consider safety in prep (e.g., no mayo) and transport (duration of foods in transit if not chilled or heated).
Emily K. May 10, 2021
Thanks, 702551! Agree that location, transportation, and guests are all important to consider.
Emily K. May 10, 2021
And thanks, Nancy—we agree that takeout can be a fun option. And if you do bring something from home, certainly worth considering temperature and safety.
Miss_Karen May 6, 2021
I make chicken salad biscuit pinwheels. Prepare your favorite biscuit dough. Roll into a rectangle, then spread on your chicken salad mixture. Roll the whole thing into a log. Slice about 1 inch thick. Lay them flat on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a bit of cheese on top. Bake until light golden color. Serve with grapes or chopped fruit.
Emily K. May 10, 2021
Picnic perfection! Thanks so much, Miss_Karen.
HalfPint May 14, 2021
Miss_Karen, would you be able to provide a recipe for the chicken salad mixture? TIA!
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