a roasted lemon and crispy chicken skin sandwich recipe on top of a paper napkin lying on fake green grass; part of a white picnic basket sits in the background
Photo by Heami Lee

30 Picnic Recipes Since You Deserve More Than Just Potato Salad

You might not have a yard, but you can get to a park and that’s good enough.
May 22, 2018, 4:14pm

When the thermometer finally creeps above 70 degrees, there’s something uniquely wonderful about dedicating an entire afternoon to posting up at your local park for an impromptu picnic with great snacks, a cozy blanket, and *winks* maybe even a nice, cold, discreetly-consumed beverage. (As for those of you with a backyard, well, aren't you special?)

No matter how spur-of-the-moment your outdoor dining might be, you should have a few crowd-pleasing recipes for picnic fare tucked in your back pocket—things that are easy to transport and can be assembled right there in the park. Bonus points for anything that can be eaten with one hand so the other hand can be kept free for whatever you're sipping.


We think you’ll find plenty of picnic inspiration in these recipes, but it's up to you not to forget the sunblock.

Roasted Lemon and Crispy Chicken Skin Sandwich Recipe

There will be no soggy bread and mushy chicken salad at this picnic, thank you very much. This chicken sandwich is all about the crunch—from the crusty sourdough bread, to the very welcome addition of crispy, golden chicken skin.

Spicy Cabbage and Bacon Cake Salé Recipe

Pastry chef Zoe Kanan is known for her pastries and sweets, but she proved to us that cake can be savory too. Her spicy cabbage and bacon cake isn't just the best way to use up fridge leftovers—it's also a picnic-friendly meal that you can eat with your hands in case you forget the forks again.

Cheese and Onion Frittata Recipe

Frittata is one of those magical foods that you can make with pretty much anything and serve for any meal of the day. Cheese and onions fill this frittata, though you can go wild and add whatever you'd like. Eat it as-is, or turn it into sandwiches once you find your perfect picnic spot.

Chili Dogs Recipe

Chili Dogs Recipe

Commandeer one of those square grills on a pole at the park and throw as many hotdogs as you can fit on that thing. Bring the rest of the toppings for your chili dogs in containers and then DIY as you go.

Crunchy Vinegar Lentils with Herbs Recipe

There are a lot of things to love about this simple lentil recipe: it's crunchy, it's sour, it's packed with herbs, it's vegan, and it transports beautifully, no matter how far your picnic plans take you.

Crunchy Chicken Salad Recipe

Not-Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe

Chicken salad is a classic picnic staple, but this version is even better suited to outdoor consumption and picnic transport, with a light dressing of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil instead of temperature-sensitive mayo.

Whipped Feta and Yogurt Toasts Recipe

Fancy toast is beloved by pretty much everyone. To make these toasts even more picnic-friendly, bring the spread and bread separately and let your friends put them together as they eat.

Super-Crispy Fried Chicken Recipe

This recipe for Matty Matheson’s fried chicken feeds a crowd, and also gives you perfect, crispy skin that makes the whole to-do of home-frying totally worth it.

Fried Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Hero Recipe

Bring this eggplant, mozzarella, and prosciutto hero to the picnic, and you'll be… the hero of the picnic. (Sorry, we had to.)

Meat and Cheese Hand Pies Recipe

Meat and Cheese Hand Pie Recipe

Hand pies—as the name might suggest—fit perfectly in one hand, leaving the other hand free for holding a beer or playing corn hole. We especially love the marmite-enriched meat filling in these New Zealand-inspired hand pies.

Savory Mushroom Galette Recipe

Like a pizza but with a buttery pastry crust, the galette is an easy way to feed a crowd. We love this summery take with mushrooms and goat cheese, but really, the options are endless—just use your favorite vegetable (or fruit).

Easy Heirloom Tomato Pie Recipe

Easy Heirloom Tomato Pie Recipe

Nothing says summer like a really, really good tomato, and this easy pie is our new favorite way to show off them off.

Crispy Oven-Baked Potato Chips Recipe

All good outdoor gatherings require potato chips—that’s just a fact. These homemade potato chips are lighter, crispier, and much more impressive than the stuff in a bag. Plus, they're baked instead of fried, which means less of a headache for you.

Pimento Cheese Recipe

Pimento Cheese Recipe

If you’re new to pimento cheese, it's the creamy, spicy party dip you didn’t know you needed in, like, excessive, gluttonous quantities. Like, a bathtub full of this dip. Chef Ashley Christensen’s version is that good.

Homemade Onion Dip Recipe

Onion Dip Recipe

Our from-scratch recipe for onion dip is way better than the dehydrated onion soup packets mixed with sour cream. JK—we’ll always love you, Lipton, but there's room for more than one onion dip in our hearts.

Simple Potato Salad Recipe

Simple Potato Salad Recipe

A picnic is not complete without something starchy smothered in mayonnaise. The crunchy, briny little pickle bits in this potato salad are what make it stand out from the rest.

Watermelon with Homemade Tajín Recipe

Watermelon slices make a perfect dessert for a picnic, but drizzle them with hot sauce and sweet, crunchy peanuts, and they make an even better side dish. Plus, you can eat it on a stick.

Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

Tabbouleh is super easy to make in large quantities, and it can be the perfect side for any picnic—full of lemon and herbs, this salad will feel refreshing next to all those fried chicken legs and chips.

Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Pasta salad is another summer party staple, and this pasta salad recipe combines all the best bits from an Italian hoagie for an easy dish everyone will love. (It tastes like pizza—need we say more?)

Grilled Corn Summer Salad Recipe

This sweet corn salad is almost like eating elote, but with a spoon instead of on a stick. Combining crunchy with creamy, it'll be a hit at any summer meal.

Garlic Scape and Radish Focaccia Recipe

The best thing about this easy focaccia is that it's versatile. Dip it into olive oil or spread it with butter, and it's delicious. Or go the extra step and use it for sandwiches, which will instantly go from an okay sandwich to a truly great sandwich.

Pimm's Cup Recipe

Pimm's Cup Recipe

Pimm's Cup is the perfect day-drinking beverage, as it’s low in alcohol and utterly refreshing. Feel free to go big and turn the classic summer drink into a popsicle, too.

Rosemary Refresher Recipe

Make a big batch of this rosemary cocktail before you hit the park for easy sipping all afternoon. Hide it in a giant Gatorade jug or something—we won't tell.

Sun Tea Recipe

Sun Tea Recipe

We’re not sure if there’s actually any benefit to letting your tea brew in the sun, but there’s something so quaint and quintessentially summery about the idea of sweet sun tea.

Phrosties Recipe

Phrosties Recipe

Once upon a time, phrosties were an illicit summer beverage that took New York by storm for a fleeting season, before their creators were driven underground by killjoy Senator Chuck Schumer. Now you can taste a bit of illegal New York summertime history and make them yourself.

Fig, Ricotta, and Polenta Cake Recipe

This slightly sweet and delicate cake is perfect for dessert, but it's just as good at breakfast or as a snack—basically, it's a good option no matter when you decide to have your picnic.

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies Recipe

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies Recipe

Brownies are a sure thing for dessert any time, but since they don’t need to stay cold (or hot, for that matter), they're make the perfect picnic dessert.

Mixed Berry Pie Recipe

Mixed Berry Pie Recipe

It’s probably not a summer picnic if you don’t get something stained with berry juice. Make this mixed berry pie with whatever fruit's the ripest, and don't forget to bring a pint of ice cream along too.

Strawberries with Macadamia Nuts and Whipped Cream Recipe

An ideal picnic dessert is a simple one. Fresh fruit + fresh whipped cream + crunchy nuts = perfection. The lemon zest and touch of salt make this dessert greater than the sum of its parts.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

When all else fails, chocolate chip cookies are the answer—ain't nobody mad at a perfect, homemade chocolate chip cookie.

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