Summer Salads for Potlucks and Picnics

From EatingWell Magazine

Picnics and BBQs tend to conjure up images of hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled chicken. But we all know it’s your aunt’s famous salad recipe that keeps everyone coming back for second helpings. Salads are great dishes to bring to get-togethers. They’re portable, don’t require reheating and can be tweaked endlessly to create new variations. Keep these tips for summer entertaining in mind the next time you’re looking for a dish to bring to a potluck barbecue. 

Prep the night before.

Shorten your to-do list by choosing a salad recipe that can be prepped the night before, like potato salad or a grains-based salad. Cut down on prep time by buying precut vegetables, and pick a salad that will stand up to being transported to the party.

Adapt your recipe for outside eating.

Pick a salad that can be eaten with a fork and in a setting where you’re not necessarily sitting down. Chop vegetables and protein into small pieces that can be speared easily with plastic utensils.

Dress with care.

Elect to use a thicker salad dressing that won’t soak through paper plates or drip into someone’s lap, and save the dainty lettuce leaves for inside parties. Wait until the last moment to dress your salad, unless it’s a hearty grains-based dish that would benefit from marinating in the dressing.

Try coleslaw for a lighter summer dish.

If you love traditional creamy picnic side dishes like mayo-based potato salad but are looking for something a little more diet-friendly, try coleslaw instead. It can satisfy a craving for something creamy for far fewer calories. Plus, cabbage is also a rich source of vitamin C. 

Get inspired by seasonal produce. 

Go to the supermarket and see what looks freshest, then plan a dish around it. You’re likely to leave with bunches of lettuce and plenty of brightly colored veggies for inspiration. If the tomatoes look amazing, consider bringing a Caprese salad. If strawberries look ripe and juicy, you might bring a spinach salad studded with berries and goat cheese. And not only do vegetables and fruits lend flavor and color, they’re also full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

And remember: everyone loves apps. Cut-up veggies with dip make a great (and easy!) appetizer that can be prepped ahead of time and set out while you’re laying the table. Spinach dip is an easy option, and if you swap out the full-fat mayo and sour cream for low-fat cottage cheese and nonfat plain yogurt, you can make it healthier, too.

Transport your dish safely.

When you bring a dish to a picnic, make sure you keep it at the right temperature until you’re ready to serve it. Transport cold dishes in a cooler and keep them cold until you eat. Heat foods that are served warm just before the meal. Everything will taste fresher, and food-safety risk will be reduced as well.

Pictured Recipe: Green Salad with Peaches, Feta & Mint Vinaigrette

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