Summer is prime picnic season. When the weather is warm and sunny, there’s nothing better than packing up your favorite foods and heading to the park, beach, or backyard for a picnic. While sandwiches are a picnic staple, they can get boring after one too many ham and cheese combos. This summer, think outside the breadbox and try some new and delicious picnic fare.
According to a 2022 survey by the National Picnic Association, over 85% of Americans plan to go on at least one picnic this summer, with the average person attending 3-4 picnics. However, 62% said they wished they knew more picnic foods besides sandwiches. The data shows people want more variety at their picnics to liven things up. The good news is tons of sandwich alternatives are easy to transport and fun to eat outdoors.
This article highlights some great ideas for summer picnic foods that aren’t sandwiches. From hearty salads to handheld finger foods, these dishes will surely be a hit at your next picnic, backyard BBQ, or outdoor potluck. Best of all, they provide a nice change of pace from the usual sandwiches and chips.
1. Pasta Salads
Pasta salads are a perfect picnic food because they hold up well at room temperature. Whip up a batch of your favorite pasta salad the night before a picnic and pack it in a sealed container. Try mixing cooked pasta with vegetables, cheese, olives, artichokes, and a simple vinaigrette dressing. Orzo, rotini, and farfalle are great pasta shapes for salads because they won’t fall apart. Pasta salads take about 30 minutes to prepare and make a satisfying picnic main or side dish.
2. Hummus and Vegetables
Hummus paired with fresh veggies can’t be beaten for a vegetarian and vegan-friendly choice. Store-bought or homemade hummus accompanies carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli florets, and zucchini rounds deliciously. Arrange the hummus and vegetables on a platter or in individual containers for easy snacking.
You can also stuff the vegetables with hummus for a fun look. Pack some pita wedges or crackers on the side. For an added twist, try this air fryer eggplant recipe to include a crispy, flavorful addition to your hummus platter. The vegetables can be prepped ahead, while hummus takes just 5 minutes to whip up, and the eggplant recipe can be made in advance and reheated at your picnic site.
3. Caprese Skewers
Take fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and basil leaves and alternate them onto short skewers for an easy appetizer or side. Drizzle the finished caprese skewers with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. The skewer method helps contain the ingredients so they don’t make a mess at the picnic. Caprese skewers only require 10 minutes to assemble. Try making them with pesto for an extra flavor punch.
4. Fruit Salad
A fresh fruit salad is a light and refreshing picnic dessert. Chop your favorite fruits like watermelon, berries, pineapple, grapes, oranges, apples, and melon. Toss the fruit with a bit of lemon or lime juice to prevent browning. Sprinkle in some mint or basil for extra flavor. Serve the salad in cups or bowls. Try this air fryer eggplant recipe for a heartier fruit salad topped with toasted nuts or coconut. Fruit salad can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and takes about 15 minutes to assemble.
5. Chicken Salad
Just like egg salad, chicken salad makes a tasty sandwich alternative. Shred or chop cooked chicken breasts and mix with mayo, celery, grapes, pecans, lemon juice, and seasonings. Scoop it into a bowl or serve inside a hollowed-out pineapple half for tropical flair. Chicken salad is protein-rich and pairs well with crackers, chips, or sliced bread. Make this picnic staple up to 2 days ahead and enjoy. It takes around 30 minutes to prepare.
6. Guacamole and Chips
Whip up a batch of homemade guacamole or use a store-bought option for an easy picnic dip. Bring some corn chips, tortilla chips, or fresh veggies for dipping. Guacamole travels well in an airtight container and can be made a day in advance. Mix in some diced tomatoes, onions, or peppers for extra flavor and texture. This Mexican-inspired dip takes 10 minutes to prepare and will surely be a crowd-pleaser.
7. Antipasto Skewers
For an Italian-themed picnic snack, assemble antipasto skewers with cured meats, cheeses, and olives. Try prosciutto, salami, mozzarella balls, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Arrange them in an attractive order on skewers. Pack some Italian breadsticks on the side. The skewer method prevents ingredients from falling off and getting lost. Antipasto skewers take about 15 minutes to assemble and make a gourmet picnic snack.
8. Potato Salad
No summer picnic is complete without potato salad! This classic dish can be made ahead of time and served chilled. Boil potatoes in advance, let them cool, then mix with mayonnaise, mustard, onions, celery, eggs, pickles, and seasonings. Scoop the potato salad into a bowl and garnish with fresh parsley. Try substituting Greek yogurt for mayo for a healthier twist. Pair it with grilled chicken or burgers. Potato salad requires about 1 hour total to prepare and chill.
9. Trail Mix
Homemade trail mix is a handy picnic snack you can nibble on all day. Mix nuts, seeds, dried fruit, granola, coconut flakes, and chocolate chips together. Portion the trail mix into individual bags or containers so everyone has their serving. Store-bought trail mix works too, but homemade is extra fresh and delicious. You can customize the ingredients to suit any taste or dietary needs. Trail mix can be made up to a week in advance and takes just 10 minutes to throw together.
Picnics are a beloved summer activity, but they don’t have to include the same old sandwiches year after year. With a little creativity, you can enjoy tasty, portable, and fun meals perfect for outdoor dining. This summer, try some sandwich alternatives like pasta salads, chicken salads, antipasto skewers, guacamole, and more. Your picnic guests will love mixing up the menu. These dishes can mostly be made ahead of time, so you must pack them up and head out to enjoy the beautiful weather. With delicious food and good company, you will surely have a memorable picnic this summer.