Picnic Ideas for Creating the Perfect Outdoor Meal

BY: Dan Delagrange |May 22, 2017

It's hard to imagine someone hating picnics. They combine good food, family and friends, being outside in gorgeous weather, and did we mention the food? And while there are certain hiccups that are simply unavoidable at a picnic—think unexpected rain or bees that just won't accept that that slice of pie is not theirs—what you prep and bring along can make or break the event. With that in mind, we've gone item-by-item to put together picnic ideas and suggested dishes that'll help you create the perfect picnic basket.


Avoid Leafy Greens and Creamy Dressings

Salads can often be a breezy afterthought; an obvious precursor the main dish. But try taking even a simple garden salad on a picnic, and things get complicated fast. Greens can wilt, creamy dressings spoil easily on the go, and eating from plastic bowls when it's windy can be tricky.

Subbing out lettuce and spinach for something sturdier, like a grain, helps your salad travel better, and you can still get your veggie fix simply by mixing them in. And when it comes to dressing, consider going for a vinaigrette instead of something like ranch or bleu cheese. To make it all super picnic-friendly, put it in mason jars instead of flimsy plastic bowls.

Recommended dish: Farro Greek salad with cucumbers, red onions, olives, and cherry tomatoes in a Greek vinaigrette dressing


Wait on Building Them Until You're There

It might seem counterintuitive to wait until you're actually picnicking to make some of your food, but you'll thank yourself when it comes to sandwiches. The longer your sandwich parts mingle between the bread and among the melting ice in your picnic basket, the more soggy and less fresh they'll feel when you take them out.

Instead, keep your sandwich items separated in zip-top plastic bags or sealed containers. Whether you're going for something as simple as a deli sub or something a little more elaborate, it'll taste that much better once you bring it all together at your picnic site. Plus, letting everyone put together their own sub can be pretty fun and prevents that stack of unwanted pickles from piling up.

Recommended dish: Turkey caprese sandwiches with grilled turkey breast, sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, and pesto on an italian loaf


Don't Be Afraid to Get Fancy

Picnics by nature are unpretentious, and go-tos like cookies, chips, and pretzels make perfect picnic food. But since it's a little more difficult to translate entrées into picnic form—after all, you'll be limited in terms of cooking tools and methods—sides are where you have the most freedom to bring a sit-down-meal vibe to your picnic. Here's where you can get creative with your picnic ideas! Landing on a dish that combines the finger-friendliess of those old standbys with one with some bistro flair is easier than you might think.

Recommended dish: Cheese tasting board with a sliced baguette, spreadable cheeses (brie and camembert, for example), and red grapes


Get a Head Start on Chilling Them

No matter what you decide on when it comes to picnic drinks, you should take time to get them to the right temperature. Among picnic bummers, lukewarm drinks are high on the list. Get everything bottled and into the fridge the night before, and when you're picking up drinkware supplies, go for larger chunks of ice instead of small cubes if possible—the former will resist melting longer than the latter.

Recommended drink: If you're packing Coke for the kids, bring along a bottle of red wine for the grownups; just don't forget the wine opener! Mixing the two which, at first, may sound like an odd pairing. But Coke with wine actually gets you a deliciously simple kalimotxo, a popular cocktail in Spain.