Story by Lisa A. Listwa
Summertime means picnic time!
A picnic is a perfect opportunity to enjoy simple, easy meals made with summer’s bounty. It’s also a great way to bring friends and family together to enjoy those wonderful foods and share some laughter, fun, and maybe a little music or some fireworks. Whether you like to picnic in a park or at the beach, outside in the warm sunshine, or even right on the floor in your own living room, a picnic lunch or dinner (or even breakfast) is a must for your summer bucket list!
I’ve pulled together a collection of summertime picnic classics to serve up side-by-side with healthier, updated versions. Our goal is to bring everyone to the table – or rather, the blanket –and offer something for everyone to enjoy, no matter their eating preference.
So, grab your favorite picnic blanket and let’s unpack!
Start off your picnic lunch with a familiar summer appetizer. Go with Classic Devilled Eggs or lighten things up a bit and try Devilled Avocado Eggs. Check out our collection of Devilled Egg recipes in our current issue!
Or maybe you’d rather stick with fun food-on-a-stick ideas for your picnic. Grab a pack of skewers and assemble some Picnic Salad Skewers, Grilled Watermelon Pineapple Skewers, Melon Caprese Skewers, Greek Salad Skewers, or use your imagination to create your own!
Traditional Southern Fried Chicken is a long-standing favorite at summer picnics. For a healthier main dish option, try Grilled Lemon Chicken. A colorful Tomato Melon Chicken Salad with watermelon, raspberries, fresh basil, and salad greens brings the chicken to the picnic and takes advantage of beautiful summer produce. For the non-meat crowd around the picnic blanket, bring along this Lentil Cauliflower Picnic Salad featuring turmeric, cilantro, and red onion.
Another picnic staple is The Perfect Classic Grilled Burger. One of my family’s new favorite burger recipes is this Black Bean Walnut Burger with Saucy Sweet Onions served on a multigrain bun. Add some guacamole or Smoky Tomato Tahini Sauce (or both!) and serve with a Vinegar Coleslaw on the side.
Sandwiches are a great choice for picnic-style eating. Try a Classic New Orleans Muffuletta or a Vegetarian Muffuletta for a hearty, flavorful sandwich option. One of our summer favorites in the sandwich department is something like this Ultimate Veggie Sandwich. We love to make sandwiches from whatever fresh veggies we have around, ripe summer tomatoes, a plant-based protein option like hummus or black bean dip, and whole-grain bread. No two are ever the same and everyone can get involved in making their own personalized version!
Put an interesting spin on Classic Chicken Salad and Classic Tuna Salad sandwiches with updated versions like Tuna Stuffed Avocado or Chicken Piccata Salad. For the vegetarian and vegan picnickers in your group, bring along a batch of Smashed Chickpea Salad sandwiches or Creamy Avocado White Bean Wraps
My family loves deli-style macaroni salad and this Classic Macaroni Salad recipe is our go-to when that craving hits. It’s the perfect version of an iconic summer side dish. Lighten things up a bit with this Healthy Vegan Macaroni Salad for a creamy, tangy remake that everyone will love. Or go with something different and try this veggie-filled Easy Pasta Salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing.
Potato salad is one of my favorite summertime treats and this good old-fashioned version of Classic Potato Salad never fails. When I want a mayo-free version, I love Best Herby Potato Salad for a lighter, healthier version with all the creamy flavor of the traditional. If you prefer a potato salad with a vinaigrette style dressing, Green Bean and Red Potato Salad is another favorite in our kitchen and tastes great warm or cold.
Many a picnic or summer potluck will include Classic Broccoli Salad – you know, the one with the mayo, vinegar, and raisins? Swap in Superfood Broccoli Blueberry Protein Salad for a delicious, power-packed version.
Nothing says summer side dish like Creamy Cucumber Salad made with fresh-from-the-garden cucumbers. A no-mayo Cucumber Salad may not be quite like your grandma’s, but it brings loads of flavor and fresh herbs to the party.
What makes a better side dish for your picnic favorites than a traditional deli-style coleslaw? My husband’s all-time favorite Coleslaw recipe is fast and easy. This vegan Best Healthy Coleslaw Ever recipe absolutely lives up to its name. If you want something for the spicy-loving crew at your picnic, bring along Three Pepper Coleslaw
Don’t forget to bring along the potato chips! They pair perfectly with burgers and summer sandwiches. For a healthier option than store-bought chips, make a batch of simple Homemade Baked Potato Chips. If you want a beautiful, colorful option, try Crispy Oil Free Baked Veggie Chips. Make them from beetroot, carrot, sweet potato, turnip, zucchini, or a combination!
For a summery picnic dessert, you can’t go wrong with fruit salad. Try a Melon Berry Fruit Salad in honey-lime dressing with a mint garnish or this Summer Fruit Salad with tropical fruits like dragon fruit and mango.
When it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fireworks, easy hand-held treats like Fudgy Cocoa Brownies and Cookies are great options. Pass around a container of Vegan Chickpea Blondies, Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies or Zucchini Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for delicious, healthier versions of your picnic favorites.
Picnics are a delicious way to slow down and savor summer’s goodness. Whether your picnic basket includes traditional or updated versions of your favorite picnic foods, the possibilities for a great summer meal are endless. Tap into your personal recipe books or online recipe resources to create a menu that includes your favorites and brings something new and exciting for everyone gathered around the picnic blanket. Add some friends, family, and summer’s warmth for a memorable picnic experience.