5 Perfect Picnic Menus

Here's what you need to know to create the perfect outdoor meal
5 Perfect Picnic Menus

Take some of the planning out of your picnic prep with these menu suggestions.

There are few things as wonderful as an outdoor meal when the weather's nice, but sometimes a casual backyard barbecue can turn into a full-blown, labor-intensive dinner party. By the time you prepare the make-ahead dishes (can't have a barbecue without potato salad!), clean the grill, and mix up a pitcher of super refreshing lemonade, the odds are good you'll want to kick back and relax with your guests, not man the grill. For a truly relaxing outdoor meal, consider picnicking. Sure, picnics require a bit of advance planning, but the great thing about them is that all of the cooking is truly done in advance — all you have to do at meal time is assemble and enjoy!

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One of the most important things to consider when you're planning a picnic is how to make the most of the space in your picnic basket — it is possible to pack a delicious and filling meal without carting a heavy basket to and from the picnic site. Choose recipes that incorporate a lot of flavorful ingredients; that way you can avoid packing extras like condiments and seasonings. Instead of a plain roast chicken, for example, pack one that’s been rubbed with herbs or spices and avoid the need to carry extras (like barbecue sauce) in your basket. Similarly, choose salads that are tossed with their dressing in advance (like pasta- or grain-based salads) and you’ll eliminate the need to carry a bottle of salad dressing.

As you plan the contents of your picnic basket, try to think about ways to compose a full meal rather than just packing snacks. As a rule of thumb, try choosing one appetizer or small bite, a salad, a main dish that pairs well with the salad, and a dessert. If you’re hosting a large picnic, you may want to serve two or three appetizers instead.

Want to take the guesswork out of assembling your picnic menu? We've got five menus you can follow to create the perfect outdoor meal.

Appetizer: Caprese Bites


These simple one-bite appetizers are the perfect way to start any picnic. They can be assembled ahead of time and, if you’re trying to save space in your picnic basket, you can skip the oil and vinegar; the skewers will still have lots of flavor.

Salad: Panzanella

Take advantage of summer produce with this delicious and colorful salad; it’s loaded with tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, and fresh basil.

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Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.