Eating outside is one of summer’s joys, and having a picnic with friends or family members is a wonderful way to spend a lazy summer day. The best picnic food ideas aren’t only delicious, they should also be simple to make in advance and easy to eat outside. They should also hold up well in a cooler, and ideally, not require many (or any!) utensils to serve.

So, from hearty sandwiches to refreshing salads and flavoursome dips, here are 10 picnic recipe ideas to take your picnic to the next level – as well as some top picnic tips and tricks!

1. Assorted sandwiches

Assorted sandwiches

Sandwiches are perhaps the best picnic food around. They don’t take up much space in your cooler or picnic basket, and are easy to eat with your hands. It’s best to go for sturdier bread if you’re not a fan of soggy sandwiches – ciabatta, baguettes, bagels, crusty rolls and sourdough all work well.

It’s always nice to have a selection of sandwiches to enjoy on a picnic. If you like cheese sandwiches, why not make a Caprese sandwich, which contains creamy mozzarella, juicy tomatoes, and zingy basil? It’s a summery take on a classic cheddar and tomato sandwich!

Or why not make a chickpea salad sandwich, which is a healthy plant-based take on the traditional picnic favourite of chicken salad? Crisp cucumber and radish work really well with the creamy chickpea filling, and served on a soft baguette it’s perfect for a picnic.

If you want to make a sandwich that actually becomes tastier as it sits, why not make this tomato, basil, and artichoke sandwich? You can make it the day before your picnic, and because the tomato and artichoke juices have a whole night to mingle, the following day this sandwich will be taken to the next level!

For more sandwich inspiration, check out The Spruce Eats’ guide to the best picnic sandwiches.

Tip: If you’re worried about your sandwiches going soggy when using salad in your sandwiches, it can help to toast the bread beforehand (even just lightly) and let it cool. This will help the bread to keep its rigidity and absorb less moisture. Your choice of bread also plays a role too; crusty rolls, baguettes, and ciabatta are sturdier and less likely to go soggy.

Adding a thin layer of olive or cool, melted butter on the inside of each piece of bread can also help to prevent it from absorbing excess moisture by acting as a barrier between the bread and the filling.

2. Pasta salad

Pasta salad

Like sandwiches, pasta salad is another picnic staple. Pasta salads are easy to make ahead of time, and unlike leafy salads, they won’t go soggy in the sun! Just remember to add any fresh herbs at the last minute – you can even bring them along in a separate container for maximum freshness.

For a fresh-tasting pasta salad that’s packed with summer flavours, why not try this broccoli pesto pasta from I Heart Umami? Easy, nutritious, and delicious, this pesto pasta salad recipe is excellent served cold – although you can heat up any leftovers to finish at home, too.

Or why not try Yotam Ottolenghi’s healthy pasta salad with spring vegetables and tomatoes? Bursting with fresh herbs and citrus flavours (and with a refreshing sweet twist from the ripe cherry tomatoes and charred sugar snap peas), it’s made for hot summer days.

Another healthy pasta salad that’s perfect for picnics is this rainbow orzo salad by Love + Lemons. Tangy feta cheese is perfectly offset by sweet and refreshing mango, chickpeas provide plant-based protein, and cucumber, tomatoes, onions, olives, and mint make sure each bite is packed with flavour.

3. Pasties


Quiches, sausage rolls, and Scotch eggs are picnic staples in the UK – and if you want to make some of your own to take on a picnic, just head over to our article on Platinum Jubilee recipes, where we link out to some of the most delicious quiche, sausage roll and Scotch egg recipes around.

But if you want to make something a bit different but still fancy some savoury pastries, why not make some pasties? To make a classic Cornish pasty with beef, swede, onion, and potato, head over to Olive Magazine – and to make a veggie alternative, check out Jamie Oliver’s recipe.

Or why not add a South American touch and make some empanadas? Empanadas are popular all over Latin America, and because they’re easy to eat and handheld they’re perfect for picnics. Why not try these cheese and caramelised onion empanadas from Delicious Magazine?

If you prefer spicy snacks, why not make some Jamaican patties? Made with beef that’s seasoned with curry, chilli peppers, garlic and onions, and with a distinctly yellow pastry, this patty is similar to a Cornish pasty – but with a real kick! Try this recipe from Gimme Yummy, or this veggie alternative by Archana’s Kitchen.

4. Dips


Dips are ideal for picnics. They’re easy to transport, usually pretty simple to make, and are perfect for dipping crisps or crudités into. While shop-bought dips are pretty inexpensive, making your own just makes it that bit more special – so which dips are best for picnics?

If you only make one dip, hummus is a safe bet. Hummus is hugely popular in the UK (three in five households are said to have a tub in the fridge!), and this Middle Eastern dip is packed with vitamins and minerals, and has powerful health benefits. If you’ve not made hummus before, try this recipe from Inspired Taste.

If you prefer creamier dips, why not make some tzatziki? This traditional Greek dip is made with yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, and it’s wonderfully cooling on a hot day. It also tastes great with crunchy crudités! Try this tasty recipe from Love + Lemons.

Or, for something a bit zingier, why not make a salsa? Pico de gallo is a Mexican salsa that’s made with chopped tomatoes, chillies, red onion, coriander and lime, and it’s delicious eaten with tortilla chips. Try this recipe from Simply Recipes – and if you’d like to serve it with guacamole for maximum authenticity, try this tasty guacamole recipe from Downshiftology.

5. Veggie salads

Veggie salads

Salads are perfect for enjoying on a warm summer day – but the problem with making a classic green salad for a picnic is that it doesn’t take long to go limp and soggy. So, if you want to enjoy a veggie salad alongside your pasta salad, it’s important to use ingredients that are more robust.

If you want to get your greens in, kale is a great choice – and it won’t wilt in the sun. This kale salad with a carrot-ginger dressing by Love + Lemons is fresh and energising, and packed with roasted chickpeas, avocado, cranberries, and fresh grated veggies, it’s incredibly wholesome too.

Or why not make another classic picnic dish, the humble potato salad? This potato salad recipe by BBC Good Food elevates this dish to the next level – and to make this dish vegan, simply swap the mayo for vegan mayo and omit the sour cream.

Or for maximum health points, why not make a quinoa salad? This quinoa salad by Cookie + Kate is packed with cucumber, red pepper, red onion, chickpeas, parsley, and a garlicky olive oil and lemon dressing, and it can be easily prepared the day before.

6. Iced tea

Iced tea

Cool, delicious, and refreshing, iced tea is perfect for summer gatherings – so why not make a big batch for your picnic? Homemade iced tea is quick and easy to make. Simply brew the tea in a pan, remove the tea bags after 10 minutes, add sugar and whisk until dissolved, then add cold water and refrigerate until chilled.

If you want to make traditional iced tea, why not try this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen? Or, if you prefer fruitier-tasting iced teas, try this peach iced tea recipe from Minimalist Baker. Whatever style of iced tea you make, remember to serve it over ice with slices of lemon and fresh mint (see the tips and tricks at the end of this article for more on keeping drinks cool!).

Do bear in mind that it’s a good idea to make your tea stronger than usual, as you’ll be adding more cold water later, and serving it over ice means it’ll dilute further. Plus, tea tends to taste weaker once it’s cold, so don’t be afraid of adding extra tea bags!

7. Sangria


If you fancy having an alcoholic drink at your picnic, what about making a big pitcher of sangria? Though it originated in Spain, sangria is now popular all over the world – and the combination of wine, fresh summer fruits, and refreshing sparkling water or juice means this drink is perfect for outdoor gatherings and picnics.

While traditional sangria is made with red wine, you can also make great sangria with white wine or rosé, so it all comes down to preference. And, because you don’t need to use expensive wine to make tasty sangria, it’s a pretty cost-effective drink – even though it feels celebrative!

Traditional red sangria is made with red wine, brandy (though you can also use other liqueur-like Cointreau or Grand Marnier), sparkling water, spices, and fresh fruit – apples, oranges, and berries work really well. If you prefer sweeter sangria, you can add sugar or your choice of sweetener.

To make authentic Spanish-style red sangria, try this traditional recipe from Spanish Sabores. For a refreshing white wine sangria, why not try this recipe from The Spruce Eats? And for a beautiful rosé sangria, try this recipe from A Couple Cooks.

8. Cookies


The best picnics have sweet dishes as well as savoury, but no one wants to be faffing around with melting ice cream or sticky sauces when they’re relaxing on a blanket. Instead, aside from fruit salad, the best desserts to enjoy on a picnic are handheld – like delicious homemade cookies.

You can keep things simple with some classic oatmeal and raisin cookies like these ones from Love + Lemons. Soft, chewy, and with a hint of spice, they’re everything homemade cookies should be – plus, they’re super simple to make.

Or, if you’re a fan of nutty desserts, why not make some peanut butter cookies? With chewy centres, crumbly edges, and an incredibly moreish salty-yet-sweet flavour, peanut cookies are absolutely delicious. Try this recipe from Preppy Kitchen.

The great thing about making homemade cookies is that they’re incredibly easy to adapt, so if you or any of your friends are vegan or gluten-free, there’s a wealth of great recipes online. Try these vegan choc chip cookies by Chocolate Covered Katie, or these gluten-free cookies by Meaningful Eats.

9. Brownies


If you like cookies but prefer richer, chocolatey sweet treats, you might want to make some brownies to enjoy on your picnic. Just like cookies, they’re easily adaptable for different dietary requirements, and they often taste even better on the second day, so they’re perfect for making the day before.

If you’re a fan of Nutella, why not try making these three-ingredient Nutella brownies by Epicurious? The chocolatey-hazelnut spread gives them a deceptively rich and complex nutty flavour – but these gorgeous brownies only take five minutes to prepare and 25 minutes to cook, so it’s about as quick and easy as you can get.

Or, to jazz up the simple brownie, why not make a rocky road? This salted peanut and honeycomb rocky road square recipe by BBC Good Food is a decadent twist on a classic dessert and only takes 15 minutes to prepare.

10. Fruit salads

Fruit salads

Fruit salads are reminiscent of summer, are the perfect way to keep cool, and offer a healthier alternative to cakes and biscuits.

When packing a picnic, it’s generally best to avoid fruit that’s particularly juicy, such as watermelon or mango, as this can lead to a sticky mess everywhere – plus it’s likely to attract insects too. Instead, you could throw together fruits like apples, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and clementines. If you want to add bananas and are worried about them going brown, you could take them with you skin-on and cut them up when it’s time to eat.

For a little something extra, you could pack some cheese slices to go alongside – or Babybels work well too and are low in calories!

Picnic tips and tricks

Picnic tips and tricks

The trick to a perfect picnic spread is often variety. Ideally, you’ll want to have a good mix of bread, wraps, and sandwiches, plenty of salads, crisps/crudites and dips, and perhaps some savoury pastries. Then you should be able to tuck into some sweet treats too, perhaps with a serving of fresh fruit, and have plenty of refreshing beverages to wash it all down with.

But aside from your food, there are other ways you can prepare for a perfect picnic. Here are some of the best tips to take your picnic to the next level.

1. Pick the right place

The best picnics happen in beautiful locations – ideally somewhere scenic and grassy, with plenty of shade. Having trees to shelter under is great for when it gets too hot (or if there’s a spot of rain!), and if you’re picnicking with children, you’ll want to have plenty of space for them to run around.

2. Pack smart

Wicker baskets or hampers might look lovely, but they’re usually pretty heavy – plus they’re not great at keeping food cool. Instead, try using insulated bags or coolboxes; not only do these keep your food nicely chilled, but they’re lighter to carry and often have padding and compartments to keep everything in place. You can also bring along ice cubes to keep your drinks cool!

3. Pack plastic or enamel plates

Paper plates and cups might be light, but they’re not great for the environment – and, they can blow away in a single gust of wind, whether they’re weighed down with food and drink or not. It’s better to take plastic or enamel plates instead. They’re more durable and sustainable, and also won’t go soggy!

4. Avoid messy food

If you have a freezer compartment in your cool box, you might be tempted to bring ice cream along with you – but this melts quickly in the sun, gets your hands sticky, and attracts wasps and other insects. For the same reason, avoid sticky puddings and cakes! Use your freezer compartment to bring along ice cubes for your drinks, and freezer blocks to keep the rest of your food cool.

5. Travel light

Camping chairs, folding tables, and even tents may look nice – but they have to be carried to your picnic location, and they’re not usually light! Prioritise food and drink over any seating arrangements, if possible, and take a large and comfortable blanket instead.

6. Don’t forget your essentials

Aside from food, drink, and a blanket, a good picnic requires other small essentials too! It’s always wise to take sunglasses and sun lotion, even if it’s not that sunny when you leave. Napkins and baby wipes are also good to clean up sticky fingers. Lastly, remember to bring plastic bags to put all your rubbish in when you’re done.

Final thoughts…

Food almost always tastes better outside – and when it’s eaten under the sun in a pretty location, it’s even more delicious. Enjoying a picnic on a summer afternoon is a lovely way to unwind, and because many of the best picnic foods are simple to make, preparing a tasty spread can be quick, easy, and inexpensive.

Just remember to make sure you’ve got the essentials – usually some form of sandwiches, salads and refreshing drinks – and if you’re pushed for time, you can always rely on shop-bought dips, pastries, and desserts to pad out your picnic.