9 Easy Picnic Food Ideas


Summer never seems quite long enough, and no one wants to be stuck inside preparing elaborate meals, which is where these easy picnic food ideas come in. From cool refreshing drinks to hot dogs and salad, we’ve got something for everyone. Toss them together, pack them up, and go enjoy summer.

Two tall glasses filled with Greek-style frappe, with colorful straws standing up in them.

This Greek-style frappe, made with coffee, sugar, water, and milk, is a summer staple. Cool, refreshing, and completely customizable. Here’s how to make it. No blender required.


Keep it cool

Making this to go? Mix up the frappe and pour it into your Corkcicle tumbler, where it will stay cool for hours.

A perfect hot dog in a white bun, topped with a squiggle of mustard.

The best hot dog means knowing the perfect way to cook a hot dog, whether you roast, grill, simmer, microwave, or turn it over an open campfire. Here’s everything you need to know.


Hot dogs and fixings

You’ve got plenty of options with these perfect hot dogs. Pack up your portable grill and bring it along, build an open fire, or steam them at home, tuck them in the bun, wrap in foil and head out.

A bowl of homemade yellow mustard next to a wooden spoon filled with mustard seeds.

Homemade yellow mustard is deceptively simple to make from mustard powder, vinegar, and a couple other basic pantry staples. You just may never go back to store-bought! Here’s how to make it from scratch.


A jar and bowl of sweet pickle relish with three cucumbers lying beside them.

This sweet pickle relish, made with cucumbers, sugar, onion, salt, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and cider vinegar, is perfect for hamburgers and hot dogs and potato salad, and anything else. So long, storebought.


Don’t forget your veggies

Yes, you need side dishes and vegetables, even on a picnic. The potato salad here is perfect picnic food because it’s easy to make at home, and there is no eggs or mayonnaise involved, meaning it can sit outside without fear of making anyone sick. In a hurry? Toss together a container of raw vegetables, a bag of potato chips, and this easy dill dip.

A white bowl filled with halved warm potatoes with a person pouring a bowl of basil vinaigrette over the top.

A summer potato salad couldn’t be easier. Warm baby red potatoes are drizzled with a basil-packed dressing made with garlic, vinegar, and mustard.


Fire up your smoker

We know. Smoking ribs, turkey legs, or a whole pork shoulder sounds a bit ambitious for a picnic. Rest assured, all of these can be prepared at home with minimal effort, then packed up and enjoyed al fresco.

A slab of barbecued beef back ribs cut into individual ribs.

These barbecued beef back ribs are easy to make. They’re coated with a homemade spice rub and slowly grilled to perfection.


Four smoked turkey legs on a wire rack on a wooden surface.

Can smoked turkey legs you make at home possibly be as good as the ones like at the fair or carnival or Renaissance festival or Disney? Actually, they’re even better. All it takes is a simple brine and a little patience. Here’s how to make them.


A whole smoked pork shoulder.

When slow-smoking a pork shoulder, you should figure 1 1/2 hours per pound of pork. A 10-pound, bone-in pork shoulder takes a long time to cook, but for the majority of that time it is in the smoker. You can get it started right after breakfast and have it ready in time for dinner.


Every picnic needs dessert

Don’t head out on your picnic without dessert. This easy icebox cake is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, but if you’re short on time, slice up a watermelon and grab your salt shaker, or toss in a package of store-bought cookies.

A scoop of easy strawberry icebox cake on a white plate with sliced strawberries and a glass baking dish with the rest of the cake beside it.

Layers of strawberry puree, homemade whipped cream, and vanilla wafers make this easy no-bake icebox cake a classic that you’ll want to make all summer long.


Originally published June 4, 2022

© 2022 Leite’s Culinaria. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.


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