Meal Planning

60 Super Easy Picnic Recipes

Cheesy Sausage Roll-Ups

These Crunchy Air-Fried Corn Dog Bites Have Just 82 Calories

Who doesn’t love a corn dog? These whimsical, perfect little bites of smoky hot dog goodness come with a crunchy cornflake coating that will make party guests smile. Look for high-quality uncured hot dogs at upscale grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or Sprouts. Mustard is best friends with corn dogs, so pick out your favorite to serve with these fun and festive snacks.

Pigs in an Everything Blanket with Cream Cheese Dip

Two finger food favorites collide as pigs in a blanket get an everything bagel makeover. Rather than the traditional canned biscuit or croissant dough, the “blanket” of this playful appetizer is made with fresh pizza dough that is first boiled, brushed with egg wash, and rolled in an “everything” seasoning blend (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried minced onion, dried minced garlic, and coarse salt) before being baked. Using a yeasted dough and this double cooking method is what gives these tailgate-ready bites their bagel personality. Serve them up with a tangy cream cheese dip for a party-perfect snack platter. 

Mini Tomato Sandwiches With Bacon Mayonnaise

One of the season’s simplest and most iconic pleasures, the beloved BLT, can also double as an effortless appetizer. The quality of your tomatoes will make or break this simple sandwich. We like the color contrast of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, but choose whichever large tomato is ripest. These little sandwiches are perfect for outdoor picnics or brunch with the ladies.

Bacon Bow Tie Crackers

Lemon-Caper Parmesan Potato Salad Bites

Turn “jacket potatoes” into irresistible potato salad bites. Capers offer a twist on traditional relish; they’re actually pickled flower buds and add bright, briny flavor to this appetizer.

Melon, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Skewers

Put out half of the skewers, and keep the remaining chilled until ready to serve. Everyone loves a good melon salad, so we took that idea and “skewer-ed” it. Salty cured ham meets creamy, fresh melon for the ultimate savory/sweet combination. With the addition of smooth mozzarella cheese, these skewers are texturally satisfying and not shy on flavor. Your guests will absolutley the easiness and accessibility of these skewers, and you’d be surprised at how impressed they’ll be.

Mini Cheese Balls

Almond milk cream cheese is delicately nutty, with a buttery-rich texture and zero grams of sat fat. Find it at Whole Foods stores nationwide. You can substitute 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, which adds 1.6g sat fat to each serving.

Herbed Onion Parmesan Toasts

Cheesy Sausage Balls

To make ahead, cover and refrigerate unbaked balls up to 24 hours; or place in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag and freeze unbaked balls up to 1 month. Bake frozen balls at 375° for 22 to 25 minutes or until done.

Chicken Salad Tomato Cups

Shredded chicken salad, when paired here with fresh herbs, is served up in little tomato cups: which makes this item the perfect finger food for your next party or get-together. 

Creamy Pesto Pinwheels

Air-Fried Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Whether you’re having vegetarian friends over to watch the game or you just enjoy recipe mash-ups starring your favorite flavors, these spicy air-fried cauliflower bites check all the boxes. It just takes a smidgen of blue cheese to add a lot of flavor to the quick stir-together sauce. If you’re not a fan of pungent blue cheese, try milder gorgonzola, or even feta. To make this no-fuss recipe even easier, pick up a package of pre-cut cauliflower florets.

Spicy Pimiento Cheese Sausage Balls 

If you thought you had your perfect, go-to sausage ball recipe—wait until you’ve tried these. Using prepared pimiento cheese in this party food favorite eliminates the need to shred cheese when it comes time to prep your sausage balls, and keeps them from drying out in the oven—as sausage balls are prone to do. In other words, this ultimate appetizer recipe is as genius as it is delicious. 

Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches

This recipe, ideal for spring picnic sandwiches, weekday lunch at the office, or a weekend brunch with your book club, can be made in just 20 minutes, thanks to the convenience of a store-bought rotisserie chicken. The chicken salad mixture can be made a day ahead. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches. You can use your favorite sandwich rolls instead of mini baguettes, but be sure to add the garlic mayonnaise and toast the bread. If you prefer the ability to control the amount of spices and seasonings on your food, spend a Sunday afternoon roasting a chicken or two (your house will smell wonderful!) This way, you can chop, shred, and store the chicken for use the following week in casseroles, soups, and salads. Plus, you get the added bonus of having the makings of a delicious and savory homemade chicken stock in the pan. The Caesar dressing in this recipe can be used in other recipes, as well. Bottle it up and pour it over a tossed green salad, or drizzle it over baked chicken pieces.

Ultimate Grilled Tomato Sandwiches

Toasty bread, juicy tomatoes, melty cheese, and smoky bacon—what’s not to love? These decadent grilled sandwiches are the perfect place to put your ripe summer tomatoes, and pair beautifully with a light, refreshing summer soup. While you could certainly prepare them in a skillet on the stove, going to the grill takes these superb summer sandwiches to the next level. 

“Some Like It Hot” Grilled Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

Made with pimiento cheese, bacon, and strawberry preserves, “Some Like It Hot” Grilled Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches are the mother of all pimiento cheese sandwiches. Grill up slices of comfort for lunch or dinner today.

Sheet Pan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This simple sheet pan technique allows you to make five grilled cheese sandwiches with at the same time (meaning everyone around the table gets an equally gooey and warm sandwich at the same time), and with not much more effort than it takes to prep one. We went with 4 type of cheese—goat, white cheddar, provolone, and Swiss—for these buttery, rich sheet pan grilled cheese sandwiches, but feel free to change the cheeses up depending on what you like or what you have in your fridge. You could also dress these up with a few added toppings, like spinach, basil leaves, and tomato slices—or allow folks to customize their own sandwich. Your grilled cheese, your choice. 

Smoky Chicken With Potato Salad and Slaw

Enjoy the flavors of a late-summer backyard barbecue on your lunch break. Smoked paprika delivers grill-like flavor to spiced chicken, and creamy potato salad and tangy slaw complete the meal. We toss the undressed coleslaw mix with sugar and salt, let it stand, and rinse it; this process helps to remove some of the water from the cabbage so that the coleslaw will hold up longer without watering out.

Creamy Potato Salad

Oven-Fried Chicken Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

These oven-baked pecan-and-panko crusted chicken tenders have fabulous fried chicken flavor with much less grease and mess. As the chicken cooks, the rest of this family-friendly recipe comes together in minutes. Grilled romaine lettuce gives this salad a smoky flavor. Instead of using a grill pan, you can cook the veggies on a charcoal or gas grill outside.

Three-Bean Pasta Salad

We combined two potluck classics—pasta salad and three-bean salad—to make one tasty new side dish. Blanched celery is the unexpected star in this side dish; it has a tender-crisp texture and bright green color. Swap out the canned beans for your favorite cooked field peas.

Warm Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Eggplant

Congratulations—You just found your new go-to pasta salad! This veggie-packed beauty is nice and filling, thanks to meaty eggplant. If you can’t find burrata, simply tear 6 ounces of fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces. Heading to a potluck? Feel free to make this recipe ahead of time; just be sure to let it come to room temperature and toss with an extra drizzle of vinegar and oil before serving. Add a few tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves for an extra layer of flavor.

Quick Pickled Slaw

This light, healthy slaw recipe is mildly acidic and full of flavor. The veggies will soften slightly but retain their crunch that will add texture to any meal. This bright slaw is the ideal summer side to pair with kebabs, pulled pork, fried catfish, or any classic warm-weather main dishes. If you’ve never pickled anything, this easy quick pickle is a great place to start. Our Test Kitchen professionals recommend serving this salad the day you prepare it for ultimate freshness. This healthy side is a no-guilt dish you can make all summer long, and every cookout guest will rave over it.

Greek Chicken Salad Wedges

This simple salad packs in big flavor in under 25 minutes. For a creamier texture to this Greek Chicken Salad Wedge, stir the crumbled feta into the chicken salad mixture instead of sprinkling it over the finished wedge. This recipe calls for just two cups of white meat from a deli-chicken. Don’t throw out the rest of the bird; shred and reserve the dark meat to use later in the week for a midday sandwich, or mix it with a little mayonnaise, dried fruit, salt, and pepper for a single-serve chicken salad.

Watermelon Salad

Instead of offering watermelon wedges at your next cookout, branch out with this sweet and savory watermelon salad featuring cubed watermelon, red onion, kalamata olives, mint, and feta cheese. Even with all the added flavorful ingredients, it still weighs in at only 46 calories per 1/2-cup serving.

Harissa Grilled Chicken Skewers

These skewers get a nice, long marinating time due to the low amount of lemon juice. If your marinade is loaded with vinegar or citrus, go for 30 minutes to an hour at most to ensure the best texture.

Warm Spinach-Sweet Onion Dip with Country Ham

Great for outdoor tailgates, this creamy dip can be prepared in advance and reheated on the grill in a skillet. Place the skillet over indirect heat to avoid burning the edges.

BBQ Chicken Bean Dip

Step aside, Buffalo chicken. Move it along, basic bean dip. The game day dip to rule all game day dips has arrived. This bold yet balance BBQ Chicken Bean Dip has so much going for it: It’s easy to make, you likely have most of the necessary ingredients on hand, and most importantly—this cheesy chicken appetizer will be a winner with any crowd. The barbecue sauce used in to make the dip couldn’t be easier to mix up, and it’s one you can come back to again and again for all of your BBQ needs; however, if you want to shave a few minutes off the recipe, you can certainly use your favorite bottled sauce instead. We suggest topping the dip with cheese towards the end of baking in order to prevent the dip from becoming too greasy. 

Buffalo Turkey Wings With Blue Cheese Dip

Bigger and better than your average wings, these turkey wings will take center stage at your next holiday party. They’ll make a great appetizer and an even better main dish. Dress up the already impressive baked wings with a few more vegetables included alongside to dip in the blue cheese dressing—think radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, or asparagus. 

Creamy Feta-and-Herb Dip

The real secret to a crowd-pleasing crudités platter? A rich, tangy homemade dip. Choose feta that’s sold in blocks stored in brine. Crumbled feta contains an additive that prevents clumping, and it will not blend as smoothly. Serve on a tray piled with colorful baby vegetables such as rainbow carrots, English cucumbers, and French Breakfast radishes. This dip can easily be made ahead, refrigerated, and transported for a party. Instead of the usual plastic container, choose to store the dip in a mason jar, which can also double as your serving dish. If you do make it ahead, give the dip a quick stir before serving to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Smoky Snack Mix

Perfect for game days, birthday parties, or any get-together, this recipe easily doubles or triples, which we recommend. And don’t skip the white cheddar cheese crackers—their buttery richness makes them the MVP of this hard-to-resist mix.

Raspberry Braid Loaf

This impressive braided loaf is a show-stopping addition to any springtime table. For more incredible bread recipes, check out  Zoë Francois and Jeff Hertzberg’s Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Best-Ever Succotash

There are three must-have ingredients in a good pan of succotash. You must have fresh tomatoes, and we prefer cherry tomatoes to boost the sweetness of the dish and add a little acidity for balance. Instead of heavy cream, this recipe calls for salted butter to give the colorful vegetables richness without turning them gray. And where many succotash recipes call for soft herbs such as tarragon, chives, and parsley, we prefer basil. Its classic flavor and aroma just says “summer”. While pork is a traditional ingredient in many Southern variations of succotash, it’s certainly not essential to this side. For a vegetarian option, follow the recipe but omit the bacon and replace the drippings with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Still want a hint of spice? Sprinkle the finished dish with a little bit of smoked paprika.

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Feta Salad

Cucumbers add a welcome crunch to this refreshing summer salad of cubed watermelon, fresh herbs, and crumbled feta cheese. You can replace the fresh mint with basil if you prefer, or use a combination of both herbs. A personal-sized seedless watermelon is just the right size for this salad, but you can also use pre-cut melon or a portion of a larger watermelon. Be sure to dress the salad right before serving it to prevent the melon and cucumbers from watering down the vinaigrette

Cheesy Semolina

Spicy Grilled Corn Salad

Elote, Mexican-style street corn, inspired this tangy, smoky, slightly creamy side dish. Three jalapeños give this salad a real kick; make it milder by substituting mini sweet peppers. Serve this salad by itself at a cookout or alongside grilled flank steak and warm tortillas for an easy taco night.

Prosciutto-Asiago Pimiento Cheese

This recipe gives some Italian flavor to Basic Pimiento Cheese. With crispy prosciutto and Asiago cheese, you’re definitely stepping up your dip game. Friends and family will think it is oh-so-fancy but you will know it was super simple. From backyard cookouts to a porch party, this recipe can work for any occasion. It also makes the perfect snack for those long summer days. Hand shred your cheese for a better texture and flavor. We also prefer diced pimientos over sliced.

Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

A Caprese salad—tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella cheese—is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to show off peak-season Southern-grown tomatoes. Give this salad a fun new look by using a mix of multicolored cherry tomatoes and small fresh mozzarella balls (also called “bocconcini”) tossed in a simple vinaigrette. The dressing calls for white balsamic vinegar—regular balsamic vinegar will taste fine, but will turn the cheese brown—but you can use white wine vinegar instead. While we love the look of this side dish on a pretty platter, you can also skewer the ingredients to make Caprese kebabs. Either way, Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad is best served at room temperature (not straight from the refrigerator) when the tomatoes are juicy and the cheese is soft.

Halloumi-and-Summer Vegetable Kebabs

Firm Halloumi cheese holds up well on the grill and provides a nice contrast to the tender layers of squash on these vegetarian kebabs. Use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to shave the squash into long, thin strips. Turn these kebabs into a quick panzanella. Removing the cooked ingredients from the skewers and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, and toasted bread cubes.

Pizza Rolls

These tender, buttery snack rolls are akin to cinnamon buns in structure… but they’re full-on pizza perfection in flavor. Using canned crescent roll dough and prepared marinara sauce keeps both the prep time and ingredient list short, making these cheesy, kid-friendly bites easy to whip up at a moment’s notice. Of course, you can also prep them ahead to enjoy as after-school snacks or on-the-go breakfasts throughout the week. Feel free to customize you homemade pizza rolls with your own favorite toppings. 

Mini Potato Skins

This party-perfect appetizer will be gone before the last guest even arrives. At a dinner party or holiday gathering, the main dish and a few incredible sides are really the stars of the show. But we can’t imagine a supper club or Christmas dinner without something to snack on as guests arrive, pour cocktails, and catch up before the meal is served. This five-ingredient recipe makes a bite-sized appetizer that every guest will rave about, and it has a high yield for your biggest crowds. But appetizers aren’t just for dinner occasions—For an at-home or away tailgate, you can’t beat an easy and portable snack like Mini Potato Skins. Our Test Kitchen professionals said these Mini Potato Skins pair well with beer, so cheers! A tip from the Test Kitchen: Place the sour cream in a piping bag for a nice neat dollop. If you don’t have a piping bag, simply cut off one corner of a ziplock plastic bag. These appetizers were made to travel. To take them to a party, prepare the recipe through Step 3 and place potato skins in a container. Complete Step 4 before serving.

Melted Manchego Tortas with Romesco and Chorizo

Caprese Salsa

We loved the classic caprese salad so much, we transformed it into a vibrant summer “salsa,” so that we could top just about everything with it. The simple, but so satisfying, flavor combo of ripe, juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, and rich mozzarella cheese is the perfect path to amping up any number of your favorite summertime staples. Serve this fresh and flavor-packed topper over grilled steak or chicken, use it as a burger relish, or spoon it onto crostini or grilled bread for an awesome and easy appetizer. 

Strawberry Bruschetta

Tomato-Feta Bites

Start with frozen puff pastry to make these  6-ingredient Mediterranean-style appetizers featuring the savory goodness of tomatoes, kalamata olives,  and feta cheese.

Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey

In addition to being a delicious appetizer that feels special, these Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey make for extra awesome croutons on salads and as “meat” balls for vegetarian pasta dishes.

Skewered Persimmon and Herb Bites

Peaches and Cream Mini Cupcakes

Mini Mimosa Muffins

Sugardoodle Cookies

Girl Scout cookies are great, but these cookies are better! Tip: for consistent measurements when rounding and shaping your dough, use a mini ice cream scoop for the perfect size every time.

Almond Joy Cookies

Inspired by the favorite almond, coconut, and chocolate candy bar, these loaded Almond Joy Cookies are sure to steal the show on any holiday cookie platter or cookie swap they show up at.  

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pretzel Pie

Remember that strawberry-pretzel salad that showed up at every church supper? We’ve turned it into your new favorite pie with a salty-sweet pretzel crust and added zip from rhubarb. We all love our classic desserts, but sometimes it is fun to change them up a bit and create something new. The frozen strawberries used in the traditional recipe are fine if it is the middle of winter but, since plump, fresh berries available at the Farmers’ Market, we thought they would make a delicious change to this pie.

Thyme-Scented Blueberry Pie

Flavored with thyme and lemon and packed with juicy whole berries, this pie earned rave reviews in our Test Kitchen, especially when made with in-season fruit. Our secret? Quick-cooking tapioca, which makes the filling firm but not gelatinous. Mixing the tapioca with a cup of mashed blueberries ensures that the thickener will distribute evenly and not form clumps in the filling.

Mini Coconut-Key Lime Pies

One Test Kitchen Professional said these Mini Key Lime Pies are “a delicious taste of the tropics and just the right size to not feel guilty!” The coconut crust is crisp but chewy, and the sweet coconut contrasts beautifully with the tart key lime filling, and no key lime pie would be complete without fluffy homemade whipped cream. This mini delight is truly the perfect bite. Tiny Key limes can be a chore to squeeze, but microwaving them for 15 seconds will help them soften and juice more easily. One pound of fresh Key limes will yield about a half cup of juice. If you’re using bottled juice, make sure it is 100 percent pure Key lime juice and not sweetened. Our Test Kitchen recommends Nellie and Joe’s.

Best Fudgy Brownies

Meet your new go-to recipe for homemade brownies. These decadent treats are extra rich and fudgy, thanks to a double hit of baking chocolate and bittersweet chocolate morsels. They’re incredibly easy to make, plus you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. And while we’re definitely not above boxed brownie mixes, these homemade brownies would certainly steal the show at any party or get-together.

Easy Peach Cobbler

What could be a more perfect ending to a summertime meal than easy peach cobbler? Savor the flavors of summer with sliced fresh peaches cooking away with butter and spices. The topping can made from pantry ingredients you have on hand and peaches can easily be substituted with any fruit you have depending on the time of year. The tang of the lemon juice paired with the sweetness of the peaches is perfectly balanced with the crisp topping. Want to make dessert even better? A dollop of fresh whipped cream or cold vanilla ice cream truly makes it the perfect way to end a summer night.

Blueberry-Lemon Crunch Bars

Consider yourself warned: A crunch may look like a bar cookie, but you’ll need a fork to eat it. Similar to a crisp with baked fruit and a crumbly topping, a crunch sandwiches a layer of jammy fruit between two buttery layers. While other fruit desserts are on the syrupy side, this fruit is cooked down into a flavor-packed, thick preserve. The bottom layer should be firm enough not to crumble when a piece is cut from the pan, so adding toasted pecans to the mix improves the taste as well as the texture. The top layer can duplicate the bottom, or it can be a simple streusel topping made with flour, sugar, and butter.

Red, White, and Blueberry-Filled Cupcakes

Tender and moist cupcakes with a fruity filling and topped with a tangy cream cheese icing — all the best of summer in one little package. This recipe can easily be doubled if you need a dessert for a large gathering. The jammy blueberry filling is a sweet surprise inside each cupcake but, if you prefer strawberry, simply replace the fruit and preserves.

Strawberry-Apricot Hand Pies

Apricots bring out the tangy side of strawberries in the jammy filling for these flaky hand pies. Can’t find fresh apricots? Our Test Kitchen also used dried apricots with delicious results. Why bother with expensive store-bought tartlets when these delicious homemade treats are so easy to make? This recipe, which uses one cup of chopped strawberries, is a fun and innovative way to use the fresh berries you bought at the farmers’ market.

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