With summer fast approaching it’s time to grab your trusty cooler and a cute blanket, get outside and enjoy the sunshine with some tasty picnic food and some good friends.
Not sure what to pack? Fine Dining Lovers has you covered with our ultimate guide to picnic food heaven.
The best food for a picnic
There are some foods no picnic should be without. Think portable, easy-to-make dishes that can be packed full of flavour and eaten with minimal mess and preferably without utensils. Start with some flavourful, bite-sized appetisers and follow up with picnic classics like sandwiches, wraps, rolls and salads. Add some interest with some well-sealed jars of salsas and dips, and don’t forget to bring some of your favourite cocktails to toast the return of the sun.
Rolled beetroot pancakes: a simple combination of beetroot flavoured pancakes stuffed with cream cheese and chives, these tasty bite size appetisers are so pretty yet so simple to make. They don’t take up too much room in the cooler, and your vegetarian friends can enjoy them too.
Eggplant schnitzels with herbs: a deliciously savoury vegan snack made from deep fried eggplant slices with a breadcrumb and aromatic herb coating. These tasty treats are small and stackable, which makes them another great space-saving option.
Carrot and potato croquettes: another flavour-filled appetiser, these carrot and potato croquettes are seasoned to perfection, with nutty sesame seeds, cardamom, and a little cinnamon and vanilla to bring out the natural sweetness of the carrots. Soft and fluffy on the outside, with a deliciously crispy outside, these yummy croquettes are a welcome addition to any picnic.
Fried cauliflower: a real vegetarian favourite, these deep fried cauliflower bites are coated in a crispy batter flavoured with salt, paprika and cilantro (coriander). Cooked so there is still a little bite to the cauliflower florets, they make a satisfying snack that’s perfect for sharing.
Pulled pork sandwiches: make your sandwiches the main event with this American classic. Stuffed with tender, pull-apart roasted meat with a cabbage and onion slaw, this sandwich is a full meal in one neat, portable sandwich.
Vegetarian burger sandwich: just because you’re vegetarian, doesn’t mean you have to settle for rabbit food. These hearty vegetarian burgers are made from sweet bell peppers and corn kernels, fresh zucchini and silky ricotta cheese, all mixed together with herbs and spices and served with French bread, ketchup and salad.
Muffuletta sandwich: based on a traditional sandwich recipe from New Orleans, the Muffuletta is a must-try for meat lovers everywhere. Made with a round of hearty white bread stuffed with Italian cold cuts, provolone cheese, pickled onions and olives.
Arugula (rocket), omelette and tomato baguettes: if you don’t have much prep time, these simple panini can be ready in 25 minutes. Made from fresh baguette stuffed with a rich, creamy omelette, juicy tomato and peppery arugula. These simple flavours complement one another perfectly, and they’re suitable for vegetarians too.
Wraps and Rolls
Chicken wrap with red kidney beans: if you like your wraps with a bit of a kick, you’ll love these Mexican-inspired tortilla wraps, made with lemon and chilli chicken, mashed avocado, kidney beans and cool iceberg lettuce, all wrapped up in a toasted tortilla.
Vietnamese chicken mango rolls: these delicate Vietnamese-inspired rolls look pretty as a picture, with diced yellow mango and green herbs showing through translucent rice pancake rolls. Less vibrant but just as tasty is the chicken and rice noodle filling, seasoned with authentic Asian flavours like fish sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice and ginger.
Summer rolls: for more colourful Asian-inspired rolls, we love these vegan summer rolls from Love and Lemons. This dish is also made with translucent rice wrappers, this time filled with noodles and tofu to make them vegan friendly. Visual appeal comes from avocado and peach slices with slivers of eye catching watermelon radish.
Mexican shredded beef wraps: another spicy Mexican favourite, we love this recipe from Taste of Home, made with tender shredded beef chuck roast, juicy tomatoes, zesty lime juice, and a triple-threat hit of spiciness from cayenne pepper, jalapeños and chilli powder.
Caprese pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella: based on the classic Caprese salad that celebrates the simple, bold flavours of mozzarella, fresh tomato and sweet basil, this pasta salad version adds penne, garlic, onion, and a hint of chilli.
Pasta salad with chicken breast, peas, parmesan and sesame seeds: this light and summery pasta salad is made with strips of tender chicken breast cooked in paprika, onions and garlic, with sweet garden peas, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds and fresh coriander.
Pasta salad with olives, tomatoes and walnuts: another Italian classic, this flavourful pasta salad is made with fusilli cooked with onions and celery and topped with juicy tomatoes, olives and walnuts, with a simple balsamic dressing.
Pasta salad with tuna: a filling and savoury pasta salad made with onions, tomatoes, tuna and herbs, with a lemon juice and vegetable stock dressing. A little of this salad goes a long way, so it should fit easily into the cooler.
Fruit and Veggie Salads
Bulgur and tomato salad: a light and healthy dish that’s full of hidden depths, this Middle Eastern inspired dish is seasoned to perfection with aromatic celery, scallions and chives, zesty lemon, fresh mint, and a hint of pepper, so every mouthful is bursting with flavour.
Melon salad with cucumber and feta cheese: a beautifully light and refreshing dish, this simple combination of melons and cucumber with salty feta cheese is the perfect palate cleanser if you’ve indulged in a lot of big flavours.
Easy fruit salad: fresh fruit salad never goes out of style, and this simple, vibrant display offers a delicious selection of flavours, colours and textures, with juicy berries, kiwi, crisp apples, oranges, fresh mango, and grapes. The recipe also includes an easy dressing made from honey, orange juice and lemon zest to really enhance the sweetness of the fruit.
Minted fruit salad: if you don’t have lots of different types of fruit in the house, this fresh, sweet fruit salad recipe from Taste of Home is a great alternative. Made from a simple combination of melon balls, strawberries and blueberries, the real secret to this dish lies in the dressing, which is made from a mouthwatering combination of honey, ginger, apple and lemon juice, and fresh mint leaves.
Salsas & Dips
Tomato salsa verde: a classic salsa verde is the perfect accompaniment to most dishes. This spicy recipe from Love and Lemons is made from roasted Mexican tomatillos blended together with onion, jalapeños, garlic, cilantro and salt, with a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Mango salsa: this vibrant dish from Cookie and Kate is another Mexican-inspired favourite, and its happy, bright colours makes it a welcome addition to any table (or picnic blanket). The perfect combination of sweet, savoury and spicy, this dish is made from diced squares of mango, red pepper, onion, and jalapeños, seasoned with fresh lime juice, cilantro and salt.
Pico de gallo: the ultimate spicy Mexican salsa, this tasty recipe by Tastes Better from Scratch is made from a simple combination of diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeños, with a squeeze of lime juice, and salt to taste.
Fresh arugula pesto: a twist on an Italian classic, this recipe uses arugula instead of basil for a subtle, peppery flavour, and walnuts instead of pine nuts for a mild earthiness that complements the arugula perfectly.
Hummus: the quintessential Middle Eastern dip, this classic chickpea dish can be brought from most stores, but there’s something really special about homemade hummus. This simple, easy-to-follow recipe from The Mediterranean Dish shows you how to make the perfect hummus in just 20 minutes.
Baba ganoush: another Middle Eastern favourite, this silky, spicy eggplant dip is full of flavour, and takes just 35 minutes to prepare.
The best drinks for a picnic
Red sangria: a classic Spanish drink, this red wine cocktail is the ultimate summer punch, packed full of vibrant, juicy fruit and warmed with a splash of brandy.
Strawberry mojito cocktail: a delicious berry twist on a summer classic, this fresh and fruity cocktail from White on Rice Couple is the perfect balance of zesty and sweet, and looks so pretty in the glass.
Melon punch with lemon balm: clean and mellow, this subtly refreshing cocktail is made with fresh melon balls, white wine infused with lemon balm, and a little Grand Marnier.
Iced tea with lime and peppermint if you’re not drinking alcohol, the combination of iced tea, fresh peppermint and zesty lime make the perfect mocktail to enjoy with a summer picnic.
Citrus fruit and berry punch: another great alcohol-free option, this vibrant punch uses an iced tea base with passion fruit and orange juice, plus sliced citrus and juicy berries.
If you don’t live near any open countryside, you can still enjoy an urban picnic. To find out how to make the most of your surroundings, take a look at the ten golden rules of the urban picnic, as defined by the Tokyo Picnic Club.