I have two rules when heading to summer cookouts and potlucks: Never show up empty-handed, and leave ample time to whip up a dish the crowd will love. No matter what your timeframe looks like, and whether you have a full day or an hour to prep your dish, there's a recipe here for you.
From hearty broccoli and cauliflower "slaw" and summery succotash, to a tropical icebox cake and pitcher drinks for a crowd, here are 20 make-ahead recipes perfect for your summer cookout.
The best salads to make ahead are the ones that start with a sturdy base. Save the leafy greens for another time. Choose hearty veggies that wont wilt, like broccoli, potatoes, or red cabbage, and sturdy bases like quinoa or pasta.
- Cold Sesame Chicken and Noodle Salad
- Tex-Mex Quinoa Salad
- Broccoli and Cauliflower "Coleslaw"
- How To Make the Best Pasta Salad Without Mayo
- Buttermilk Ranch Potato Salad
- Chopped BBQ Chicken Salad
These sides are just one more delicious way to take advantage of the bounty of produce at your fingertips. Each one of these veggie-heavy sides are prepped and cooked before heading out, then served at room temp.
- Summer Squash Succotash
- Slow Cooker Ratatouille
- Minted Summer Couscous with Watermelon and Feta
- Bryant Terry's Curried Corn and Coconut Rice
Easy Summer Desserts
Show up to a cookout with any one of these summertime classics and guests will be swooning. Not only can each of these sweet treats be made in advance, but no-bake pies and icebox cakes are also even better when they're made ahead of time.
- Easy Summer Cake with Fruit & Cream
- Mango Coconut Icebox Cake
- Key Lime Icebox Cupcakes
- No-Bake Cream Cheese Pie with Summer Fruit
- Pantry Cocoa Brownies
If you waited until the last minute and need to pull your cookout contribution together really quick, a pitcher drink is always a smart move. Consider stirring it up in an extra-large jar so it's easy to transport, then pour it into a pretty pitcher once you get to the party. Also, hold off on adding ice or topping your pitcher drink with any type of bubbles until just before serving.