20 Make-Ahead Dishes You Can Bring to Any Cookout

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

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.

Bryant Terry’s Curried Corn and Coconut Rice(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)


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.

No-Bake Cream Cheese Pie with Summer Fruit(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

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.

Mixed Melon & Limoncello Sangria(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Pitcher Drinks

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.