If I learned one thing about growing up with a pool in the backyard, it's that your house will almost always be the spot for get-togethers with friends and family all summer long. And that is just fine, because pool parties are one of the very best ways to spend those steamy summer afternoons.
Of course, with any good pool party comes a spread of simple yet delicious food that will satisfy everyone from the young to the young at heart. This menu feeds six to eight people comfortably and most everything is prepped the day before, so all that's left are a few finishing touches before everyone arrives. We've even included a timeline on exactly how you can pull this together in advance.
The Menu + A Few Tips
This family-friendly menu is designed to be like any good pool party itself — fun, uncomplicated, and perfect for going back for more all day long. It's centered around the summertime classics you look forward to year after year, and largely leans on items that can be made ahead of time.
- Bryant Terry's Gunpowder Lemonade
- Creamy Avocado Dip
- Caprese Sandwich for a Crowd
- How To Make the Best Pasta Salad Without Mayo
- How To Grill the Best Corn on the Cob
- How To Make Ice Cream Sandwiches for a Crowd
What to Drink
When the summer sun is shining and you're spending the day poolside, refreshments are a must. And there are few that fit the bill quite as well as a cool pitcher of lemonade. This quintessential summertime drink can even be made a day in advance, so all you have to do on pool day is add ice and serve it in your favorite pitcher.
- Bryant Terry's Gunpowder Lemonade: This big-batch lemonade starts off like the classic you know, but is then partnered with Chinese gunpowder green tea and mint-infused simple syrup. Go ahead and make a double batch — after an afternoon of swimming and sun, you'll be glad you did.
What to Eat
- Creamy Avocado Dip: When ripe avocado is partnered with goat cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice and blended into a creamy dip, you can be sure you've got a snack that will earn rave reviews all around. Pair this with fresh-cut veggies, tortilla chips, or crackers. If you're hosting a crowd, a double batch is a good idea.
- Caprese Sandwich for a Crowd: This easy-to-serve sandwich is stuffed with everything you love about caprese salad — sweet sliced tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and a bright herby pesto. Make it first thing in the morning, then slice it into wedges right before everyone arrives. It's made on one loaf, so no need to assemble a bunch of sandwiches!
- How To Make the Best Pasta Salad Without Mayo: Pasta salad is an essential pool party side dish, and this version will keep everyone happy. Choose your favorite short-cut pasta, then toss it with fresh veggies, bright herbs, and a tangy vinaigrette. Make it a day in advance and the pasta will soak up some of the dressing for even more flavor.
- How To Grill the Best Corn on the Cob: The only thing better than plain corn on the cob is when it's been cooked on the grill. It picks up a charred and smoky flavor we can't resist.
- How To Make Ice Cream Sandwiches for a Crowd: Ice cream sandwiches are a summertime must. Not only are these cookie sandwiches fun to eat, but they're also super easy to pull together. Make this big-batch treat ahead using store-bought cookie dough and a carton of your favorite ice cream.
Your Pool Party Timeline
This menu is easy to pull together. And it's easier still when you give yourself a head start. Gathering ingredients and prepping ahead of time means less time in the kitchen and more time outside hanging around the pool with your family and friends. Here's your timeline to get a jump-start on party prep.
A Few Days Before
- The avocado dip can be made up to three days in advance and stored in an airtight container. If you plan to serve veggies with the dip, chop them up now and keep them in a sealed container until the party. Store both in the fridge.
- Make the mint simple syrup for the lemonade and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
One Day Before
- Make a batch (or two!) of lemonade, then keep it in a sealed container until party time.
- Make the caprese sandwich, tightly wrap it with plastic wrap, and tuck it away in the refrigerator.
- Prepare the pasta salad, tossing it with just 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Store the salad and remaining dressing in separate, sealed containers in the refrigerator.
- Bake the cookie dough, cool, and assemble the ice cream sandwiches. They'll benefit from the overnight chill time in the freezer.
- Before everyone arrives: Prep the corn for grilling. Fill up your best pitcher with ice and pour in the lemonade. Slice the sandwich into small wedges and set them on a large plate or platter. Bring the pasta salad to room temperature, then toss it with the remaining dressing. Cut the ice cream sandwiches into individual servings, then tuck them back in the freezer until dessert time.