15 Smart Cooks Argue for Their Ultimate Potluck Dish

updated Nov 7, 2019
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Credit: Leela Cyd

Immense pressure often surrounds the decision of what to bring to a potluck. It has to be something that will impress a crowd, be easily transportable, doesn’t require unnecessary assembly, and, not to mention, it has to taste really, really good. And we get it — it’s hard to find a dish that does it all.

To help take some of that pressure off, we consulted a few Very Smart Cooks that we admire and asked them to make a case for their favorite potluck party dish. From cooks like Molly Yeh and Dorie Greenspan, here are 15 great dishes to inspire you. Bring it on, Potluck Season!

1. Molly Yeh’s Halva Magic Bars

“I have so many potluck faves, but my current favorite would have to be my Halva Magic Bars. They’re a twist on the classic magic/seven-layer bar that include my favorite flavors: halva, pistachio, and rosewater. I also have a potluck-centric episode of Girl Meets Farm coming up that include these, as well as a new twist on a seven-layer salad.”—Molly Yeh of Food Network’s Girl Meets Farm and My Name is Yeh

Credit: The Kitchenista

2. Angela Davis’ Mac and Cheese

Baked mac & cheese is my go-to potluck dinner dish. It’s a crowd-pleaser, doesn’t require any extra assembly on arrival, and appeals to both meat-eaters and vegetarians. (Bonus, it’s something that I know I can happily eat just in case the other options are a little questionable.) Bechamel-based cheese sauces are best because they will stay creamy as the dish sits. My favorite version as of late is the Pimento Mac & Cheese recipe on my blog, which is a fun twist on the classic.” Angela Davis of The Kitchenista Diaries

3. Julia Turshen’s Grain Salad

“I’m all for a big grain salad. Whether it’s quinoa with chopped herbs and nuts and some roasted squash or wild rice with tomatoes and scallions, a big grain salad can be made ahead, enjoyed at room temperature, and doesn’t suffer from sitting around for a while. They also go well with just about everything else. And they’re great for everyone, including those who are gluten-free, vegan, etc.” Julia Turshen, author of Now & Again and founder of Equity at the Table

4. Nik Sharma’s Potato Salad

I like to bring a dish almost everyone can try, but I like to go a little wild in the flavors. Dishes that are blank slates that can take on bold flavors are the best, like potato salad. I like to dress it in hot chili oil and fresh herbs, but you can swap in ingredients like capers and smoked salmon if you’re in the mood.” —Nik Sharma of A Brown Table and author of Season

5. Erin McDowell’s Mini Fruit Pies

“Pie is sort of an impractical thing to travel with, so I make mini hand pies that are latticed so they still look like a pie. That’s the most common thing I’ll bring!” —Erin McDowell, NYT pie expert and author of The Fearless Baker

Credit: Lidey Likes

6. Lidey Heuck’s Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad

“I’d definitely make this shredded Brussels sprouts salad with walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese. This salad has all the hallmarks of a great potluck recipe. First, it’s best made in advance so the Brussels sprouts have time to marinate lightly in the dressing. (And unlike traditional salad greens, the sprouts won’t wilt on the way to the party!) Second, it’s highly adaptable; if your friends aren’t big on blue cheese, substitute shaved Parmesan or Pecorino. Don’t have walnuts? Pecans or almonds are great, too. Third, using pre-shredded Brussels sprouts makes this recipe come together in a flash. This salad is a total crowd-pleaser. Isn’t that what potluck dishes are all about?” —Lidey Heuck, of Lidey Likes, team Barefoot Contessa, and NYT Cooking columnist

Credit: My Name is Yeh

7. Sierra Tishgart’s Favorite Knoephla Soup (by Molly Yeh!)

“The hardest part of cooking for any potluck is the transfer — making sure your dish gets safely from your stove to your car to another person’s kitchen table. Cooking and serving in the same vessel helps greatly, which is why I’m making a case for bringing Molly Yeh’s knoephla soup in the Great Jones Dutchess (our Dutch oven). It’s essentially a rich and creamy soup filled with dumplings. I love that mosts guests will be trying knoephla soup for the first time (you certainly won’t have to worry about someone else making the same dish), but the flavors are comforting and familiar.”Sierra Tishgart, co-founder of Great Jones

Related: I Tested the Hottest New Dutch Oven — Here’s What I Thought

8. Priya Krishna’s Pav Bhaji

“What’s not to love about buttered buns topped with a spicy potato gravy and lime juice and onions? I have found this to be the most universally beloved dish for a crowd and it’s also easy to transport to a potluck. I just bring the gravy in a container, and a packet of buns that I can quickly griddle before serving (or you can pre-griddle and wrap them in foil).” —Priya Krishna, author of Indianish, and Bon Appetit, Taste Cooking, and NYT contributor

Credit: Chitra Agrawal

9. Chirtra Agrawal’s Chitranna

“My ultimate potluck dish is chitranna, a bright turmeric rice flavored with peanuts, lemon, coconut, chili peppers, curry leaves, and cilantro. The recipe results in a winning dish that is sour, sweet, nutty, spicy, and herbal all at once and not to mention totally eye-catching. It was my mother’s go-to when we would go on family car rides and picnics and it’s now what I make when I’m asked to bring a dish to a party. It never fails me! ” —Chitra Agrawal, founder of Brooklyn Delhi and author of Vibrant India

10. Dorie Greenspan’s Bundt Cake

“Bundt cakes are great for potlucks or any kind of party because they’re easy to make, easy to carry, don’t need to be decorated (a little powdered sugar dusted on at the last minute and you’re good), always look good (the pan makes them beautiful), and they feed a crowd.” —Dorie Greenspan, baking expert and author of Everyday Dorie, Dorie’s Cookies, and more

Credit: Alejandra Schraeder

11. Alejandra Schraeder’s Radicchio Apple Salad

“Potlucks combine my two favorite things: food and people. To be inclusive, I like to bring a plant-based dish that is also gluten- and refined sugar-free: my radicchio and apple salad. This mouthwatering and colorful salad screams taste and whispers health — it has yams, scallions, celery greens (zero-waste!), and a simple balsamic dressing. The fabulous contrast of flavors and textures make it a crowd-pleaser! I prepare it the day before and it holds great in the refrigerator so I don’t have to stress about bringing a warm dish to the potluck.” —Alejandra Schraeder, private chef and food policy advocate

Credit: King Arthur Flour

12. Martin Philip’s Soup and Biscuits

“For potlucks (or, honestly, any gathering in this season of fall foliage and frosty mornings), soup is my steady offering. From roasted butternut squash with coconut milk to potato and roasted garlic, nothing comforts like soup. And, at my house, there will be no soup without biscuits! I prefer to make mine just before dinner and always use a mix of King Arthur white whole-wheat flour in addition to all-purpose flour. The extra flavor of whole-wheat flour feels hearty and sustaining. I serve them warm and they disappear quickly!”—Martin Philip, author of Breaking Bread and head baker at King Arthur Flour

13. Emily Sundberg’s Takeout Garlic Knots

“If you’re crunched for time or don’t feel like cooking, order garlic knots from your favorite pizza place and grab them on the way to the party so they’re still hot! Grab some good-quality mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil; slice the knots in half; and make little sandwiches out of them. It will impress everyone, smell garlicky and warm, and it’s easy.” — Emily Sundberg, Social Media Manager at Great Jones

14. Mindy Fox’s Simple Salad

“I’m known among my friends as the ‘salad queen’, so I often bring a simple salad to potlucks. Yes! It is possible to make a salad that’s gorgeous and delicious, holds up well for transport, and doesn’t require a laundry list worth of ingredients to impress. Even just a couple of sturdy greens (think: kale, cabbage, radicchio, endive) and a mix of nuts and seeds work well as your base. Wash and spin the greens ahead, then loosely roll up in a clean dish towel and toss in a plastic or other bag. Shake up a simple homemade dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Tote your nuts and seeds in a second jar. I sometimes bring a special finishing salt and a little travel pepper grinder (freshly ground black pepper makes all the difference), and often bring my own wooden bowl and salad tossers, or borrow that stuff from my host, if I know they have extra.” —Mindy Fox, co-author of Antoni in the Kitchen

15. Samantha Seneviratne’s Slab Pie

“I’m usually the dessert person when it comes to potlucks and I don’t mind one bit. Two words: slab pie. First of all, I think a giant, double-crusted slab pie looks extremely appetizing. It’s a real crowd-pleaser. If I’ve got time for a lattice crust, even better. Secondly, it’s customizable with the season. No matter what time of year it is, there is slab pie material available — stone fruits and berries in the summer, pears and apples in the fall, quince in the winter, and frozen fruit all year round. And lastly, they can be made ahead. A jammy fruit filling is easy to make in advance, and all-butter pastry can be frozen for ages. Sometimes I even assemble the whole thing and freeze it unbaked. Then I can take it to my host’s house and bake it there during dinner. Warm pie with melty vanilla ice cream wins every time.” —Samantha Seneviratne, author of Gluten-Free for Good, The New Sugar and Spice, and The Joys of Baking