The Ultimate Low-Key, No-Fuss Picnic Menu for Summer

published Aug 5, 2020
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Platter of pesto pasta salad with plates, forks, and napkins
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Picnics are one of my very favorite parts of summer. I wait all year to break out my blanket and basket to tote to the park, the beach, or even just the backyard. This year, picnics feel especially important, since they can be a safe, socially distanced way to get out of the house, so long as you choose a quiet spot for your spread.

Here’s a summer picnic menu that’s completely no-fuss. It’s just the push you need to gather up your own blanket and find your perfect outdoor spot. We’ve even created a timeline to guarantee it comes together with ease.

Kitchn’s Guide for a Simple Summer Picnic Menu

This menu is light and casual, just as all great summer picnics should be. It starts with a few sharable snacks, moves onto one easy-to-pack main, and finishes with something sweet.

To Drink: Easy-Drinking, Ice-Cold Wine

A bottle of wine is a non-negotiable component, in my opinion (as long as it’s allowed where I’m picnicking). It’s hot and sticky this time of year so my picks always tend to be chilled and easy to drink — not to mention affordable and easy to open (yes to screw tops!). Here are a few bottles under $15 I love:

Credit: Joe Lingeman

To Snack On: Prosciutto-Wrapped Avocado and Veggies with Cumin-Lime Yogurt Dip

Keeping most of your menu hand-held means you don’t have to worry about having every utensil available. Bundles of avocado slices, arugula, and goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto are buttery, salty, and satisfying. Crunchy veggies paired with a creamy and cool dip are classic.

Get the recipes: Prosciutto-Wrapped Avocado and Veggies with Cumin-Lime Yogurt Dip

Other Snacks We Love

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

To Share: Pesto Pasta Salad

While pasta salad often plays side dish this time of year, a picnic is the perfect occasion to let it shine. This colorful pesto-dressed version is packed with crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, and milky mozzarella balls.

Get the recipe: Pesto Pasta Salad

Other Recipes We Love

Credit: Joe Lingeman

To Finish: S’mores Bars

Bringing along something sweet has a way of making your picnic feel extra-special. Again, hand-held wins here. These s’mores bars combine everything you love about the timeless summer treat into one, easy-to-eat package.

Get the recipe: S’mores Bars

Other Treats We Love

Your Low-Key Summer Picnic Timeline

All the components of this menu can be made ahead of time and also happen to pack up easily.

  • The night before: While the kitchen is cool, bake the s’mores bars and make the pesto pasta salad (reserve 1/2 cup of the pesto for serving).
  • The morning of: Make the cumin-lime yogurt dip, cut the veggies, and assemble the prosciutto-wrapped avocado.
  • Before leaving the house: Stir the reserved pesto into the pasta salad and pack everything up — don’t forget the wine!