Your Ultimate Potluck Menu: 5 Foolproof Dishes Guaranteed to Please

updated Nov 8, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Olive & Mango

Potlucks can be notoriously difficult to cook for. They seem so easy — bring your favorite dish! — but then getting it there still looking okay is difficult. Or it’s not easy to serve. Or it doesn’t taste so great after sitting on the table for 20 minutes. That’s when you realize not every great dish is a great potluck dish.

That’s why we put together this ultimate potluck menu — we wanted to make five foolproof dishes (a main, a snack, a salad, a side, and a dessert) that would win approval at nearly any potluck — and we developed some very strict criteria. First and most importantly, of course, each dish had to taste delicious. It also had to be broadly appealing and adaptable to as wide a variety of dietary needs as possible. That’s why our main dish can be made vegetarian or gluten-free, the salad can be dairy-free, and the blondies — well, they’re still a dessert, but they can be made with any mix-ins your heart desires.

Each dish also needed to be make-ahead friendly, easy to transport (all of these can be carried in the vessels they’re baked in), and able to sit out — without being reheated — at room temperature for at least a few hours. We also wanted them to play well with others, so the dishes could pair well with a variety of other foods that might be at the table.

Those criteria in hand, our developers got to work. And the dishes they came up with do all that and then some. Each one feels like familiar classic, but with a twist: The nostalgic potluck dishes of our youth, thanks to some fresh ingredients and updates, have been brought into modern times. These are the kind of dishes that will be completely wiped clean — and leave a lasting impression.

Credit: Olive & Mango

The Ultimate Potluck Appetizer: Butter-Baked Saltines with Chili-Crisp Yogurt Dip

This trendy crowd-pleaser is so much greater than the sum of its parts: What look like plain crackers and dip are total showstoppers. After one bite, everyone will be asking: “What did you do to these Saltines to make them so fantastic?” You can decide whether to share that you simply dunked ’em in butter and popped ’em in the oven. The accompanying dip is also just two ingredients — a jar of chili crisp and plain yogurt (although we’ve included an option for making your own crisp) — meaning the whole dish comes together in 10 minutes. It will take everything you’ve got not to eat it all on your way over.

Credit: Olive & Mango

The Ultimate Potluck Salad: Antipasto Grain Salad

Before sharing this recipe, we gave it a test run at a real-life potluck to see if it deserved the title of “ultimate potluck salad.” It passed the test with flying colors. Before the end of the night, one guest had stashed some away to take home with her, at least two others had asked for the recipe, and it was the only dish at the table to be wiped completely clean. That’s because — thanks to all the briny, flavor-packed antipasti bar mix-ins, like olives, peppadews, and pepperoncinis — it’s sort of impossible to stop eating it once you start. It’s also incredibly easy to adapt.

Because it’s made with farro and not leafy lettuce, this salad can be made (and dressed!) days in advance — you don’t have to worry about anything wilting. It’s also easy to scale up or down depending on how many people you’re serving.

Get the recipe: Antipasto Grain Salad

Credit: Olive & Mango

The Ultimate Potluck Main: Gnocchi Lasagna with Spinach, White Beans, and Sausage

Perhaps more than any other, this dish defines the modern potluck. It’s comforting and super-satisfying, as any good casserole should be, but it’s also packed with fresh veggies and beans and includes options for a variety of dietary preferences. If you’re serving vegetarians, use a plant-based meat, such as Impossible sausage. If you’re serving gluten-free guests, use gluten-free or cauliflower gnocchi. It also looks and impresses just like a lasagna (trust me — you’ll get plenty of good cheese pulls), but is so much easier. The gnocchi cooks directly in the sauce as it bakes (no need to boil it first), and you get to skip the laborious layering of a traditional lasagna altogether.

Credit: Olive & Mango

The Ultimate Potluck Side: Cheesy Garlic Butter Bubble Bread

This side dish is just pure fun. Trust us — if you want to show up to “oohs” and “aahs,” bubble bread is the thing to bring. It boasts the flavors of garlic bread and the satisfying pull-apart quality of monkey bread, but it’s baked on a sheet tray for easier transporting and serving. Starting with canned biscuit dough also makes it ridiculously quick to pull together. Fair warning: If you bring this to a potluck, expect to bring it to every future potluck, too. Your friends will start to get angry if you don’t!

Credit: Olive & Mango

The Ultimate Potluck Dessert: Brown Butter Blondies Any Way You Like Them

At the end of a potluck meal, what everyone really wants isn’t a fancy layer cake or pie — it’s a classic and comforting treat like a cookie, a brownie, or, our pick, a blondie. Blondies boast the crisp edges and inner gooeyness of a warm cookie, but the ease and generous portions of a brownie. One batch of this batter can feed a big crowd, and the best part is that you get to decide how to top them. The browned butter gives them a delicious toasted richness and notes of buttery toffee, so they don’t actually need anything. But we’ve included all sorts of suggestions for sprinkling them with nuts, dried fruit, or even cinnamon chips, so you can make them over and over without getting repetitive.

Choose whatever will please the crowd, or whatever you have in your pantry. You could even do different toppings for each half!