Quick and Easy Picnic Food Ideas

This summer, turn your picnic into an alfresco feast! With some clever prep and a few simple ingredients, learn how you can create the perfect picnic. 

perfect picnic

Super Sandwiches 

green goddess

Sandwiches are a true picnic staple – liked by everyone, easy to eat outdoors and yet still hearty enough to fill you up. It pays to be creative and use whatever ingredients you have to hand rather than rushing to the shops.

Try using up leftover meats from a Sunday roast or yesterday’s dinner, or grate odds and ends of cheese together to make a flavour-packed mix. No butter? Spread the bread with cream cheese, houmous, pesto, or mashed avocado (mixed with a little lemon juice to stop it browning) before adding your fillings, then use salad and veg for freshness and texture.

This Green Goddess Sandwich is a perfect example of just how glorious a simple sarnie can be. 

Bite-Sized Wonders 

frittatas

Finger foods are perfect for sharing at picnics, great for little hands and easy to throw together with any assortment of bits and bobs. Roll slices of bread and wraps into pinwheels so you can mix and match fillings as you like.

Chop up omelettes, frittatas and tortillas into small squares and skewer with cocktail sticks for easy eating, or if you have a little time, try whipping up your own mini versions in muffin tins.

Readily available in the shops, a pack of sausage rolls or falafels make great snacking food, and you can always pack a chutney or dip to help perk things up! For the ultimate treat, though, have a go at making homemade sausage rolls or falafels – they’re both a lot easier than you think!

Dips to Go 

dips

Instead of reaching for packets of crisps, why not include some dips and crunchy crudités? This is an easy and delicious way to get more veg into your picnic. Raid the salad drawer in the fridge for inspiration – carrots, cucumber, peppers and celery can all be chopped into chunky sticks, while firm lettuce leaves (Little Gem or chicory), cherry tomatoes and radishes can be dipped and dunked just as they are.

Stack in plastic containers and cover with some damp kitchen towel to help keep them fresh. For an even more portable option, use an empty jam jar for storing your dip and sticks in one go.

Any dip will work – ready-made or favourite recipe – but you could also try a dollop of peanut butter, mayo or yogurt, if the fridge is a little bare; just stash in your picnic bag or basket, making sure they stay upright whilst transporting. 

Tasty Toppings and Sprinkles 

hummus

An easy way to add flavour to ready-made dishes is with some creative toppings. Take a pot of houmous and add a drizzle of olive oil, a few sprigs of fresh coriander, some thinly sliced red onion and juicy pomegranate seeds, and you’ve got something really vibrant and exciting that everyone will want to tuck into.

The secret is in adding maximum flavour and texture with just a few ingredients – pep up salads, dips or grains with a sprinkling of nuts or seeds for crunch, squeeze over lemon or lime juice for extra zing, or top with chopped spring onions and chillies for a flavour kick. 

Jam Jar Dressings 

dressing

For an instant dressing on the go, an empty jam jar is your new best friend. Add your favourite dressing ingredients to a clean jar, screw on the lid and shake well. The ingredients may separate slightly while being transported, so just give it another good shake before using.

Simply toss through salads or drizzle over cold meats to serve. Classic vinaigrettes usually combine oil with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, but you can experiment with added flavour from mustard or horseradish, add yogurt or buttermilk for creaminess, or herbs and spices for flavour. 

Fabulous Fruit

fruit

Fruit is wonderfully versatile for picnics, making it perfect if you’re packing in a hurry. Take grapes for example – delicious for snacking on as a sweet treat, they’re also the perfect partner for cheese and crackers, or could be frozen beforehand to make edible ice cubes.

Likewise, sliced apples and pears can complete your Ploughman’s platter, or be dipped in toffee sauce for a quick and easy pud. For something a little special, drizzle ripe figs with a little balsamic vinegar and wrap in Parma ham for a savoury treat, or try with honey and yogurt for sweet. Citrus fruits can be squeezed over savoury dishes or sliced into drinks, too.

Deconstructed Desserts 

Eton mess jars

Pudding can often be an afterthought on picnics, but it’s surprisingly easy to include a sweet treat with just a few ingredients. Think about three basic components – your flavour base, then something creamy and finish with some crunch.

You could try juicy fresh berries with a dollop of cream and some crumbled meringues for a simple take on Eton Mess, or start with tropical pineapple and melon with coconut yogurt and some chopped pistachios. Swirl lemon curd into mascarpone and serve with shortbread biscuits for a deconstructed lemon cheesecake, or layer pieces of chocolate brownie with whipped cream and crunchy peanuts for an indulgent sundae. 

Essential Kit  

essential kit

On top of the normal plates and cutlery, having the right kit in your picnic can be just as important as the right ingredients. Always pack a small chopping board and sharp knife (carefully packaged) so you can chop and prep those ingredients you’ve just grabbed, as well as a roll of clingfilm to wrap up any leftovers or half chopped fruit or veg.

Clean, empty jam jars are perfect for mixing dressings, holding dips, layering desserts or even serving drinks in, while a plastic mixing bowl can be handy for serving salads or mixing last minute puds. Handwipes, a tea towel and a clean cloth also make tidying up easier, so if the weather suddenly turns you can pack up in a jiffy, too.