Deciding what to bring to a potluck can be a daunting task. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to settle on just one dish that is easy to make, transportable, and will please the crowd. When choosing a potluck contribution, you want something that is simple, inexpensive, and feeds a lot of people. The easiest things to bring to a potluck are typically crowd-pleasing classic dishes that require minimal effort. In this article, we will explore some of the easiest potluck dish options and provide tips for choosing the right food to bring.
What Makes a Good Potluck Dish?
When selecting a potluck dish, there are a few key criteria to keep in mind:
- Easy to make in large quantities
- Travels and reheats well
- Appeals to a variety of tastes
- Doesn’t require last minute preparation
- Provides good value for cost
- Can be made ahead of time
Dishes that check off most or all of these boxes make ideal potluck contributions. You want something that you can easily throw together in a large batch without spending too much money. It should hold up well to transport so it still looks and tastes good when served at the party. Hearty, comfort foods with mainstream appeal are perfect for potlucks. Stay away from anything that requires fussy assembly just before serving. Choose reliable, crowd-pleasing recipes that you can make ahead of time and just reheat at the party.
Best Potluck Main Dishes
Main dishes are always appreciated at a potluck. Here are some of the easiest main dish options to bring:
Baked ziti is a delicious Italian comfort food that is sure to please a crowd. To make it for a potluck, simply boil ziti noodles, mix with your favorite marinara sauce and cheeses, and bake in a large casserole dish. It travels well and can be assembled a day or two ahead of time then baked just before the party. Provide some veggie sides and garlic bread and you have a complete meal.
A taco bar is an interactive potluck option that allows people to build their own tacos from a variety of ingredients. Bring ground beef or shredded chicken simmered with taco seasoning and guests can add it to taco shells or tortillas along with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Set up a DIY taco station and everyone can customize their tacos to their liking.
Pulled Pork or Chicken
Pulled pork or chicken is delicious and shredded meat is perfect for serving buffet-style at a potluck. Use a slow cooker to cook seasoned pork shoulder or chicken breasts low and slow until fall-apart tender. Shred the meat and transport it in the slow cooker set on warm to keep it hot and moist. Provide rolls and barbecue sauce on the side.
Mac and Cheese
For ultimate comfort food, a hearty mac and cheese is always appreciated. Make a large batch of cheesy noodles in a casserole dish. Traditional, jalapeno popper, or buffalo chicken mac and cheese variations will all be hits. Mac and cheese travels and reheats well and will satisfy hungry guests.
Lasagna is a popular potluck dish because it feeds so many. Make an oversized lasagna by layering noodles, meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan. Cover it and transport it carefully then bake it once you arrive at the party. With salad, garlic bread, and wine, you have a meal.
Best Potluck Side Dishes
While main courses are central to a potluck, tasty side dishes are important for rounding out the menu. Here are some easy sides worth considering:
Creamy potato salad is a classic side that goes great with almost any main dish. To make it for a crowd, boil a few pounds of russet potatoes, slice them, then coat in a creamy dressing made with mayo, mustard, celery, onion, pickles, and hard boiled eggs. Potato salad holds up well at room temperature so it travels and keeps well.
Like potato salad, pasta salads are nice potluck sides because they can be made ahead of time. Cook pasta shells, rotini, or penne until al dente then mix with chopped vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, and olives. Toss with Italian dressing made with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, parsley, and Parmesan. The flavors meld as it chills in the fridge.
Creamy coleslaw is easy to prepare in big batches by shredding cabbage and carrots then combining with a tangy dressing of mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Let the coleslaw chill for a few hours for the flavors to develop then serve it alongside any barbecue, fried, or grilled meat.
No barbecue or cookout is complete without baked beans. You can use canned beans for convenience or make homemade baked beans by simmering navy beans with onions, ketchup, brown sugar, and spices. Sweet, sticky baked beans pair perfectly with any grilled or smoked meat.
A homemade fruit salad is lighter option to offer. Chop up a combination of fresh fruit like pineapple, strawberries, melon, grapes, and oranges then toss in a sweet dressing made with orange juice, honey, and mint. Fruit salad travels well and lets you end the meal on a refreshing note.
Best Potluck Appetizers and Snacks
Having some appetizers and snacks on hand is always a good idea for potlucks. Here are some easy finger foods to consider bringing:
Chips and Dips
You can never go wrong with chips and dips. Set up a few big bowls of tortilla chips, potato chips, and pita chips along with salsa, guacamole, French onion dip, and ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping. Quick, easy, and guaranteed to get eaten!
One healthy option is a veggie platter with ranch or hummus for dipping. Arrange bite-sized fresh vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber on a platter. It gives people munching options before the main meal.
Cheese and Crackers
For easy cheeseboard-style appetizers, provide an assortment of cubed cheeses like cheddar, Colby, pepper jack, and provolone along with various crackers. Add some nuts or sliced pepperoni and olives for even more savory flavor.
Make homemade meatballs in the oven or slow cooker then transport them in a crockpot set on warm. Offer pickled cocktail onions, toothpicks, and a sauce like barbecue, teriyaki, sweet and sour, or Swedish meatball sauce for dipping.
Assemble colorful caprese skewers by threading grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and basil leaves onto toothpicks. Arrange them on a serving platter and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, fresh, and impressive!
Best Potluck Desserts
A potluck spread is not complete without something sweet. Here are effortless desserts to consider making:
Rich, fudgy brownies are always crowd-pleasers. Make them from a boxed mix or homemade and bring them to the party in a disposable aluminum pan. Cut them into small squares so they’re easy to grab and go.
Rice Krispie Treats
For a nostalgic homemade treat, whip up a big batch of Rice Krispie treats. Simply melt butter and marshmallows then mix in Rice Krispies cereal and press into a pan. Cut them into bars for finger-friendly snacking.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
You really can’t go wrong with a platter of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Use your favorite recipe or refrigerated cookie dough to whip up a few dozen cookies to share. They’re sure to disappear fast!
A sheet cake is a great option for serving lots of people. Pick a crowd-pleasing flavor like chocolate, yellow, marble, or funfetti and decorate simply with frosting. Slice into small pieces so everyone gets a taste.
For easy individual-size desserts, prepare containers of chocolate, vanilla, or pistachio instant pudding. Garnish with whipped cream and crushed cookies or fruit. Grab-and-go portable sweets are perfect for potlucks.
Tips for Picking the Perfect Potluck Dish
When deciding what to contribute to a potluck, keep these tips in mind:
- Check if there are any guidelines or suggested categories to make sure you balance the menu.
- Pick a tried-and-true recipe you know you can execute successfully in large quantities.
- Make sure your dish reheats well and travels conveniently.
- Prepare any components that need refrigeration or marinating the day before.
- Transport hot food in a slow cooker or insulated container to keep it at safe temperatures.
- Bring serving utensils, label ingredients for those with allergies, and include recipe cards.
- Stick to easy crowd-pleasers instead of complicated dishes requiring last minute cooking.
- Aim for hearty comfort foods with mainstream appeal.
- Balance healthier options with indulgent treats.
- When in doubt, keep it simple!
Follow these tips and you’re sure to pick a winning potluck recipe that feeds the crowd with minimal effort required.
When tasked with bringing a dish to pass, keep it simple by choosing crowd-pleasing classics that travel well and don’t require much work. Some of the easiest options include baked pasta dishes, tacos, pulled pork or chicken, potato or pasta salad, chips and dip, brownies, or cookies. Pick tried-and-true comfort food recipes rather than experimenting with complicated new dishes. Make sure your contribution can be made ahead of time and easily reheated onsite. With these winning potluck picks, you’ll please the crowd without the hassle.