17 Best Picnic Side Dishes

Black bean and mango salad recipe

​The Spruce Eats / Emily Hawkes

The key to a great picnic is a varied menu of easy-to-transport and easy-to-eat dishes. And while you might have a grand plan for the main dish, don't forget the sides! Our round-up includes old favorites like pasta salad and more creative options like tabbouleh. They're all delicious served chilled or at room temperature (no heating required) and are easy to pack and dish up.

Since picnics require transporting food, make sure to keep all of your dishes at the appropriate temperatures. The last thing you want is for anyone to get sick after your lovely picnic. Dishes containing creamy dressings, eggs, meat, raw veggies, and dairy should be kept chilled until serving. Packing up a cooler with ice packs or ice will do the trick.

  • 01 of 17

    Vegan Green Goddess Salad

    Green goddess salad

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

    This vegan salad also doubles as a cabbage dip, with many videos showing the colorful salad being scooped up and eaten with tortilla chips. The backbone of this recipe is a big pile of chopped green veggies. You can mix and match all you want, but green cabbage is a must. Our version includes cucumber, celery, and green bell pepper for tons of crunch.

  • 02 of 17

    Vinegar-Based Carolina Slaw

    Vinegar-Based Carolina Slaw

    Debbie Wolfe / The Spruce Eats

    Coleslaw is a classic summertime side dish that is perfect for picnics and cookouts. Whip up this classic vinegar-based slaw up to a few hours ahead of time and stash it in the fridge. It also makes a tasty topping for sandwiches.

  • 03 of 17

    Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

    Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

    Everyone will love this flavor-packed bacon ranch pasta salad. With crisp bacon, cherry tomatoes, olives, and a creamy dressing, your picnic guests will keep reaching for more. Add shredded cheddar cheese for even more flavor.

  • 04 of 17

    Picnic Potato Salad With Eggs

    Potato salad with mayo and mustard

    The Spruce

    Classically creamy, picnic potato salad is everything you want in a summertime side dish. The hard-boiled eggs add delicious protein, and you can add fresh veggies for texture like celery, cucumber, and tomato.

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  • 05 of 17

    Classic Tabbouleh Salad

    Tabbouleh salad

     The Spruce

    Tabbouleh is a popular side dish that travels impeccably well. Make ahead, but serve within a few hours to keep the fresh herbs perky. Offer alongside wraps, a fresh green salad, or hummus and pita bread.

  • 06 of 17

    Dilly Deviled Eggs

    Dilly Deviled Eggs on a platter

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

    Deviled eggs are always a picnic favorite since they're so easy to eat and a crowd-pleaser. This recipe gets lots of attitude from dill pickle relish and pickle juice, but tweak to suit your tastes. If you don't have a deviled egg carrier, pack the eggs tightly into a flat container and cover for transport. Keep chilled until serving.

  • 07 of 17

    10-Minute Thai Cucumber Salad

    Quick thai cucumber salad

    The Spruce

    This Thai cucumber salad is ultra-quick and packed with flavor. Whip it up and stash in a container for your next picnic. Just toss again when you're ready to eat to make sure the tasty dressing is well distributed.

  • 08 of 17

    Mediterranean Pasta Salad

    pasta salad

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

    Mediterranean pasta salad is a delicious al fresco dish. With cherry tomatoes, arugula, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese, this recipe also makes a nice vegetarian main. The simple but flavorful dressing ties the whole thing together.

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  • 09 of 17

    Caprese Salad

    caprese salad on a plate

     The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

    Nothing screams summer like a fresh Caprese salad. Use the best ripe tomatoes you can find and pair with real mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. It pairs well with a host of dishes, from pasta salads to bread and cheese plates, and rotisserie chicken.

  • 10 of 17

    Black Bean and Mango Salad

    Black bean and mango salad recipe

    ​The Spruce Eats / Emily Hawkes

    Savory, sweet, tart, and spicy, black bean and mango salad is a colorful side dish that's sure to make an impression. Serve as a filling side dish to empanadas or serve with tortilla chips as a chunky dip.

  • 11 of 17

    Tangy Red Cabbage Slaw

    Red cabbage slaw

    The Spruce 

    Tangy and colorful red cabbage slaw stays crunchy for hours, making it a no-brainer for a picnic. Red onions, golden raisins, and chopped pecans add flavor and texture. Pair with chicken or turkey sandwiches or include in a veggie wrap.

  • 12 of 17

    Cold Soba Noodle Salad

    cold soba

    Soba noodles are chewy buckwheat noodles that are especially good served cold. They make a tasty base for a colorful soba noodle salad full of crisp veggies. You can add or reduce the chili sauce to make it as spicy as you like.

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  • 13 of 17

    Watermelon Salsa

    Watermelon Salsa

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

    A plump and ripe, fresh watermelon is one of the highlights of summer. They can be sliced into wedges and gobbled up right from your hands on a hot day, or scooped into balls and added to a fruit salad.

  • 14 of 17

    Blue Cheese Coleslaw

    Blue Cheese Coleslaw

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

    If you're craving a wedge salad during your next picnic, make blue cheese coleslaw. It has all of the creamy, cheesy, savory flavors you're looking for, but is infinitely easier to pack up. Plus, the cabbage will stay crisp better than iceberg lettuce. Try packing the crisp bacon crumbles separately and sprinkle on just before serving.

  • 15 of 17

    Air Fryer Cornbread

    Air Fryer Cornbread

    The Spruce/Leah Maroney

    Make up a small batch of buttery cornbread right in your air fryer in 30 minutes with this easy air fryer cornbread recipe. The result is a warm, moist bread that has a crisp crust. You don’t have to heat up the whole oven, and it's a great option when you only need a small portion.

  • 16 of 17

    Asparagus Pasta Salad

    Asparagus pasta salad

    ​The Spruce 

    Crisp-tender blanched asparagus is the star of this fresh pasta salad. Add in other crisp veggies like carrot or bell pepper or add a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas for more protein. The healthy, Italian-style vinaigrette pairs well with a range of ingredients.

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  • 17 of 17

    Cauliflower Potato Salad

    cauliflower potato salad

    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

    Cauliflower potato salad is the perfect low carb side for all of your picnic and outdoor gatherings. It's called "potato salad" and tastes like "potato salad," but there's no potatoes at all! The cauliflower has a similar texture and all the great attributes of your favorite potato salad without the starchiness.