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

    Vinegar-Based Carolina Slaw

    Carolina Slaw

    The Spruce

    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.

  • 02 of 17

    Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

    Bacon ranch pasta salad in a serving bowl.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    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.

  • 03 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.

  • 04 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.

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  • 05 of 17

    Dilly Deviled Eggs

    Dilly deviled eggs
    Diana Rattray

    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.

  • 06 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.

  • 07 of 17

    Mediterranean Pasta Salad

    Mediterranean Pasta Salad

    Anita Schecter 

    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.

  • 08 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.

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  • 09 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.

  • 10 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.

  • 11 of 17

    Cold Soba Noodle Salad

    Soba noodle salad
    Laurel Randolph

    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.

  • 12 of 17

    Greek Watermelon and Feta Salad

    Watermelon and Feta Salad
    Ron Purdy / Getty Images

    Watermelon is always a fun picnic dish. This watermelon salad recipe pairs the sweet, juicy fruit with salty feta and red onion for a tasty dish. Add a handful of chopped fresh mint or parsley if you have it, along with a few grinds of black pepper.

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  • 13 of 17

    Vegan Potato Salad

    Vegan potato salad

     The Spruce

    Vegan potato salad still has the creamy texture and flavor you'd expect, making it a crowd-pleasing side for picnickers of all kinds. Keep it simple or add a little something extra with black olives or vegan bacon bits.

  • 14 of 17

    Three-Cheese Caramelized Onion Tart

    Onion tart

     The Spruce

    Caramelized onions cooked in white wine make this tart deliciously rich and naturally sweet. The three-cheese tart is a hearty vegetarian side dish that you don't need to keep chilled. Make a few hours before your picnic and let cool completely before slicing and packing up for easy serving.

  • 15 of 17

    Blue Cheese Coleslaw

    Blue Cheese Coleslaw

     Leah Maroney

    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.

  • 16 of 17

    Sweet Southern Cornbread

    cornbread
    Leah Maroney

    If you need a bready side dish, whip up this lightly sweet Southern cornbread. An extra moist recipe, this bread won't dry out on the way to the picnic. Cut it into squares and pack up to serve with a bean salad.

    Continue to 17 of 17 below.
  • 17 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.