For most of my life, I’ve been blessed to live close to parks and bodies of water, and thus within reach of a vibrant picnic culture. When the sun peeks through the clouds, I head to San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park or Boston’s shimmering Charles River Esplanade to chat with friends and admire gorgeous views, all the while chomping on picnic snacks. Now in Washington, D.C., I’m on the hunt for an idyllic, shady picnic spot to continue this outdoor ritual. If you have a favorite place to picnic, or way to picnic, share it in the comments.
There are several reasons I’d gladly choose a picnic over a dinner party or restaurant meal. Picnics are spontaneous and can unite strangers, old friends and family. Picnics offer shared meals without the fussy cleanup of a dinner party or a hefty bill from dining out. And at any picnic, there is always an abundance of delicious food.
Here are some of our favorite picnic recipes — chips and dip, savory sandwiches and gooey cookies — to whip up at home and impress your friends. Need more inspiration? Head to our Recipe Finder for more picnic-friendly recipes.
Harissa-Roasted Carrot and Bean Dip, above. You’ll find yourself dunking everything — chips, a piece of celery, your finger — into this fiery bean dip. With abundant substitutions possible, this dippable snack is a breeze to make and will last a week in the fridge if made ahead of time. For more picnic-friendly dips, try our white bean dip with pesto and crudités or blistered eggplant dip.
Chicken Satay Sandwiches. Nothing beats taking your favorite appetizer, such as creamy chicken satay, and sandwiching it between two fluffy slices of bread. Tofu or plant-based chicken works well as a vegetarian-friendly substitute.
Classic Egg Salad. The mark of a great egg salad is one that can be consumed by the spoonful and made more delicious atop a fresh slice of bread. If a classic egg salad doesn’t suit your fancy, add chili oil, crispy bacon or sweet pickles and dill for a different flavor profile.
Rosemary Lemonade. To combat the summer heat, sip on this refreshing lemonade with tart and woodsy notes. Minty lemon soda and blueberry lemonade with ginger and basil are more reliable, lemony favorites.
Caramelized Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies. You might find yourself reaching for these gooey, banana-filled cookies before digging into the savory bites. And who cares? At your picnic, it’s your rules! Make the dough ahead to save time since you can stash the rolled cookie dough in the fridge or freezer.