8 Dishes That Are Ideal for a Summer Potluck

Public Domain. Unsplash/Alison Marras – Pineapple guacamole

Fresh and seasonal, these recipes offer maximum flavor for minimal effort.

On a number of occasions this year, I've been invited to a summer get-together, only to realize a few hours before that it's a potluck. A mad scramble ensues to pull together something that's portable, presentable, and delicious. It's made more challenging by the fact that I am currently living in a tiny rental apartment with minimal food storage space, so I never seem to have the right (or enough) ingredients to make an entire recipe properly.

Fortunately, that doesn't matter much with the potluck recipe ideas I'll share below. These are versatile, forgiving recipes that can be tweaked to use whatever's on hand. They also showcase seasonal produce, and goodness knows we have to do that with Ontario's brief and glorious growing season. (Blink and you'll miss it!) Here are some of my ideas for good potluck contributions, and share any of your own in the comments below.

1. Mixed bean salad

When in doubt, make bean salad. Everyone loves bean salad. It's fast (use beans straight out of the can), colorful, healthy, and easy to transport. My go-to recipe is Canadian Living's Red Barn Corn and Bean Salad.

2. Tabouli

The secret to excellent tabouli is to marinate the bulgur with the lemon juice and garlic for up to a day ahead. The other secret is to load it up with fresh chopped herbs, pretty much whatever you have. Add in chopped tomatoes, green onions, chickpeas, green pepper, carrots, and cucumbers (or any combination of these) before serving.

3. Fruit platter

Chopped fruit is one of those things that, if it's set out at a potluck, will get devoured by everyone. Take some time to cut up a watermelon or cantaloupe and wash strawberries, cherries, or apricots.

4. Grilled vegetable salad

This Fine Cooking recipe is a favorite I've been making for years. I've realized that any grilled vegetables work, so go ahead and improvise, but it's the contrast with the fresh cherry tomatoes, the salty feta, and the fresh basil that really make it stand out.

5. Fruit crisp

A warm bubbling fruit crisp (or buckle, betty, or slump) is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and it's so easy to make. Use whatever is on hand – peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, apples, or combinations. Set out a bowl of whipped cream to top.

6. Guacamole and chips

Whip up a batch of zingy guac with fresh lime juice, minced onion, and cilantro. Set it out ahead of dinner with tortilla chips and watch it disappear.

7. Mexican corn salad

This is a late-summer favorite in our house, made from grilled ears of corn that are then cut off, mixed with a zesty dressing of mayonnaise and lime juice, and chopped cilantro, chili powder, green onions, and feta (or cotija) cheese. The recipe I use comes from Bonnie Stern, but I can't find it online; there are others similar to it, such as this one.

8. Garden salad

Fresh, crispy lettuce-based salads are hard to come by at a potluck, but if you time it right, they can be a welcome addition. I prefer to pack ingredients separately, then assemble it on the spot, right before serving. Put pre-washed sturdy lettuce in a bowl, like Romaine, and top with chopped green onions, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, feta, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and additional greens like arugula and basil. Bring a homemade vinaigrette in a jar and pour over at the last minute or let guests add their own.