4 Great Side Dishes For Summer Picnic Fun

Now that the warmer weather is here (and school is almost out for the summer), we will be heading out to the hiking trail, the park, and the beach in our free time.

4 Great Side Dishes For Summer Picnic Fun | Foodal.com

I’m definitely ready to brush off our picnic basket and cooler, as well as some of our favorite summertime recipes.

It’s common for us to grab a bag of charcoal, a selection of meats to barbecue, and some snacks, before we head out for the day. Our local parks have an ample supply of picnic tables and barbecue pits, and we like to take along a portable barbecue grill if we’re venturing out to other locales.

I also like to bring along a few delicious side dishes to round out our meal. As long as we have plenty of cold water and lemonade, the kids will run and play until the sun goes down.

Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Although not everyone is a fan of spinach – especially the kids – it’s good for you, and is a great ingredient to add some nutrition to a heavier pasta dish.

The sun-dried tomatoes in this recipe should overcome any hesitation over the spinach. Who doesn’t like the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes?

For another great option, our summer corn pasta salad is a perfect addition to any sunny cookout or picnic.

Want even more ideas for pasta salad? Check out Foodal’s ultimate guide.

Three Bean Salad

A great recipe to serve as a side, and the acidity of the vinegar really assists your gut in breaking down heavier proteins and starches. This is why your body craves pickles when consuming denser foods.

Moreover, three bean salad tastes great, and the olive oil provides its own nutritional benefits.

Oil and Vinegar Potato Salad

A great recipe to serve when your family or group is engaged in a lot of physical activity on your picnic, like swimming or hiking.

Horizontal image of a white bowl filled with herbed potato salad with a wooden spoon.
Photo by Meghan Yager.

Oil and Vinegar Potato Salad – Get the Recipe Now

Summer Fruit Salad

Another fun salad to put some added nutrition in your diet, and something else to fill up on rather than fat-heavy sausage and carb-loaded potato chips. This fruit salad is a very tasty choice that the whole family will love.

In the heat of the summer, I’d definitely recommend keeping it chilled in a small portable cooler. If serving at home, a wooden salad bowl makes a beautiful presentation.

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About Jennifer Swartvagher

Jennifer is an experienced journalist and author. Her work has been featured on TODAY Parents, The New York Times Blog, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and scores of other parenting and cooking publications.

42 thoughts on “4 Great Side Dishes For Summer Picnic Fun”

  1. That pasta salad looks amazing, I will definitely try that out. Just to toss some more ideas out there, I have had a lot of success with quinoa salad in these type of outdoor events. It’s filling, but also very light and refreshing.

  2. A pasta salad or a potato salad are dishes I can eat by the bowl full. It’s a great idea to use balsamic or red wine vinegar to bind the ingredients and add flavor as mayonnaise doesn’t do so well in the heat. I also like a dash of chilli or garlic oil too in my salads.

  3. I’ve always loved spinach so that pasta salad looks absolutely heavenly to me. They all do, but to me there’s nothing like fresh spinach in a salad. I’ve never actually made my own three bean salad so that’s another one I’ll definitely have to try.

  4. Going for a picnic always sounds so quaint but the food part always seems a bit daunting. I never know exactly what is right for this venue. The potato salad sounds good. My Auntie Noot makes the best so it has been a long time that trying to make it myself or trying someone else’s has sounded good. The olive oil and vinegar calls me because it isn’t your run of the mill style.

    Thanks for these great ideas to enjoy the great outdoors.

  5. I’m not vegetarian but I do like the fact that all of these recipes are meat-free. Picnics and suchlike can end up costing a small fortune if you’re not careful so maetless recipes really help to keep costs down. Thanks!

  6. I’m not vegetarian but I do like the fact that all of these recipes are meat-free. Picnics and suchlike can end up costing a small fortune if you’re not careful so meatless recipes really help to keep costs down. Thanks!

  7. Oh that Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta Salad looks divine! A must try for a spinach lover like me. Great dishes to serve in a summer family lunch as well so I’m going to try these and serve these to my family. I’m pretty sure they’ll love the pasta salad because the ingredients included are ingredients they love as well. I’m a bit hesitant with the potato salad, though. It looks lovely and I want to try it but my mom and my brother hate cilantro. I hope there wouldn’t be too much of a loss if I don’t include it.

  8. I’ve made spinach pasta and I’ve made sundried tomatoes pasta. I’ve never combined the two. i can’t believe I never managed to get the idea of combining the two! It looks so appetizing! The oil and vinegar potato salad looks like an amazing side dish too. Think i might try it out tonight!

  9. All of these are good recipes for summer outings and packing lots of flavor. I like that they are filling without being too heavy in the summer heat. It helps to have these ideas to use to keep things fun and interesting. Fun food always lifts children’s moods and makes all activities more fun.

  10. Wow! Where I live, the potato salad business is pretty serious, and they look a bit suspiciously at any recipe that would be too “out there”. This one looks a bit different, but in a pretty elegant and classic way. And the pasta salad! And the beans. Wow. I really love this, and it falls perfectly after I was wondering lately what a vegetarian picnic would look like (I used to just bring bread and salami!) Thanks for that!

  11. Ooooh! These are great! I will probably make all but the bean salad. The fruit salad is a favorite dish of mine, and yours looks lovely. So refreshing.

    The pasta salad also sounds wonderful. I think even my picky eater will enjoy that one. She actually likes spinach, go figure. I had never thought of adding spinach to pasta salad, so I was happy to find this.

    The potato salad will be a big hit with my crew too, I think. They like potato salad somewhat, but none of them are big on mayonnaise. They do enjoy vinegar and oil though, so I’m thinking this will make a perfect combination for my family. I’ll be testing this theory soon.

    Thank you!

    • I have never really understood the appeal of bean salad (including 3 or 4 bean salad). It is to real salads as spam is to real meats IMHO. Mushy and disappointing when you could be having something that actually tastes good. I think it is a slightly dressed up why to get really cheap nutrition if you have no money and are really sick of potatoes.

      Which will naturally get me flack from the bean haters, but seriously chercez the appeal?

  12. When I go walk my friend’s dog, all I smell are the smell of smoke and barbecue grills…and then I get insanely jealous because we can’t have one at our apartment! But then I realized awhile ago my mother-in-law was throwing out a perfectly good picnic basket because it took up too much space, and I had graciously swooped it up before the trash monster gobbled it up!

    I love all the recipes on here, maybe except for the beans (I’m not a big fan of legumes, although I’m trying to change my tastes!). I am also glad that there is a recipe for a lighter potato salad; I’m trying to enjoy the sun, not look like one!

    I would have to be careful with what I put in the fruit salad though; my husband is very picky about what sweet deliciousness should be mixed (or shouldn’t be) into a salad 🙂

    • I could go for a bowl of that fruit salad right now. I know what you mean about particular or finicky eaters though. I have my hands full with that around here. If you’re hubby doesn’t like the fruits mixed together, you might try making fruit kebabs instead. I love making those. They look so appetizing, and yet the fruit isn’t really “mixed” then (the juices don’t blend together that way, for people who don’t enjoy that mix of flavors). They make great picnic and party food as well.

  13. I’ve been wanting to plan a picnic for a while now and with these great recipes, maybe I’ll do it soon! The pasta salad and the fruit salad sound delicious! What do you think would be a good main dish to pair with either one of those salads? Thank you so much for the recipes, Jennifer!

  14. These salads look great. They are so fresh and vibrant. I think one dish meals like refreshing salads are great to take along at picnics. They can be eaten right out of the containers!

  15. The summer fruit salad looks delicious. I love the ideas for a picnic. These are much better than bringing along junk food. The fruit would keep everyone hydrated and it has natural sugars for energy. The potato salad isn’t what I normally think of when I think of a potato salad, but it looks like it’d be fun and easy to make. Nice filling recipes, without the calories!

  16. Hmmmm, looks good. I’ve not done the picnic basket yet. I’ve always been drawn to it. Seems so romantic. These dishes are really great. Especially the three bean and the potato salad. The garbanzo’s in that, what a clever idea. I always do fresh though. It doesn’t take that much more time. I know the can is convenient. I just have trouble with the tin or aluminum. I’m allergic. Sometimes I will do the BPA free lining and that is fine. Plus you want to take a look at the additives in those canned foods.

    The pasta dish is a great mix too. I’m really liking what is in that. The spinach, that’s funny. You know what I do to the kids to eat spinach. I make a smoothie with all kinds of things. I toss the fresh spinach in there and they don’t know the difference. I make it sweet. This way we get the greens in during the day. I don’t think I had any greens hardly at all in my childhood.

  17. This looks like a wonderful selection of summery recipes! I’m not sure if I’ll go out on picnics, but I’ll make this recipes at home for sure. The spinach and sun dried tomato pasta pasta salad looks particularly good, I think my family will enjoy it a lot. The fruit salad looks really appetizing too, so bright and summery!

  18. Going out to picnics is one of the best ways to spend your time in the summer. I usually cook chicken if we go to out, but I didn’t think about making some salad for the kids. I guess it’s easier on the stomach and also a lot easier to make than chicken.

  19. Okay, I am definitely stealing that three bean salad. I’m a huge bean fan, especially chickpeas and red kidney beans. This is a great way to use the green beans from my garden. I get a bit tired of having them on their own so often (although I do love the taste). I wonder if this would be good with dried cranberries added in? I love the taste when you mix cranberries and garbanzo beans. Hmm. I’ll have to try that out.

  20. The fruit salad is my definitely my favorite as I have a sugar tooth! I’ve never used orange juice but usually buy a canned fruit and use the syrup from that! However, this sounds much more delicious (and healthy too!). Do you have any tips on how to keep away the bugs when you’re outside snacking? The kids are immensely afraid of bees and I’m afraid their reaction just aggravates them. Anyway, thank you so much for posting these recipes! I’ll be making them soon!

  21. I’m always a sucker for potato salad of all kinds. Will definitely try that one sometime.

    That fruit salad looks utterly appetizing, and very colorful. I suppose even the intricate presentation of meals can affect the appetite of your “patrons”, huh. Even in a simple summer picnic for the kids, the placement of ingredients have an effect.

  22. These dishes all look so very refreshing and tasty 🙂 I love the simplicity of the fruit salad – the perfect combination. I usually do add orange juice, or tangerine juice, to my fruit salads but I’ve also tried just a small amount of pure pomegranate juice. It’s so good when the right fruits are in the bowl!

  23. I must admit, that is one beautiful looking fruit dish. Sometimes I wish my meals always came out looking like something I took from a magazine. Either way it’s fun to dress up meals when you can since you tend to eat with your eyes. You can never go wrong with a pasta side when having a bbq. It is something nice to have when eating other heavy foods.

  24. It’s summer here where I am and the Summer Fruit Salad just makes me want to dig in right away. The combination of colors are oh so lovely! Some of the fruits are not readily available here though (currant/kiwi). But I think without them, this will still be a hit! Additionally, I love the different take of the pasta salad. Where I’m from, pastas are rarely used in salads. They’re usually paired with red sauces. Nevertheless, I think this is something I will thoroughly enjoy.

  25. All these recipes look so tasty, fresh and healthy. Just perfect for spring and summer! Although I’m not much into picnics, I’ll most certainly try the pasta salad at home. I’m a huge pasta lover so this recipe is perfect for me, especially with sun-dried tomatoes. I’ve only tried them a few month ago and they are amazing! I often add them do all kinds of salads now, they are so good with feta cheese, too!

  26. During spring and summer I love to go for a walk in the park with my family and when we can, we like to eat there. There’s nothing better than enjoying a good meal with your loved ones surrounded by nature.
    I’m always looking for something tasty and easy to make to bring along so I loved all of your recipes, the pasta salad looks delicious and I’ve always been a fan of spinach and sun-dry tomatoes and I think there’s nothing more refreshing than fruit when the weather is hot so I’ll definitely make your fruit salad next time we’ll go to the park. Thank you!

  27. My toddler loves beans, will definitely be putting the three bean salad on the menu! And fruit salad is a must for any picnic, makes me antsy to get out in the spring weather! Thank you for the great recipes!

  28. Thanks for the recipes.

    Having a picnic after all those cold winter days out in the nature is the best weekend pastime for sure. I love how just eating and talking and lying on the grass gives you so much happiness once you can do it, not afraid of snow and rain anymore.

    Also having a picnic always reminds me of those historical movies of ladies eating out in the castle garden 🙂

  29. Oh my! I am not exactly sure but I think this potato salad recipe is close to one I used to have years ago in high school! I had a friend with German parents and always loved to eat at their house. Her mom made a version that I think is close to this recipe. I knew I tasted sugar! She definitely went heavy on the dijon mustard, and sometimes it was spicy, SO GOOD! I am so happy to have found this recipe!

  30. These salads are all innovative twists on old favorites. I’m always looking for no-cook salads in the summertime for picnics and traveling. Thanks for the great ideas.

  31. A lot of great recipes in there. I am especially looking forward to trying the potato and pasta salads. I like any new recipe for cold carb dishes ( pasta, potatoes etc) that avoid using mayonaise. Oils and vinigers and other mixes work much better, especially as you said when you are hiking or out for extended periods of time and might not be able to keep the food at a cold temperature. I will definitely be using those two recipes this month. Also a quick glance makes me think that they will stay good in the frig for awhile, which is great for us single folks

  32. Oh wow! This is exactly what I need this summer!

    (If you can call what we have here in England summer!)

    I will definitely try the potato salad, sounds delish! Me and my girlfriend are planning a picnic in the near future, just something to do this season 🙂 so these will be great to use, bookmarking this for later use!

    This is actually quite an in depth post, well done.

  33. It’s always great to get new ideas for picnics, especially such easily portable recipes as these. I didn’t realize that vinegar helped us to digest proteins and starches – but, you’re right, I do crave pickles with certain dense dishes. Now I know why.

  34. There’s nothing like a beautiful salad for a picnic. Shredded lettuce and carrots, with salad tomatoes and water cress, add some already prepared grilled strips of chicken, salad onions, cucumber, and finish it off with mayonnaise and sprinkled rosemary, serve with garlic bread. Now that’s a recipe for a fabulous picnic. Enjoy.

  35. I vote for Pasta and Potato Salad. Children just love them and now I know how to make them. Being a foodie myself, I really believe, “the way to anybody’s heart is through the mouth.” I can imagine how the children and all others will enjoy these salads during our picnics. A Salad is usually a must have in picnics or get together parties and my new ideas will just floor the crowd!!!

  36. Normally, when I go on a picnic with the kids or with my friends during hotter days I always take some watermelon and some cookies or cupcakes along. As drinks, we either have some coffee in a thermostad and some water for the kids.
    I never thought about having salads, noodle salads or fruit salads. However, your recipe ideas are inspiring me to try something differnet. Thank you.

  37. Great choices and smart to avoid the use of mayo, which if you go out somewhere hot can spoil quickly. I am a big fan of feta cheese in these type of salad recipes because it provides a strong taste to what can be simple recipes… especially stuff with beans and pasta.

  38. Pasta and chicken sound really great. And thanks for the tip about the feta cheese instead of mayo on a hot day. As an aspiring foodie, some of these things that so many other people know and take for granted are still news to me, but I’m loving the learning journey. It’s really fun to expand and grow my culinary skills and knowledge.

  39. Well I might have to skip the potato salad, but that is just a personal preference thing. When it comes to the others, though, I am all on board and I have to say thank you for sharing these recipes. A good pasta salad is must have for me if I am at a picnic or barbecue or anything like that, but sometimes people get frustrated with me because I tend to eat all of the kidney beans and leave the others. The fruit salad looks like a big hit too. Thanks again for sharing these.

    • What? Who doesn’t like potato salad? It’s my favorite and my five year old daughter just loves it. I guess you’re right that it’s a personal preference. The pasta salad is also a great choice. I love how easy it is to make.

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