Are you planning a beach vacation with your family? How exciting! You’re probably looking forward to putting your feet in the sand, cooling off in the ocean and building sand castles with the kiddos. But all of that fun can really work up an appetite. That means you need tasty picnic foods that you can easily pack in the cooler and enjoy right when you’re craving a bite.
You’re in luck! We have a list of cooler-friendly picnic foods in this blog, including three ideas for main dishes, two easy sides and two sweet treats. Now, keep reading and dive into the recipe inspiration.
Main Dishes for Your Summer Picnic
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
You’ve probably enjoyed Caesar salad many times and this recipe is a playful, filling version of the classic side salad with the addition of chicken and bowtie pasta! And these additions make it the perfect picnic food to help you refuel after hours of playing on the beach.
Pack it in single-serving containers or keep it in one large bowl with a lid and bring some disposable bowls so your family can get exactly how much they’re hungry for. And here’s one more helpful tip - hold off on dressing your pasta salad. Instead, keep it in a separate container and drizzle right before eating to keep your lettuce from wilting.
Sound like a picnic food you want to make on your trip? Check out the full recipe for our Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad here!
Sandwiches are a great go-to for an easy meal on the beach. However, for something a little extra fun for your vacation lunch, skewer your sandwich ingredients instead. Although you can certainly make your own combination, our Sandwich Skewers recipe can help spark inspiration. It includes:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Deli ham and chicken
- Colby jack cheese
- Green grapes
A little ranch dressing, mayonnaise or mustard (or all three) are great things to pack in the cooler as well for drizzling or dipping this creative picnic food.
Low-Carb Cheeseburger Salad Mason Jars
Grilling cheeseburgers on the beach isn’t overly practical, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the key components. These portable mason jar meals are a better-for-you version that’s low-carb and travels really well in a cooler.
To make these Low-Carb Cheeseburger Salad Mason Jars, you’ll first cook and season the ground beef and allow it to cool. Next, layer the dressing in the bottom of the jars. It’s crucial this is the first layer, so the lettuce stays crisp. Then, add your other salad ingredients, including tomatoes, onions, cheese, hamburger meat and lettuce.
Glass not allowed on the beach? Use plastic storage containers instead. And be sure to remember to pack the plasticware before setting up camp for the day on the beach!
Dill Pickle Potato Salad
When it comes to picnics, easy sides that come to mind could be potato chips, fresh-cut fruit and deli salads, including potato salad. And this recipe for Dill Pickle Potato Salad is sure to be a big hit with your family. Plus, you can make it the night before or even a couple of nights beforehand, so you don’t have to spend any of your day in the kitchen instead of on the beach.
Then, when you’re ready to pack it in your cooler and have a day filled with fun and relaxation, simply store it in a plastic container with a lid for a safe, no-spill transportation. But, be sure to pack a serving spoon and some disposable plates or bowls so your family can dish out what they want come lunchtime.
Watermelon & Blueberry Skewers
What’s more refreshing on a day spent soaking up the sun than fresh fruit? Chopped melon and blueberries are two great options and you can, of course, simply pack a container of these two fruits in your cooler. However, for a snack that’s a little more fun, put the fruit pieces on skewers!
You can even turn them into wands or sparklers if you have a star-shaped cookie cutter, as we did in our Watermelon and Blueberry Sparkler recipe. There are other fruits you could use as well, such as pineapple, honeydew melon and grapes.
Sweet Treats & Snacks
Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies
When it comes to picnic foods (specifically desserts) on the beach, there’s one sweet you probably want to leave in your beach rental - chocolate. After all, this sweet tends to melt in warm temperatures and even though you’ll be storing your food in the cooler, eating it in the sun can come with messy challenges. So, instead of bringing cookies with chocolate in them, how about trying a batch of Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies? Not only will you avoid a melty mess, but the citrus and basil flavors will be super refreshing!
One thing to note about this recipe is that it makes 24 cookies, which is probably a few more than you and your family can eat in a single day. So, either make a half batch or set some aside for another day. There is no need to pack all of the cookies in your beach bag or cooler if you don’t have to.
For our second dessert idea and final picnic food, how about a sweet treat that’s actually better for you. Although trust us - your kids won’t have a clue because it’s oh-so decadent. Enjoy the best of both worlds with our Chocolate Hummus recipe that’s made with only seven ingredients, plus bite-sized snacks for dipping:
- Avocado oil
- Maple syrup
- Almond butter
- Cocoa powder
- Vanilla Extract
So, blend those ingredients, and you’ll have a chocolatey dessert dip that travels well and won’t melt in your hands. Instead, bring snacks like pretzels, graham crackers and fresh fruit to dunk into the sweet hummus.
Ready to hit the beach and enjoy some of these picnic foods with the people you love most? It sounds like lots of fun and a tasty meal! Now, think through what you want to pack in your cooler and check to see if the Food Lion that’s closest to your beach escape offers To-Go. That way, you can pick up your groceries when it’s convenient for you and get right back to enjoying your vacation.