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26 Make-Ahead Summer Dishes And Drinks That Travel Well And Can Feed A Crowd

Get ready to be the person that everyone asks, "Where did you get that recipe??"

Summer is in full swing — and that means the season for picnics and barbecues is, too.

To help you craft your outdoor menus, we've gathered some of our favorite easy make-and-take recipes that are perfect for your summer gathering of choice. All of these are packable, portable, and ready to feed a crowd!

1. Lemon Meringue Bars

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Lemon bars are already basically perfect, but those little dollops of meringue really put this one over the top. And if you don't want to fuss with piping, you could spread the meringue right on top and bake it like that — just make sure not to spread it too smooth so it has a chance to get those gorgeous browned bits.

Recipe: Lemon Meringue Bars

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2. Summer Panzanella

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This is a perfect use for those beautiful summer tomatoes that are just starting to come into season. And the flavors will only get better the longer it sits, so you don't have to worry if you get stuck in traffic on the way or just end up chatting longer than you thought you would before eating.

Recipe: Summer Panzanella

3. Watermelon Coconut Cooler

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The blended watermelon gives this the texture of a slushie without all the fuss —no need to worry about ice melting or trying to blend everyone a fresh drink. Just stick it in a cooler, and you're good to go!

Recipe: Watermelon Coconut Cooler

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4. Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce

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Falafel are an underrated picnic food, IMO. Basically everyone likes them, they're vegetarian and vegan friendly, and people can go wild with sauces and salads to make their pita their own. Besides tzatziki, some of my favorites include hummus (duh), Israeli salad, pickled red onions, garlic sauce, and even hardboiled eggs. The world is your oyster!

Recipe: Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce

5. Southwestern-style Quinoa Salad

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This works great as a side, or as a dip on tortilla chips, or honestly, you could put it straight in a tortilla and call it a burrito. And it's sneakily vegan, if you have friends with dietary restrictions!

Recipe: Southwestern-style Quinoa Salad

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6. Strawberry Cheesecake Poke Cake

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I don't know what it is about poke cakes, but they just scream summer to me. Maybe it's because the longer they sit, the more moist, gooey, and delicious they get? Oh, and if you don't feel like mashing the berries in this recipe by hand, I promise it'll be just as good if you use a blender or a food processor.

Recipe: Strawberry Cheesecake Poke Cake

7. Hearty Potato Salad

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Being the one to bring the potato salad to a cookout can be a Big Responsibility — trust me, I know (I've brought the mac and cheese to Thanksgiving since I was 11) — but this recipe will not let you down. It's filling and flavorful on its own but can stand up to additions (bacon, extra chives) or substitutions (hate eggs? Leave 'em out) without being bland or boring.

Recipe: Hearty Potato Salad

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8. Keto-Friendly Triple Decker Sub

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Great for keto pals, or just cucumber-heads. This genius creation has all the flavor of a sub, but you won't have to worry about the bread getting soggy in the heat.

Recipe: Keto-Friendly Triple Decker Sub

9. Peach Iced Tea Whiskey

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I'm from the South, so there's nothing that says summertime picnics to me like peaches and sweet tea. Add whiskey, and you've made the absolute perfect crowd-pleaser of a cocktail.

Recipe: Peach Iced Tea Whiskey

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10. Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

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This is a guaranteed hit: half salad, half pasta, all delicious. As a make-ahead note, if you think it's going to be a while before you eat this, commenters do recommend keeping the croutons separate until you're about to serve.

Recipe: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

11. Classic Deviled Eggs

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I usually have two eggs at breakfast, but I could eat a whole dozen deviled eggs in a heartbeat. I know I'm not alone — make these for a BBQ, and get ready to bring an empty container home.

Recipe: Classic Deviled Eggs

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12. Microwave Marshmallow Treats

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If you're intimidated by having to contribute a dish, this is the recipe for you. All you need is marshmallows, butter, cereal, and a microwave, and you're on your way to deliciousness.

Recipe: Microwave Marshmallow Treats

13. Shredded Chicken Tacos

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Test out that Instant Pot you got for half off on Prime Day with this recipe — the chicken cooks in a flash and falls apart, and then you can take the shredded meat, tortillas, and toppings along and have everyone build their own tacos.

Recipe: Shredded Chicken Tacos

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14. Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwich Roll

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The assembly of this can be a little fiddly, but it's well worth it for these flavorful lil' sandwich slices. If you take nothing else from this recipe, the Frank's Red Hot–coated bacon is a game changer.

Recipe: Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwich Roll

15. Mango Lassi

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There's nothing quite as cooling on a sweltering day than a mango lassi. This is a great accompaniment if you know you or your friends love to make their food spicy — just a sip or two of this, and your burning mouth will be soothed.

Recipe: Mango Lassi

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16. Cinnamon Sugar Cheesecake Bars

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Just another recipe that proves that crescent rolls truly can do it all. Yes, the crust on this cheesecake is crescent rolls, and I promise you it is spectacular. I brought a pan of these to a tailgate once, and I practically had to fight everyone just to get a slice.

Recipe: Cinnamon Sugar Cheesecake Bars

17. Classic Party Guacamole

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I recommend making a double batch of this beauty — not only is it delicious, but when people don't have to pay extra for guacamole, they tend to go a little overboard on it.

Recipe: Classic Party Guacamole

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18. Garlic Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas

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Chickpeas might not seem like an intuitive picnic food, but these savory lil' guys are the perfect snack. They're salty, garlicky, poppable, and the perfect accompaniment to a cold drink on a warm day.

Recipe: Garlic Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas

19. Honey Jalapeño Chicken Sliders

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These sweet and spicy little bites are sure to be a crowd fave! And if you're not quite up to the heat, feel free to take the seeds and ribs out of the jalapeños.

Recipe: Honey Jalapeño Chicken Sliders

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20. Pineapple Salsa

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My partner makes pineapple salsa for practically every picnic we go to, and it always gets rave reviews. There's just something about that spicy-sweet-savory combo!

Recipe: Pineapple Salsa

21. Classic Brigadeiros

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I made these with my mom for the Rio Olympics (we love a themed food), and I've been a brigadeiro evangelist since. These little balls of joy are intensely rich and chocolaty, and the perfect "Oh, I just want a little something sweet" food after a big meal.

Recipe: Classic Brigadeiros

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22. Caprese Pops

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Caprese is a great summertime food, but it can get messy and unwieldy. Not so with these easy pops!

Recipe: Caprese Pops

23. Vegan Ranch Dip

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No dairy and egg-free vegan mayo means you don't have to worry about this dip going off in the sunshine. And even non-vegans will still think it's delicious!

Recipe: Vegan Ranch Dip

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24. Peanut Noodle Pasta Salad

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Cold noodle salads are life in the summer, and this one is the perfect mixture of creamy, savory, and tangy. Commenters recommend using a spiralizer on the veggies, if you have one, for maximum noodliness.

Recipe: Peanut Noodle Pasta Salad

25. Honey Lime Fruit Salad

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Have you ever been to a picnic or BBQ that had a ton of leftover fruit salad by the time it was over? Me neither. It's the first to go — and for good (and refreshing!) reason. This version amps things up with a simple honey lime sauce.


Recipe: Honey Lime Fruit Salad

26. Lime Mojito

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Mojitos are delicious but an absolute pain to make fresh — so just pre-mix a big batch of the lime juice, mint, sweetener, and rum, and then you can pour and top them off with soda when folks are ready for a drink.

Recipe: Lime Mojito

For even more delicious recipes and meal ideas, download the award-winning Tasty app for iOS and Android! 🍳

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