5 Picnic Side Dishes That Will Impress Your Guests


Elevating a picnic experience goes beyond finding the perfect spot; it’s about bringing picnic dishes that impress and satisfy your guests. From healthy picnic side dishes that cater to those looking for lighter fare to gluten-free picnic side dishes ensuring everyone can partake, the importance of selecting the right accompaniments cannot be overstated.

Hot weather can also play a critical role here in greater Washington, D.C.. No matter the occasion, there’s a great side dish to match. And remember: The team at Alto-Hartley can help provide equipment and supplies to make your picnic sides easier to deliver.

Consider these classic and new side dishes for your next picnic.

Broccoli and Bacon Salad

broccoli salad on a red and white checkered tablecloth

The Refreshing Broccoli Bacon Salad is a delightful blend of crisp, fresh broccoli and the savory crunch of bacon, creating a satisfying and light dish. This salad is popular for gatherings and offers a tasty twist on traditional picnic fare. Typically, it includes broccoli, bacon, red onion, raisins, a seed or nut such as sunflower seeds or peanuts, cheddar cheese, and a dressing.

This versatile salad can be served as a standalone dish or as a complement to main courses such as grilled meats or sandwiches. It’s perfect for picnics because it can be made beforehand, with the flavors melding together beautifully as it chills. Give the salad another toss before serving to refresh the flavors and ensure a delightful crunch.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits are renowned for their layers and tender texture, perfect for pairing with various spreads and toppings. These biscuits incorporate the richness of full-fat buttermilk and the lightness of a carefully mixed dough to create a delightful addition to any picnic basket.

The key to these flaky biscuits lies in the quality of the ingredients and the method of preparation. Essential components include:

    • All-purpose flour.
    • Cold butter cubed for easy incorporation.
    • Full-fat buttermilk for the richest flavor.

A touch of honey adds a subtle sweetness that complements the biscuit’s savory notes.

Classic Macaroni Salad

The quintessential Classic Macaroni Salad contains elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Key ingredients include celery, green pepper, onion, and sometimes hard-boiled eggs or sweet pickles for added texture and flavor. For a fresh twist, consider incorporating diced red onions, which have been soaked to reduce their sharpness, or colorful bell peppers for a visual and flavorful enhancement.

Classic Macaroni Salad is versatile and pairs wonderfully with various main dishes. It’s perfect alongside barbecue favorites like grilled chicken, pulled pork, or ribs. For a lighter option, serve it with a fresh green salad or as part of a potluck spread. To maintain its creamy consistency, add half of the dressing initially and the rest just before serving after the salad has chilled. This ensures the macaroni absorbs the flavors without becoming dry.

Watermelon Salad

watermelon salad in a bowl

Watermelon is the classic summer picnic fruit. It’s seasonal, versatile, and, most importantly, one of the most refreshing picnic side dishes. In our book, saying that watermelon is synonymous with summer isn’t a stretch.

There are a few options when putting watermelon in a salad, both incorporating cheese. One could pair watermelon with feta cheese and oregano or mint in the Greek route. Taking another tact, take the Italian option and pair it with mozzarella or burrata and mint or basil. Either way, you can create a big hit with watermelon salad.


coleslaw in a bowl

Coleslaw is another classic picnic side dish known for its refreshing crunch and tangy flavor. Made primarily from finely shredded cabbage, this dish often includes carrots and sometimes other vegetables like bell peppers or onions. The dressing is typically a blend of mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and spices, creating a perfect balance of creamy and tangy elements. The acidity from the vinegar and the sweetness from the sugar complements the natural bitterness of the cabbage, resulting in a harmonious medley of flavors that pairs well with a variety of main dishes.

Over the years, coleslaw has seen numerous variations, including lighter versions that use yogurt or a vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise. Some recipes incorporate fruits like apples or raisins for a sweet twist, while others might add spicy elements like jalapeños for a kick. These variations allow coleslaw to be customized to suit different dietary preferences and flavor profiles, ensuring its place as a beloved picnic side dish.

Don’t Forget the Supplies for Your Picnic Side Dishes

Alto-Hartley has various foodservice equipment and supplies to help all types of operations and people navigate the summer picnic season. Whether you’re a restaurant operator or a backyard pit master, stop by our showroom to stock your barbecue supplies today!