Best Picnic Side Dishes for Summer (Easy & Portable)

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Our Picnic Side Dishes are perfect to serve at your next outdoor gathering!! We’ve got recipes for warm and cold picnic sides that are scrumptious with sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and other grilled foods. Enjoy the perfect side dish in the great outdoors! 

titled collage of picnic side dishes


Late spring and early summer typically have the best weather for an outdoor gathering. And a picnic is the perfect way to get together with friends and family.

If you’re planning some fun in the sun and good conversation, you’ll need some easy picnic sides to choose from — and I’ve got you covered, friends!

Some of the best picnic food means finger foods and side dish recipes.

If you want the taste of summer, it’s important that you find a simple recipe or two on the list below to create a new picnic favorite side dish! 

Perfect Picnic Side Dishes

You may already have your main dish and desserts planned, but if you don’t, I have some fabulously easy recipes to help with that too! 

I have great ideas for the best burgers, sensational smoking recipes, easy no bake desserts, and refreshing cocktails, too!

To round out your menu, all you need now are a few easy picnic side dishes, and here they are!!

Scroll down to check out the scrumptiousness!! 

When you find something drool-worthy, click on the title and you’ll be taken to the recipe post.

Cold Picnic Sides


Take along a chest cooler packed with a few bags of ice. You can use one or two for drinks, and the rest can be left in the cooler. The ice will help keep your refrigerated side dishes cool.

Who says that you can’t have tasty picnic sides that are cold? As long as you prep and plan, you can enjoy delicious recipes with your main course! Don’t miss out on a classic potato salad or a cold pasta salad – just plan ahead! 


Creamy Cucumber Salad

This simple side dish comes together in less than 10 minutes. 

With a combination of fresh cucumbers, red onions, and a spectacular creamy dressing, this fresh salad is perfect for summer picnics and potlucks.

diced garden vegetables with ham and pineapple in clear glass bowl

Hawaiian Tortellini Pasta Salad

This Hawaiian pasta salad tastes like a party in your mouth!! 

One of the most filling side dishes for a picnic, it’s a blend of your favorite island flavors with tender tortellini in an outstanding pineapple-ginger dressing.

ranch mashed potato salad in white bowl

Ranch Potato Salad

This is one of the best picnic sides for your hamburgers and hot dogs! 

A delicious twist on traditional potato salad, and with a huge time-saving shortcut! Kids go crazy for the ranch flavor!

macaroni salad for Easter dinner

Southern Macaroni Salad

If you ask me, you can’t have a picnic without a few easy pasta salads on the menu. This one has a creamy dressing and a nice crunch from crisp celery. 

You can bulk it up by adding tuna and hard-boiled eggs.

southern potato salad in striped bowl

Best Ever Southern Potato Salad

Honestly, are there any picnic side dishes that are more requested than potato salad? Not in my world!! 🙂 

This is my Nana’s recipe — you and your picnic partners will love the classic Southern flavors!

Easy Picnic Side Dishes for Hamburgers and Hot Dogs

Ask a kid (of any age!) what their favorite food is, and you’ll hear plenty of shout-outs for burgers and dogs.

Summer side dishes are some of the best things to pair with other easy foods – and a great way to round out a meal. 

Here are some of my all-time favorite picnic side dishes for hamburgers and hot dogs.

air fryer potato chips in basket

Air Fryer Potato Chips

Toss out the greasy fried potato chips and get into air frying mode! It only takes 15 minutes to make this healthier option. 

There’s nothing in the chip aisle that’s tastier than these perfectly light, crispy, and crunchy homemade chips!

ears of crock pot corn on the cob

Crockpot Corn on the Cob

There isn’t a better picnic food that I can think of than roasted corn on the cob slathered with butter. 

But if you don’t want to haul a grill out to your picnic, you can’t beat using a slow cooker!

PRO TIP for Picnic Ready Corn 

Use a thermal crockpot tote, or wrap the ears of cooked corn in heavy-duty foil to keep them warm for transporting.

baked beans with bacon on serving spoon

Baked Beans with Bacon

My oven-baked beans include a trio of tender beans swimming in a scrumptious BBQ sauce made with brown sugar, molasses, and crispy bacon. 

This is one of the top side dishes for a picnic!

dunking deep fried pickles in hot sauce

Deep Fried Pickles

This Southern snacking favorite was made famous by Hooters restaurant. 

While it is definitely a great appetizer, wait until you try them in place of traditional dill chips on hamburgers! You will flip out at how delicious they taste!!

No Bake Side Dishes

When you’re in a hurry to get into the sunshine, cooking up your picnic food shouldn’t have to hold you back. 

These no-bake picnic sides will have you picnic-bound in no time. It’s totally possible to have delicious flavors on a hot day, without having to turn on the stove! Beat the summer heat easily with some of these tasty bites. 


Cucumber Tomato Salad

Crisp cucumbers and luscious tomatoes tossed in a bright lemon poppy seed dressing. 

This is my newest obsession and a must-make for your list of easy picnic sides.

bowl of pistachio fluff topped with whipped cream and cherries

Pistachio Fluff aka Watergate Salad

This cold picnic salad is one of my favorite and most requested no-bake side dishes for a picnic! 

The base is pistachio pudding, so it couldn’t be simpler to make. There’s a bit of creamy, crunchy, and fluffy goodness in every bite!

bowl of hawaiian cheesecake salad

Hawaiian Cheesecake Salad

While cheesecake salads technically fall into the dessert category, this scrumptious salad is creamy, fluffy, and packed with one of the best picnic side dishes — fresh fruit! 

Fair warning — this is so sinfully delicious, you may not want to eat anything else. 😉

Now that you see you have a ton of great options for your taste buds don’t forget to pack a checkered blanket to put your next picnic in full swing. Pack the cooler with ice packs, and enjoy eating outside during the warmer months! 

I hope this collection of easy picnic side dishes helps you to find ways to get out and enjoy the warm weather this year!

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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titled image (and shown): collage of picnic sides

Originally published August 2012, updated and republished May 2024

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  1. Woo hoo! Figured it out for now. I still can't comment while using Firefox, but IE is working fine. Weird computers… This round up is fantastic, Donna! You really were a grilling machine this summer. Chad, (as always) the photos are stunning.

  2. This is an excellent post, lots of information in one spot. I will probably pull one or two things off here for the weekend. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for some great new ideas for this weekend! However,the link to #49, Easier Than Caramelized Onions doesn't open, nor am I able to access by searching your site. Help pls?

  4. I just pinned like a gajillion recipes to my Slow Roasted Italian board on Pinterest. Love, love, love your recipes. Seriously my go-to site for drink and meal inspiration. Thank you for the time you put in to provide us with these delicious recipes 🙂

  5. I thoroughly enjoy reading your recipes every day! I’ve pinned many to my board. Keep them coming!!

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