Best picnic food ideas

Best Picnic Food Ideas

We had a picnic with some friends this weekend, taking advantage of a decent bit of early summer weather.  The afternoon before was spent preparing tasty treats for our outdoor feast.  The cookbooks were out, the internet scoured, and old favourites re-visited.  Thus, the Best Picnic Food Ideas was born…

Aside from nearly running out of tupperware, and having to cram the fridge to bursting point, the afternoon was a great success.

We’ve tried these recipes.  Even better, we’ve tasted them.  And we’ve survived the experience!

Here we go then, the best picnic food ideas


Sausage Rolls – best picnic food ideas 1

best picnic foods

Whose eyes don’t light up when they see a batch of freshly baked sausage rolls?  Er…vegetarians?  Ok, you’ve got a point.  However…, committed veggies aside, these are a definite crowd pleaser for young and old.

This recipe is apparently derived from a Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute Meals recipe, but I got it via here .

Fennel seeds and a touch of parmesan, lift these sausage rolls above the ordinary.

  • Buy some ready made puff pastry – life is too short to make it.  Most professional chefs don’t even bother!
  • Roll it out and cut into two large rectangles.
  • Then get 12 chipolatas and spread them out diagonally down the middle of the pasty.
  • Spread a few fennel seeds over the sausages, and then a little grated parmesan.
  • Apply some egg wash to the exposed pastry.  Fold the pastry over and crimp with a fork.
  • Then sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds.  This is an essential touch.
  • Cut the pastry into small sausage roll sized pieces.  You should get about 10 from each rectangle.  Bake in an oven for 15 minutes at 220 degrees C on a parchment covered baking tray.

Click the link for more detailed instructions and pictures of my favourite sausage roll recipe, which produces great tasting and fantastic looking sausage rolls.


Cheese Straws – best picnic food ideas 2

best picnic food ideas

The best picnic food ideas can be made easily, and eaten without cutlery.  Cheese straws are the perfect picnic nibble.  I’m not sure where we got this recipe from originally, but its simple to make, portable and delicious.

1. Simply rub together:

  • 100g sifted plain Flour
  • 100g butter
  • 50g grated parmesan Cheese
  • 100g grated mature cheddar cheese
  • A light sprinkle of cayenne pepper (careful this is very spicy)
  • A few grinds of black pepper

2. Once its a crumbly texture, stir in an egg yolk using a knife.

3. Shape the pastry into a ball of dough. Dust work surface with flour.  Roll dough out until about 5mm thick and cut into rough square.

4. Cut into finger width strips and your preferred length.

5. Grease a baking tray, cover with parchment.

6. Lift carefully onto baking tray.  You may need a knife.

7. Bake at 220 degrees C for about 8 mins. Check after 5.  You’re looking for a nice golden brown colour.

8. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.

9.  When cooled store in airtight container.


Peanut noodle salad - best picnic food ideas 3

Really easy to make and tasty.  This is slightly adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe.

1. Cook 3-4 nests of dry noodles and leave to cool.  Then, in a large bowl mix:

  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsps sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic oil (or stick a peeled garlic clove in some olive oil for a bit and use that oil)
  • 125g smooth peanut butter
  • Juice of 1 lime

2. Combine the ingredients, then chuck in 1 sliced red pepper, 150g mange tout, 2 sliced spring onions and bean sprouts.  Mix.

3. Chuck in the noodles and mix further.

4. Scatter in some chopped coriander, 20g sesame seeds and a handful of unsalted peanuts to give a bit of a different texture.

5. Make sure you taste it, and check that the noodles are coated and taste how you want them.  If in doubt, feel free to add a little extra soy and/or sesame oil.

6. Whack it in the fridge ’til you need it.  Transfer to coolbox for picnic.


Hummus – best picnic food ideas 4

Middle Eastern food is amazing for picnics, so look no further than the king of middle eastern food Yotam Ottolenghi.  He has written a great cook book “Jerusalem” in partnership with Sami Tamimi, showcasing some of the best of both Jewish and Arab cuisine.  We’ve made a few of the recipes in here, and let me tell you, they are top drawer.

Anyway, for an authentic hummus recipe this is the place to go.  If you haven’t got the book, you can find the recipe on a number of websites including Cooking Spree.

You need:

  • chickpeas (I’d go with tinned)
  • bicarb of soda
  • tahini paste (available from supermarkets)
  • lemons
  • garlic
  • water
  • salt

So not a massive shopping list.  I’m not going to go through the recipe in detail, because you should make it as per the original, plus I really recommend you buy the book.  Its genuinely great.


Tabbouleh - best picnic food ideas 5

Continuing the middle eastern theme we have tabbouleh.  Tabbouleh is a parsley and bulgar wheat based salad that is pretty easy to make.  It also travels well.

Again I recommend the Ottolenghi version from Jerusalem which you can find on the Guardian website.

Just remember, although it says serve at room temperature, if you’re making in advance, you will need to store it in the fridge.


Watermelon wedges - best picnic food ideas 6

best picnic food ideas

You need something sweet for a picnic, which is portable.  Plus its nice to have something refreshing.

You can’t get any easier than this.  Surely the best picnic food idea, ever.

  • Buy a watermelon.  Baby ones are great for this.
  • Chop in to eighths.  Then chop each slice into 4 wedges.
  • Chuck it all in a big container in the fridge.
  • Transfer to cool box for picnicking.


Pitta crisps - best picnic food ideas 7

Another dead easy one.

  • Take 3 pitta breads.  Cut carefully through the middle, so you have two big flat pieces of each pitta.
  • Tear into random pieces of roughly 1-2 inch diameter.  Place on a baking tray (you may need two).
  • Scatter paprika liberally over the pitta.  Add a few grinds of salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, and give a good shake or mix around by hand.  Bake in oven at around 200 degrees C, for around 12 minutes, until coloured and starting to crisp.

Bear in mind they will continue to crisp up when out of the oven.

When cooled, store in an airtight container.

These are great picnic nibbles for scooping up the hummus or tabbouleh, or other dips like salsa or guacamole.


Home made lemonade – best picnic food ideas 8

When it comes to drinks, lets face it, there’s no point in having lots of lovely home made food, if you’re going to wash it all down with a can of coke!

If you’re up to spending a few quid, champagne or pimms are great for the adults, but what about the kids, non-alcohol drinkers and designated drivers?

Home made lemonade is definitely one of the best picnic ideas to please adults and children alike.

This is how you can make it really easily:

  1. Take 4 tablespoons of sugar and dissolve it in a pan of boiling water.  This gives you a very light syrup
  2. Leave it to cool
  3. Grate in the rind of a lemon.  A micro-planer is perfect for this
  4. Squeeze in the juice of 2-3 lemons
  5. Chop up a handful of mint
  6. Add the lemon juice and mint to the syrup and stir
  7. Taste it.  If its too sweet add lemon.  If its too sour add cold water.
  8. Chuck in a load of ice cubes
  9. Transfer to a flask(s).  You may find it easier to add the ice cubes at this stage.


Best picnic food ideas – final tips

  1. Prepare the night before.  It gives you more time, and most of these items will be fine for a night or two in the fridge.  The lemonade and pitta crisps are so quick you could leave til the morning of your picnic.
  2. Buy a Cool bag.  Make sure the ice packs that go in it are frozen overnight. You don’t want food poisoning, and cool bags and boxes work really well.  Also makes it much easier to transport your food.
  3. Take picnic blankets.  Yes your favourite picnic spot might have picnic benches, but what if they’re all occupied.  Plus its nice to sit on the ground at a picnic.
  4. Take something active to do.  Whether its a football or a frisbee, its a good way to work off the calories, and will make your picnic more fun.

Now what I should have done, is taken pictures of everything.  Sadly I didn’t do that, but I hope you enjoy the recipes, and more importantly I hope you have some great picnics.

If you do try the recipes, why not send us your pictures in?

Picnic Basket photo credit: uberculture via photopin cc

4 Comments on “Best picnic food ideas

  1. Now could that have been inspired by the extraordinarily good chocolate brownies and homemade lemonade that you rustled up for the picnic at Harlow Carr on Sunday?

  2. That may be the case… Sarahs brownies though, not mine!

  3. Rachel on said:

    The pitta crisps sound amazing! I’m definitely going to try to make them! I recently wrote a blog post on how to keep bugs away from your picnic so it might be of helps – don’t want the insects sampling the pitta crisps before you’ve had a chance to!

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