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Eight quick and easy picnic food ideas

Planning a picnic can be a risky business with British weather, so sometimes you need to be spontaneous and grab the moment when the sun finally does decide to shine. But packing your picnic basket in a hurry doesn’t mean you have to miss out on delicious treats – with some clever prep and a few simple ingredients, you can turn picnic basics into alfresco brilliance! Here are our top tips for perfect picnic ideas you can grab and go…

  1. Super sarnies

    Sandwiches are a picnic winner – handheld yet still hearty enough to fill you up. Be creative with ingredients, try using up leftover meats from a Sunday roast or yesterday’s dinner, or grate odds and ends of cheese together to make a flavour-packed mix. No butter? Spread with cream cheese, houmous, pesto, chutney or mashed avocado (mixed with a little lemon juice to stop it browning) before adding your fillings, then use salad and veg for freshness and crunch. This green goddess sandwich is a perfect example of just how glorious a simple sarnie can be, or push the boat out with these gorgeous crab rolls that can be assembled once you're outdoors.

    Super sarnies
  2. Bite-sized wonders

    Finger foods are perfect for picnics – no mess, great for feeding a crowd and easy to transport, too. Use your muffin tin to its full potential and bake up a batch of savoury muffins, fritattas or sweet treats to pack in a tin and share around. These easy pasta frittatas only need 4 ingredients while these mini goat's cheese muffins are perfectly bite-sized. For a spicy kick, try these chilli cornbread muffins or for something sweet, you can't beat a classic American-style blueberry muffin.

    Bite-sized wonders
  3. Dips to go

    Dips and crunchy crudités are an easy way to get more veg into your picnic. Raid the fridge for inspiration – chop carrots, cucumber, peppers and celery into sticks, while firm lettuce leaves (like Little Gem), cherry tomatoes, sugar snaps and radishes can be dunked just as they are. Just cover with some damp kitchen towel to help keep them fresh. Empty jam jars are great for transporting everything together, simply layer up with a dip (or try peanut butter, mayo or natural yogurt) and stick the veg on top. For some tasty homemade dip ideas, have a look at these easy recipes.

    Dips to go
  4. Tasty toppings and sprinkles

    An easy way to add flavour to ready-made dishes is with some creative toppings. Take a pot of houmous and add a drizzle of olive oil, a few sprigs of coriander, some thinly sliced red onion and juicy pomegranate seeds, and you’ve got something really vibrant and exciting. Pep up salads as well with a sprinkling of nuts or seeds for crunch, squeeze over lemon or lime juice for extra zing, or top with chopped spring onions and chillies for a flavour kick. 

    Tasty toppings and sprinkles
  5. Jam jar dressings

    Add your favourite dressing ingredients to a clean jar, screw on the lid and shake well. The ingredients may separate slightly while being transported, so just give it another good shake before using. Simply toss through salads or drizzle over cold meats to serve. Have a look at these ultimate salad dressing recipes for inspiration. 

    Jam jar dressings
  6. Fabulous fruit

    Fruit is wonderfully versatile for picnics. Apples, pears and grapes can be served with cheese or a Ploughman's platter (or tart!), or just munched on their own for pud. Make a fresh fruit salad, such as this grapefruit, melon and mint salad recipe for a healthy pud or use a punnet of berries in a batch of strawberry coolers.

    Fabulous fruit
  7. Pronto puds

    Pudding can often be an afterthought on picnics, but it’s surprisingly easy to include a sweet treat with just a few ingredients. Chocolate is sure to keep everyone happy and you can rustle up some no-bake chocolate rice crispy cakes or a chocolate fridge cake in less than 30 mins. Wrap up the whole traybake and store in the coolbox to set. If you're in a real hurry, bring components you can assemble outside. Cream, meringues and fresh berries are always a winner, or try using ready-made biscuits for these cute strawberry shortcake stacks – keep the berries, whipped cream and biscuits separate until ready to eat.

    Pronto puds
  8. Essential kit

    On top of the normal plates and cutlery, having the right kit can be just as important as the right ingredients. Always pack a small chopping board and sharp knife (carefully packaged) so you can prep any ingredients you’ve just grabbed, as well as a roll of clingfilm to wrap up any leftovers. Clean, empty jam jars are perfect for mixing dressings, holding dips, layering desserts or even serving drinks in, while a plastic mixing bowl can be handy for serving salads or mixing last-minute puds. Handwipes, a tea towel and a clean cloth also make tidying up easier, so if the weather suddenly turns you can pack up in a jiffy, too.

    See more picnic ideas here.

    Essential kit