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Our best picnic food ideas for large groups

An idyllic picnic spread is the stuff of summer dreams, but the reality can be quite different, particularly if you’re feeding a crowd! If a group picnic sounds more faff than fun, maybe we can persuade you otherwise. We’ve created the ultimate list of picnic food ideas for large groups that are going to get you excited about planning your alfresco feast, whether you’re in the park, on the beach or just hosting in your back garden. Need more? We’ve got tons of picnic recipes and inspiration as well as healthy picnic ideas.

  1. Get ahead of the game

    Prep your picnic food for a crowd in advance and you’ll already be winning. If you want to be really organised, some recipes can be made ahead to freeze, such as this brilliantly transportable, American-meets-British Meatloaf picnic pie. You just need to wrap and freeze it uncooked, then defrost before baking. Or for something handheld that doesn't need slicing, these delectable Watercress, courgette and ham quiches are stylish and moreish.

    Need a veggie option? Impress with this gorgeous Rainbow picnic pie, serving 12, that can be baked ahead and chilled for up to two days. If you have some vegans in your gang, you can find tips on turning the recipe into a vegan bake.

    Get ahead of the game
  2. Bring on the mains

    Pies and pastries are practical picnic main dishes for a crowd, but if you know there’ll be a few who cry ‘where are the sandwiches?’, bring your A-game with this beautiful Picnic loaf that can be prepped in advance and serves 8. The trick here is scooping out the dough from the middle of the loaf to prevent a soggy sarnie.

    Or how about a deconstructed sandwich? It may sound posh, but it’s super-easy. Take a retro classic with a tasty twist – Devilled egg mayo and present a big bowlful with crispy rye toasts (or whatever bread or crackers you fancy) for dipping in. Again, no soggy bottoms in sight! Then for something more traditional, but equally practical, you can’t go wrong with a Scotch egg. We have lots of interesting twists, such as this Buffalo chicken recipe and this veggie variation, packed with fragrant spices.

    Bring on the mains
  3. Roll out the sides

    One of the great joys of a picnic are the picky bits letting you dip in and out and enjoy the fresh air for that bit longer. And the king of picnic sides dishes for a crowd? The sausage roll, of course! Fancy trying an adventurous recipe? These cheese and tomato sausage rolls are given a meaty, spicy edge with the addition of ’nduja paste. Or bake a batch of vibrant veggie rolls. Guests who don’t eat pork? These chicken sausage rolls are a tasty alternative, and kids will love the mild flavour.

    For an easy-prep posh side, these attractive Crab rolls fit the bill. Made with super-convenient tinned crabmeat, each sub can be cut into two, providing 8 tasty bites.

    Then just add some tortilla chips and toasted pitta, fresh, chopped veggies, such as cucumber, carrot and pepper sticks, and some imaginative dips. We reckon this is less fuss than serving salads to a crowd, but if you’re hosting in the garden and fancy some summery bowls, we have lots of creative picnic salads for a crowd.

    Roll out the sides
  4. Think perfectly portable desserts

    Even those who say they don’t eat dessert might be wondering if there’ll be something sweet, and when it comes to easy picnic desserts for a crowd, think easy-to-carry and easy-to-serve. Don’t worry, we have lots of irresistible ideas that work, such as these luscious Mojito fruit skewers that can be boozy or not – making 16, there’ll be plenty to go around.Then, how about this White chocolate and mango flapjack blondie tart? With tropical fruit and white chocolate encased in a nutty, oaty flapjack, it’s certainly a cut above your usual teatime treat.

    For little ones, knock up a batch of these oh-so-pretty Strawberry blondies using seasonal strawberries, and as a gluten-free and dairy-free option, wow with this spectacular Whole orange and almond cake. Now this does take some time to make, but the results are well worth it and you can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Now, where’s the cake tin?

    Think perfectly portable desserts
  5. Bring relaxed refreshment

    If you’re providing picnic drinks for a crowd, the last thing you need to be worrying about is chopping fruit or creating fancy cocktails. Our choice for a fuss-free beverage has to be a delicious cordial. They’re low-stress to transport and you can just bring still, sparkling or soda water to top up once there – easy! This fruity and fragrant Rosemary and citrus cordial is delightful or go pretty in pink with this Rhubarb and star anise recipe. For an alcoholic choice, this gorgeous Strawberry and rose fizz will add a touch of elegance to proceedings and it’s equally lovely with sparkling water, prosecco or Champagne, if you’re celebrating a special occasion. Bottoms up!

    Bring relaxed refreshment