Every time we’re with our favorite people around the dinner table, we think the same thing: “Why don’t we should do this more often?” We don’t, because…dining out is costly? Dinner parties are so much work?
This is exactly why the potluck supper exists: To make it simple, enjoyable—and inexpensive—to get together. These days, who doesn’t want to spend more time connecting with friends and family? A potluck dinner is a great way to minimize lots of the roadblocks that prevent us from sitting around a table together.
The potluck dinner is one of the best examples of the old saying, “Many hands make light work.” Everyone brings something and nobody feels overwhelmed. With the teensiest bit of planning, you can avoid duplicate dishes (Nothing but desserts! Five bags of chips!) and maximize the fun. Here are four tips and four family-style recipes you can use to have a successful potluck dinner.
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Whether you’re going with something simple or complex, it’s good to have a theme for the menu to prevent a clash of cuisines. Some popular themes our cooks recommend:
- Seasonal favorites
- Street food
- Favorite recipes
- Throwback recipes from a chosen era
- Childhood favorites
- Comfort foods
- Movie-themed foods
- Breakfast for dinner
- Food of your home town
- Taco bar
- Hot dog bar
- Burger bar
As the host, it’s best if you announce the theme and create a space where everyone can keep track of details. There’s no need to dictate exact recipes—if everyone can choose a category, you’ll be good to go, and the cooks will be able to make any final recipe decisions closer to the date of the party.
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Pro tip: Ask habitual early birds to bring ice, drinks and appetizers.
- Main dishes
Be sure to include something for non-cooks (or super-busy folks) to bring:
- Drinks and Ice
- Bread or rolls from the bakery
- Paper items
At large potlucks, there is usually something for everyone, but for a smaller gathering, this is a good time to flag any dietary restrictions so cooks can plan accordingly.
Set up your serving area to make everything flow smoothly:
- Designate a separate area for drinks and apps to prevent congestion.
- Get out serving utensils, baskets and any extra dishes people might need.
- Warm up the oven to keep hot foods hot during happy hour, and get out the trivets or potholders.
- Set out a stack of small cards so each cook can write down the name of their dish any other information that might be helpful.
- Want to have some easy potluck fun during dinner? Here are some questions that get a fun group conversation rolling:
- What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
- How do you prefer to communicate: call, text or email?
- Who is your celebrity doppelganger?
- What do you think is the best age to be and why?
- Tell us about any celebrity encounters you’ve had.
- What did you want to be when you were little?
- What were you like as a kid?
- What product could you not live without that is not connected to the Internet?
- Do you remember a book from childhood being important to you?
- Do you remember your favorite outfit that you thought was cool?
- What is something that made you laugh recently?
Sweet and spicy sriracha pecans add some fabulous crunch to pimento cheese dip. This crowd-pleasing, Southern staple is having a renaissance these days and after one bite you will understand why. This dip can be made ahead will be ready and waiting when hungry (and soon to be happy!) guests arrive.
Kale is a superfood and people love bacon. Its a match made in heaven. This kale salad with bacon dressing is the perfect dish for a fall family gathering. Pumpkin seeds provide a little fall crunch on top of hearty kale leaves along with some creamy goat cheese crumbles.
This classic Fall roast pork loin pairs well with hearty fall dishes and is perfect for a crowd. Take the extra time to light up the grill and spend a few moments savoring the crisp fall air with family and friends. The cook time is perfect for a nice chat over a glass of wine. Let the pork loin rest while the crowd gathers. Consider serving this pork dish as the main dish at a Fall pot luck.
Nothing says Fall more than delicious apple pie- except maybe cozy sweaters! Consider serving these easy apple pie sundaes at your next fall gathering. Your guests will love the smell of warm churros baking and you will the ease of everyone making (and enjoying) their own sundae. Less time in the kitchen means more time for you to catch up with family and friends over ice cream!