10 Picnic Lunch Recipes

Enjoy the great outdoors before the dog days of summer arrive. Here are 10 picnic lunch recipes to make ahead and bring on your adventure!

Pack up the kiddos or grab some friends and enjoy the great outdoors before the dog days of summer arrive. Here are 10 picnic lunch recipes to make ahead and bring on your adventure!

pesto pasta salad
Photo by Nicole Quinn

Chicken, Asparagus, Walnut and Pesto Pasta Salad

This delicious salad holds up well in a cooler.

1 (20-ounce) package frozen three-cheese tortellini
1 (7-ounce) container prepared refrigerator pesto
4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 bundle fresh asparagus, trimmed, blanched and cut into approximately 1-inch segments
1 cup good quality grated Parmesan cheese or freshly grated, divided
1/2 – 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1. Prepare pasta according to package.
2. Drain, toss with pesto. Cool.
3. Add chicken, asparagus and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan.
4. Stir in walnuts, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Before serving, bring to room temperature (leave out 20 – 30 minutes) and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Serves 8 – 10

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Photo by Nicole Quinn

Frozen Iced Tea

This family friendly libation is a frosty version of the Southern staple. Freeze it in large Ziploc bags or a plastic container, and use it to chill your cooler while it slowly melts to slushy consistency.

3 lemons
2 oranges
9 family-sized tea bags
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
fresh mint, for garnish
maraschino cherries, for garnish

1. Squeeze lemons and oranges.
2. Chill juices and reserve the lemon hulls.
3. Bring 2 quarts of water to a good boil; remove from heat.
4. Add tea bags, mint leaves and lemon hulls. Let mixture steep for 30 minutes.
5. Strain. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
6. When tea is thoroughly cooled, add lemon, orange and cherry juices, plus 1 1/2 quarts more cold water.
7. Stir well and freeze. When serving, garnish with fresh mint leaves and cherries. Makes 1 gallon

Bowl of vegetable salad
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Late Summer Salad

Recipe courtesy Chef Bo Hamilton, Ox Kitchen, Fairhope

2 cups summer peas, pink eyes or similar

2 cups sweet corn, freshly removed from the cob
2 large zucchini, sliced about 1/8-inch and grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper
4 cups heirloom, cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup cooked bacon, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Toss salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk dressing ingredients. Add dressing to salad when ready to serve.

Plate of corn and zucchini orzo
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Corn and Zucchini Orzo

This pasta salad makes a great vegetarian lunch, or pair with oven-roasted salmon for a perfect hot-weather dinner. It would also be wonderful topped with grilled shrimp!

3 ears corn, shucked 
1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise, or several smaller zucchini, halved lengthwise
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
kosher salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/2 pound orzo 
1/4 cup tahini 
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
1/2 teaspoon chili powder 
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cilantro, divided

1 tablespoon red onion, thinly sliced  
2 ounces feta, crumbled 

1. Light the grill. Place corn and zucchini pieces on a large plate and brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat until charred, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Remove the kernels from the corncobs and chop the zucchini. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Boil the orzo in salted water until it is al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Remove to a tray lined with paper towels to dry completely. 
3. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the tahini, lime juice, chili powder and 1/2 cup of the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the orzo, corn, zucchini, red onion and the remaining chopped cilantro and mix well. Transfer to a platter and top with crumbled feta, for serving. Serves 6

Hummus Collard Wraps
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Hummus Collard Wraps

8 large collard green leaves
1/2 cup hummus of your choice
Sriracha chili sauce, to taste
1/2 each red and yellow bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
1/2 cucumber, sliced in thin strips
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup slivered Kalamata olives
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Wash collard leaves, then remove the stems and trim off the thickest part of the spine.
2. Fill a large saute pan with 1/2 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Add the collard leaves and steam for a few minutes to make them more pliable. Allow to cool completely.
3. Lay one collard leaf on a cutting board. Add 1 tablespoon of hummus to the bottom 1/3 of the leaf and drizzle with Sriracha, to taste. Top with a few slices of each of the vegetables, olives and cheese.
4. Fold the sides in towards the middle, and then roll the leaf from front to back until the filling is completely enclosed, keeping everything nice and tight. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until ready to serve.
5. Before serving, slice chilled wraps diagonally across the middle and serve cold. Makes 16

Platter of Antipasta skewers
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Antipasta Skewers

Recipe by Kathy McGuire

cheese tortellini of your choice
cherry tomatoes
Italian salad dressing of your choice
whole black or green olives
sliced salami
white cheddar cheese, cubed
bamboo skewers or large toothpicks

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Allow to cool completely.
2. Place pasta, tomatoes and salad dressing in a large zip-top bag and allow to marinate in refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
3. Skewer each item in the following order: olive, salami, cheddar, tortellini and tomatoes. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Shrimp salad wraps
Photo by Jean Allsopp

Summer Shrimp Salad Wrap

Recipe by Lucy Buffett

1 tortilla (8 or 10 inches in diameter)
5 fresh baby spinach leaves (stems picked off and rinsed)
1/4 – 1/2 fresh heirloom tomato (diced)
1/2 cup Summer Shrimp Salad, recipe below
1/2 slice thinly sliced prosciutto, sautéed for 10 seconds on each side. After prosciutto is sautéed, cut into a chiffonade.
grape tomatoes to garnish

1. Place wrap on a clean, flat surface.
2. Line spinach leaves leaving 1 inch from the left, right, and bottom edges.
3. Sprinkle tomatoes on spinach leaves.
4. Spread Summer Shrimp Salad on tomatoes and spinach.
5. Sprinkle prosciutto on Summer Shrimp Salad.
6. Starting with the left and right sides, fold tortilla over 1 inch toward the center, then start rolling from the bottom up, being sure to keep the left and right sides tucked in as you go.
7. Cut wrap in half on a diagonal with a serrated knife. Place a tomato on a 3-inch frill pick, and stick through 1 half. Repeat with the other half. Makes 1 wrap

Summer Shrimp Salad

3 pounds boiled shrimp, peeled and chopped into medium to large pieces
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green onion
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon LuLu’s Crazy Creola Seasoning
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed
lemon juice

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, stirring gently.
2. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Mediterranean hummus and pita chips
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Mediterranean Hummus

This tasty hummus recipe is easy to make ahead, just assemble without the parsley and refrigerate. Add parsley before serving.

2 containers store-bought hummus
olive oil, to taste
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 pint pitted black olives
4 ounces crumbled feta
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped*

1. Spread hummus evenly across the bottom of a serving dish with 1-inch sides. On one diagonal half of the hummus, use the back of a spoon to create swirls. Drizzle this side with a generous amount of olive oil to taste.
2. Slice the tomatoes longways into quarters. Top the plain side of the hummus with tomatoes, olives and feta. Drizzle this half with a little more olive oil and then sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley.
3. Serve with plain pita chips. Serves 10

Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Chili Margarita Watermelon Salad

Non-drinkers can replace the alcohol with fresh brewed green tea and a bit of fresh squeezed orange juice with some orange zest.

1 medium seedless watermelon
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped green or red onion
3/4 cup good quality tequila
3/4 cup agave syrup
juice from 3 limes
1/4 cup triple sec
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh red chili, or to taste

1. Cut the watermelon into bite-sized cubes and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the cilantro and onion and toss gently. Set aside.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or cocktail shaker. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
3. Toss the melon with the sauce and place in the fridge to chill before serving. Serves 6

Shrimp remoulade
Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Shrimp Remoulade

A classic, cold, delicious starter and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, this dish is a favorite menu special at Regina’s Kitchen.

2 pounds medium-sized shrimp, boiled and peeled
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Creole mustard
3 tablespoons hot sauce (Mary Ann and Regina prefer Crystal.)
4 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 purple onion, minced
large handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Creole seasoning, to taste (Mary Ann and Regina use Tony Chachere’s.) 

1. Toss all ingredients together until well combined. Refrigerate for about 3 hours before serving. Serves about 6

Packing up your picnic? Hostess Beverly Smith shares some stylish ideas for serving perfectly-portioned meals.

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