22 easy recipes to make ahead

Amanda M. Rye

As we begin to start getting back together this year, most folks can’t wait to reunite with friends and family over Memorial Day weekend. As the unofficial start to summer 2021, what says warm weather bliss more than a potluck party?

Some folks may be congregating at backyard barbecues (hello, baby back ribs and potato salad!), while others may be dining on city rooftops or at the beach. Has the host asked you to bring something sweet or a savory side dish? Simple! Are you eager to show off all those cooking skills you’ve been mastering over the last year? Go all out with an easy-to-transport appetizer or entrée.

Whichever is preferred, we’ve got you covered with these perfect potluck recipes for summer.

Table of Contents


Popcorn Shrimp Salad Sandwiches with Old Bay Aioli


Chef Chris Santos makes a delicious popcorn shrimp salad with Old Bay aioli that he packs in a separate container. Once ready to serve, he loads up seven-grain rolls with the tasty filling. The shrimp salad is so flavorful and texturally pleasing, you can skip adding lettuce or anything else.

Icebox Pasta Salad

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

This recipe uses everything in the icebox. If you have red onion, a little piece of squash or zucchini, leftover chicken, berries, peaches, apples or one random tomato throw it in there. This is also amazing the next day and delicious at room temperature, so it’s a great option for a make-ahead dish that doesn’t need to be packed in a cooler.

No-Cook Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Feta

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

No need to boil water to prep this no-cook couscous salad! Couscous just needs to be rehydrated before serving. For this salad, you’ll combine the couscous with a few staple pantry ingredients, then let it soak in the dressing for a couple hours (or even overnight, if you’d like to prep it in advance). Serve it chilled or room temperature — no heat required!

Summer Vegetable Galette


Simpler than quiche, this veggie-filled summer galette makes is a beauty on the table. It’s perfect for potlucks as it can be put out as an appetizer, side dish or even main for those who don’t want meat. Just leave it to the host to choose, then let everybody enjoy!

Sunny Anderson's Charred Onion Potato Salad

Mike Smith / TODAY

Using steamed potatoes from the bag saves time and makes prep quick and easy. Then just toss them with a simple dressing, charred onions for a sweet and smoky flavor and you’ll be on your way.

Summer Vegetable Salad with New Potatoes

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

A colorful salad that’s a mix of different vegetables hits the spot on a steamy summer evening. Everything can be prepped ahead of time and, while the recipe serves six, is easy to double for a larger gathering.

Southern-Style Mac and Cheese

Food Network

Kardea Brown loves Southern-style mac and cheese because it’s cheesy and hearty, yet sturdy. It’s basically a custard-style baked macaroni and cheese with eggs, heavy cream and sharp cheddar cheese. There’s no denying this mac and cheese is irresistible — your fellow potluckers will agree.

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella

Nathan Congleton/TODAY

As vibrant as it is fresh, this salad is all about using ripe, in-season ingredients. Juicy tomatoes, cool watermelon and zesty herbs make this summery salad sing. It’s also best served at room temperature, so no need to occupy extra space in the fridge.

Avocado Ranch Dip

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Grown-ups and kids alike will love this spin on traditional ranch. Plus, if you thin it out with a little water, it can dress a salad nicely.

Marinated Picnic Vegetables

This recipe is really tasty and easy to throw together for a picnic or an afternoon barbecue. It lasts for days in the fridge, too, so you can make it a few days before your picnic without worrying about a soggy salad.

Katie Lee's Peach-Bourbon Bacon Baked Beans

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

The fruity sweetness of the brown sugar and peach preserves compliment the smokiness of the bacon and bourbon in these baked beans. They’re always the first side dish to go at any barbecue.

Sweet Summer Corn Relish

Erin Scott

Corn relish has traditionally been eaten throughout the South and stored in the larder for leaner months. Chef Bryant Terry’s family has found multiple uses for this tangy condiment: stuffing it into tacos, serving it atop beans and simply sautéing it to serve as a side dish.

Whipped Feta with Quick-Pickled Vegetables

Will Coleman

Loaded with sweet and spicy pickled vegetables to go along with the herby and briny feta dip, this platter requires only a few minutes of cooking, which means you’ll have a cool kitchen while preparing a veggie-packed dish that is light, fresh and robust in flavor.

Pulled Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

Ronnie Woo

Make the chicken a day or two in advance, whip up a super simple, two-ingredient slaw and then bring the buns to assemble well-stacked sandwiches at the barbecue.

Chef D's Potato Salad

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

The mayo, the mustard, the pickled relish: Chef Damon Stalworth’s potato salad has all of the classic potato salad ingredients. A delightful addition to a rack of barbecued ribs slathered in sauce, this is a simple recipe mixed with hard-boiled eggs for a little extra protein.


Ultimate Rice Krispie Treats

Katie Stilo

These thick-cut rice cereal treats oozing with sticky sweetness will be the star of the party. The secret to the recipe is, of course, the marshmallow fluff. It keeps the treats moist and, along with mini marshmallows, really amps up that toasty, buttery flavor that some treats lack.

Melissa Clark's Fresh Any Fruit Tart

Mike Smith / TODAY

During spring and summer, you can bet on an abundance of fresh fruit. Instead of letting extra stone fruits and berries go to waste, put them to use in this delicious tart. The flavors will blend together seamlessly and guests will definitely be impressed.

Dylan Dreyer's Blueberry Buckle

Zach Pagano/TODAY

Ever heard of a blueberry buckle? Dylan hadn’t until she met her husband. Like a moist blueberry-packed crumb cake with hints of warm spice from the cinnamon and ginger, it’s a lovely summer treat.

No-Bake Cheesecake

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

We still want rich and creamy desserts in the warmer months, and this one is so incredibly easy to make without ever turning on the oven. The combination of
toasted almonds in the crust, the richness of the cream cheese filling and fresh raspberries always hits the spot.

S'mores Bites

Maggie Shi

S’mores are, of course, best when you roast your own marshmallows over a campfire, but these mini sweets are ideal for parties and can be thrown together in minutes (without the sticky mess).

Joy Bauer's Watermelon Dessert 'Pizza'

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

This no-bake recipe is juicy and delicious and screams summer fun. Top it with yogurt, dark chocolate chips, your favorite fiber-filled berries (raspberries and blueberries are pretty, but anything goes) and then just slice it up!

No-Bake Blueberry and Banana Icebox Cake

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Again, no need for the oven on this one. Featuring fresh fruits, golden Oreo cookies and homemade coconut whipped cream, this almost-vegan, no-bake icebox cake is the perfect dessert for spring and summer. And it’s great for parties because you can make it the day before.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Cobblers are always a summer hit. Use a mix of your favorite berries, get creative with some wild berries or just use whatever is available and in season. It’s super easy to prepare and you can keep extra streusel in the freezer for future use. Trust us — it’ll definitely be gobbled up quickly at your next potluck.

Next Post

Travel & Leisure Present Playing Cards

Optimize your customer support communication with our Cloud Contact Center. Moving your contact center to the cloud offers you a solution that uses predictive analytics to lower operating prices and improve enterprise performance and buyer interactions over voice, e-mail and chat. MetTel’s managed companies strategy helps you equip your cell […]

You May Like