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Seven Layer Dip
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Best make-ahead potluck recipe ideas.

Potlucks are one of the easiest ways to have a summer get-together. Whether you're a guest or the host, you only have to make a dish to share — much simpler than hosting a whole meal. And potlucks are a great way to taste-test lots of different recipes you might want to make yourself sometime. We've gathered Allrecipes favorite make-ahead potluck recipes, as well as tips if you're hosting, and transporting food if you're a guest. It's going to be a delicious summer!

Potluck Tips for Hosts

  • Let guests know in advance how many people they should plan on serving. If you're expecting a large crowd, you could request that a single dish serves eight to 10 people, and then make sure you have multiple people bringing each kind of menu item.
  • Have guests sign up to bring paper cups, napkins, utensils, plates, etc. if you need help providing them.
  • Keep masking tape and pens available for guests to label their dishes in case they leave before others are finished eating. This way you'll know who the dishes belong to.
  • Some guests may have food allergies or other dietary concerns. Have guests label their dishes to signal if they contain nuts, wheat or other gluten, dairy, and so on. A simple 3x5 card taped to the dish should do the trick.
  • Fill large, inexpensive aluminum baking pans with ice so guests can place salads, desserts, or other foods on them to keep them properly chilled. It's a food safety consideration your guests will appreciate.
  • Consider providing "to-go" containers so guests can take home leftovers of their favorites or for bringing home their own leftovers. This way they can rinse their dish before packing it away to take home. It's also a good idea to have some extra plastic wrap and foil so guests can re-wrap dishes.

Potluck Tips for Guests

  • To transport anything that might slosh around, use a container with a tight-fitting lid. For dishes with less sloshing potential (e.g. desserts, salads, etc.), you can likely just cover in plastic wrap, but be sure to wrap the entire container — not just the top — and give it a couple layers, just to be safe.
  • Bring a serving utensil for your dish; your host will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  • Although it's ideal to prepare as much of your dish at home as possible — ideally all of it — if you do need to heat anything up or do any final steps when you get to the party, be sure to check with your host ahead of time to see if that will work for them. If it doesn't, bring a different dish.
  • When you head out, set dishes on the floor of your car, in a reusable grocery bag or box for extra protection. To keep things from sliding around, surround the dish with towels, which will also help keep hot dishes warm. If you go to a lot of potlucks, you might consider purchasing an insulated carrier.
  • If you are transporting cold food use insulated bags, cold packs or a cooler with ice so cold things stay cold. The USDA has more smart tips for transporting food safely on the road.

Potluck Appetizers

This popular dip is an easy, virtually spill-proof potluck recipe. (And delicious — let's not forget delicious!) Bring sturdy tortilla chips that can hold up to the dipping, and be sure to bring a bowl to put them in when you get to the party. Check out even more dip recipes.

It takes a mere 15 minutes to make this colorful dish on the morning of the potluck — there's enough lime juice in the recipe to keep the avocado looking fresh by the time it gets to the party. This recipe serves six, so depending on how many people will be at your gathering, you might want to double or triple the recipe. Get tips to make the best homemade salsa.

Avocado and Corn Salsa
Photo by Baking Nana

Ripe summer cherry tomatoes, pungent basil, and creamy mini mozzarella balls are threaded on skewers or toothpicks and drizzled with olive oil for a delightful twist on a classic caprese salad that's easy to make ahead of time and pretty enough to serve as a potluck centerpiece. Tip: Be sure to coat the basil leaves in enough olive oil so they don't turn dark in the fridge overnight.

Caprese on a Stick
Photo by cassandrabianca

Potluck Main Dishes

Each of these summer potluck main dish recipes can be made ahead of time and are perfect for feeding a good-sized group. A few things to consider: Do you need to double the recipe to accommodate your guest list? What extras do you need to serve with each recipe? Be sure to allow time for reheating if needed, and check with your host for oven availability.

If the potluck is being hosted at someone else's house, you might consider bringing a slow cooker dish and transporting the food right in the slow cooker. (Check with the host first to see if there's a place you can plug in the slow cooker.) This recipe can be made the day before the party or early in the morning if the party is in the afternoon. Don't forget to bring buns if you want to serve these as saucy sandwiches. Tip: Instead of transporting the slow cooker, you can store the cooked pulled pork in a baking dish and reheat 30 to 45 minutes in a warm oven before serving.

Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork
Photo by psychedilemma

If your potluck spot includes a grill, try this recipe. You only need a few ingredients to make the marinade for these tropical kabobs, and they can be assembled up to a day ahead of time. Once the grill is hot, put these on the grill for 15 to 20 minutes. For more kabob ideas, check out our collection of skewer and kabob recipes.

Tacos for a crowd! Or for a dozen, if you want to get technical about it. The taco meat needs about four hours in a slow cooker, so if you make the recipe ahead of time, plan to allow for some re-heating time once the party has started. Remember to bring tortillas, and think about any taco fixin's you want to bring or have others contribute.

Zesty Carnitas Tacos
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine
| Credit: Allrecipes Magazine

Lasagna for summer? Yes, when you use zucchini for the noodles. Reviewers say most people have no idea they're not eating pasta! They do recommend salting the sliced zucchini to draw out extra moisture and letting it drain in a colander for 30 minutes to prevent this summery casserole from getting watery. To make this even lighter, substitute ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef. Or, omit it altogether to make this a vegetarian main dish. For more crowd-pleasing ideas, check out our potluck casserole recipes.

Potluck Side Dishes and Potluck Salads

Make the dressing for this summer salad ahead of time and toss everything together when you get to the party to avoid soggy greens. This recipe makes just four servings, but doubles and triples easily. Here are more spinach salad recipes to try.

Strawberry Spinach Salad I
Photo by ~*MyHotSouthernMess*~

This light and fresh salad will complement any summer menu—and it's also a great vegetarian option that could double as a main dish. It comes together in just minutes, then needs an hour to chill in the fridge before serving. Get tips to make irresistible pasta salads.

Greek Orzo Salad
Photo by Dianne

You absolutely can't go wrong with a classic potato salad. Be sure to allow enough time for the boiled potatoes, bacon, and eggs to cool completely before stirring the salad together. It will also need an hour in the fridge once mixed. If you want to up your potato salad game, we've got you covered.

Potluck Desserts

Bar cookies are one of the most potluck-friendly desserts to feed a crowd. Make and slice these beauties the day before for ultimate potluck party ease.

Delicious Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars
Photo by raph_2122

Everyone loves this summer favorite. If you make it the day before, consider warming it in the oven before serving, and seriously consider bringing vanilla ice cream to scoop alongside it. If peaches aren't your favorite, check out all of these other fruit cobbler recipes.

Peach Cobbler VI by Holiday Baker
Photo by Holiday Baker

Show up with a cooler full of these personal-size cheesecakes and watch the crowd go wild. The recipe makes six, so use the scaling tool on the recipe to create a shopping list for more servings if you need to. Get tips to make the creamiest, dreamiest cheesecakes.

Potluck Drinks

These summer drinks can easily be modified depending on how many you people you are serving, and the two grown-up options can be mixed together at the party in just minutes.

Here's the easiest way to serve margaritas to a crowd. Simply bring all the ingredients to the potluck—along with a serving pitcher—and stir it together just before serving. Did you remember to bring ice, salt, and lime wedges? Of course you did!

If you have a lot of guests to serve, grab a watermelon and get to work. Actually, a blender does all the work. All you do is chill it in the frige for 4 hours (or overnight) before serving. We have even more sangria ideas for you to try.

Watermelon Sangria
Photo by Karen Gaudette Brewer

Here's an eye-catching alcohol-free option guests will be happy to guzzle. Wait to add the water and blueberries until you get to the party, and remember to bring a serving pitcher. You might also like these other lemonade recipes.

Hot Pink Lemonade
Photo by Melissa Goff

More to Explore

Find more potluck dish ideas in our full collection of potluck recipes.

Need meat-free potluck options? Take a look at The 10 Best Vegetarian Recipes for Summer Potlucks.

Yes, you can potluck without busting your diet with these lightened-up versions of summer potluck favorites.