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Last Updated on July 30, 2021
A good potluck is a great way to bring a community together. Whether you’re just having a friendly barbeque in your backyard, catering for a church function, or making a feast for the whole clan at the family reunion, a potluck takes a lot of the stress of each individual person.
However, when it comes to a potluck it can be hard to figure out what to bring (or what to ask for, if you’re the host). Most people will, understandably, default back to a few tried and true options for every such gathering. This is great when someone is well known for having a killer recipe everyone loves…but for every one of grandma’s famous sweet potato pies, there are usually quite literally three fairly mediocre green bean casseroles that do little to excite the crowd.
Even the classic sides you love potato salad, baked beans, and the like- can get old after a while (or somebody else is likely to bring them anyway!), so, let’s try to find a few fun ideas to spruce things up!
1. Mexican Street Corn
Corn makes an excellent accompaniment to any barbeque, and the thriving barbeque tradition of our neighbors down south have made excellent contributions to our own food culture. As a result, barbeque and Hispanic inspired dishes go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The first step is easy enough: grill the corn. You can either shuck it first, or leave the husks on, depending on how charred you want your corn to be. Then, gather your seasonings.
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- ¼ cup of sour cream (Mexican crema preferred)
- ¼ cup of mayonnaise
- ½ cup of cotija (the crumbly white cheese you can buy in most stores)
- 1 lime, zested and juiced (or if you prefer to omit the zest, an equivalent amount of store bought lime juice is fine)
- ½ teaspoon of chipotle chili powder (or fresh chilis, lightly browned!)
- ¼ cup cilantro (optional)
Many recipes will call for a bit of additional salt, but in my experience cotija is EXTREMELY salty already, so there’s no need to add extra. If you’re not sure about everyone at the potluck, omit the cilantro; a surprising number of people have a genetic predisposition to hate it (apparently it tastes like soap).
This makes enough to slather four corn cobs, or the equivalent in off the cob corn. This scales up as easy as you please; just double for 8 cobs, triple for 12, etc.
Ready in about 15 minutes, and sure to be a crowd pleaser!
2. Roasted Okra
Okra is an underrated vegetable. It’s good pretty much any way you slice it or cook it (including pickled, something I can’t personally say for most non-cucumber, non-pepper vegetables), and it’s extremely easy to prepare.
While usually okra is prepared fried (either skillet fried or deep fried), or cut up and put in stews, it’s significantly healthier and keeps a lot better for travel (beach trip or camping trip) if you roast it.
This is a very flexible recipe. The core of it:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 lb. fresh okra
Toss all of those vegetables in a bowl, and add seasoning to taste. Okra tastes good with pretty much anything, so feel free to go wild with it! If you’re stymied for ideas, a standard blend of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika goes well with anything.
3. Grilled Cabbage
This is a “prep at home, cook at the potluck” recipe, but one that’s well worth it. It’s cheap and easy to feed a ton of people, and surprisingly delicious, even for people who might not otherwise love cabbage.
- 1 head of cabbage.
- 1/3 cup of butter (softened, but not melted)
- 1 small sweet onion (or half a standard sized Vidalia), chopped
- ½ teaspoon fresh crushed garlic or minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Two large pieces of heavy duty tin foil
Setup is simple. Cut a whole head of cabbage into eighths, and place it on a piece of the tin foil. Slather each piece with butter, then sprinkle the seasonings on them. Form a packet with the other piece of tin foil. Wrap it tightly and crimp it closed, then open a small hole for the steam to escape (poke one with a knife if you like).
Grill for 20 minutes.
4. Pesto Pasta and Potatoes
This is an excellent, lightly flavored but filling and delicious recipe for a few classic potluck dishes thrown together!
Like an interesting hybrid of a pasta salad, a potato salad, and green beans, this provides all of those notes but something unique as well. For this one you need just a few ingredients.
- 1.5 lbs. of red or new potatoes (halved) or fingerlings
- 12 ounces spiral cut pasta
- 3 cups green beans
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (not powdered)
- 1 jar or 6 ounces of pesto (fresh or store bought)
Boil potatoes until soft, then drain and set aside. Cook your pasta (cooking times may vary by package, or if you made fresh pasta from scratch), and in the last 5 minutes of cooking either add the green beans directly to the water or in a steam basket over the pasta (preferred). Cover and finish.
Drain pasta, reserving a half to ¾ cups of pasta water for the final step.
Toss everything in your largest bowl until coated in the sauce and cheese; make sure to do this while everything’s still hot so the cheese softens (parmesan will not typically melt fully under such light heat).
The great thing about this one is that, like potato salad, it’s great whether it’s hot, cold, or even room temperature! Perfect for any potluck and just a fine day to hang out and watch tv.
Other fun ideas you wanna try: grilled mushrooms.