Potluck events are one of our favourite ways to entertain – there is less work on the host, and you can discover a bevy of new recipe ideas. While you can’t always make everyone happy with a potluck dish, there are some essential strategies you can use to build a crowd-pleaser for your next gathering.
How to Build The Perfect Potluck Dish
Choose a theme and/or type of dish.
Get started by selecting a flavour profile or cuisine, and deciding what type of dish you want to make. Open up your pantry, take stock of the herbs and spices you have on hand and think about whether you want to focus on a specific cuisine like Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese, etc.
Some types of foods are more potluck-friendly than others, such as:
Think of recipes that are easy to assemble, bring with you and serve – and can also be good if served at room temperature. If you’re heading to someone’s house, you may not have access to an oven or another method of reheating.
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Try to keep it allergen-friendly.
With the number of popular diets out there, it’s likely that many guests follow different dietary philosophies. There are some basic ingredients you can omit from your potluck dishes that those with allergies and intolerances will appreciate, and everyone else probably won’t even notice you made any alterations!
We automatically eliminate gluten and dairy, to which many people are intolerant. Then, if you happen to know any dietary needs of the other guests you can make adjustments accordingly. Consider what you can leave on the side (for example, chopped nuts on a salad) so guests can opt out of a particular ingredient if needed. It’s also helpful to label the items in your dish so everyone knows what’s in it.
Here is some great recipe inspiration:
Pack your potluck dish with nutritious ingredients.
Deliciousness is absolutely a priority, but we also want to ensure we create dishes with culinary nutrition principles in mind so guests walk away from the table feeling satisfied instead of sleepy, overstuffed, or suffering from acid reflux.
Try to build a dish that contains protein, nutritious fats, fibre, and lots and lots of vegetables. This will help balance blood sugar levels, enhance digestion, and more. Some of the ingredients you could add to a potluck dish include:
Make it one-pot and no-fuss.
Aim for potluck dishes that are easy to transfer into a large bowl, or onto a large plate, for serving. Not every one-pot meal is going to be ideal for potlucks, but you don’t necessarily have to use a pot: you could choose a recipe that involves dumping everything into a food processor, blender or bowl.
Go for comfort foods.
Depending on the crowd, you may need to entice them a little with healthy comfort foods. Some hits include sweet, starchy, root vegetables like squash, sweet potato, carrot and beets, sweet and savory galettes, noodle dishes, or you can go for casserole-type dishes such as dairy-free mac and cheese or lasagna.
Taste test and balance flavours.
Make it beautiful.
Don’t just glop everything in a bowl or throw it on a plate – we eat with our eyes, too. You don’t need to be a food stylist to make a dish visually appealing. Often, a sprinkle of colourful herbs can really amp up a dish. Discover more food styling tips here.
Make it portable.
Unless you’re hosting, you’re going to be taking your dish to another location by some mode of transportation (even if you’re walking!).
Transfer your potluck dish to a sturdy container where it won’t be disturbed, preferably one with a lid that seals or snaps. This makes it easier to transport – and you can stick your name on it so it won’t get mixed up in the hustle and bustle of the party.
When you’re stuck, make dessert!
If you’re unsure what to make for a potluck, a dessert recipe is almost guaranteed to be a winner. We highly recommend making something with chocolate, but there are also these amazing options:
With these essential tips for building a good potluck dish, don’t be surprised if there are scads of people asking you for your recipe!