The next time you have a beach day, nix the subpar boardwalk snacks for some delicious and refreshing homemade dishes. With just a tiny bit of prep, you can turn an average outing into an alfresco feast.
Coming up with beach picnic ideas is easier than you may think too. The most important factors to consider are whether the dish transports well and if it’s cooler-friendly or shelf-stable enough to withstand the sun, Julie Pointer Adams, author of Al Fresco: Inspired Ideas for Outdoor Living, tells SELF. You’ll also want to lean on meals that have hydrating ingredients—think crunchy celery and hearty grapes, both of which have high water content—and won’t leave you feeling sluggish afterward, she says. Picture yourself on the shore, and think about what appeals to you in that hot and sandy environment. For Adams, that’s crisp salads with citrus dressings and veggie sandwiches with chilled cucumbers and juicy tomatoes.
Then, of course, there’s the legwork: To really lean into the relaxing beach-day vibe, you’ll probably want to pack foods that don’t require cooking the day-of, says Adams. After all, you don’t want to spend your morning sweating over the stove. So try cooking prep-ahead meals like chilled pasta salad or wraps with fresh add-ins like bean sprouts or hummus, she says.
And don’t let the elaborate TikTok videos trick you into thinking that beach recipes need to be extravagant either. Instead, choose the dishes you know fill you with joy—it doesn’t need to be a whole production, says Adams. Less is more in the case of your spread. In fact, Adams prefers options that don’t require much time to make or depend on a complex setup. While fancy charcuterie boards are cute, save them for an indoor gathering—or one where you’re not trying to relax by the waves.
The best food for lounging is simple, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bland, she says. To prove it, we’ve laid out 15 easy beach picnic ideas for you to try this summer, ranging from classic staples like salads, sandwiches, desserts, and drinks to more creative twists on the OGs. The best part? Most of these tasty and refreshing dishes come together in under 30 minutes and can be prepped in advance, so all you have to worry about is packing them in your cooler.