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I need help with some potluck dishes

Hey guys, I'm 16 years old and this is my first post on chowhound. Let me cut to the chase,i will be going to a friends potluck in a week and I'm looking for appetizers and entrees. Nothing sweet please just savory. I want to impress big time at this potluck so please help me with some inspiration and maybe recipes. And I'm kind of a noob at potluck a so I may need instructions for transportation and what not. I have some ideas myself as well but right now I'm in need of some other ideas and some help with how to transport and do certain things to make cooking for a potluck easy. Thanks guys!

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    Very cool that you're getting potluck experience in your teens. Fall's a great time of the year for that.

    Now, first thing I'd ask the organizer host is, "do you have a list of what everyone else is bringing?" You don't want to end up with 4 green salads and no meat.

    Next thing I'd ask is "Is anyone allergic to anything?"

    You have a couple choices with transport. If you (or your fam) have a crockpot, you can transport in that. Or, you can just get the biggest, toughest disposable tray you can find at the store (generally in the aluminum foil/trash bag aisle), and wrap well in foil for transport.

    I have a couple of dishes I love to bring to potlucks. First is meatballs in sauce....just a big, big pot of meatballs in homemade (or a good storebrand) tomato sauce. These can be transported in a tray.

    Similarly, I really like to make a big bunch of Italian sausage, onions and green pepper (though I myself have to go easy on the green pepper....sigh). Also transports nicely in a tray.

    In hotter weather if I'm not going far, I like to bring a bunch of cooked, chilled, peeled and deveined shrimp with cocktail sauce (just bring a couple jars) and lemon wedges.

    Good luck, and have fun!

    19 Replies
    1. re: pinehurst

      Thank you for the wonderful tips! I am going to do meatballs that was one that I was planning. I've got quite a good and interesting meatball dish that I'm going to do. And what about a frittata? That could be served at room temp. And I imagine transportation would be fairly easy.

      1. re: Healthyfoodie121

        Meatballs are fine but if they are store bought meatballs, the sauce will have to be spectacular. Last year I tried meatballs that were made from a mix of beef, pork and a third meat. They were very tender and very tasty. Very obviously homemade with love and skill.

        The choice of shrimp also needs to be better defined. Some people bring shrimp from the cooked shrimp rings and they are still dripping and barely defrosted. I think it is better to thaw and cook frozen raw shrimp.

        It is good advice to ask if there's a list of things other people are bringing. I worked hard once on a fresh fruit bowl only to have another one show up and the other one had used frozen melon balls. (ick)

        I think a good casserole, made from scratch is always good. A lot of people don't put much meat into potluck dishes but it doesn't have to get expensive. A nice chicken pot pie topped with homemade biscuits is usually popular. You can add peas and carrots or cubes of winter squash, just don't overload it with vegetables. A heated casserole can be wrapped in towels and placed in a cardboard box to carry. It can stay hot quite awhile but if you are traveling a distance, see if the hosts' oven is available.

        Stuffed mushrooms are always popular but might be hard to transport.

        I think the secret is using fresh ingredients and making things from scratch. Too many people bring veggies that were cut up by store employees and dips that are just too ordinary.

        1. re: dfrostnh

          Thanks for the tips and I was already planning on that for sure! I would never do it if it wasn't homemade with fresh ingredients. I was planning on doing homemade meatballs with duck and a nice raspberry or blackberry sauce.

          1. re: Healthyfoodie121

            I tend to not bring duck or lamb or even fish to a pot luck, since so many people don't like duck or lambg or fish. Just a thought.

            1. re: laliz

              Thank you so much for noting about people not liking duck or fish. Your so right. I might not do duck. What other meats would you suggest. A pork and beef mixture? I want them to be a little extravagant and impressive :P

              1. re: magiesmom

                Thank you. I'm so stuck with what meats to do for it. I want a nice texture and taste. But I don't want just plain beef. And I'm unsure about whether or not the pork and beef will work or not. But maybe it will. I'll have to do some testing. Because someone mentioned that a lot of people may be a little scared to try duck. So I may have to stay away from duck this time.

                1. re: Healthyfoodie121

                  Use bison - it tastes like beef but no one will be scared of it, and you'll get wow factor points.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Yes duck meatballs. You grind the duck up and mold them into balls of meat :P

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Haha, You should! But its just an idea of mine so good luck :P

                    2. re: Healthyfoodie121

                      There's a place in Seattle, Lunchbox Laboratory, that does gourmet burgers. One of their specialties is "dork"--a mixture of ground duck and ground pork. I haven't tried it, but it gets rave reviews.

                      1. re: MsMaryMc

                        Hmmm.... Thank you for that as well. Ugh im going back and forth between this one. I am definitely doing meatballs. I'm thinking veal and duck would be ridiculously delicious and would have a wonderful texture but im afraid people are gonna be like "YOU HAVE VEAL IN THERE??? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??? AND DUCK IS GROSS EVEN THOUGH IVE NEVER HAD IT!"

              2. re: Healthyfoodie121

                Frittata is an awesome idea, and if anyone is doing low carb or eating protein heavy, it's good for that, too.

                1. re: pinehurst

                  Lately I've been on a spanish tortilla kick for picnics, potlucks and work/school lunches. Obviously not so low carb but delicious and easy to keep at room temperature. In fact, it tastes much better at room temp.

              3. re: pinehurst

                This is one of my go-to potluck recipes. It's tasty and a little unusual. The thing I like best is that it's a protein dish that's served cold--always a plus when you can't count on being able to heat what you've brought. That question about anyone with food allergies is important here, because this one does contain peanuts. This version is pretty mild--I use at least twice the amount of cayenne called for.

                Thai Rice Salad with Peanut Dressing

                1. re: MsMaryMc

                  Sounds delish. Just wondering what this salad looks like-- is it mostly rice? Or do the greens (cucumber and spinach) dominate? Gonna have to try this. Thanks.

                  1. re: dimsumgirl

                    It's mostly rice, sticky from the dressing, with bits of chicken and greens. I suppose you could add more greens if you wanted them to be a bigger part of the mix.

              4. Welcome as well!

                pinehurst has some very good ideas. I usually either bring a product that can be heated in a slowcooker or served at room temperature because there is rarely a place to reheat your item.

                Another thing I try and do is make sure there are a few vegetarian items. This really was important at my last job working in a University lab with many vegetarians. They would even sometimes not attend because they felt unwelcomed. I will admit, if they are vegan they are on their own but that's because I'm a cheeseophile.

                Some items I have brought in the past: Spinach Artichoke dip with chips, vegetarian chili (it's actually very good I think my sister found the recipe from Martha Stewart), cheese ball rolled into logs and sliced into coins to help speed people down the buffet, buttered corn on the cob... actually was extremely popular, or a fanciful salad.

                Some non-vegetarian items I have brought were: Muffalettas (savory sandwich), chicken buffalo dip, spam musubi (pan fried spam drizzled in sweet savory soy sauce on rice wrapped with seaweed), pork chili with green chilies.

                Good Luck!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Crockett67

                  Thank you for letting me know about the difficulty of reheating at one of these. I suppose I'll have to stay away from too many warm dishes. I'll try and see ahead of time if I can have access to their oven.

                2. A classic room temperature appetizer is stuffed dates:


                  1. Mac & Cheese! is a good veggie option - take it in disposable pan. It will stay warm for a few hours or you can pop in the oven when you get there.

                    Lots of impressive options here on Chow.

                    This is one I really like - Jerk Chicken Sliders serve with Citrus and Cylantro Slaw... yummy, spicy, sweet and inexpensive to make.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: sparky403

                      Hmm that's a pretty good idea. I might do that for another one. But I'm looking something a little more extravagant. Something that will really wow them (aesthetically and taste wise) that will be easy to transport.

                      1. re: Healthyfoodie121

                        I would really encourage you to take your meatballs in a large crock pot. Cook them however you'd like - put them in the crock pot, put on low and then warm and they will be hot once you get to the party. Just plug them in and keep them on warm - will not over cook and you don't have to depend on available oven space.

                        I think your meatball idea is a good one - one that transports well, is a big protein addition to the meal and everyone usually likes.

                        1. re: Jeanne

                          Precisely what I was gonna do thank you for reassuring me that it works. I really am liking this community!

                    2. Chicken Marbella - google the recipe. It is good hot or warm. For a potluck, I would do it entirely with one type of part - thighs, drumsticks, or wings (tips removed).

                      1. for potlucks I almost always do a protein.
                        I cook a turkey ahead and chill it overnight before slicing it. serve attractively garnished at room temp on a lettuce lined platter.

                        A sliced ham can be served at room temp; so can a sliced meatloaf.

                        1. If you can grill and the folks like a bit of heat, consider doing a couple of chickens (pork ribs would be outstanding) slathered down in a Caribbean Jerk paste. For the chicken, put the rub both under and on top of the skin. Once perfectly grilled, cut the birds up, platter them and garnish with roughly chopped cilantro, green onion and wedges of lime. This travels extremely well. Plenty of good jerk recipes online but make sure the paste includes green onion, fresh thyme, lime and habaneros or scotch bonnets (or jalapeno if you can't stand the heat)

                          1. Regarding transport, I put everything in a clean plastic dish pan. If there is a spill it is easy to clean up. Works well for bringing home the dirty dish too. Sometimes the host's kitchen has too much activity to easily rinse your serving dish.

                            Do bring the serving tools your dish needs! I keep a few inexpensive sets of plastic utensils from Ikea. If I loose a piece it's not a big deal. They sell a small sized black plastic fork, spoon, spatula for $1 iirc.

                            Big ziplock bags work well for transport, especially for slaw and pasta salad. Just open and pour into the serving dish once you arrive.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: meatn3

                              Another idea for you...very simple...crockpot - home-made or store bought meatballs...I large jar of grape jelly & 1 large jar of store bought chili sauce. I took this to the last pot-luck - and everyone was asking for the recipe. If you are a busy person - you do not need much time for the prep. Have fun at your pot-luck ...and welcome to this great site.

                            2. i wish my friends had done potlucks when i was a teenager!

                              although they're a bit tedious, you might impress with some summer rolls (wrap fillings in lightly soaked spring roll wrappers, roll but don't fry) with satay sauce - you can fill with shrimp, chicken, sauteed wild mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts, herbs, etc.

                              also pretty darn easy, but i imagine could be impressive is focaccia. you could do a couple of different topping flavor profiles. if you haven't attempted breads yet, i promise they're not hard. do a less complicated version with some garlic and onion and herbs; on another maybe some sliced grapes, walnuts or pistachios, blue cheese with a drizzle of honey.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Emme

                                this was a really easy appetizer that got rave reviews at the potluck. I heated/cooked them right before. if transport is not too long they would keep wrapped in foil. they are basically a choux pastry with manchego cheese and chorizo sausage. We gobbled them up. Best hot, but good warm.


                              2. You can bring some kind of cold bean and lentil salad with some vegetables. Great option for the vegetarians.

                                1. Layered Salad from the "Enjoy" Best of Bridge cook book is a fantastic savory dish - bacon, eggs, peas, etc. It is best when it is made a day ahead so this is helpful too.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jsfoodchat

                                    Thank you for the idea! I have figured out what i want to do kind of. I think I will save your idea for another one because that sounds like it would be a hit!

                                  2. So I have made my decisions on what I'm going to make. I'm definitely doing the meatballs. But I'm kind of going back and forth between whether or not I want to do duck. And if I do duck I'm probably going to do a mixture of duck and pork or duck and beef. Id like to do duck and veal really, but I'm not sure how people will feel about it. If not duck and veal maybe just pork and beef and work with different cuts of beef and pork to see what works best. Or pork and veal. What are your guys's thoughts?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Healthyfoodie121

                                      Do you know most of the guests? Are they adventurous eaters? Pork can be an issue for religious reasons for many - beef too. When I don't know the preferences of a group I tend to err on the safe side.

                                      You seem really excited about making something out of the ordinary. Doing so is fine! Just be sure that you will be ok about it if the dish is not the right match for most of the crowd.

                                      The love of cooking operates on many levels for me. There is the process - learning, planning, imagining results and the actual making of the recipe. Then there is the pleasure of the aroma, the visuals and actually experiencing the flavor and texture. Finally there is the pleasure of sharing a dish and having them enjoy it. These aspects don't always happen in tandem. I have learned that some people in my life just aren't going to enjoy my best efforts. Since I love them (are you listening little sister?) I opt to prepare a dish which is less interesting to me in lieu of one I know she will eat and enjoy.

                                      I guess what I'm trying to say is don't take it to heart about your abilities, effort or creativity if the dish you make is not to the taste of the audience.

                                      1. re: meatn3

                                        Good point. I guess I'll just go with what I feel and then I'll see what people think. Very helpful reply :D

                                    2. You guys have been incredibly helpful thank you all very much. I've decided to go with a perfect meat mixture for meatballs that I'm happy with and a few others. I really like the community and I think I'll be coming back for more tips and hopefully give out some as well. Let me know if you guys know any good meatball recipes but other than that I think I'm set! Thank you all again!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Healthyfoodie121

                                        I got this recipe from Chowhound, but don't know whose it was. I just know it is wonderful as promised.

                                        Chowhound meatballs

                                        1. It's simple....throw 1 lb. each of ground sirloin, pork and veal in a large bowl. Add 5 eggs, 3 TB. minced garlic, 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano (no substitute), 1 cup dried Italian style bread crumbs, healthy dash of dried oregano, basil, sea salt, ground pepper, and 2 oz. tomato paste. Roll them up by hand. Spray a baking sheet with oil spray and lay the in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, turning 1/2 way. proceed to cook them on low in your favorite robust tomato sauce recipe. If you're like me, that's 5-6 hours on the first day, 3-4 the next...then nirvana...!!! These will be the most tasty and moist misshapen meatballs you've ever eaten