There's nothing quite like a picnic to celebrate summer. For one, it checks many of the boxes on my happiness list: fresh air, sunshine, and a lazy hang with family or friends (no shoes required). Secondly, it includes food, which goes a long way in creating comfort and joyful memories. So whether you’re spreading out your favorite checkered blanket or joining a backyard cookout, it’s a good idea to have some picnic dessert recipes on hand for all your outdoor invites this summer.
When it comes to choosing what to pack in my Yogi Bear-style picnic basket, I start with the quintessential crackers, complementing chips and dips, bubbly, then (arguably the most important) baked treats. My picnic-approved picks are easy to make, withstand the heat, don’t require utensils, and transport well. (Try covering your dish or pan with our Stretch Storage Tops or using our Snap Lock Pie Carrier.) Check out my list of picnic food favorites, which spans from the classics to some fun new twists.
No picnic is complete without brownies — it's impossible to have a bad time when they’re around. In fact, it’s arguably not a summer celebration without brownies. Made with Dutch-process cocoa and chocolate chips, these fudgy brownies are the ultimate decadent dessert. Simple, melt-proof, handheld, and portable, they’re also quintessentially “picnic.”
These handheld versions of blueberry pie are as adorable as they are delicious. While preparing hand pies requires a bit more effort, it’s worth every extra minute when you bite into one on a bright summer day. Blueberries just pop with sunshine, don’t they? Though their glittery Sparkling Sugar topping and decorative scoring may be enough to win your heart, my favorite thing about these hand pies is that they’re much easier to eat than actual pie — no plates, forks, or mess.
A classic chocolate chip cookie made even simpler and easier to take to your next summer celebration. You can bake, take, and serve these crowd-pleasing bars all from the same pan. Not to mention, even the pickiest of eaters will reach for this sweet treat, from toddlers to seniors. Better make a double batch because everyone will be coming back for more.
While you might yearn to see a classic apple pie on a picnic list, its much more picnic-friendly cousin, the Apple Crumb Cake, took its place on the guest list. And for good reason: You get the same warm, appley filling, but with a sweet crumb topping. Slices of this cake are a great handheld option if you don't want to bring plates or utensils to your picnic.
These sunny Mini Lemon Tarts will top the list of tasty picnic foods for any attendee with a love of citrus. Filled with lemon curd, they bring bright summer flavor and even an extra bit of sunshine that might require sunglasses. If you don’t have a mini muffin pan, you can use a standard muffin pan for a slightly bigger bite. But don’t worry, either option is easily handheld and mess-free. (I like to pair a lemon tart with a fudge brownie on my picnic dessert plate.)
Summer is full of colors and flavors galore. This tender torte captures the bright palette and tastes of the season with a medley of berries. It’s a great way to use those ripe berries sitting in the kitchen, and it takes a mere 43 minutes from start to finish. Add just a touch of our Fiori di Sicilia for a delicate taste of citrus and vanilla.
Next to a classic ice cream sandwich, whoopie pies are my favorite black-and-white temptation. (Don’t tell the ice cream sandwiches, but I really don’t know which I like better.) Whoopie pies are perfectly chocolatey, super soft cakes hugging a creamy or marshmallow-y filling. They’re surprisingly easy to make and even easier to eat: basically a slice of cake in your hand. Try this pumpkin version for a taste of fall even during a summer outing.
While I would love to live on desserts alone, I have to admit there are other foods I can’t imagine missing from my picnic basket. This All-American Ham and Cheese Roll is a tidy version of a sandwich, making it much better for transporting to a gathering and sharing straight from the picnic table or basket. My favorite part about this handy roll is that it’s easily customizable. You can stuff it with a variety of different fillings: My favorite version includes salami, provolone, and spicy pepperoncini. I’m also inclined to throw in some fresh spinach or sprouts for color and crunch.
We all know pizza is synonymous with party, so why not include it at cookouts and picnics? These cheesy buns are phenomenal outdoor snacks without having to pack an entire pizza. Stuffed with gooey cheese and your favorite pizza toppings, you and your picnic-goers will have a hard time focusing on anything else.
These savory pretzel bites make the perfect picnic food, and you can keep them classic or dress ’em up simply by changing the meat stuffed inside — I've used everything from classic hot dog franks to spicy Italian sausage to sautéed spinach and cheese. You simply can’t go wrong. (Don’t forget to grab a jar of your favorite mustard or queso dip for serving.)
If you’re looking for more picnic ideas, make sure to check out our Summer Cookout Recipe Collection. I wish you a happy summer outdoors filled with many delicious bakes.
Cover photo (Blueberry Hand Pies) by Liz Neily.