Picnics are traditionally a summertime event, but why limit them to warm weather? You can easily have a picnic when the weather is cold – or even when it’s snowing! The trick is to plan well and find the right winter picnic foods.
Don’t worry. There are plenty of options to choose from. You can even bring some hot food with you.
Winter picnics are even easier in some ways. One part is the novelty factor. After all, summer picnics get pretty ‘same old’ after a while. Winter picnics are more unusual, which makes them more exciting too.
There’s also something fun about snuggling up in blankets when the air is crisp. Plus, you don’t need to worry about trying to keep your food cool.
Best Picnic Foods For The Winter
Baked Mac And Cheese
Warm foods go a long way towards making your winter picnic truly special. Baked mac and cheese is the perfect choice, as it’s such a popular comfort food anyway. It’s a particularly big hit among kids, but works well for adults too.
The trick is to pack your mac and cheese well, particularly if you’re going to picnic in the snow. Wrapping the cooked dish with tinfoil and then plenty of towels can help.
It’s even possible to bring mac and cheese with you in a thermos. Some thermoses are even designed specifically for food rather than drink and are ideal for winter picnics.
What could be simpler than a jacket potato? You can bring along toppings to load them up, like sour cream, cheese, and butter. Whatever you like, really.
The potatoes themselves are excellent, as they hold their heat well, particularly when wrapped in foil.
Quiches are a good fit because you can serve them hot, warm, or cold. They’ll taste fantastic either way, so you can choose whatever approach suits you on the day.
There’s also an endless range of styles and ingredients. For a winter quiche, you might lean towards rich and hearty options, like a quiche that uses Italian sausage and red bell peppers, or one that relies on parsnips and carrots.
Then there’s the size to think about.
The easiest approach is to make a full sized quiche and then cut it up at the picnic. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could make mini quiches. Muffin tins often work well here, helping you to get the right size with minimal effort.
While small quiches take more effort to make, they tend to be less crumbly than a large quiche and everyone gets their own. This makes them much more useful in a picnic setting.
Sandwiches remain a picnic staple, as they’re easy to eat, are packed with flavor, and can be pretty filling too. Plus, you can choose whatever ingredients you like.
For a winter picnic, the best sandwiches are on the hearty side. Ones made with roast beef, pulled pork, or chunks of chicken are all delicious. Winter vegetables, like pumpkin, can be delicious in a sandwich too.
Or, what about a classic reuben? It’s not too difficult to make a picnic version of them.
Layering is important when you’re making a sandwich. Try to avoid having the moist ingredients too close to the bread, as they’ll make it soggy.
The type of bread matters too. Hearty breads are particularly good in winter, like those that are packed full of sprouted grains and seeds.
Bean salads, potato salads, pasta salad, and regular lettuce salads are all popular dishes for a summer picnic. For a winter one, you’re going to want a heartier salad.
Some versions use dark leafy greens, then add ingredients like roasted butternut squash, feta, and parsnips. Hearty vegetables make the salad much more satisfying and perfect when it’s cold outside.
There are plenty of other approaches too, like using quinoa, lentils, or spiralized beetroot as the base of your salad, rather than greens. Meat is a great addition to make your salad even more satisfying.
Most of the time, it’s best to prep the salad at home, but not mix any dressing in until it’s time to eat. Adding the dressing too soon just makes everything soggy.
Keeping food hot for a winter picnic can be tricky. Soup is one of the easiest options, as you can store it in a thermos and simply pour it into mugs during the picnic.
You can help matters along by pouring hot water into the thermos and leaving it there for a while. This helps to warm it. Then, once the soup is ready, pour the water out and add the soup.
Butternut squash is fantastic. Not only is this a lovely winter and fall flavor, but the soup is often smooth and you can drink it rather than needing to use a spoon.
That’s just one example though. Other types of soup to try include root vegetable soup, minestrone, sweet potato and paprika, or even bean soup.
To make the picnic even better, try serving the soup with fresh crusty bread. This brings everything together nicely and makes the soup feel like an amazing treat.
Charcuterie boards are incredibly versatile, so they can work for any type of picnic. All you need to do is tweak the ingredients to make them suit your needs.
So, for a winter picnic, you might include some cranberry jelly and pots of spiced chutney. The rest of the ingredients could be more traditional, like smoked cheese, salami, and crackers.
Remember that charcuterie boards don’t need to be complicated. Even a handful of ingredients is enough to make a really delicious meal.
Chili isn’t normally served at picnics. But, for a winter picnic, chili can be perfect. You end up with a rich and filling dish, one that is naturally complemented by some crusty bread.
Like soup, you can store chili in a thermos. The thermos keeps your chili nice and warm until it’s time to eat it.
Dips work so well at a picnic, as you can combine them with many different ingredients, including sliced vegetables, crackers, fresh bread, toasted pita, and plenty of others.
For a winter picnic, hearty dips are best, including bean dips, squash dips, and more. These tend to be more satisfying and often taste amazing as well.
Some versions are even made to be served warm, including spinach and artichoke dip. Other types are cold instead, like hummus.
You can also create seasonal versions, like roasted pumpkin and garlic dip.
Savory dishes, like these savory tarts, are always fantastic during the winter. You can make these with puff pastry, which is somewhat light and buttery, and places the focus on your other ingredients.
Again, there are many ways to vary the recipe. You can even make beetroot tarts with goat cheese or one that relies on lamb instead. Mushrooms are delicious too and perfect for winter.
While fondue is often served as a party dish, it’s also something you can take on a picnic – even a winter picnic.
You could make a cheese fondue. You can dip potatoes, bread, broccoli, bell peppers, sausage, chicken, and more into the cheese. Doing so is certain to be a hit.
You could actually get away with just having a fondue and some hot chocolate (or some other hot drink) for your winter picnic.
Rosemary Garlic Pull Apart Bread
Any type of bread works well enough at a picnic, but pull apart bread is better than most, as you don’t need to use a bread knife. Instead, everyone can just tear pieces off as they wish.
Rosemary garlic pull apart bread is a delicious starting point. Many recipes include plenty of cheese as well, making the bread particularly good when served warm.
Bring A Rotisserie Chicken
Who says that picnics need to be difficult? Bringing along a rotisserie chicken is a simple way to keep everyone fed and satisfied.
You can pair it with a handful of simple ingredients, like coleslaw, fresh bread, and perhaps some warm potato salad.
Cookies And Brownies
We’ve been mostly focusing on savory dishes, but you’re going to need at least a few sweet treats. Cookies or brownies both work well, as they can be prepared in advance and travel well.
You can also play around with the recipes to create a seasonal snack, like cinnamon cookies and pumpkin spice cookies.
How To Have The Best Winter Picnic
Food is a huge part of summer picnics. That’s what you focus on. In the winter, your attention is much more on the temperature and the world around you. However, because it’s cold and perhaps snowing, you need to plan carefully.
Keep Yourself Warm
To keep yourself warm, you’re going to need plenty of clothes. Layers are important here, as you can add and take them off as needed.
Don’t forget about scarves, gloves, good footwear, and plenty of warm blankets. These all help to keep everyone warm and snuggly.
You could also think about some type of heating – like a fire (if that’s possible for where you are). Hot food and hot drinks help to warm you up as well.
Think About Seating
If you’re going to do the picnic blanket thing, it’s best to start with a waterproof or insulated blanket. This should be your first layer, as it will stop any cold and damp from rising from the ground. Once that’s down, you can start to add blankets on top.
You could also consider some low picnic chairs. These get you off the ground and make it even easier to keep warm.
Bring Enough Bowls, Cutlery, etc.
Winter picnics tend to rely more heavily on hot food than summer picnics do. You might have a soup, stew, or chili, along with tarts, quiches, or perhaps a hot chicken.
This means that each guest will probably need at least one bowl and a plate, along with the required utensils. Planning ahead of time helps to make sure that you don’t miss anything.
Combine Winter And Summer Foods
You’re not limited to the winter foods that we’ve featured on this list. Many summer foods will work just as well for a winter picnic.
Why not use a combination of winter and summer foods? This would give you some hearty dishes, along with others that are easy to eat.
Don’t Forget The Drinks
Hot drinks can be the focal point of a winter picnic. If you’re having a family event, hot chocolate might be the best choice.
For the adults, mulled wine or an alcoholic hot toddy could be even better. Both drinks will quickly warm everyone up.
Or, what about hot cider? The adults can always splash some whiskey in there to create an alcoholic version.
If you’ve never had a winter picnic before, it’s best to start gently. Try just having hot drinks out in the snow, rather than trying to serve an entire meal.
Starting simply works much better, as it takes time to get used to the crispness. You might not want to be outside for more than 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning.