What is a potluck, really, but an excuse to share good food and conversation with friends and family? It's one of the best ways to plan for a large dinner party: potlucks spread out the responsibility for cooking across all those who attend, and every guest ends up with a plate full of exciting and diverse foods.


How did the bring-a-dish-to-share tradition begin? And why is it called a potluck?

It's hard to trace the potluck back to a specific source, but it's fair to say the term was used in the Middle Ages to describe an impromptu meal served to unexpected guests or travelers. Such a drop-in at the dinner hour would get "the luck of the pot:" whatever food was left over or kept on the simmer. Sometimes a potluck referred to a one-pot communal meal in which every cook brought something to add, rather like a "stone soup." It wasn't until the late 19th and early 20th century in America that the idea of a meal where everyone brings a prepared dish to share took hold.


A Few Basic Guidelines

At its heart, a potluck is an opportunity to enjoy yourself, rather than stress about fancy appetizers. So what you bring to a potluck should be simple and comforting. If you are bringing food, have your dish ready to serve. Don't expect your host to provide serving bowls or utensils, bring your own and label them. For those who hate to cook, bring a bottle of wine or a big-batch cocktail.


multiple different dishes assorted in a pot luck dinner manner Set a Time to Eat

As a host, don't plan to have your party (and all that food) last from "5pm until". Plan to time it so guests eat closer to arrival, reserving desserts for later in the evening.


Add Fun with Themes

Some potlucks are true free-for-alls and you never know if there will be six kinds of potato salad and no desserts, while others have a theme or guests are assigned a category, such as dessert or appetizer. Not only can a theme make your potluck more exciting and encourage ideas for decor, but it also helps guests decide on the most appropriate dish to bring. Begin by assigning your guests a specific course to bring along. Next, ask each guest to commit to a general category of food even if they're not prepared to tell you the exact recipe. Try some of these unique potluck themes that are guaranteed to add some festive flair and make your party a little more memorable.

  • Breakfast for Dinner

  • Seasonal Favorites

  • Tapas

  • Food on a Stick

  • Pasta Night

  • Crock-pot Crazy

  • Soup and Salad Supper

  • Kids Fare for Adults

  • 5 Ingredients or Less

    South Western Pasta Salad

    Crowd-pleasing Dishes

    Do you go sweet or savory? Do you choose something you can serve at room temperature or a dish that needs to be heated up? Even if you are the Martha Stewart among your friend group, deciding what to cook and serve to family, friends, and possibly some strangers too can be stressful.

    Bring something that will stand up to the test of time. Potlucks usually involve going back for second (or third) servings, so don't make something that will wilt like salad or spoil fast (looking at you, mayo). Everyone uses potlucks to bring their favorite indulgent dishes, like pasta salads and macaroni and cheese bakes, and cooks can play to their strengths. But don't be afraid to bring something fresh. A crisp veggie tray, vibrant tomato salad, or bright, refreshing green salad is a welcome addition to a spread that features mostly comfort foods.

    Let us help steer you in the right direction with some of our best potluck recipes.

    1. BBQ Sliders

    2. Macaroni Pie

    3. Habanero Brownies

    4. Southwest Pasta Salad

    5. Spicy Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

    6. Cilantro Lime Coleslaw

     People gathered around a shared table celebrating the holidays with a pot luck meal Happy Holidays?

    Do you dread big holidays because you have to cook so much that you can't enjoy the festivities? Wish you could invite the family to your place but fear that you can't do justice to the holiday meal? A potluck can save the day.

    Invite all the relatives and friends you want, asking each to bring a favorite dish for a potluck dinner. Then see what materializes and enjoy the celebration. Depending on the holiday, you might choose to provide a traditional main dish and let others fill in. For Thanksgiving, you might roast a turkey or buy a smoked one, tell everyone you're doing that, and ask guests to bring a side dish.


    Don't Miss an Excuse to Party

    Potlucks are great last-minute party ideas. If Saturday's weather looks gorgeous, send out a group text and get the party plan going.


    Relax and Enjoy

    Ultimately a potluck is not about culinary perfection; it is about a communal experience of sharing food and friendship. People breaking bread together should be the goal, so focus on the fun and enjoy the event.


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