Easy 5-ingredient picnic recipes for the most low-key lunch ever

Take it easy in the great outdoors.

David Klein Editorial Assistant / Chowhound
David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by way of New York City. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chowhound, CBS Local, Mashable and Gawker.
David Klein
4 min read

This is sure to be a picnic season unlike any other. As quarantine restrictions continue to be relaxed, there's no doubt people will have a strong urge to reconnect with the outdoors, particularly when it comes to dining (while engaging in safe social distancing, of course). 

Though crowding your blanket with people is ill-advised, packing your cooler to capacity is strongly encouraged. A sumptuous spread is the key to a perfect picnic, but preparing a multicourse meal can become overwhelming. 

That's why we're highlighting some picnic favorites that are prepared with only five (or fewer) ingredients so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time eating al fresco. These portable treats will make your next exterior excursion not only delicious, but easy breezy.


Grilled summer squash with feta and mint


Next time you spark up the grill, keep this seasonal side in mind. Mix things up with a melange of summer squash (zucchini, crookneck and pattypan make for an excellent trio) and don't skimp on the mint and feta. Get CNET sister site Chowhound's grilled summer squash with feta and mint recipe.

Chevre-olive-parsley spread


If you're a stickler, this technically has six ingredients, but if you give the salt and pepper a pass, there are only four things that go into this simple spread: soft goat cheese, fresh lemon zest, black olives and parsley. Spread it on crackers, baguette slices or fresh veggies for a light, bright bite. Get Chowhound's chevre-olive-parsley spread recipe.

Caprese salad


When tomatoes are at their summer peak there's no better pairing than slabs of fresh mozzarella. Use this Italian classic as an excuse to start growing your own basil (or heirlooms for that matter). Get Chowhound's Caprese salad recipe.

Easy quinoa salad


Simple to prepare. Travels well. Tastes delicious. What more can you want from this vibrant quinoa salad? It benefits from sweet tomatoes, briny olives and a citrus kick courtesy of a lemon spritz. Get Chowhound's easy quinoa salad recipe.


Tangy cucumber pickles


Also known as ah-jaht, these Thai chili-infused pickles are sure to bring the heat. Enjoy as a solo snack at your next picnic, but also keep a couple of extra jars in your fridge to top your burger. Or go traditional and pair them with grilled chicken satay. Get Cowhound's tangy cucumber pickle recipe.

Roasted rosemary walnuts


It only takes a few minutes in the oven to convert plain old walnuts into these snackable showstoppers, which are gently coated with olive oil, minced rosemary, sugar, salt and pepper. Go nuts! Get Chowhound's roasted rosemary walnuts recipe

Sweet potato chips


These healthy (they're baked, not fried) homemade chips pack plenty of crunch. A hit of acidic vinegar offers the contrast to the sweetness of the taters. Get Chowhound's sweet potato chips recipe.

Benedictine dip


This no-frills, versatile Southern cream cheese-based dip is a tasty addition for everything from chips (see directly above) to crudites. You can also set some aside to use as a creamy sandwich spread. Get Chowhound's Benedictine dip recipe.

Fresh ricotta


Whole milk, salt and vinegar (or lemon juice) are all you need to make your own ricotta cheese in just about one hour. Add crackers or toast or a vegetable dipper -- you still have one ingredient slot left, so consider adding in a fresh herb or spice, mix in roasted red peppers or slice avocado or a ripe peach on top. Get the fresh ricotta recipe.


Molly Ringwald's whole roasted chicken


Just like The Breakfast Club, this recipe from '80s icon Molly Ringwald has featured players (chicken, onion, lemon, herbs and dry vermouth) with a couple of background extras (salt and pepper). Pink may be pretty, but make sure your bird is cooked all the way through. Get Molly Ringwald's whole roasted chicken recipe.

Tuna salad

That can of tuna mixed with just the right amount of shelf-stable sauces, spices and relish is a time-honored sandwich filler for a reason. If you're mayo-averse, this tuna salad recipe from Kristine's Kitchen offers you flexibility to switch over to Greek yogurt for an egg-less alternative.

Garlic lovers' roast beef

Roast beef slathered with plenty of garlic and rosemary is the gift that just keeps on giving. Have it hot and fresh for dinner, then carve up some slices for a satisfying midday repast on a not-too-distant future day. Get the garlic lovers' roast beef recipe.


Fresh mango lemonade

Sugar. Water. Lemons. That's all it takes to make a refreshing batch of fresh lemonade. But with two more spots open to reach our five-ingredient max, why not add ripe mango and Angostura bitters for a tropical spin on the classic summer thirst quencher? Get the fresh mango lemonade recipe. Or try the ginger mango lemonade above.

Peach shrub


Vinegar-based shrubs are an excellent way to prevent a large amount of ripe fruit from going to waste. This particular recipe blends peaches with a copious amount of fresh basil. The ideal way to consume a shrub drink is to dilute it with ice and a bit with seltzer water (and perhaps add some vodka if you're over 21). Get Chowhound's peach shrub recipe.


Chocolate toffee pumpkin seed bark


Cayenne you handle it? This chocolate bark makes for a delicious bite with an ample dose of toffee bits, pepitas and the aforementioned pepper spice. Get Chowhound's chocolate toffee pumpkin seed bark recipe.

Pineapple and grape kebabs


You don't have to be a Lakers fan to enjoy this refreshing purple and yellow skewer. The easy-to-assemble grape and pineapple combo offers plenty of vitamins and fiber along with a gentle hit of all-natural sugar to round out the perfect picnic. Get Chowhound's pineapple and grape kebabs recipe.

This story was originally written for Chowhound.