Inexpensive & Impressive Potluck Ideas

When you’re the dietitian, you’re often asked for nutritious dishes, suitable for feeding a crowd at a potluck, which taste great and cost little. And when you’re the dietitian, you appreciate the question and want to provide recipe suggestions that both the home cook and crowd they’ll be feeding will be excited about. Since party season is upon us, it’s a good time to create a go-to list of perfect pot-luck menu ideas so that I’m ready the next time I’m asked.

Tandoori Shrimp Skewers

Tandoori Shrimp Skewers

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. Shrimp are ubiquitous are holiday parties, and with a very little work, you can take the ever-present and inexpensive cocktail shrimp up a notch to this impressive appetizer.

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Tandoori Shrimp Skewers

There is no doubt that guests will be impressed when you arrive with shrimp that rivals any take-out order. This shrimp recipe comes together easily. Just make sure you give yourself a bit of time for them to marinate. I love dishes that are easy to serve (and it doesn’t get easier than skewers). Shopping tip: Look for affordable frozen shrimp at your local market. Use cold water to quickly defrost and prepare shrimp for grilling.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Bring “street” tacos to the party (sans food truck!). Simply set the slow cooker in the morning and by evening you’ll be ready to share this crowd pleasing, delicious dish. Bring along small tortillas and taco fixins’ so guests can give build their own small taco.

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken

The holiday season is busy. This slow cooker chicken dish has your back. While you spend the day keeping up with your holiday list, your slow cooker will create a flavorful chicken dish that will pair well with other pot luck dishes. Take it a step further by suggesting other guests contribute Greek dishes too like salad, hummus or tapenade.

Roasted Vegetables with Miso Lime Dressing

Every pot luck meal needs a vegetable dish (or two!). You can easily double or triple this versatile roasted vegetable recipe. If you prefer to use different vegetables, it’s easy to modify this recipe and it pairs well with a variety of other dishes.

Rainbow Pizza

I love sharing flatbreads or pizza at a potluck party. This colorful, unique vegetable pizza is sure to attract other guests. Slice into small appetizer servings or as part of dinner.

Baked Roasted Squash, Ricotta & Pasta

This seasonal casserole is easy to assemble, perfect for a crowd, and convenient to travel with. If it’s ok with your host, consider bringing it warm and finishing under the broiler once you arrive.

Couscous, Lentil & Arugula Salad with Garlic-Dijon Vinaigrette

Just like every potluck needs a veggie dish, all party menus also need an interesting salad that shines among more decadent dishes. This salad is easy to double if needed and offers a bit of grain to make it a crowd-pleasing dish. Tip: Use a shallow dish to layer vegetables and grain, serve additional dressing on the side.

Poached Salmon over Greens

Depending on how many guests you need to feed, this salmon dish may be just what the “usual” potluck needs. Since it’s enjoyed at room temperature, it’s easy serve.

Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread

This flatbread is a perfect appetizer for any holiday gathering. Prepare ahead of time and then bake just before serving

A Few New Fun Ideas

Panini bar: If you have a panini maker, make a panini bar. Pick great bread out at your local bakery and ask them to slice it thin. Offer guests a variety of cheeses, lunch meats, and jams to create small, unique paninis. Guests will have fun trying different combinations.

Mashed potato bar: Make mashed sweet or russet potatoes and let guests enjoy with a variety of toppings like shredded cheese, roasted or steamed veggies, beans, and the like.

Chili bar: Set the slow cooker going in the morning with this chili and let guests serve themselves with a variety of toppings.

Share the love: If you’re hosting, ask guests to send you their recipes so that you can put together a quick “recipe book” to share online with everyone who may want to make a recipe again.