How To Host A Potluck: 40 Potluck Ideas, Tips and Themes

potluck ideas

Potlucks are one of the greatest inventions. I love the idea of all my friends coming together and bringing our favourite dishes to the table. Potlucks make it easier on the host since they don’t have to cook everything, and they allow people to show off their creative side. 

On the other hand, potlucks can be tough to organize if you don’t host them often. If you’re thinking of getting your friends together and organizing a potluck party, here are 40 potluck ideas, tips and themes to make sure it goes off without a hitch! 

How to Assign Potluck Dishes: 5 Tips

1. Get an Accurate Headcount

Before your guests start cooking, they’re going to need to know how many people they’re cooking for. Decide how many people you’d like to invite to your potluck, send out invites and create a list of the total number of attendees.

Once you have a confirmed list, you can start the food planning phase! 

2. Assign Categories Not Dishes 

Potluck food categories usually consist of appetizers, sides, mains and desserts. Rather than asking each of your guests to bring a specific dish, assign them to one of these four categories.

They know what their strengths are when it comes to cooking, so if you tell them what dish to make, they may not be comfortable with it.

Give them the freedom to decide what to make, but in order to make sure all your bases are covered, assign them to a category. 

3. Create an Online Sign Up Form

When it comes to organizing a potluck, it’s helpful for your guests to see what everyone else is bringing. Create an online sign-up form through a program like Google Docs, with each attendee’s name under their assigned category.

They can self-edit the form to let the rest of the party know what they’re bringing, and this way there won’t be any overlap! 

4. Consider Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

There’s bound to be someone (or a few people) in your group of friends who is gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, or has some type of food allergy. Make sure there will be something for everyone.

If you have a vegan friend, ask them to bring a vegan dish, or if one of your friends is allergic to gluten, ask them to bring a gluten-free appetizer! Make sure there is at least an appetizer, main and dessert everyone can eat.

5. Decide on a Potluck Theme

A potluck theme will help your guests decide what they’re going to make! It will give them direction, but still allow them to get creative.

This will also ensure the dishes don’t clash with one another! 

10 Creative Potluck Themes 

1. Cinco De Mayo: Everyone loves a Mexican fiesta! Throw a cinco de mayo party any time of the year and ask your guests to bring their favourite Mexican dish!

From guacamole, to self-serve tacos, tortillas and salsa, spicy shrimp skewers, refried beans, nachos and more, you’re sure to please everyone’s taste buds! 

potluck ideas

2. Meatless Meals: Throw a vegetarian potluck, asking everyone to bring a meatless dish. Many people are going more plant-based these days, and there are plenty of delicious vegetarian options to feast on!

From veggie pizza, to risotto balls, sweet and spicy tofu, salads, egg rolls, and so much more, meatless meals are a great potluck idea!  

3. Comfort Foods: Who doesn’t love comfort food? Perfect for fall or winter, ask everyone to bring their favourite comfort food dish.

You’re sure to get a delicious range of soups, casseroles, mac n cheese, chilis, cakes, chocolate desserts and everything delicious you can think of. 

4. Finger Foods: Finger foods are easy for guests to pick up and eat, whether they have a seat or opt to stand.

Spring rolls, wings, tea sandwiches, meatballs (on toothpicks), dips, sausage rolls, pinwheels, crostinis, stuffed mushrooms and chicken skewers are all delicious options that are easy to eat and will fill people up! 

5. Family Heritage: This one is a great conversation starter and lets everyone get to know each other better. Ask guests to bring dishes inspired by their family heritage.

You’re sure to try some awesome dishes you may have never even heard of before! 

6. Breakfast for Dinner: Breakfast foods are some of the best foods! Instead of a classic potluck supper, ask your guests to bring breakfast for dinner!

Some awesome breakfast potluck ideas include muffin tin omelettes, bacon, english muffins with jam, egg and sausage breakfast taquitos, apple crumble breakfast cake, and banana pancakes with chocolate chips.

Get creative and you’ll have lots to choose from! 

potluck ideas

7. Seasonal Favourites: Ask your guests to bring their favourite dish of the season! Whether you’re throwing a potluck party in the summer, fall, winter or spring, you’ll get to enjoy seasonal dishes that your friends love to make!

8. 5 Ingredients or Less: Ask your guests to bring a meal that takes 5 ingredients or less to create. This is a cost-effective way to throw a potluck, keeps things simple and usually results in healthier dishes. 

9. Takeout Love: Have a group of friends that is super busy or not great in the kitchen? Don’t fret- you can still host a potluck! Ask everyone to bring their favourite takeout dish.

Clean up will be super easy and you’ll get some new ideas for the next time you don’t feel like cooking! 

potluck ideas

10. Something You Love That You Hated As A Kid: Everyone has those few foods they hated as a kid but not can’t get enough of.

The classic option is Brussels sprouts, which can be made into a seriously sophisticated dish, but you’re sure to get a bunch of surprises from your guests!

25 Delicious Potluck Ideas

As the host, you can decide how many dishes you’ll make. If you’re not much of a chef, maybe you opt for contributing one.

However, if you love to cook, perhaps you want to add a few more dishes onto the table. Here are 25 potluck ideas to consider making! 

5 Easy Potluck Ideas

1. Cucumber Party Sandwiches via Taste of Home
2. Meditteranean Pasta Salad via The Recipe Critic
3. Mini Baked Potatoes via Brit & Co.
4. Crockpot Pizza Casserole via Suburban Simplicity
5. Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Meatballs via Love to Be in The Kitchen 

5 Last Minute Potluck Ideas 

1. Cilantro Tomato Bruschetta via Taste of Home
2. Watermelon and Feta Skewers via Food Network
3. Mexican Bean Dip via Veggie Inspired
4. Chickpea Pesto Pasta via Carmyy
5. Instant Pot Teriyaki Wings via Paint the Kitchen Red 

5 Cold Potluck Ideas 

1. Spicy Thai Spaghetti Salad via The View From Great Island
2. Fresh Mango Salsa via Cookie and Kate
3. Creamy Arugula Pasta Salad via Modern Farmhouse Eats
4. Pinto Bean Salsa Salad via Food Network
5. Chicken Taco Mexican Pinwheels via The Chunky Chef

potluck ideas

5 No Cook Potluck Ideas 

1. Ricotta and Parmesan Spread via Midwest Living
2. Tangy Cabbage and Jalapeno Slaw via Kitchn
3. Crab Toast Canapes via Oprah
4. Sun Gold Tomato Caprese Salad via My Recipes
5. No Bake Lemon Yogurt Tart via Kitchn

5 Potluck Ideas for BBQ

1. Grilled Mexican Corn via Averie Cooks
2. 7 Layer Dip via I Heart Naptime
3. Southwestern Rice via Taste of Home
4. Sweet Corn and Roasted Jalapeno Hummus via How Sweet Eats
5. Blueberry Pie Bars via Averie Cooks

The Ultimate Potluck Checklist 

Wondering everything you should be doing as the potluck host? Here’s a potluck checklist to ensure everything runs smoothly.

1. Potluck Sign Up Sheet – Create a Google Sheet so people can sign up for their dish and see what everyone else it bringing. 

2. Dishes – As the host, you’ll be responsible for supplying dishes. Decide if you want to use your own dishes or buy cardboard plates, napkins, utensils and glasses for your guests to use. 

3. Table Cloths – Grab a few pretty tablecloths for the ultimate buffet table. 

4. Serving Ware – Make sure you have platters, bowls and pitchers to place everything out on the table.

5. Provide Drinks – Some hosts ask people to bring drinks and others cover it themselves, so it’s up to you! If you decide to provide drinks make sure there’s something for everyone to enjoy! Lemonade or flavoured water in beverage dispensers is always lovely, and seasonal cocktails are a great option too! 

potluck ideas

6. Garbage Bags – Always make sure there are garbage bags handy. This will ensure clean up goes smoothly and you won’t have to do everything yourself when your guests leave. 

7. Plastic Wrap and Foil – Make sure to keep food fresh and covered before and after the potluck.

8. Tupperware – There will likely be leftovers and way too much food to keep after the potluck. Stock up on Tupperware so people can take food home with them or to keep in your fridge as leftovers.

Hosting a potluck can be a ton of fun! Use these potluck ideas, tips and themes to throw a potluck your friends will love!

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potluck ideas

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  1. Reply


    July 31, 2019

    This post is awesome!! We have a lot of potlucks at my church and it’s always a little chaotic when it comes to what people are bringing. I never thought about assigning them to categories versus dishes, I’m definitely going to do that next time we have one. 🙂

    • Reply


      August 1, 2019

      Thanks Ashley! Glad this post was helpful for you and that you can use the tips for your next church potluck 🙂
      Xx Kate