King Ranch Chicken and Quinoa Casserole
Potlucks are hotbeds for fried chicken, mayo-loaded potato salads, and sugary mile-high cakes. They might be delicious, but they're heavy on the calories and fat. They're also certainly not helpful if you're trying to stick to a healthy-eating plan. We've gathered our best healthy potluck dish recipes, everything from pasta salads to squash casserole, pulled pork to lighter macaroni and cheese.
First up, this King Ranch Chicken and Quinoa Casserole is a quintessential potluck dish with a modern whole-grain twist. Leftover quinoa, rotisserie chicken, and canned tomatoes help this dish come together in less than an hour. Throw it in the oven for 25 minutes, and you'll be on your way to your picnic.
Tracy Singleton's Sprouted Quinoa with Marinated Veggies
Sprout a grain like quinoa (it takes time but almost no attention) for a pleasing bite and a nutrient boost. Add veggies and nasturtiums and marigolds (flowers optional) for a peppery kick.
This raw-food dish needs planning and patience, but the payoff is a salad that pops with each crunchy bite. Tracy Singleton (owner of Birchwood Cafe) says using cooked and cooled quinoa instead of sprouted quinoa is a fine shortcut, but the salad won't be 100% raw.
Cranberry-Almond Broccoli Salad
Broccoli salad is usually drowning in a creamy, often very sweet, dressing and studded with 1/2 pound crumbled bacon, making it more about the creamy dressing and bacon than about the actual broccoli. Ours uses a combination of canola mayonnaise and Greek yogurt to keep the calories in check. We opt for center-cut bacon (a bit less of it) and swap the usual raisins for lower-sugar dried cranberries to pack a subtle punch of tart. The best part of this salad? The longer it sits, the better it gets.
This creamy-crisp salad saves over 269 calories, 5g sat fat, and 121mg sodium over traditional broccoli salad.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Bourbon-Peach Barbecue Sauce
Smoked paprika comes from a centuries-old tradition in which chile peppers are slowly dried over low-burning fires of Spanish oak and then ground into powder. In the slow cooker, this earthy, aromatic spice adds outdoor smoked barbecue flavor.
Andrew Zimmern's Grilled Corn and Snap Pea Salad
You can assemble this salad the day before you plan to serve it, but toss in dressing just before serving to keep Zimmern's salad as crisp as he intended.
Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Strawberry and Watermelon Punch with Lime and Tarragon
You can buy strawberry puree or make it yourself: Blend 16 ounces thawed frozen strawberries in a food processor. Strain through a fine sieve; discard seeds. Serve Mike DeCamp's (executive chef at Monello and Constantine) refreshing punch with or without alcohol.
Erik Anderson's Charred Zucchini Salad
Fresh, local produce needs little more than a punch of heat or a salty-sweet dressing to transform into a compelling side dish. Choose dishes that work cold or warm and can stand up to summer heat.
For this zucchini salad, Erik Anderson (chef of Brut) uses lardo for part of the fat in the dressing. It's seasoned and cured pork fat somewhat similar to bacon. Find it at specialty markets or at almagourmet.com. Or substitute an equal amount of rendered bacon (16 ounces chopped bacon will yield 3.5 ounces needed for this recipe).
Anderson also uses sweet and sour teardrop chiles, which are a cross between a jalapeño and a cherry pepper. If you can't find them, substitute mild pickled peppadews.
Smoky Red Pepper Dip with Grilled Crudités
Step aside, boring crudités—enter deliciously crunchy, lightly charred fennel and broccoli paired with grilled bread and juicy tomatoes.
"Every vegetable in a succotash has a slightly different cooking time that you need to respect," Christensen says. "The corn is right where it needs to be, while the tomatoes cook down a bit and act as a binder."
Marinated Field Peas
"A little bigger than a Tic Tac, really buttery and fruity. Just stunning on their own. I carry a bag of white acre peas when I travel and break them out at food events. People are always amazed," Christensen says.
Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle
The combination of tart strawberries and rhubarb balance out the sweetness from the custard and create one wow-worthy presentation that will impress your guests.
Cheesy Potato Casserole
Rather than using sodium-loaded canned soup, we made our own creamy sauce to update this dish.
Spring Vegetable and Quinoa Salad with Bacon
A big batch of Ginger-Coconut Quinoa forms the base of this filling spring salad that's packed with fresh vegetables and herbs.
Smoky Chipotle Baked Beans
You might be surprised to learn that baked beans often contain a good bit of sugar—usually from brown sugar, molasses, and/or ketchup. A classic recipe might have 15g total sugars per 1/2-cup serving; ours contains just 5g (only 2g added from a little maple syrup), allowing the smoky flavors of bacon, chipotle, and smoked paprika to pop.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
We love the heat level in this slow cooker take on tikka masala to fend off winter chill. If the spice kick is too much for your family, you can cut the red pepper down by half without losing any of the dynamic flavor layers.
Creamed Onion Casserole
Here's a dish of straightforward comfort, a crave-worthy combo of softened onions and leeks in a creamy sauce. Make the dish through step 2 up to a day ahead, and then reheat the next day in the baking dish.
If the yeast doesn't bubble, it may have expired; start over to avoid wasting time and ingredients. The bread basket is at its best when the contents are warm. Right before serving, wrap breads in foil; heat in a 350° oven for about 5 minutes for fresh-from-the-oven perfection.
Cheesy Sausage Roll-Ups
Roll corn tortillas around a sausage and seal with creamy, melty cheese. Top with jalapeños, which add a spicy kick to this childhood classic. Ready in just under 15 minutes, this quick weekday snack is also perfect for parties, picnics, and barbecues.
Pesto Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella
This Caprese-inspired pasta toss is the ultimate summer main for a busy weeknight, outdoor picnic, or lunch on the go. Use yellow and red tomatoes for a stunning presentation and wonderful flavor variety.
Festive Fruit Punch
Pineapple, orange, and cranberry juice unite with a splash of tonic for a refreshing summer drink. Dress up each serving with slices of lime, orange, and carambola (also known as starfruit).
Ground Beef and Pasta Casserole
This quick and easy recipe delivers a family-friendly dinner to the table in just 45 minutes.
Georgia Peanut-Fried Chicken
J.C. and Jo Bell revolutionized peanut butter a few years back when they were charged with creating something amazing from America's massive peanut surplus. PB2, a powdered peanut butter, is a culinary dream ingredient. Cut 50/50 with Wondra flower, it makes for an unparalleled dredge for chicken. This dish retains the gentle sweetness of peanut, and has most of the crunch of true-to-form fried chicken.
Cut back on the black pepper for a more kid-friendly version of this cookout staple.
Flaxseed meal adds to the nuttiness of the walnuts and almonds in these delicious chocolate bar cookies.
No mayo here: part-skim mozzarella and Parm add creamy, cheesy goodness to this spinach-packed dip.
OURS 75 calories, 2.4g sat fat
CLASSIC 257 calories, 6.7g sat fat
SAVES 182 calories, 4.3g sat fat
Chicken, Broccoli, and Brown Rice Casserole
This healthy whole-grain spin on a comfort food classic is indulgent, creamy, and a guaranteed family-pleaser.
Spinach, Herb, and Cheese Phyllo Rolls
This kind of dish is traditional street food in Greece. The key is to think of it like a sandwich, an Eastern Mediterranean sandwich: There is an ideal balance between the crust and the filling. Freeze leftover rolls up to 6 months. To reheat, cover loosely with foil and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes.
Look for sweet chili sauce on the ethnic aisle at most supermarkets, or in Asian grocery stores. Dark sesame oil and lower-sodium soy sauce deliver tremendous flavor with less sodium and saturated fat.
Tex-Mex Beef and Bean Dip
Here's a great game-day party dip: You can make it ahead and reheat it when you're ready to serve. Chipotle chile powder is spicy, so adjust the amount to suit your taste.
To keep these portable snacks from turning on their sides when serving, use a deviled egg tray. Especially in vogue during the 1940s and '50s, when specialized serving dishes could be found in a variety of china patterns, deviled egg plates are still quite common today.
No-Bake Peach Pie
A gorgeous pile of syrupy fruit tops a creamy concoction that falls somewhere between decadent cheesecake and billowy chiffon pie. This luscious dessert comes together easily and is the perfect ending to summer supper with friends. Use the softest and juiciest peaches you have, even slightly overripe fruit. For added peach oomph, chop some of the topping and stir it into the filling.
Moms often serve this dish to picky eaters who don’t want to eat their vegetables. It works every time, thanks to the crumbled crackers and creamy cheese traditionally found in this dish. This version is lighter—but your kids will never know the difference.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallow Topping
Based on sweet potato pie, a favorite in the South, this famous Thanksgiving side dish has a rich history. The marshmallows were added by Janet McKenzie Hill, the founder of the Boston Cooking-School Magazine, in 1917, when the marshmallow evolved from a specialty confection into an everyday treat.
Blue Cheese Ball
Cheese balls were originally the tangy result of a collection of leftover cheeses. Modern riffs have since become more selective, adding high-quality cheeses, herbs, and even dried fruits to the mix. This recipe is a lighter interpretation of the retro-chic dish.
Texas Sheet Cake
With a presence as large as its namesake state, this humble, easy-to-prepare cake made it all the way to the finals for our best chocolate recipe bake-off. Since it first appeared in the magazine 12 years ago, it's been a staff and reader favorite.
Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork
This recipe was inspired by one created by Lee and Jack Manfred, a father-son cooking team from Vienna, VA. Its tender meat and flavorful, crispy edges has made it their legendary tailgate dish.
This is a simple slaw with a lot of attitude. It’s the perfect complement to a pulled-pork sandwich and an ideal side dish to serve at a summer barbecue.
Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes
The macaroni mixture is cooked over medium-low heat so the cheese won't become stringy and the sauce, grainy.
This popular Utah comfort food is commonly brought to a post-funeral communal meal. The covered dish, or easy-to-reheat casserole, is a classic for potlucks and other large gatherings.
Spinach-Feta Calzone Casserole
This one-dish meal is a cross between a vegetarian calzone and the classic Greek dish spanakopita.
This popular party dip gets a face-lift with a few simple changes. Keep fat and calories to a minimum by swapping whole-kernel corn for the customary layer of ground beef.
Sweet Onion Casserole
This is THE way to enjoy sweet onions from Washington, California, or Georgia. Rice and cheese add heft and flavor to this casserole while letting the star veggie shine.
Potluck Potato Casserole
The crunchy topping on this side-dish casserole gives way to a cheesy interior, resulting in a comfort food winner. A bonus with this dish is that you can make the casserole ahead—assemble and refrigerate it until time to bake. Sprinkle the cornflakes over the casserole just before baking.
Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad
This protein-packed salad is filled with sharp, flavorful tastes like tart banana peppers and smoky salami. The protein and carbs make this an ideal post-workout meal.
Green Bean Casserole with Madeira Mushrooms
Here's a deliciously updated version of the classic, with fresh green beans and wine-infused mushrooms. We just had to keep the fried onion topping, which is arguably the best part.
Fresh Cherry Cheesecake Bars
With their combo of shortbread-like crust, creamy cheesecake, and fresh cherry goodness, these bars will make you the hit of the Easter picnic.
This is apple pie’s less-fussy but just-as-tasty little sister.
Drop Biscuit Chicken Potpie
Buttery buttermilk biscuits make this family-style fave irresistible, and they couldn't be simpler to prepare, even for biscuit novices. Cooking the chicken bone-in makes it more flavorful and moist, but for convenience, you can substitute 4 cups diced skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Brown them first, and then mix into the filling to bake in the last step.
The sticky-fingers aspect of this dish makes it a surefire hit with the kids, and the spiced and buttered rounds go a long way.
Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
This traditional Louisiana Creole fare is the ultimate in thriftiness and convenience, with two main ingredients: dried beans and rice. The long cooking time coaxes all the savory, spicy flavors from the sausage into the beans. Be sure to add the salt to the dish after it has cooked and just before serving. Adding salt to dried beans too early will slow the cooking process and make the beans less tender. Add a perky side salad to balance the meal; try crunchy romaine lettuce with a dressing of red wine vinegar, whole-grain Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper.
Rich and chewy on the inside and golden crisp around the edges, blondies are the seductive cousins of the more aggressive chocolate brownie. Though lighter in color, they're still heavy-weights in calories—285 in one square, plus nearly 9g saturated fat. That fair complexion comes from way too much light brown sugar and melted butter. With nearly half the fat and calories of the original, these lightened whole-grain treats are easy to make and fun to eat.