Of course, what you serve matters too. Whether you want to make them for this Labor Day weekend or beyond, here are some easy food and drink ideas from our recipe finder for low-key outdoor hangers. Many of these options are quick, simple, and ideal for prep potential so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time outside having fun.
Sweet potato salsa salad, above. This “heavy, healthy, hearty dish that belongs at your next picnic, barbecue — or really any other party,” says Food editor Joe Yonan. It feeds a crowd and features a base of roasted sweet potatoes tossed with cherry tomatoes, corn, black beans and bell peppers, followed by a fresh avocado salsa. It can be made up to three days in advance, but it’s best to keep the sweet potato mixture and salsa separate until ready to serve.
Herb Marinated Tofu Feta. Break out toothpicks so your guests can scoop cubes of creamy, tangy, and salty feta from a marinade that quickly comes together in a bowl. Tofu can stay in the fridge for up to two weeks, and the longer it does, the better.
Tofu sometimes gets a bad rap. Here’s how to make it awesome.
Cookie Butter Puppy Chow. Place a giant bowl of this party favorite on the table and watch it disappear in no time. My riff on the chocolate covered cereal snack also known as Muddy Buddies, thanks to the recipe on the back of the Chex box, replace the cookie butter with peanut butter and add a little cinnamon and salt to more flavor. An optional inclusion of cocoa powder with the confectioners’ sugar used for dusting provides added depth and chocolate flavor.
Mediterranean windmills. The simplified four-ingredient version of this recipe was made for kids, but would also be perfect for a giant party platter for adults. The colorful pinwheels include a spinach tortilla wrapped around goat cheese or hummus, diced roasted red peppers in a jar, and dried herbs. You can make them up to a day in advance and store them in the fridge.
Hummus in the oven. Make good use of store-bought hummus when you toss it with canned chickpeas and top with tomatoes and nuts. You only need 10 minutes to assemble and 30 minutes to bake, which means it’s the perfect thing to slip into the oven before your guests arrive. Take it out warm and serve it with wedges of pita bread or flatbread, crackers and vegetables.
Seven Layer Dip. For a no-bake option, check out Aaron Hutcherson’s take on the perfect holiday dip that mixes canned (refried beans, olives, salsa) and fresh (lime juice, jalapeños, and shredded cheese) ingredients. Make it in about 15 minutes and refrigerate it for up to a day.
Maple Spicy Glazed Nuts. This five-ingredient recipe includes walnuts or pecans seasoned with maple syrup, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. They will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Feel free to double the recipe for a crowd.
Cheese bread. These gluten-free Brazilian cheese puffs are perfect for parties when you freeze them partially cooked. After that, they only bake for 15-20 minutes straight from the freezer. Serve hot right out of the oven and get ready for thrills.
Cinnamon and Vanilla Horchata. Horchata, a mixed rice drink, works well as a shoulder season drink that’s still quite refreshing for late summer but hints at the spice associated with fall. Make up to five days in advance.
Holiday Red Sangria Punch. Although the name of this recipe suggests it as a holiday sip, I can hardly think of a gathering where I wouldn’t welcome a glass of fruity sangria. This one combines orange and apple liqueurs, orange and lemon juices and ginger ale, as well as grapes, apples and oranges.