Sun, sand, friends and a wide variety of homemade dishes are the key ingredients for a successful beach potluck. Choosing foods that need little refrigeration keeps cooler needs minimal and frees you up to easily carry your beach chair and other recreational necessities to the party.

Snacks and Appetizers

Create an easy-to-eat appetizer by threading marinated boneless chicken breast strips on skewers and broiling or grilling them the night before. Simple mixed nuts become gourmet snacks with a sprinkling of chili or curry powder, or tossed with a sweet-hot combination of sugar and cayenne. Fresh fruit is easier and more fun to eat when several types are chunked and made into kebabs. As a colorful, healthy alternative to potato chips, serve a mixture of baked vegetable chips such as sweet potato and blue corn varieties.

Main Courses

When there’s a lull in the beach activities, bring out the main courses to keep energy levels high. Sandwiches made on over-sized rolls with an assortment of meats, cheeses and fresh vegetables dressed with hoagie oil and vinegar condiments benefit from being made the night before so all the flavors can marry. Fried chicken is a simple dish that can be made ahead of time and served at tepid temperatures. Quiche provides a satisfying course easily eaten out-of-hand.

Side Dishes

Instead of traditional potato salad that requires refrigeration, make a German-style version flavored with bacon bits, vinegar and scallions. Angel hair pasta or thin Asian noodles tossed with tahini or a spicy peanut butter sauce are hearty sides that travel well. Rather than trying to keep a green salad fresh on the beach, opt for a selection of roasted or marinated vegetables purchased at a deli or made at home. Combine couscous with chopped dried fruits and roasted nuts for a light, energizing dish.

Sweet Endings

To end the beach potluck on a sweet note, cut cobbler into bite-size pieces and serve it in paper cupcake pan liners. Scoop up cheesecake in small balls and make lollipops with stiff paper sticks available at bakery supply stores. If you freeze cut-up brownies the night before the potluck, they will thaw nicely during the event and be perfect for eating at the end of the day. For the easiest final course, set out a plate of mixed cookies from a local bakery.

Beach Potluck Tips

Coordinating food needs with other guests prevents a potluck overwrought with sweets or salads. Packing extra plates and utensils is appreciated by forgetful guests who neglect to bring their own. To keep the food free of beach sand, pack it in securely covered unbreakable, lightweight storage containers.