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9 Fun Potluck Party Ideas

When you want to get a group of people together but don’t know what to do, have a potluck! After all, the easiest way to gather with friends is to get food involved. When eating is on the agenda, the rest of the party pretty much plans itself. But a potluck is more than just a random assortment of main dishes, sides, and desserts. There are nearly endless possibilities when it comes to this type of get-together. These potluck party ideas will turn an ordinary dinner into a festive feast!

1. Veganize your potluck

Challenge everyone to make a vegan dish for the benefit of animals and the planet. This is a perfect Earth Day event. (And no, you won’t end up with a bunch of salads.) You can veganize just about any dish. To help your guests with ideas, choose a theme like vegan comfort food or vegan appetizers and desserts. For recipe inspiration, direct them to VegNews.

2. Make it a cooking competition

Assign everyone a base ingredient and have them bring a dish that features that ingredient. Everyone will be given score cards (you can download a template for them here) and will judge each dish based on taste and appearance. You can also add other scoring categories like “creativity” or “originality.” 

3.  Brunch all day

Who doesn’t love breakfast food? You can hold a brunch potluck at any time of day. Simply ask guests to bring brunch foods and brunch foods only. Suggest deviled eggs, home fries, egg casserole, avocado toast, breakfast burritos, fruit salad, and acai bowls. And, of course, don’t forget the mimosas! 

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4. Eat around the world

Pick one country or cuisine to assign to each guest, or allow them to choose one. Ask everyone to share what they are bringing to the potluck in a shared Google spreadsheet so that there are no duplicate dishes. This is an awesome opportunity to branch out and try new foods. Cost Plus World Market offers a wide selection of food and drinks from all over the globe. 

5. Celebrate the food of the holidays

Sometimes, you just crave stuffing and sweet potato pie in July.  A potluck is the perfect time to satisfy all of your cravings. Ask guests to bring a dish that represents every major holiday of the year. 

Think classic Thanksgiving dishes like green bean casserole and mashed potatoes; Christmas-inspired desserts like peppermint bark and gingerbread; St. Patrick’s day corned beef and hash; latkes and other indulgent or fried foods like blintzes and matzo ball soup for Hanukkah; beignets and gumbo for Mardi Gras; pumpkin spice everything for Halloween; BBQ favorites like potato salad, coleslaw, and corn on the cob for July 4th; and chocolate and heart-shaped desserts for Valentine’s Day.

6. Bring one, give one

Chow down and give back! Ask guests to bring the dry goods or non-perishable, canned ingredients involved in making the dish they are bringing along with the actual dish. Make sure you send out a list of items that are suitable for donating to a food pantry. For example, if a guest brought chili, they would bring canned beans to donate. This an especially nice event to host during the holiday season. No Kid Hungry provides resources to help you host a charitable Friendsgiving.

7. Host a blackout potluck

Blackout (or blindfold) brunches are popping up in restaurants everywhere and have been popular meetup activities for local organizations, but you can recreate the mystery meal event at your own potluck. All you will need are blindfolds and one person to volunteer to be the host (who is not blindfolded) to help serve the other guests. Have everyone guess what each dish is and award the guest with the most correct answers with first dibs on leftovers of their favorite dish. Just be sure to be mindful of allergies and respectful of all dietary restrictions, and make sure no one eats the dish that they brought (because that would be cheating). 

Gather a list of all food allergies and dietary restrictions like vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, halal, and dairy-free, then send them out to everyone who is invited. The best way to organize this type of potluck is to have each guest privately submit the dish they are bringing to the host. This is among the most elaborate potluck party ideas, as well as the most exciting and unique.

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8. Make a meal with movie magic

Ask each guest to represent their favorite movie with one dish. For example, pastrami sandwiches or coconut cake could represent the classic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, and “the grey stuff” (Oreos mixed with vanilla frosting) could represent Beauty and the Beast. Disney movies are often the easiest movies to represent with food, but if you want a creative challenge, try taking on some avant-garde films.

For entertainment, choose one movie to play at the event. To turn it into a game, you can try to have everyone guess which movie each dish represents and offer movie tickets as a prize. When it comes to potluck party ideas, this one is perfect for movie buffs and for celebrating the release or anniversary of a major movie.

9. Dine in some sweet digs

If you’re hosting in your own home, table space might be an issue, so why not rent a one-of-a-kind venue? The only requirements are ample table space and plenty of chairs, so you can take your pick from a variety of places. Maybe select an outdoor venue for a summer potluck, a cozy cafe or loft for the fall or winter. Peerspace makes it easy to rent any type of venue by the hour. You can even search specifically by “dinner venues” so you don’t have to do a deep search to find a venue with the necessary amenities. 

No matter what kind of potluck you are throwing, be sure to take note of all food allergies and dietary restrictions before the event and notify everyone via email or a group chat. You should also create a shared Google spreadsheet or a group chat where everyone can share what they are bringing, so you don’t end up with seven pasta salads and 12 bowls of mashed potatoes.

Also, perhaps pick up some takeout boxes from the party store so you aren’t left with more leftovers than you can handle. Food is the simplest (and sometimes the best) way to bring people together for the holidays or any occasion. Add extra flair to your feast with these potluck party ideas!

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