Planning Potlucks with Special Diets in Mind

Learn how to avoid culinary land mines at your next potluck with these crowd-pleasing recipes and tips for special diet restriction you may encounter.

Those who have nutritional restrictions or follow a specific diet often find eating out or with friends to be almost too much trouble to bother. And potlucks might be the trickiest situation of all with delicious food that may not be labeled or contain surprise ingredients (who put chicken stock in the vegetable soup?!). But now, potlucks don’t need to be off-limits. Hosts and guests alike will enjoy these recipes and tips for a positively perfect potluck experience.

Farro, Apple and Pecan Salad

Farro, Apple and Pecan Salad Recipe opens in a new tab


Meat, cheese and sour cream seem to sneak their way into a lot of traditional potluck favorites. However, these bright, vegetable-forward dishes will steal the show. Sonoma Tofu Salad opens in a new tabhas all the appeal of chicken salad and satisfies the craving for creamy. Can’t enjoy queso or seven layer dip? Black Bean Hummus opens in a new tab and Butter Bean-Zucchini Spread opens in a new tab are two dip options as versatile as they are delicious.

Grain salads stay well at room temperature and can easily serve as a main for veggie lovers or serve as a side to the carnivores of the group. My picks are Minted Quinoa With Pine Nuts opens in a new tab and Farro, Apple and Pecan Salad opens in a new tab. And it doesn’t need to be a brunch bar with mimosas to pull out the celery. Spicy Celery Salad opens in a new tab is tart, sweet, spicy and fresh all at once.

Whipped Sweet Potato Spread

Whipped Sweet Potato Spread Recipe opens in a new tab

Grain-Free (Paleo-Friendly)

Dishes without grain are a popular choice right now with many of my friends, for many reasons. While I don’t follow a grain-free diet, there are so many seasonal, flavorful options that both my friends and I will love. Curried Coconut Chicken Salad opens in a new tabwill delight with its complex flavors. Avocado lovers (i.e., everyone) will flip for Kale, Carrot and Avocado Salad opens in a new taband Avocado Mango Salsa opens in a new tab. Grab more vegetables than you need for dipping in this herby Whipped Sweet Potato Spread opens in a new tab, because it will go fast! Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs opens in a new tab will erase anyone’s memories of sad potluck deviled eggs of the past.

Zucchini Noodles with Almond Pesto

Zucchini Noodles With Almond Pesto Recipe opens in a new tab


Gluten-free? No problem. The whole crowd will appreciate easy to make and eat Grilled Corn Salad With Green Beans and Tomatoes opens in a new taband Cherry-Lentil Salad opens in a new tab. Grab a rotisserie chicken to pull together this all-in-one dish in a snap - Quinoa Primavera With Chicken, Spring Peas and Asparagus opens in a new tab. Even pasta lovers will fight over extra tastes of Zucchini Noodles With Almond Pesto opens in a new tab with just five ingredients that pack big flavor. And Carrot, Red Onion and Cilantro Salad opens in a new tabcombines an unlikely cast of characters for a dish that complements most potluck dishes.

The dessert table is a blast but usually laden with gluten. A fun twist is Tahini and Sesame Seed Cookies opens in a new tab.

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe opens in a new tab

Low Fat

Low fat doesn’t mean no fun (even if you can’t tuck into your aunt’s macaroni and cheese). Black Bean, Corn and Watermelon Salsa opens in a new tab is a colorful, fruit and veggie-packed dip that’s enjoyable with or without chips. No one will expect Chilled Melon Soup With Basil opens in a new tab, but it will become an instant potluck classic as a refreshing way to beat the summer heat.

Eggplant ‘Bacon’ opens in a new tabis a smoky surprise that you really can share with the whole group — meat lovers, vegetarians and yes, those watching their fat intake. Speaking of low-fat vegan treats, Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies opens in a new tab are just as sweet as the classic.


  • Read the label to check for hidden allergens like milk proteins, soy sauce (which contains wheat) and more. Look for products that are clearly labeled as vegan or gluten-free. All our stores have a list of the gluten-free products opens in a new tabthey carry.

  • Skip the bulk section when buying ingredients. Though buying from the bulk bins saves money, there is a risk of cross-contamination of ingredients.

  • Choose recipes by using the Special Diets filter in the advanced search of our recipe database opens in a new tab.

  • Savvy swaps like arrowroot powder instead of flour for thickening pie fillings, or coconut oil instead of butter, make recipes accessible.

  • Label dishes at your party so everyone knows which dishes they can eat. It will help cut down on questions, and make your guests feel welcome.​

What’s your crowd-pleasing dish at potlucks that everyone can enjoy?

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