15 Easy Ideas for Potluck Starters, Sides, Soups & Desserts

Need a great make-and-take dish this holiday? These ideas are low on prep and big on flavor — with time-saving ways to personalize prepared foods. Go forth and conquer!

Finger Foods and Starters

It’s the easiest way to get the party started — a hub of delicious, bite-size starters opens in a new tab that gets everyone mingling as they graze around the goods. Try these hacks to make every bite perfect:

  1. Dressed-Up Dip: Transfer store-bought dip to a pretty bowl and garnish it with fresh herbs, a sprinkle of smoked paprika or a drizzle of flavored olive oil. Surround the dip with a colorful mix of raw veggies to make sure it gets lots of attention.

  2. Latkes with a Flourish: Order prepared latkes from our holiday e-store and add a few flourishes like chopped fresh parsley on top and some unique sides: fruit chutney, crème fraîche or even caviar.

  3. Bite-Size Classics: These three-ingredient Prosciutto, Brie and Apricot Rollups opens in a new tab are a marvel of terrific flavors and great with cocktails. Transport them in an airtight container with wax or parchment paper between layers.

  4. Antipasti Finishes: You can visit your store’s antipasti bar for olives, pickled mushrooms and maybe even caper berries, then add a couple of pre-sliced Italian cheeses or mozzarella balls and some sliced salami or cured ham. Arrange everything on a platter (a brightly colored one works well) and add a big fork to encourage folks to dig in.

Party-Ready Soups

Whether ladled out from a big pot or served in mini-serving shot glasses, these soup secrets bring in goodness by the spoonful:

  1. Special-Diet Friendly: Winter Squash and Apple Soup opens in a new tab is a vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free option that’s packed with enough seasonal flavor to delight everyone.

  2. Add-In Combos: You can also start with a few cartons of classic butternut squash, mushroom or roasted red pepper soup (Try the 365 Everyday Value® vegan and vegetarian options) and add some homemade garnishes like toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of smoked paprika; crumbled bacon and chopped chives; or cornbread croutons and crumbled goat cheese.

  3. Soup Shooters: Not a sit-down event? Ladle a creamed or puréed soup (no big chunks!) into small glasses (2 ounces or so) and give each an eye-catching garnish like diced pickled beets, a delicate dill sprig or sprinkle of crabmeat.

Classic Sides with a Twist

Everybody loves a classic side, but you can always make things more interesting with a few flourishes:

  1. Potato Casseroles: Why casseroles? Because they transport easily and are just about foolproof to reheat. Scalloped Potatoes opens in a new tab Scalloped Potatoes are hearty and cheesy enough to serve as a vegetarian main course, and Coconut Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes opens in a new tab are a not-too-sweet holiday classic that can be tweaked for vegan diners.

  2. Easy Veggies: Order prepared sides opens in a new tab from our holiday e-store like carrots, apples and parsnips, green beans and Brussels sprouts and then personalize them: Transfer them to an attractive serving dish or platter and add a garnish; freshly chopped herbs, a sprinkling of toasted nuts (hazelnuts are great for the season!) or parmesan shavings are all easy add-ons for flavor and looks.

Main Courses That Travel

Unless you're the esteemed potluck host, chances are you’ll need something that’ll hold up on the way to the party. Try these mains for a worry-free transport:

  1. Ham: You can purchase one that’s pre-carved (sold as “spiral-cut”) and completely ready to warm with no other prep at your destination. All hams sold at Whole Foods Market have no synthetic nitrates or nitrites and are from animals raised with no antibiotics, ever.

  2. Turkey: Almost any turkey recipe can be cooked a day ahead, cooled, carved and transferred to an oven-proof container like a roasting pan. Moisten the meat with a little turkey or chicken broth, then cover the pan with foil and refrigerate it. Reheat it, covered, in a 300°F oven until hot. If you’d rather grab something that’s already prepared, pick from our great selection of delicious turkeys in a variety of sizes — all raised to our standards with no antibiotics, ever.

  3. Meatless Mains: If your mission is to bring a non-meat main course, delicious options await, starting with the easiest: the Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y, a hearty vegan roast now available on our holiday e-store opens in a new tab. Or try the Smoky Mushroom Gratin opens in a new tab, a mighty combo of meaty mushrooms and Gruyère cheese that will thrill vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Delicious Desserts

Everybody loves the guy or gal who brings something sweet to the party. These favorites will make you the potluck hero in no time:

  1. Party Pies: Who doesn’t love pie? They’re easy to transport and a perennial party favorite. The easiest recipe is one you don’t have to make! Try our pecan pies and other options from the holiday e-store opens in a new tab and give it an easy garnish like fresh berries, a snowfall of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream. If you’d rather make your own, try the super-easy Eggnog Pie opens in a new tab, decadent Cashew Chocolate Pie opens in a new tab and rich and flavorful Vegan Mocha Pie opens in a new tab, made without refined sugar.

  2. Holiday Cookies: If only cookies will do, try a six-pack batch of brown butter chocolate chunk cookies from the holiday e-store. Or go the make-your-own route with aromatic Molasses Gingerbread Cookies opens in a new tab, festive Classic Sugar Cookies opens in a new tab or Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies opens in a new tab, which are gluten-free and dairy-free as well.

  3. Cookie Shortcuts: Want the fun and aroma of home baking without all the mixing? Use store-bought cookie dough and add in dried fruit, chopped nuts or crumbled candies.

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