Ramblings from a potluck fan

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tobyotter)

Let’s just get this out there right now: I love me some potlucks. I don’t know if it’s the interesting food, the chance to share food with others or if it’s simple nostalgia over the warm fuzzy feelings that are usually associated with folks “breaking bread” (and some serious casseroles) together. I’ve participated in church potlucks, school potlucks, office potlucks, family potlucks and small group potlucks (clubs, Bible studies, etc.).

I seem to have three dishes that folks ask for at potlucks: my trifle, enchiladas or turkey chili.

Who doesn’t love a potluck theme?


Potlucks with a large group are best left to letting people bring what they want, within reason. It’s probably a good thing when churches or other groups categorize the coffers by last name or something so there’s enough of every category of items. For example, people with the last name starting with A-F bring a main dish, G-K bring a side dish, etc. My only complaint about this system is that it needs to be changed up a little bit so people aren’t stuck with the same categories every time!

If there’s a small group, I love doing a theme for every potluck. 

First of all, a theme is not “Mexican.” That’s a style. Plus, it pretty much guarantees that people are going to bring chips and salsa, or something else that isn’t actually Mexican food. Be creative, have fun with the theme. The more creative, the more variety you will get at the meal. A theme also gives more opportunities for interaction in a small group because people have to explain how their dish applies.

Here’s some of my favorite theme ideas; some I’ve tried, some I only dream of trying.

Pinterest-If you’re anything like me, you’ve pinned 80+ recipes on Pinterest. This is your chance to actually make something! The only rule with this theme is that it has to be from Pinterest (or for the Pinterest virgins, it has to be an online recipe). This makes it easy peasy to share recipes later because you just have to look at people’s Pinterest boards for the info.

Childhood memories – What are some favorite recipes from childhood? Mom’s tuna casserole? Grandma’s cookies? Have people sign up for their favorite childhood recipe and take turns telling the story behind the dish while everyone eats. This could be easy or complex. For example, I loved my mom’s tuna casserole but I also have fond memories of my grandma’s peas (they were Army green, i.e. canned, and that made them cool in my book).

Comfort food-What’s your favorite comfort food? For me, I would have to bring macaroni and cheese. Not the fancy kind, the out of a box kind. The only problem I see with this one is the carbs it will probably involve. So maybe not a good idea for a potluck when people have to go back to work right away!

Summertime in the snow-I’ve always thought it was weird when people have a potluck around Thanksgiving or Christmas and they bring all the same types of foods they’ll be gorging on for the holiday. I never thought I’d say this, but there is such a thing as too much pumpkin pie and stuffing, ya’ll (for Southerners, stuffing is dressing). So how about have lighter fare? It might be hard to get fresh fruit, but have the theme be foods you would normally eat in the summer, not winter. This could include pasta salads, taco salad and ice cream.

Christmas in July-You have to be fair so if you have summer food in December, then you must have Christmas food in July, right? OK, so this one might be a stretch because no one wants to bake a turkey when it’s 100 degrees out (although the grocery store will do that to a chicken for you, just sayin’).

What potluck themes have you tried or would like to try? Leave a comment to share! 

4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I enjoy church potlucks. Some awesome food for sure! A person can find just about anything at a church potluck. The oddest thing I enjoyed was Macdonalds hamburgers. A person brought 30! And then one time there was deer burritos!

  2. McDonald’s hamburgers are a strange but strangely good idea, provided they don’t go bad! I bet there are kids there who loved them. How does your church split up the potluck? Is it by last name?

    1. The hamburgers were fresh and bought from the MacDonalds at a walking distance from the church. They were all gone before they hit the table, those kids, I did get one since the hamburger is my fav. We have several long tables in the dining room at the church, and we hit it buffet style, we just get in line fill our plate and then grub! We have a table for each like the salads, main dishes, desserts. Everyone just gets in line first come first serve, we do let our elders go first and we let the parents with kids fix the kids plate first too, that way kids or elderly do not get ran over, plus this way the kids do not put on something they waste! It works for us!

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