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Try These Perfect Mountain Picnic Foods

Now is the time to get away from it all and take your meal outside with these Easy Plant Based Picnic Ideas! Living in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, my husband and I have many unique places where we like to go for a romantic picnic for two or a trail excursion where we need some easy hiking picnic foods to put in our backpacks. I am excited to share some of my favorite picnic list ideas with you!

In the recipe section below, I have included some vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free substitution ideas and some low-FODMAP picnic food ideas for some of these recipes.

Summer is Picnic Season!
Pack up and get going!

What are good picnic foods?

Here Are Some of the Best Picnic Food and Menu Ideas

A memorable picnic starts with the right people, place, and fun picnic foods. I will include picnic menu ideas and recipes later in the post. Feel free to mix and match to create your best picnic ideas!

What do you pack for a romantic picnic? I love to take my romantic picnic for two up on a mountaintop, but there are many other great occasions to pack up your meal and take it on the road. And these ideas include picnic food that travels well!

Romantic Picnic in the Mountains

Because I live in the mountains, I will make this and take it up for a mountain view, but I think this menu would also make a nice picnic on the beach. Just bring your beach chairs, umbrella, and blanket!

  • Smoked Trout or Salmon Salad with Crostini
  • Twice-Bake Potatoes
  • Strawberry Granola

To make vegan/vegetarian food, use roasted tofu or sauteed tempeh and vegan cheese. If you are making gluten-free or fodmap picnic food, use appropriate gluten-free bread for the crostini and substitute garlic, olives, chives, or the green portion of scallions instead of garlic and onions, which may trigger IBS symptoms.

Picnic Ideas for Concerts in the Park

Most weekends in the summer here in Asheville, we have many opportunities for live music in the park. Although nothing is better than eating a romantic evening picnic under the stars with music playing in the background, we have fondly enjoyed taking our nighttime picnic to a live Shakespeare at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre. You can learn more about these plays on the actors’ website, Montford Park Players .

Here is a romantic picnic idea for two. The park has a policy of allowing people to bring a bottle of wine to the outdoor play, but vendors have also been present to sell food and beverages. If you have been wondering what to pack for an evening picnic, I hope you love these romantic picnic ideas at night.

  • Pickled Carolina Shrimp with Onions, Lemons and Pepperoncini
  • Early Summer Farro Salad
  • Lemon Raspberry Tartlets
  • Cucumber and Water

To make vegan/vegetarian food, use roasted tofu or sauteed tempeh and vegan cheese. To marinate these, use a shorter time than the shrimp recipe, perhaps 30 minutes or an hour. If you are making a gluten-free or fodmap picnic food, use an appropriate gluten-free flour for the tartlets and a gluten-free, fodmap-friendly grain like quinoa or millet. Substitute garlic olive, chives, or the green portion of scallions instead of garlic and onions, which may trigger IBS symptoms.

Backyard Picnic

Have you ever wanted to stay home and have a picnic (or have been told to stay home during a pandemic)? Sometimes, exploring the great outdoors in your backyard but not backing up all your picnic supplies to carry too far is a treat. I love our backyard, and we have many places to eat outside, including a table in the gazebo, our side porch, or our patio. I even have a pretend tea party on a blanket with my grandchildren.

Here are some easy picnic recipes to make when you want to hang out at the house!

  • Summer Panzanella with Trout
  • Blueberry and Goat Cheese Crostini
  • Herbal Tea with Frozen Berries

To make this salad vegan or vegetarian-friendly, try some tofu or tempeh. Choose a vegan cheese like Tofutti. And for gluten-free, substitute gluten-free bread for your croutons and crostini (also for low fodmap picnic food). Substitute garlic, olives, chives, or the green portion of scallions instead of garlic and onions, which may trigger IBS symptoms. Or try another favorite fodmap salad recipe.

Picnic Ideas for Wine Tasting

Living in Asheville, often known as Beer City, may be more likely to be a picnic idea for beer tasting, but whether you hit a local winery or brewery, this menu will pair well with either!

  • Tempeh (or Beef) Sloppy Joe Sliders
  • Summer Cabbage Kale Salad
  • Gingered Peaches with Toasted Coconut
  • Sparkling Lemonade and Mint

For alternative protein sources for a vegan diet, try using vegetarian crumbles. For gluten-free and low-FODMAP foods, try a gluten-free bun or bread. For a low-FODMAP picnic, substitute garlic olives, chives, or the green portion of scallions instead of garlic and onions.

Ideas for a Beach Picnic

I don’t know about you, but I don’t love sand in my food, so I have to be careful what I pack to eat on the beach. I tend to pack things in individual portions so there is less handling, providing more chance for sand to get in there. Here are a few no-fuss ideas.

  • Individually packed olives, nuts, veggies and hummus
  • Peanut Butter Sandwich (use gluten-free bread if needed)
  • Boiled eggs (unless you are vegan)
  • Fruit is easy to eat on a sandy beach.
  • Canned sparkling water

Romantic Picnic Picnic Recipes

Here are the best picnic recipes for the menu ideas for you and your date.

Make the mini apple crumble and bake it in ramekins or mini Pyrex so it is easier to pack individually. For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free oats and flour. Berries can also be used for low-fat picnic food.

How to Plan A Hike With A Picnic

What you put in your backpack for your menu depends on the difficulty and distance of the hike. If it is summer heat and you will be out more than an hour, it is good to pack plant-based foods and something compact so it is not too heavy to carry. It is also important to pick food that won’t spill into your backpack and make a mess, such as a piece of fruit or a tomato that would smash.

Here are some of my favorite foods to pack for a perfect picnic spread, including ideas for a long hike.

  • Dried fruit
  • Hiking mix
  • Protein or granola bars
  • Nuts
  • Hummus
  • Tofu jerky or browned tempeh
  • Cubed cheese (even though not plant-based, this can keep for a few hours on your hike)
  • Nut butter and crackers
  • Black bean taco dip and corn chips

Another thing that you can do is to take your long hike first with a snack. Then, pack a cooler in your car with your lunch for a tailgate picnic or nearby location.

Best Picnic Recipes

Here are some delicious picnic foods to enjoy!

Seasonal Trout Salad
I used Ashley English’s recipe from A Year of Picnics to make with a few little switches.

Smoked Trout or Salmon Salad with Crostini

Take your favorite 8-ounce package of smoked fish and flake it. Make a lemon and oil dressing. Use your favorite Mediterranean chopped veggies. I used diced tomato, red bell pepper, chopped dill pickles, Greek olives, fresh basil, and thyme. Put it on your favorite crostini or cracker.

Try mashed garbanzo beans instead of fish if you want a vegan version.

Seasonal Picnic Menu
The main dish, side, and dessert are fun to make from A Year of Picnics by Ashley English

Twice-Baked Potatoes

I never thought about twice-baked potatoes for a picnic, but they are fantastic. I’m so glad Ashley taught me that!

If you have never made twice-baked potatoes, they are super easy. Bake in oven or microwave. Allow the cool slice to be half lengthwise and scoop out the potato. Mix with your favorite ingredients. I love cheddar cheese, chopped chives, and other fresh herbs. You can add butter or Earth Balance margarine, sour cream, yogurt, or milk (dairy or plant milk).

Strawberry Granola Yogurt Parfaits

Layer your favorite yogurt and granola with strawberries, or have your dessert take on a cheesecake persona, like the peach yogurt recipe in the blog post below. Switch up your fruit.

Recipes for Picnic at the Park

Here are some more perfect picnic ideas: Carolina Pickled Shrimp and Farro Salad
The flavors of summer are just too tasty to miss!

Pickled Carolina Shrimp with Onions, Lemons and Pepperoncini

Living in the Carolinas, I have always loved to get shrimp from our coast, but you can also use United States Gulf shrimp. If you are looking for a plant-based substitution, try this white bean salad

Makes six servings

1 ½ pound shrimp,

¾ cup cider vinegar

One sliced onion

One lemon sliced

½ cup oil (you can use canola or peanut oil)

4-5 pepperoncini sliced

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

Combine the onions, lemon, cider vinegar, oil, capers, pepperoncini, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to mix in all the ingredients. Cover and let refrigerate at least 24 hours. Stir occasionally. Serve cold. Keeps for 3-5 days.

Pickled Carolina Shrimp
Get it while it’s in season & enjoy!

Early Summer Farro Salad

Farro is an ancient wheat similar in texture to rice but higher in protein and calcium, like quinoa. It is becoming one of the recent new grain superstars! If you want a gluten-free version, make a salad with quinoa or millet.

10 ounces farro

1/2 shredded or thinly sliced carrot

1/2 cup snow peas

1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

One tablespoon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

One teaspoon of black pepper

Place 10 ounces of farro in a pot and cover with water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain. Add the raw, fresh veggies. Add lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper to make a dressing.

Lemon Raspberry Tartlets

This quick little tart comes together quickly. I made it and brought it to a friend’s house, and they received raved reviews! Skip the homemade lemon curd and use raspberries if you are looking for a vegan or gluten-free option.

Makes six tartlets

One big sugar sugar cookie (I prefer one that is organic and does not have hydrogenated fats)

How to Make Lemon Curd:

One egg, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

One tablespoon flour

One tablespoon of butter or Smart Balance tub of margarine

1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup lemon juice

Six muffin liners

12 to 18 raspberries for garnish

In a regular-sized muffin tin, place muffin liners. Crumble cookies in a bowl and sprinkle about 3/4 of the crumbs in the bottom of the muffin liners. Make lemon curd in a small saucepan by melting the butter and adding flour until it makes a paste. Add sugar and lemon juice, and rind and blend it in the paste with a whisk until thick and creamy. Add a little lemon curd to the beaten egg and whisk it together. Add the egg mixture back to the sauce and stir well. If it is not smooth and there are pieces of egg, let the mixture cool and run it through a sieve. Add the lemon curd mixture to the muffin liners on top of the crumbled cookies. Allow to cool for at least one hour, then top with the rest of the cookies and the raspberries.

Cucumber and Water in a glass
This is some serious flavored water with cucumber and a sprig of mint. Try it sometime with sparkling water!

Citrus Cucumber and Water

This water was so simple to make! A little cucumber and mint add an excellent flavor to water without adding calories. Try different fresh herbs and sliced citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange to try other combinations!

Recipes for Backyard Picnic

A perfect picnic idea is a Smoked Trout Panzanella in a bowl
Nothing tastes better than local smoked trout with fresh veggies in the garden.

Summer Panzanella with Trout

Nothing tastes better than local smoked trout with garden-fresh veggies! Top your salad with my tangy Greek salad dressing, which I shared in a blog post from last summer!

Makes two servings.

6 ounces hot smoked local Sunburst Trout (use roasted cubed tofu if you would like a vegetarian version)

1/3 cup green olives

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1/3 sliced or chopped red onion (use chopped green onion if you want to keep it low fodmap)

2 cups chopped lettuce (more if desired)

Two tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese if desired, or use toasted nuts if you want to keep it 100% plant-based

One tablespoon thinly sliced basil

1/2 cup cubed bread cubes from a baguette (1 inch by 1 inch) You can also use gluten-free cubes if desired.

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Lemony Greek Salad Dressing

Make the Lemony Greek Salad dressing. Cut bread into 1-inch by 1-inch cubes and lightly toss in olive oil. Bake at around 425 degrees until toasted or lightly brown in a skillet. Allow to cool. Add lettuce, onions, tomato, and olives in two salad bowls. Lightly crumple-skinned smoked trout over the salads. Drizzle with salad dressing and top with sliced basil and Parmesan cheese.

This could not be easier, and it is so portable that you can put it together when you reach your destination!

Blueberry and Goat Cheese Crostini

This recipe for a crostini dessert is so easy that it is sinful! Use your favorite mild goat cheese like a chevre (use a vegan cream cheese to keep it plant-based). I use a local where I live called Three Graces Dairy. Use a local berry jam if available where you live. I love Imladris Farms Berry Best. For your base use a mild cracker, where I live it has to be Roots and Branches Crackers! Take five crackers for one serving, lightly add goat cheese, and top with jam, but use a rice or other gluten-free cracker if desired. This is so easy and delicious!

It is an easy way to enjoy the berries of summer and get refreshed!

Herbal Tea with Frozen Berries

Serve this picnic with some berry iced tea. I love this new one from Asheville tea company. Serve with frozen berries as ice cubes if you are able.

Recipes for a Wine or Beer Tasting Picnic

Barbecue Tempeh Sandwich
Skip the bun and serve your barbecue sandwich on grilled bread!

Tempeh or Beef Sloppy Joe Sliders

Use the barbecue tempeh and slaw below to make these sliders, but instead of making them open-faced, put in little buns if you like (use gluten-free if desired). Add the slaw inside those little buns and the sloppy joe mixture. If you prefer to have the sandwiches open-faced, build the sandwiches once you get to your destination. An old-fashioned sourdough made the slow method is a good option if you are trying to go low fodmap.

Recipes to Grill for Picnics

Sometimes, you can grill at your picnic destination. Here are some recipes that you can try.

Vegetarian Cookout Recipes

I love a summer celebration in our yard and want to share some of my favorite vegetarian cookout recipes and menu ideas. Most of us think only about meat on the grill for a barbecue, which excites me to share these delicious vegetarian grill recipes with you. Continue reading

Summer Cabbage Slaw

See the recipe in the blog post above for the barbecue tempeh sandwich.

Bowl of Ginger Peach Dessert with Coconut
Dress up some peaches with ginger and coconut.

Gingered Peaches with Toasted Coconut

If you don’t have time to make this dessert, please bring fresh local peaches and slice them when you arrive. However, if you have a little time to toss some candied ginger and toasted coconut into sliced peaches, your taste buds will thank you! Pack it all together and chill, or put it together when you get there so the peaches are not brown. Remember, a picnic needs flexibility and fun!

I used one tablespoon of toasted coconut and one teaspoon of chopped candied ginger per sliced-up peach.

Lavender Blueberry Lemonade Beverage
Try this Lavender Blueberry Lemonade for a refreshing change!

Lavender Blueberry Lemonade and Mint

The recipe for this pretty lemonade is in the following blog post.

Romantic Picnic Spots Near Me

With these simple foods for couples, you will need just the right spot for a romantic picnic. Romantic Asheville has a beautiful website with lots of great ideas for romantic picnic places in Asheville for people visiting our area or those of us living here. Explore Asheville is also an excellent resource for finding things you don’t want to miss while here!

Top 20 Asheville Picnic Spots, NC Mountains

Picnics on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Super Scenic Picnics with 360-Degree Views

what foods are needed for a healthy gut

Plan Your Perfect Picnic Menu Ideas

I hope some of these four perfect picnic menu ideas will inspire you to pack some yummy food and take it outside to have your ideal idea! I hope you find the substitutions for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and fodmap picnic food. As an Asheville registered dietitian nutritionist, I love sharing ways to help people live the healthy lives they want to lead.

These romantic picnic food ideas can provide you with some outings that you can look forward to planning and also help you get out in the sunshine and fresh air. I am an Asheville nutritionist and registered dietitian, if you are looking to improve your health through food, here are some ways that we can work together.

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