50 Creative Potluck Themes
Potlucks are a fun and easy way to bring people together and share your favorite dishes. But not all potlucks are created equal. Some are more memorable and enjoyable. Maybe it’s the food or the friendship, or perhaps it’s the creativity that adds something that makes it all more enjoyable.
No matter what type of potluck you are planning, enjoying yummy food and wonderful company is always delightful. Try some of these unique potluck themes that are guaranteed to add some festive flair and make your event a little more memorable.
- It's a Small World - An international potluck with specialties from around the world creates a bold, engaging atmosphere. People can bring their favorite international meal and share stories about the inspiration for their dishes.
- Mexican Fiesta - Mexican food is beloved by many. It’s also a cuisine that’s flexible and can accommodate those who are gluten-free. For this theme, the menu could include tortilla chips and guacamole, taco shells, refried beans, seasoned shredded chicken or ground beef, fajitas, enchiladas. Be sure to add Spanish rice and diced mango to really add flair to your potluck.
- Breakfast for Dinner - This is a flexible option that you can even host as a brunch option. Try a waffle bar with fun toppings or allow people to order customized omelets. Turn your potluck into a diner feel with a host of options.
- Southern BBQ - There are few things in the South more universally revered than a good ole' Southern barbecue potluck. The host can provide the pork barbeque, whether you’re a pitmaster or would rather whip up a tasty batch in the crockpot. Have others bring the sides such as cornbread, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni & cheese, cobbler and banana pudding. Don’t forget to send us an invite!
- Alphabet Soup - Pick a letter and run with it! The letter "C" may inspire a menu including chili, chowder, chicken, carrots, cauliflower, calamari, chips, cucumbers, corn, couscous, cake, coconut, cookies, curly fries, and chocolate.
- Memory Lane - Focus on comfort foods to invoke feelings of nostalgia and warmth. Homestyle favorites like macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, chili, mashed potatoes, pork chops & gravy, meatloaf, apple pie and chocolate chip cookies are a few potluck hall-of-famers. Let your friends and neighbors choose their favorite comfort food to bring.
- Heart & Soul - A soul food potluck is a tasteful delight for all to enjoy. Potluck showstoppers may include fried chicken, pork ribs, succotash, cornbread, okra, black-eyed peas, shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, collard greens and beans over rice.
- Giving Thanks - It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving Day to give thanks and host a party that features your holiday favorites. Even if you try a new twist on an old classic, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie can be enjoyed year-round. Genius Tip: Throw in a Honey Baked Ham to really wow your crowd.
- The Last Name Meal - Guests are asked to bring a dish that begins with the first letter of their last name. Mrs. Smith can bring spaghetti; Ms. Brown can bring buffalo wings; Mr. Martin can bring mud pie, and so on.
- Barnyard Fun - For a fun down-home feel, you can enjoy a collection of dishes made from anything you would find on a farm. It’s the classic meat and potatoes sort of meal. Popular meals include barnyard stew, chicken pot pie, roasted pork, sliced turkey, creamed corn, fresh fruits and vegetables, egg salad, and zucchini bread to name a few.
- Finger Foods - This is a great potluck option when folks are coming over to watch a game or you want to keep it light. There's no need to polish the silver for this meal because your guests will just be using their fingers! Sliders, taquitos, chips, dips, and countless desserts will be enjoyed. Make sure to have extra napkins on hand (and maybe some toothpicks)!
- Stuff It - This meal includes anything you can stuff. You might be surprised by some of the creativity that folks have with stuffing various foods. You may want to wear stretchy pants to this potluck because you are sure to leave full! Stuffed peppers, stuffed mushroom, and stuffed burgers are delicious options that come to mind.
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- Book Theme - There is nothing better than a lively discussion of a good book… unless you pair the perfect menu to go with the book’s central theme, location setting or time period.
- Luau - This is a great theme for summer. Be sure to break out the Tiki torches and other decorations to give it the island luau feel. For this Hawaiian-themed event be sure to offer your guests leis upon arrival to help them join you in celebrating island life. Dishes can include beef kabobs, tuna poke, pork sliders with mango salsa, fruit skewers, and tropical drinks.
- Mom or Dad’s Favorite - This is a night to celebrate Mom or Dad by cooking their favorite or best dishes. Invite guests to share their memories of special home cooking. But, keep their caregiver’s favorite recipe a secret — everyone will understand.
- Fire and Ice - This idea blends "hot" dishes that have some spice to them with some "cool" dishes such as pasta salad. It will make for a vibrant evening from appetizers to main dishes to desserts.
- Pizza Extravaganza - There might be some friendly competition happening on pizza night because everyone has a favorite style. For a fun twist, prep individually sized dough and have guests bring a range of pizza toppings to create their own custom pizza. Don't forget a dessert pizza! Another option is to allow folks to bring their favorite pizza but allow carryout options to make it easier.
- State Fair Food - The food vendors at the State Fair are half the fun, so recreate fair food in your own home and encourage your guests to be a bit ridiculous. Pizza on a stick anyone?
- Fry Night - Ok, admit it. Everyone loves deep-fried food even though we all know better! Plan a fun night of frying and throw in some unexpected offerings.
- Mardi Gras - Crawfish, muffulettas, and other Cajun-inspired dishes are the highlight of this event. Don't forget the beads, masks and the King Cake of course!
- Chili Cookoff - This is a night for guests to show off their best chili recipe and vote on their favorites. Have ballots and a fun trophy on hand for the winner. And don't forget the topping bar!
- Feeling Lucky - Try this Irish-inspired theme party. You can't go wrong with the luck of the Irish. Beef stew, Irish soda bread, potato soup, corned beef and cabbage, bread pudding and anything else from the Emerald Isle will make for a fun affair. Be sure to decorate with lots of green and clovers to give it an Irish feel.
- Tailgate Party - It’s game day! Which means it’s time to serve up grilled food, chips and dips, and sandwiches. Add some tailgate-themed props and encourage your guests to wear their favorite team apparel. We highly recommend that someone bring buffalo chicken dip to party.
- Get in Shape - Exercise your guests’ creativity by challenging them to bring a dish featuring food as a shape. Think pizza or watermelon triangles, round sandwiches or sushi rolls, etc. You might want to give folks a few ideas but let the creative ones roll with making up their own ideas.
- A Decade of Food - Pick a specific decade and ask guests to bring a dish that reminds them of that time. The menu and decorations will bring back memories of the good old days. It’s a perfect way to naturally bring stories along with food into your evening gathering.
- 5 Ingredients or Less - Keep it simple and somewhat healthy by giving your guests parameters on how many ingredients to use in their dish. Your guests will love the ease and it takes the pressure off having to prepare anything that’s too fancy.
- Fresh from the Farmer’s Market - This theme will delight lovers of fresh, local fare. Think of the many dishes that are becoming popular at farm-to-table restaurants and allow that to help guide some ideas. A quick glance at any local farm-to-table restaurant menu will provide the ideas you need. Be sure to plan this potluck in the summer or fall when the harvest is plentiful.
- Back to School - Make the end of summer a little less painful with a potluck that embraces the change of schedules and weather. Apple dishes, juice boxes and lunch box themed food might help ease the transition back to school.
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- Kids Fare for Adults - Make kids’ favorite dishes with adults in mind by upgrading the ingredients. Instead of boxed mac-n-cheese, how about a baked four-cheese variety with cheeses like Gruyere, goat cheese, white cheddar and fontina? You’d be surprised how creative you can get with some of these grilled cheese sandwich recipes.
- Western - Think meat! Serve ribs or brisket, baked beans, corn on the cob, and big mugs of cold lemonade and root beer. Throw your boots on and get your grill ready! Oh, and don’t forget to play some classic country music to give it an ole Western feel.
- Submarine Night - This theme allows your guests to create their own sub sandwich masterpieces. Provide the sub rolls and sides and have guests bring their favorite sandwich ingredients. Everyone will love getting to customize their own sandwich. Be sure that someone brings chips to the party as well.
- Fall Cornucopia - Fall is a great time for warm, comforting food or breaking out the crock pot. Being harvest season, it’s all about apples and pumpkins for this event. Encourage guests to bring their favorite fall dish, crockpot meal or harvest-inspired dessert.
- Night at the Movies - Make it a movie night with friends and neighbors. For a large crowd, break out the movie projector. This is more of a movie snack-style potluck that calls for popcorn, Milk Duds and any other movie theater-inspired snacks.
- Crock Pot Meals - Who knew there were so many meals that can be prepared in a crock pot? Crock pot recipes make cooking easy since you throw everything in the slow cooker and let it do the work. It’s an easy option that will be sure to inspire some creative meals to share.
- Casseroles - Casseroles create comfort any time of year, but on a cold evening this theme will leave everyone feeling warm, fuzzy and full. When someone brings a lasagna, you can have fun debating whether it counts as a true casserole or a pasta dish.
- Meatless Mondays - Vegetarian options take center stage on Meatless Monday (or whichever day of the week works for your event). But meatless doesn’t have to be tasteless. Encourage guests to step up their game and bring their best meatless dish ranging from tofu pad Thai to a meatless pasta option.
- Which Came First? - Let chickens and eggs inspire all the dish creations this evening. You can debate the chicken and the egg question over a meal of dishes prepared with either chicken or an egg. From chicken pot pie to a quiche this theme makes for some tasty foods.
- Cinco De Mayo - This Mexican-inspired theme is always a fun and festive event. Be sure to break out some mariachi music. Guacamole, tacos, enchiladas and chips are pleasing any time of year, but especially around Cinco de Mayo!
- Grilled Cheese - Gourmet cheeses, bread, and fun extras like bacon and tomato brought by your guests will make for a delicious and gooey evening. Make a menu board with some grilled cheese suggestions for inspiration.
- Rest in Peace - This theme might be too dark for some, but if you're up for a great discussion ask your guests to bring their best representation of what they'd want to eat if they knew it was their last meal. This could be a fun theme that pairs best around Halloween.
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- Takeout Night - What could be easier? No one has to cook anything! Guests pick up a carryout dish and show up ready to eat. You're going to be everyone's favorite host or hostess!
- Nothing but Noodles - So many of us associate noodles with ease and comfort. Noodle dishes can range from spaghetti to a pesto pasta dish. Be sure to make a request for some gluten-free options and the possibilities of hot and cold dishes are endless.
- Best Story - Everyone loves a great story! What food do you remember from a momentous occasion like getting engaged, going into labor, receiving an adoption referral or getting into your top college? Ask your guests to replicate that dish and be prepared for a night of great storytelling.
- City Theme - Most large cities have distinctive foods they're known for across the country. Chicago's deep-dish pizza or Philadelphia's Philly Cheese Steaks are just two examples. Let your guests choose a favorite city to represent!
- Super Bowl - Celebrating the Super Bowl is fun even if you’re just watching for the commercials. Focus on the “bowl” part by having your guests serve their dish from a bowl or just go for a football theme. If you are planning appetizers, be sure to try some ideas from our list of best Super Bowl appetizers.
- Rainbow Meal - Design a meal that involves every color of the rainbow. Your table will be a feast for the eyes with this beautiful theme. Make sure to create a sign up so every color is represented and encourage your guests to wear the color of their dish or rainbow clothing.
- Roots - Get to know your guests even better when they bring a dish inspired by their heritage. Of course, you could also take this literally and serve dishes prepared with roots. Sweet potato casserole anyone?
- Wine & Cheese - Study up on your wine and cheese pairings. Each guest could be assigned a region to ensure a variety of both delectable options. To step things up a bit, break out your charcuterie board and have guests bring some of their favorite cheeses, crackers, sausages and fruits to fill the board.
- Stick It - Pick a theme where everything goes on a stick. The possibilities are endless, but all food must be served on a stick. Whether you go with finger-style foods or shish kabobs, it's easy to accommodate all your guests’ eating preferences. Include vegetarian and gluten-free options and don't forget some tasty dips!
- Pinterest Potluck - Do you have a recipe board on Pinterest full of ideas you've never tried? Your guests probably do too, so use this potluck event to bring Pinterest to life by making this a “Pinterest Only” potluck.
Put some thought into your potluck theme, and then run with it! Be sure to decorate and even select music and other creative ideas to go all out in your theme. You’re sure to leave a lasting impression on your guests.
Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mom of two daughters.