20 picnic food ideas to make for the kids over the school holidays

Delicious, easy picnic food ideas to enjoy in the great outdoors including classics such as sausage rolls and pork pie…

A selection of picnic food ideas including layered rolls, muffin pizzas and chocolate watermelon
(Image credit: Future / various)

When it comes to picnic food ideas sometimes inspiration is nowhere to be seen, that's where we come in. We’ve rounded up our best child-friendly picnic food ideas perfect for you and your family.

It’s summer, which means one thing - it’s time to roll out those patterned eye-catching picnic blankets, find the lids for every shape and size Tupperware you have in the kitchen cupboard, dust off the cooler bag that's been hiding in the garage and get picnicking.

Not only are picnics a great excuse to serve up some of our finest buffet food, but it’s also a great way of getting family and friends together, getting out of the house (if you’re starting to go a little stir-crazy), and letting the kids run free in the great outdoors. According to National Picnic Week, the average person picnics at least three times a year, which is on average a massive 94 million picnics per year. And that’s not all, in one year alone an average of ten grams of meat pies and sausage rolls were consumed per person per week.

From simple sandwich fillings to lunch box ideas (which you may want to consider for the kid's packed lunches when they’re back at school) here are our favourite picnic food ideas you can easily make at home… 

Family-friendly picnic food ideas

Mary Berry iced fairy cakes recipe

(Image credit: Alamy)

1. Mary Berry’s iced fairy cakes

Serves/makes: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

Let’s start with a real treat that is sure to get the kid's attention. Mary Berry’s iced fairy cakes are super simple and can be made a couple of days before the picnic too. Whip up a batch of 12 fairy cakes in just 30 minutes; leave them to cool, decorate and pop straight into a sturdy airtight container, ready for transporting to your picnic destination. 

Top tip: You may want to hide these fairy cakes nearer the bottom of the cooler bag to make sure the kids eat lunch first. Keep out of direct sunlight whilst storing, otherwise, the icing will run off the cakes and you’ll need an emergency supply of wet wipes on hand.

Get the recipe: Fairy cakes 

roasted veg on pitta bread

(Image credit: Future)

2. Roasted vegetable pittas

Serves/makes: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

Another make-ahead choice that is well worth the wait come picnic day. These flavoursome pittas are packed with a generous dose of your five-a-day and are a great healthy alternative to your average white bread ham and cheese sandwich. A mixture of roasted red pepper, courgette, a handful of rocket, and a slice or two of mozzarella, is just perfect for the maturer eaters in your family

Top tip: According to Food Writer, Sue McMahon, you can cook the roasted vegetables up to a week before you need to use them. Just drizzle with olive oil and store in the fridge into your pittas are ready to be assembled. Of course, with all foods, we do recommend making and serving them as soon as possible for the freshest taste, texture, and flavours.

Get the recipe: Roasted vegetable pittas

Sausage rolls

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3. Sausage rolls

Serves/makes: 7 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

If you fancy giving homemade sausage rolls a try, it takes just three ingredients to make these meaty sausage rolls coated with a light, golden buttery pastry. Choose your favourite sausage, grab yourself some chilled shortcrust pastry, and an egg, and get rolling. You could even try this recipe using vegetarian sausages too. We’re sure the kids will approve.

Top tip: We do love a recipe that you can make ahead and this is another one which can be made well in advance, in fact, you can even freeze these sausage rolls premade, defrost and cook them on the morning of the picnic so they are as fresh as can be.

Get the recipe: How to make sausage rolls

strawberry-buns-with-custard

(Image credit: TI Media)

4. Strawberry buns with custard

Serves/makes: 8 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr and 10 mins

For those of you who truly want to impress (and love baking), we’d recommend whipping up a batch of these mouthwatering, super-sweet strawberry buns with custard. They are the ultimate summer picnic must-have if you’re looking for something sweet to add to the basket. They are messy so napkins are a must. And if the kids aren’t keen, at least they’ll be leftovers for the adults to enjoy.

Top tip: As these buns are filled with fresh cream keep them in the fridge until you’re just about to leave for your picnic. Store in an airtight container and make sure there are plenty of ice packs around to keep them cool and fresh. Keep out of direct sunlight.

Get the recipe: Strawberry buns with custard

Roll up sandwiches

(Image credit: Elena Elisseeva/Alamy)

5. Roll up sandwiches

Serves/makes: 1 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins

These roll up sandwiches are so easy to make, older kids could actually make them on their own with guidance. You will need two slices of bread per person - and your choice of filling; be it cheese, ham, grated carrot, peanut butter - whatever your little ones preference.

Top tip: The idea here is to make your bread as thin as possible with a rolling pin, load it with your chosen filling and then tightly roll and wrap it into clingfilm. Leave in the fridge for a bit and then when you’re ready to serve or transport to the picnic, slice and serve as sandwich pinwheels.

Get the recipe: Roll up sandwiches

Ham, spinach and cheese quiche

(Image credit: Future)

6. Ham, spinach and cheese quiche

Serves/makes: 6 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

Serving six, this quiche is a great one for sharing with friends and family. It takes just 30 minutes to prep and cook and can be made ahead if you store it properly in the fridge. Costing an average of £1.59 per serving, this quiche is a cost-effective choice. A delicious filling recipe that also sneaks one of your five-a-day into your child's diet.

Top tip: Our favourite thing about this recipe is that it's great for using up leftover sandwich fillings like ham, and leftover salad leaves in the bag like spinach, and you can add or swap for your preferred ingredients too. For example, we like to leave the ham out when catering for vegetarians and we also like to swap it for shredded chicken sometimes too.

Get the recipe: Ham, spinach and cheese quiche

Swiss roll raspberry pots

(Image credit: Future)

7. Swiss roll raspberry pots

Serves/makes: 9 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins

Five ingredients and you've got yourself an impressive picnic dessert that looks like perfection. These portable pots are layered with raspberry jam icing, shop-bought Swiss roll (to save you a bit of time in the kitchen), and fresh raspberries - perfect when in season during the summer months. 

Top tip: We made our pots in 290ml Weck jars, however, you can choose whichever 290ml pots you prefer, just make sure they are plastic when you're serving at your picnic as you don't want any breakages.

Get the recipe: Swiss roll raspberry pots

tear-and-share-bread

(Image credit: TI Media)

8. Tear and share bread

Serves/makes: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr plus proving time

A flavoursome alternative to your average lunch box sandwich, this tear-and-share bread is made from scratch and packed with Italian favourites such as green pesto, mozzarella, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Catered to the more mature tastebuds in your family, this bread will be the talk of the picnic and is delicious, it can be served as it is, on its own.

Top tip: Individual rolls can be frozen so if you want to get ahead of the game you could easily make this tear and share bread a few weeks before your picnic date. Just defrost in the fridge overnight or on the kitchen side the morning of the picnic and warm for a few minutes in the oven before shipping off to the park.

Get the recipe: Tear and share bread

pork pies

(Image credit: Future)

9. Homemade pork pies

Serves/makes: 6 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr and 25 mins

Fancy making pork pies from scratch? If you've got a bit of free time before the big day why not try your hand at making pork pies? Our step-by-step recipe has easy-to-follow stages including how to make the minced filling, golden pastry crust, and how to make the traditional jelly too.

Top tip: Ok, if it's all a bit too much then we won't judge if you opt for shop-bought pork pies instead - at least we've given you the inspiration, and that's what we're here for after all (inspiring and making your life a tad easier) Of course if you do want to give these classics a go, bake them in a muffin tin so they are all pretty much the same size when they cook - there won't be any fights over who has the biggest pie that way.

Get the recipe: Homemade pork pies

Mediterranean layered sandwich

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10. Mediterranean stuffed layered picnic rolls

Serves/makes: 8 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 15 mins

Yes, they really do taste as good as they look and sound. These layered picnic rolls will certainly keep the adults at the picnic very happy. Layers of green pesto, grilled peppers, plum tomatoes, black olives, fresh basil, and mozzarella. Vibrant, flavoursome, and all sandwiched between two slices of crusty ciabatta bread, what more could you want?

Top tip: Make them the night before the picnic and leave them in the fridge in an airtight container until the following morning. Before you shoot off, wrap the rolls in brown paper, and tie them with a piece of string for a rustic look - you’ll get extra brownie points for the effort.

Get the recipe: Mediterranean stuffed layered picnic rolls

Annabel Karmel english muffin pizzas

(Image credit: Annabel Karmel)

11. Annabel Karmel’s English muffin pizzas

Serves/makes: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins

So whilst you and the other parents are munching on the layered rolls above, the kids can be tucking into these Annabel Karmel-approved English muffin pizzas complete with edible faces. It takes just three steps to make these muffins, plus five minutes under the grill. 

Top tip: If you cut all the ingredients the night before, you could easily assemble and cook these muffin pizzas the morning of the picnic whilst the kids are having some TV time. Store upright in durable airtight containers and try to make sure they stay flat.

Get the recipe: Annabel Karmel’s English muffin pizzas

Tomato and pepper galettes

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12. Tomato and pepper galettes

Serves/makes: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 5 mins

Add a touch of sophistication to your picnic with these elegant tomato and pepper galettes. Each piece of puff pastry is topped with fresh seasonal ingredients such as mixed colour peppers, plum tomatoes, and parsley. It actually doesn't take much to make these galettes baked in just 25 minutes. On average each galette costs under £1 to make, meaning it's a great budget option when the school holiday strain is starting to take its toll.

Top tip: Add leftovers to these galettes - be it shredded chicken or tuna from sandwich fillings you never used, or last night's leftover ham from your roast dinner. 

Get the recipe: Tomato and pepper galettes

chicken and peach couscous salad

(Image credit: Future)

13. Chicken and peach couscous salad

Serves/makes: 2 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins

A super colourful vibrant picnic choice that takes just 15 minutes to rustle up. It's the perfect side salad for those looking to eat a little healthier and want to avoid heavy carbs come picnic time. We've used cooked chicken breasts in this recipe which means there is no cooking involved, you just need to make sure you prep the couscous according to the packet instructions, chop the veg and your salad is ready to be combined.

Top tip: You may think it's an odd choice, but the peach really adds another level of flavour and texture to this dish and works perfectly with the tender chunks of chicken and the sweetness of the seasonal tomatoes, however, you can leave it out if you're not too keen.

Get the recipe: Chicken and peach couscous salad

stuffed rolls with pastrami and veggies

(Image credit: Future)

14. Stripy rainbow picnic rolls

Serves/makes: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

If you want to get the kids involved in making lunch for everyone, these picnic rolls are a great choice. Just slice off the top of each roll to make a 'lid', pull out most of the soft bread inside the roll, and start creating layers with ham, cheese, tomato - you name it. Pop the lid back on and then wrap it in cling film and store it in the fridge before serving. Cut each roll in half before serving to see the rainbow layers hidden behind the bread. 

Top tip: If you're worried about wasting all the leftover soft bread you've pulled out of the rolls then don't worry, we've got you covered. Simply pop blitz in a food processor to make breadcrumbs and store in a freezable bag ready for when a recipe you're making calls for breadcrumbs. 

Get the recipe: Stripy rainbow picnic rolls

strawberry tart on a plate with a fork

(Image credit: Getty)

15. Paul Hollywood’s strawberry tarts

Serves/makes: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 15 mins

Nothing says summer quite like the taste of fresh, juicy strawberries. Paul Hollywood's strawberry tarts are a great sweet treat at your picnic and are sure to tempt kids and adults alike. Make the day before and leave in the fridge overnight in a sturdy airtight container.

Top tip: If you're short on time ditch the homemade shortcrust pastry for shop-bought pastry instead. The readymade shortcrust pastry will work just as well as homemade.

Get the recipe: Paul Hollywood’s strawberry tarts

twisty sausage rolls

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16. Sausage rolls with a twist

Serves/makes: 24 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 30 mins

The perfect 'cheats' recipe for those looking for a quick meaty option that the kids won't turn their noses up at. These sausage roll twists include pork chipolata sausages wrapped in puff pastry. Serve with tomato ketchup, mustard, Marmite - whatever takes your fancy. Ready in just 30 minutes, you could easily make these on the morning of your picnic.

Top tip: Catering for vegetarians? Swap the pork sausages for veggie-friendly sausages instead - the twists will work just as well. 

Get the recipe: Sausage rolls with a twist

cloudy lemonade

(Image credit: Future)

17. Homemade cloudy lemon and limeade

Serves/makes: 8-10 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins

Don't forget the beverages. Learn how to make classic lemon and limeade with this easy three-ingredient recipe using lemon, lime, and sugar. It's a bittersweet drink that is sure to quench your thirst in the summer heat. Ready in just 15 minutes, it's a sweet, speedy option ideal for sharing.

Top tip: You might not get away with ice cubes in the park, so why not freeze the drink in a freezable bottle the night before and leave it to defrost throughout the day in your cooler bag? It'll double up as an ice pack and when it starts to defrost and turn back to liquid you can start pouring into everyone's plastic cups. Cheers!

Get the recipe: Homemade cloudy lemon and limeade 

canape recipe mini quiches

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18. Mini quiches

Serves/makes: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 10 mins

If you love shop-bought quiche, wait until you try the homemade version. In our opinion, homemade is far better than readymade plus it can be 'customised' to suit your own taste. These mini quiches are filled with mature Cheddar cheese, bacon, and onion and will take pride of place on your picnic blanket. 

Top tip: When baking these bite-sized quiches you will need a muffin tray with 12 holes. The individual holes will make sure the quiches are a similar size when cooking and will help them to keep their shape.

Get the recipe: Mini quiches