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Tips For Hosting a Successful Potluck Dinner

By Edited Apr 8, 2016 1 2

I love potluck dinners. It's a fun and easy way to spend an evening. Potlucks are not a lot of work for the host, because everyone contributes in some way. It's also a great opportunity to taste other people's food.

I've exchanged quite a few recipes after a potluck. People are almost always happy to share their recipe.  In fact it's quite a compliment to be asked.

Pot lucks are also an economical way to get together with friends. Potlucks are cheaper than eating out, and the hostess does not have to handle the entire cost of food and drinks for everyone.

This article has tips for hosting a successful potluck dinner. I've had many at my home and attended a lot over the years, so this comes from personal experience.

Potluck dinner

Tips for a Successful Potluck

Ask people to bring a specific food category, such as salads, an appetizer, or rice. This will ensure you get a good variety of food.  You don't want to end up with five desserts and no salads.

As much as possible I try to accommodate people's talents and abilities.  For example, one person might love to make casseroles, but hate making desserts.   So I will ask that person to prepare something they like to make.  

If you have no idea what they enjoy preparing, just ask.  You will usually get a specific answer, but some will just say they will bring whatever is needed.

Find out if any guests have food allergies, or if they are on a special diet. If so, you may want to ask that person to bring something they know they can eat. You might also want to ask at least one other person to bring something for those who are on special diets.

Some people may need certain utensils, depending on what they are bringing. You can either ask them to bring the utensils or be sure you have it on hand yourself.

A particular theme, such as Italian dinner, can make the potluck very interesting. However, we don't all have the same cooking abilities or time. It can work though if you know your guests well and what they are comfortable preparing.

More Potluck Sugggestions

If someone is bringing a hot dish, find out if they are going to need to use your microwave or oven. You don't want several people trying to heat food at about the same time when they arrive. It is much better to ask that they have it ready before leaving home, and to keep it warm in a container.  


Have people bring items that are eaten from a plate. You will have a lot of extra work if someone brings soup or other things that require a bowl. Finger foods are easy and usually very popular.

Avoid having people bring food that is extra spicy or way out of the ordinary.  The only exception would be if you know your guests like to experiment with different food. Regular foods like  scalloped potatoes, rice, and a variety of salads are usually enjoyed by almost everyone.

Do you have someone on your list that hates cooking, or has limited time to prepare a dish? You can solve this problem by asking them to bring some fresh fruit or chopped veggies and dip. This can be ready in minutes or purchased at a grocery store.  Fruit and veggies are always welcome at gatherings.    It's important to remember that not everyone likes to cook, but almost everyone likes to attend a potluck.  

Over the years I have found that following these tips result in a successful potluck dinner and fun evening. Most people are happy to contribute something to a dinner, and you will get a nice variety of things to eat.

Best Potluck Recipes

Cook's Country Best Potluck Recipes
Amazon Price: $29.95 $14.47 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 8, 2016)
This book contains some great recipes and tips for food safety. It also includes some shopping tips.


Dec 29, 2014 7:59pm
Excellent tips. I hosted a potluck one year and we didn't have enough ladles, tongs, and serving spoons. Lesson learned.

It's always wise to ask about allergies or dietary restrictions ahead of time (as you said) since people are often too shy to speak up at a gathering.

Wishing you and yours all the best for 2015!
Dec 29, 2014 8:31pm
Thank you Rose, and the same to you.
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