A Fun Gluten Free picnic food: Planning a picnic can be tricky when you or someone in your group has dietary restrictions. But having to eat gluten free doesn’t mean you have to miss out on delicious foods at your outdoor gathering. With some planning and creativity, you can enjoy flavorful gluten free picnic fare that will please everyone.
What Does it Mean to Eat Gluten Free?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues like intestinal damage, malnutrition, and inflammatory reactions. The only treatment for celiac disease is strictly following a 100% gluten free diet.
Eating gluten free means avoiding any foods that contain:
- Wheat (including farro, graham flour, semolina, and durum)
- Brewer’s yeast
- Oats (unless certified gluten free)
Gluten can hide in many packaged and processed foods, so checking ingredient labels is a must. Being aware of cross contamination is also important when cooking and eating gluten free.
Tips for Packing a Gluten Free Picnic
Packing safe and tasty gluten free picnic foods takes some extra care. Here are some tips to make your prep easy:
- Prepare foods at home – Making your own gluten free dishes gives you control over ingredients. Baked goods, sandwiches, salads, and more can all be made gluten free at home.
- Pack gluten free versions of pantry staples – Bring gluten free bread, crackers, condiments, salad dressing, and other basics you can’t get at parks or markets.
- Keep gluten free food storage separate – Pack gluten free items in separate containers or bags to avoid cross contamination. Use aluminum foil to make separation barriers.
- Bring your own utensils and dinnerware – Transporting your own plates, cups, and utensils prevents contact with surfaces that may have had gluten exposure.
- Carefully read ingredient labels – If you do purchase any food while out, double check labels carefully for gluten ingredients. Look for “gluten free” labels for extra assurance.
- Communicate with attendees – Give picnic guests a heads up about your gluten free needs so they can also help prevent cross contamination.
Gluten Free Picnic Food Ideas
You can still eat all your favorite picnic foods, just with gluten free swaps. Here are some delicious options:
Gluten Free Picnic Entrees
- Sandwiches – Gluten free bread or wraps with your choice of fillings like meat, cheese, veggies, and condiments. Try chickpea salad or egg salad for extra protein.
- Lettuce wraps – Fill large lettuce leaves with sliced deli meat, tuna salad, grilled chicken, and more.
- Burgers or hot dogs – Look for gluten free buns or bread. Serve with all the classic toppings. Grilled chicken can sub for hot dogs.
- Summer rolls – These fresh Vietnamese rolls wrapped in rice paper are naturally gluten free. Fill them with veggies, shrimp, rice noodles, and herbs.
- Kebabs – Assemble colorful skewers with chunks of steak, chicken, pork, shrimp, veggies, fruit, and more.
- Stuffed peppers or tomatoes – Fill bell pepper halves or tomato cups with gluten free grains like rice or quinoa, plus cheese, herbs, and seasonings.
Gluten Free Picnic Salads
- Pasta salads – Cook gluten free noodles like rice, lentil, or chickpea. Toss with veggies, cheese, olives, herbs, and a vinaigrette.
- Potato salad – Toss cubed potatoes with celery, onion, egg, mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
- Coleslaw or broccoli salad – Shredded veggies tossed in a creamy or tangy salad dressing make flavorful, filling sides.
- Taco salad – Line a bowl with shredded lettuce and pile on seasoned ground beef or turkey, shredded cheese, salsa, avocado, beans, corn, and more.
- Quinoa tabbouleh – This hearty Middle Eastern salad features quinoa instead of bulgur wheat. The lemon and herb flavors pair perfectly for a picnic.
Gluten Free Picnic Sides
- Fruit salad – A bounty of summer fruits like melon, berries, peaches, and grapes. Toss with a squeeze of citrus juice to keep it from browning.
- Veggies and dip – Baby carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper slices, broccoli florets, and snap peas served with hummus or bean dip make great finger foods.
- Chips – Look for potato chips, tortilla chips, rice chips, or other gluten free crunchy snacks. Bring gluten free dip too.
- Charcuterie and cheese – Assorted sliced deli meats, different cheeses, nuts, and olives offer easy protein and fat. Bring gluten free crackers.
- Deviled eggs – These grab-and-go eggs are full of protein, and so simple to prepare ahead.
Gluten Free Picnic Desserts
- Fruit pizza – Make mini pizzas with a gluten free crust, and add a “sauce” of cream cheese with vanilla and honey. Top with sliced fruit.
- Cookies – Bake a batch of gluten free chocolate chip, peanut butter, or oatmeal cookies. Wrap individually to grab on the go.
- Fresh fruit – Sliced melons, pineapple, grapes, berries, and other fresh fruit make light, refreshing desserts.
- Popsicles – Kids and adults alike enjoy homemade pops in summer. Make them with fruit juice, yogurt, chocolate milk, and other gluten free ingredients.
- Cupcakes or muffins – Pick a favorite gluten free baked good like vanilla cupcakes, zucchini muffins, or banana bread. Frost or add chocolate chips for extra goodness.
Gluten Free Picnic Drinks
- Infused water – Elevate regular water by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, mint, berries, or melon.
- Iced tea – Brew a pitcher at home, or pack bottles of unsweetened tea. Sweeten with honey or fruit juice.
- Lemonade – Nothing says summer like freshly squeezed lemonade. Jazz it up with peeled lemon slices or different fruit purees.
- Juice boxes – For kids, pack individual boxes or pouches of 100% fruit juice.
- Smoothies – Make it easy by blending smoothies at home, then transferring them to an insulated bottle or thermos.
- Coffee or tea – Bring your own mugs, plus sugar and dairy/nondairy additions like coconut milk.
Answers to Common Gluten Free Picnic Questions
Switching to a gluten free diet for your next picnic may have you wondering:
Is cross contamination a concern at picnics?
Yes, you do have to be careful about cross contamination when eating gluten free outside of your own kitchen. Things, like shared serving utensils, grill grates, coolers, and containers, can transfer gluten to your food if they’ve touched gluten-containing items. Use foil or separate containers, and have designated gluten free prep areas.
What are good bread substitutes for sandwiches?
The most common gluten free bread options are sandwich slices made from brown rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and xanthan gum. Look for major brands like Canyon Bakehouse, Schar, or Udi’s gluten free breads. Lettuce wraps and burgers sans buns are other good substitutes.
How do I find gluten free condiments and dressings?
Making your own dressings and condiments at home gives you control over ingredients. But there are also pre-made options. Look for brands like Annie’s, Primal Kitchen, or Fourth and Heart that explicitly label gluten free items.
What are some filling gluten free grains and starches?
Rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and nut flours make excellent substitutes for wheat in gluten free cooking. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, and chickpeas also offer starch, fiber, and protein.
What are good gluten free substitutes for beer or wheat-based alcohol?
Most liquors like vodka, gin, tequila, and rum are naturally gluten free (but always check labels to be sure). Red and white wine is typically safe too. Look for gluten removed beers from brands like Omission and Glutenberg, or gluten free pale ales from Ghostfish Brewing Company. Hard ciders are another great option.
Are gluten free products more expensive?
Unfortunately, specialty gluten free products do tend to cost more than wheat-based versions. Making things from scratch can save money. Buying shelf-stable ingredients in bulk when they go on sale also helps cut costs.
Enjoy Your Gluten Free Picnic
You can still indulge in warm weather favorites at your next picnic, all while sticking to your gluten free diet. With some thoughtful planning and prep, you’ll have a bounty of delicious sandwiches, salads, snacks, and treats to enjoy in the sunshine.
Focus on fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and flavor boosting herbs and spices. Look for naturally gluten free whole foods, and check labels carefully on any packaged products. With these gluten free picnic tips, you can relax and have fun without worrying about what you can safely eat.