I’d be the biggest beach lover if it weren’t for three things: sun, water, and heat. I can’t stand them.

It’s not that I don’t like sunshine. I do. But I like it over there…away from me. I prefer to be in the shade, under an awning, a tree, or a beach umbrella. The ocean contains living creatures that consider me lunch. And heat? Well, does anyone like drowning in their own sweat?

The One and I couldn’t be more different. He adores the beach with its ocean and, especially, sun.

When we first got together, he was a human sundial. On weekends in Barryville, NY, he’d slather on baby oil, lie in a lounge chair on the deck, and move with the sun from the east to west. Me? I was in the kitchen painting cabinets, sewing gingham table napkins, and baking cakes in my first feverish wave of domestic bliss.

Years ago, I learned to bring supplies when we decamped for the shore because we’d stay for millennia. While he lay there in the sun moaning a bit too loudly with pleasure, I was wrapped in dark gauzy fabrics sporting sunglasses and a floppy hat as if I were in mourning for my life.

A man on a beach chair, bundled up in a sweater around his neck.
Me just “loving” the beach…

By day’s end, has was a giant hot-pink Coney Island hot dog, me a landlocked great white Moby Dick.

One thing we could always agree upon were provisions: a colossal cooler of drinks, sandwiches, salads, and desserts.

Being the only son of a carpenter father and a saintly mother, I possess the same ability as that other guy before me; I, too, could feed the whole Hamptons–from South Hampton to Amagansett–out of that one cooler.

Below are some of our best beach picnic ideas: cooling fruit ades, vegan salads, carbalicious snacks, Ina’s famous shrimp salad, wraps, desserts, and more.

Oh, and that old tale of waiting 30 minutes to swim after eating? That’s a bunch of horse dookie, according to the Mayo Clinic.

David Leite's handwritten signature of 'David.'
Four glasses partially filled with watermelon lemonade and topped with ice cubes.
Gentl & Hyers
1 of 8

Watermelon Lemonade

This watermelon lemonade is a refreshing drink made with puréed watermelon, lemon juice, and simple syrup. We can’t think of a better remedy for a hot summer afternoon.
A white bowl filled with vegan chickpea and orzo salad with lemon zest garnish.
Kate Friedman
2 of 8

Vegan Chickpea and Orzo Salad

This hearty orzo chickpea salad is the perfect warm weather treat! It’s best served cold with fresh herbs. If you’re food prepping this salad, make the chickpeas and orzo pasta in advance. They’ll have time to cool before you put it all together.

This orzo salad is superb! It’s incredibly bright, colorful, and delicious. The addition of fresh dill takes the dish to another level. The salad is perfect on its own or with a simple grilled protein like shrimp or chicken.

Spicy Chex mix scattered on a baking sheet with a spoon lying in the middle.
Peter Frank Edwards
3 of 8

Spicy Chex Mix

This homemade spicy Chex mix bears some resemblance to the original but is SO much more interesting. The combination of roasted nuts, toasted cereal, and the ideal amount of cayenne and chili seasoning means you may never go back to the classic.
Shrimp salad garnished with dill in a cardboard takeout container.
David Leite
4 of 8

Shrimp Salad from Ina Garten

This luscious shrimp salad from the Barefoot Contessa herself–Ina Garten–is made with shrimp, mayo, mustard, vinegar, and more. Excellent for picnics, brunch, showers.

I made this recipe yesterday for a birthday party. It was outrageous!! Everyone that ate it raved about it. The dill in the dressing put it over the top. Thank you, Ina!

A white plate filled with charred corn salad and a halved lime and bowl of dressing on the side.
Kris Kirkham
5 of 8

Charred Corn Salad

This charred corn salad, made with fresh sweet corn, cilantro, tomatoes, hearts of palm, onion, and a spicy Greek yogurt dressing is simple, healthy, and certain to become a staple in your weeknight summer rotation.

This was delicious. It actually still tasted great the next day straight out of the fridge – so many salads are squishy the next day. Can’t wait to make it again.

beth t.
Blue tray filled with cacio e pepe potato chips--chips topped with cheese, black pepper, and parsley.
Ellen Silverman
6 of 8

Cacio e Pepe Potato Chips

These cacio e pepe potato chips are utterly ingenious. And they take no time to make. Unsalted kettle chips are topped with cheese and heated in the oven until they’re even crisper. A generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, more cheese, and parsley are added just before serving. Sorry, Lays.
A tandoori chicken wrap with lettuce, chicken, in a flour tortilla.
Tina Rupp
7 of 8

Tandoori Chicken Wraps

These tandoori chicken wraps combine grilled chicken marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic, and Middle Eastern spices with a cooling yogurt and mint dressing. Everything is wrapped in tortillas, pita, or naan.

The sauce is divine. All my guests asked for the sauce recipe. I marinated the chicken for just over 1/2 an hour and will definitely marinate it longer in the future to gather all the lovely flavors.

Chocolate peanut butter cookies in a stack, the top one broken in half, on a worn white background.
David Leite
8 of 8

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

It’s simple: chocolate cookie dough surrounds a peanut butter center, and the whole is dredged in sugar before baking. In the oven, the cookie spreads out, and like magic, you end up with a peanut butter center between two wonderful chocolate layers.

I made this recipe a few days ago and have had to give away most of the cookies – to prevent myself from eating every last one. They are amazing.


Beach Picnic FAQs

what’s the best way to store food at the beach?

Before heading out on your day at the beach, pack a cooler with ice packs or a block of ice before adding your food. Keep your food in the cooler until you’re ready to serve it, and pack up leftovers promptly after enjoying them. This will keep your food cool, safe to eat, and bug-free.

how long can i leave food out in the sun?

Any foods that would typically be refrigerated shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours. If the outside temperature is over 90°F, cut that down to 1 hour.

how do i keep sand out of my picnic food?

If you’ve got a portable table, set that up, and store your cooler on top of it. If not, look for a spot that has a grassy, sand-free area or a picnic table. Also, keep the lid of the cooler closed when you’re not unpacking or packing food.

What’s your favorite food to tote along to the beach? Let me know in a comment below.

A square grey plate containing a bowl of cantaloup soup and a prosciutto mozzarella sandwich on a baguette.

8 Beach Picnic Food Ideas

5 / 3 votes
A cup of refreshing cold soup to sip on and an easy-to-make baguette sandwich is the ideal no-cook summer lunch and is perfect to pack up and take to the beach. Grab your thermos and whip up this ☞ CANTALOUPE SOUP WITH PROSCIUTTO-MOZZARELLA SANDWICHES.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories497 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


For the sandwiches

  • 2 small baguettes
  • Two (8-ounce) balls fresh mozzarella, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the soup

  • 2 ripe cantaloupes, chilled, halved, and seeded
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 mint leaves, cut into strips or torn into itty bitty pieces


Make the prosciutto-mozzarella sandwiches

  • Cut each baguette in half lengthwise and then slice each baguette portion crosswise into thirds.
  • Place a slice or three of both mozzarella and prosciutto on the bottom portion of each baguette. Drizzle with the oil and sandwich with the corresponding top baguette portion.

Make the cantaloupe soup

  • Purée the cantaloupe and salt in a blender until smooth. Pour the soup into bowls and sprinkle with the pepper and fresh mint.
  • Serve the soup with the sandwiches.


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 497 kcalCarbohydrates: 19 gProtein: 23 gFat: 37 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 15 gTrans Fat: 0.05 gCholesterol: 85 mgSodium: 994 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 15 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
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About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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