By Salongo Wendland

Here’s what every potluck-style picnic turns out to be for me: a PANIC PICNIC.

This is my life. I’m invited on a sunny Saturday afternoon, after a margarita or two, to a potluck picnic BBQ the next week. Water balloons for the kids! Horseshoes for the adults! It will be a blast! I readily agree.

Then the next Saturday rolls around, and as I’m mowing the lawn, I get the “Oh and can you bring some ice when you come?” text, and I’m thrown into a panic because of course I forgot all about it, it starts in a half hour, dear heavens above what have I done? #PANICPICNIC

Fret not, friend. I’m giving you two recipes today. Bookmark them. The Firework Bean Salad can be made in mere moments and requires zero cooking. The Bacon Broccoli Salad can be thrown together almost as quickly, but you need at least enough time to cook bacon for it. Both recipes are fresh and tasty, require only a modicum of work, pop with color on the table, and will garner you rave reviews and an empty bowl mid-picnic. And I recently made them both in less than a half hour. Because that was the time I had. Prepare yourself for recipe requests and demands for more!



(makes one big bowl)

adapted very slightly via Smitten Kitchen

This one takes 5-10 minutes and results in a beautiful bean salsa you can serve alongside tortilla chips. It’s fresh, crunchy, spicy, slightly tart, full of protein (WHAT?!?) and in addition to using it as a salsa-type dip at your picnic, you can make it under less-demanding circumstances for serving alongside chicken, tacos, or anything else that needs some pop.

You’ll need:

  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans,
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, mix of colors
  • 1/2 super-large or 1 medium white onion,
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeños (can be omitted, use 2 for more heat)
  • Juice of two limes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped cilantro, for serving (optional)

1 Panic Picnic ingredients

OPEN YOUR CANS! Whew, that was hard work. Rinse the beans and dump into a bowl.

Chop your jalapeño(s) into a tiny dice, and the remaining peppers and onions to a uniform dice slightly smaller than the beans. You can actually do this in a food processor if you are super pressed for time; you just may end up with a slightly smaller dice than you’d like. Dump them in with the beans.

Put the remaining ingredients into a jar and shake them up (or whisk in a bowl).

2 Panic Picnic ingredients 3 Panic Picnic ingredients

Pour it over the bean mixture, toss it well, and adjust seasonings to taste.

You’re done! I don’t add the cilantro; I just put it next to the beans so people can add it if they want. Not only do some people hate it (they are crazy), but it also tends to wilt and get weird if you have it sitting in the salad for any time at all. Yours will look a little more balanced than mine; I had just three peppers, so I made do because, as I said, I had zero time.

4 Panic Picnic beans closeup


(makes one huge bowl)


The bacon comes first in the name because you’re basically tricking your loved ones into eating broccoli by adding a whole pound of bacon. It’s not healthy, but you can think of it as healthier than eating bacon by itself. At least this way you get some vitamins. This is honestly one of my favorite salads ever: crunchy, chewy, creamy, sweet, sour, fresh. And if you cook your bacon in the microwave, it’s almost as fast as the bean salad.


  • 4 broccoli crowns
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 C total your choice of sunflower seeds and/or my favorite salad topper mix (I do half and half)
  • 1 C total your choice of dried cranberries, raisins, and/or sultanas (I didn’t have regular raisins)


  • 1.5 C mayo
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • Juice of one lime

Get your bacon cooking, however you do it. As I’ve said before, my preferred method is in the oven on a sheet pan at 425F for 10-15 minutes, flipping occasionally, but you can use the microwave if you’re pressed for time or it’s hotter than the Cracks of Mount Doom.

Chop your onion and put it in a bowl, then cover it with water while you work. This will leach out some of the excessively bitter oniony taste and mellow your onion slightly.

5 Panic Picnic bacon 6 Panic Picnic red onions

Break your broccoli down into florets: Cut off the stems, then cut the florets apart from the stem side, or break them apart with your hands like a savage. I’m not your boss. Put the florets in your bowl and toss the stems into your compost bin.

7 Panic Picnic broccoli 8 Panic Picnic broccoli

Your bacon will probably be done by now; drain it on some paper towels and chop it quickly, before everyone in your house eats it all. It smells amazing, I know.

9 Panic Picnic bacon 10 Panic Picnic bacon

Drain the onions and throw all of the first ingredients into your bowl. It’s so pretty!

11 Panic Picnic all ingredients

Add the dressing ingredients to a smaller bowl and whisk them together.

12 Panic Picnic dressing ingredients 13 Panic Picnic dressing

Dump the dressing in the bowl and mix it up. I do it with my (clean) hands but you can use a spatula if you don’t want to make a mess, Nancy. Taste for salt; I tend to be light-handed with it.

14 Panic Picnic bacon broccoli salad


You’re finished! That’s it! This one gets better when it sits a bit; just make sure you give it a good stir up from the bottom before it’s served to redistribute the dressing that will collect at the bottom.

There you have it, folks. Two great options for last-minute potluck recipes that will make you feel like the rockstar you are. Your job here is done. Panic no more! Go forth and party!

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