4 Secrets to Having the Best Dish at Your Potluck

Deep down, every home cook secretly hopes that their dish will be the first one gobbled up. Our Community Cooks serve up their tricks for creating the best potluck dish.

Everyone loves a potluck gathering—and for good reason. A potluck is a smorgasbord of delicious savory dishes and indulgent homemade treats. Full of creativity and flavor, they reflect the care and skill of the home cooks who made them. And while few may be willing to admit it aloud, the truth is that every home cook wants their creation to be the star of the potluck—so popular that every last crumb is cleaned from the dish. The Taste of Home Community Cooks helped us pull together these secrets to creating the best potluck dish every single time.

Secret #1: Choose crowd-pleasing ingredients.

Let’s face it, what people love most about potlucks is the comfort food. And for Community Cook Becky Carver that means “cheese, cheese and more cheese!” Try rich dishes like a Cheesy Cheddar Broccoli Casserole or Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. Fellow Community Cook Lisa Varner says, “Bacon makes everything better!” Smoky, salty bacon is a comfort food staple. Add bacon to potluck recipes like casseroles and pasta dishes, and even crumbled on top of frosted cupcakes! For something new, try this savory Pull-Apart Bacon Bread.

These bacon-y appetizers are gonna go fast.
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Secret #2: Do your homework.

You might make the best lasagna in town, but if five other lasagnas are coming to the party it will be hard to make an impression. So do some friendly research to find out what fellow invitees are planning to bring. Based on what the field looks like, try to choose a dish that stands out from the bunch. Perhaps it will be a fresh Broccoli Salad in a sea of slow cooker sides. Or a warm pan of sweet French Toast Casserole that stands out from muffins and bagels at a breakfast potluck.

Try these game-changing potluck sides.
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Secret #3: Keep it simple.

Community Cooks Susan Seymour and Dawn Lowenstein agree that convenience is what they look for first and foremost in a potluck dish. That makes a casserole the perfect bet. Try easy recipes that use convenient ingredients, like this Taco Salad Casserole or Pizza Pasta Casserole. It’ll be a cinch to pull together, and guests will be clamoring for the recipe!

Meet your new favorite casseroles.
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Secret #4: Make it beautiful.

Don’t just set that dish on the table and walk away. Think of a pretty bow on a present: Appearance makes a difference. A few simple touches will make your dish stand out from the bunch. It can be as simple as a sprinkle of grated Parmesan on top of a baked ziti or chopped fresh herbs on your sweet potato side. Choose your prettiest platter for homemade cookies or a stack of freshly cut brownies. Put out toppings or other accompaniments with your food, such as shredded cheese and diced scallions for chili, or mini rolls with cocktail wieners. Bonnie Hawkins suggests providing a bowl of hot cooked pasta to go along with meatballs in sauce. And for the finishing touch, add a decorative label or tag with the name and a description of your creation. You can buy adorable buffet labels, or make your own at home using decorative paper.

How about one of these gorgeous desserts?
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Keep these tips in mind to help elevate your potluck game and we’re sure your dish will be the best at the party!

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a Taste of Home Community Cook and a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.