What is a Potluck?

Sheri Cyprus

A potluck is an event in which each participant brings a dish of food. All those who bring a dish can then try the other dishes. Potlucks may be dinners or lunches and may be held in churches, schools, offices and private homes.

Casseroles are popular dishes people bring to a potluck.
Casseroles are popular dishes people bring to a potluck.

Hosting a potluck dinner is a great idea for a person who likes to have dinner parties, but either doesn't like to spend hours in the kitchen or doesn't have the time for it. Most potluck hosts will cook the main dish for a sit down dinner, plus some side dishes or else the dessert, and each guest will bring the rest. A buffet-style potluck may feature several main dishes and many side dishes, however, and the host may just provide one dish like the other guests.

A person attending a potluck might bake a pie.
A person attending a potluck might bake a pie.

Office potlucks can be a great idea if the company has a large enough lunch room as well as fridge space. A wide range of foods can be offered so that there's something for everyone. The best idea is usually to organize the potluck at least three weeks beforehand by having a list for workers to write down what dish they’ll be bringing.

People who enjoy dinner parties might host a potluck with friends who bring different food dishes.
People who enjoy dinner parties might host a potluck with friends who bring different food dishes.

The list should specify categories such as main dishes, desserts, salads and things like crackers and cheese, fruit plates etc. to ensure a wide variety of courses. It's also a great idea to include items such as a large bag of chips or a large bottle of soda. That way, non-cooks and/or those on a budget can bring something inexpensive and still participate in the potluck.

A buffet-style potluck typically features several entrees and a wide assortment of salads and side dishes.
A buffet-style potluck typically features several entrees and a wide assortment of salads and side dishes.

Although it's usually quite acceptable to buy foods for potlucks, most potluck participants tend to cook or bake their contribution. It's a great way to share special family recipes that you're proud of and enjoy making. A potluck is also often a great way to try ethnic foods that you may not have ever had before. Some schools hold cultural potlucks so that students can learn about different kinds of cuisines.

A person who attends a potluck may be in charge of bringing the dessert.
A person who attends a potluck may be in charge of bringing the dessert.
A salad is a popular dish to bring to a potluck.
A salad is a popular dish to bring to a potluck.
Party trays that are filled with vegetables are often brought to potlucks.
Party trays that are filled with vegetables are often brought to potlucks.
Homemade pizza is a food that people at a potluck would enjoy.
Homemade pizza is a food that people at a potluck would enjoy.

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Discussion Comments

Lostnfound

Potluck dinners are sometimes the best kind, especially if you know the cooks and what they're apt to bring. Church potlucks are always good because you have older cooks bringing down-home dishes like chicken and dressing or chicken pie.

In the South, "homecoming" Sunday at church is always an occasion for the cooks in the congregation to show off their best dishes and desserts. The tables are usually crammed with food and it's a point of pride to bring home empty dishes because your food was so good.

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