4 Easy Potluck Dishes and Dinner Recipe Ideas

couple cooking homeDo you dream of coming home from work and having a wonderful, delicious hot dinner waiting for you? That is, a dinner you didn’t have to cook yourself?

Most of us identify with this fantasy. It can be difficult, if not downright impossible sometimes, to find time to cook a healthy, delicious dinner for you and your family. This is one of the main reasons why organizing neighborhood dinner swaps and potlucks are coming back in a big way.

If you’re interested in getting started in a potluck with your neighbors, or you have an office party you have to bring a dish to, then you might be wondering what to cook. Good potluck recipes fulfill the following criteria:

  • They’re easy to double or triple (so you can cook for your family, as well as others).
  • They’re relatively cheap to make (especially if you buy in bulk).
  • They’re fairly appealing to most people.

A few of my favorite potluck recipes are below.

Favorite Potluck Recipes

1. Meatless Shells and Cheese

Don’t let the title of this recipe fool you. Just because it’s meatless doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty. In fact, this is, without a doubt, my favorite recipe ever. I’ve made it so often that I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore. Plus, it’s super cheap to make, easy to double, fairly low in calories and fat, and I’ve never served it to ayone who didn’t love it. It’s a perfect potluck dish!

meatless shells


  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 16 oz. carton of cottage cheese
  • 1 10 oz. package of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 box of jumbo shells
  • 1 26 oz. jar of tomato-basil sauce (I use Hunt’s Original sauce, which is cheap and delicious)
  • 1 cup water


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella, cottage cheese, and the next five ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Pour 1/2 of tomato basil sauce into a 13×9 cooking dish. Spread it around so the bottom is evenly covered with the sauce.
  4. Spoon the cheese mixture into your jumbo shells, and place them in a single layer in the dish. Pour the rest of your sauce over the shells. Once you’re done, pour one cup of water onto the shells. Next, sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over the sauce (you can add more Parmesan cheese too).
  5. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes when done.

Note: I don’t cover my dish with foil; it gives the shells a crispy, almost burnt texture which is actually super delicious.

2. Moorish Style Chickpea and Spinach Stew

When this recipe appeared on NPR last year, I knew I had to try it. It was healthy, cheap, and could easily be doubled. It’s another favorite at my house! Recipe courtesy Chef Jose Andres.

moorish chickpea spinach stew

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 9 ounces dried garbanzos (chickpeas)
  • Pinch bicarbonate of soda
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
  • 1/4 cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces white sliced bread, with the crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons pimentón (Spanish sweet paprika)
  • 1 pinch Spanish saffron
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 pound spinach, washed and cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and white pepper to taste


  1. One day before using this recipe, soak the chickpeas in cold water along with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda. The following day, when you’re ready to cook, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  2. Combine the chickpeas with 2 1/2 quarts of water in a large saucepan. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for two hours until the chickpeas are tender. Add 1/2 cup of cold water every 10 minutes to help slow down the simmering. By the end, the water level should have lowered to the point where it’s barely covering the chickpeas. Turn off the heat and let sit.
  3. In a small saute pan over low to medium heat, brown the garlic in 1/4 cup of olive oil. When the garlic is browned, after about 3 minutes, remove it from the pan and set aside. Add the bread, and brown on both sides, about one minute for each side. Then remove the bread and set aside.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Add the pimentón and saffron to the saute pan, and the sherry vinegar immediately afterward to prevent the pimentón from burning.
  5. Smash the reserved garlic and the browned bread in a mortar to make a very thick paste.
  6. Bring the chickpeas back to a low boil and add in the spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the pimentón mixture along with the garlic and bread paste, to create a thick, stewy sauce. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

3. Black Bean and Tortilla Bake

If you’re in the mood for Mexican and don’t want to spend a lot of money for your next potluck, this awesome recipe from Food.com fits the bill perfectly.

black bean tortilla bake


  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 soft corn tortillas
  • 8 ounces low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded, reserve 2 tablespoons (I used fat free)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray, and then add in garlic, onions, tomato, green onion, cumin, and chili powder.
  3. Cook on medium heat until the onion is tender.
  4. Add tomato sauce and cook the mixture for another 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in beans, cilantro, salt and pepper.
  6. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray, then layer 4 tortillas, 1/3 cheese, and 1/3 of the bean mixture. Repeat this step 2 more times.
  7. Top with 2 tablespoons of cheese.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, covered, then 10 minutes uncovered.

4. Crock Pot Beef Stew

Back when I used to eat meat, this crock pot slow cooker recipe was a go-to favorite of mine. It’s extremely delicious, and perfect for chilly winter evenings. It makes a great potluck dish because it’s easy, fairly cheap, and requires minimal work.

This original recipe was published in the March 2004 issue of Real Simple Magazine. It’s been in my recipe book ever since.

crock pot beef stew


  • 4 lbs. of bottom round, well trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 lb. potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 lb. baby carrots (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup frozen peas


  1. First, coat the beef with flour. Heat a 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium to high heat. Add in the beef and brown it a few pieces at a time, adding more oil as necessary. Transfer to the crock pot as they get finished.
  2. Add onions to skillet and cook over medium heat until tender, which should be about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste to the skillet, and coat the onions. Transfer the entire mixture to the crock pot.
  4. Pour some wine into the skillet and scrape up the brown bits. Transfer to the crock pot.
  5. Add in potatoes, baby carrots, dried thyme leaves, and baby leaf, and cook 7.5 hours on low, or 4 hours on high. Add peas right before serving.

Final Word

I love potlucks because they’re a great way to try new dishes, and cook in bulk for other nights. I’d love to get a dinner swap started in my own neighborhood.

Do you participate in regular potlucks or dinner swaps? What are some of your favorite recipes?

  • YA

    Wow all of these look really good! I will have to try a few of them if not all!!!

    • Heather

      YA, thanks so much for reading!

  • Nt

    do you cook shells before filling?

    • Heatherllevin

      Nt, you do not cook the shells before putting them in the oven; when you put the 1 cup of water into the casserole dish, they cook in that. When they come out they’re wonderfully cooked on the bottom, and often a bit crispy on top. Delicious!