how to make macarons from Daniel Boulud pastry chef
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These French recipes are perfect for a Bastille Day picnic—or eating outdoors any day this summer.

COVID-19 PrecautionsHow to Picnic During a PandemicWe have a love affair with France’s creamy and crumbly cheeses, crusty baguettes with their soft centers, and swoon-worthy fragrant sauces, not to mention their many stunning desserts, from the complicated to the delightfully casual (clafoutis, we’re looking at you). So we hardly need another reason to make some tantalizing French food, but come July 14, we have one: France’s Independence Day celebration, Bastille Day.

Also known as Le Quatorze Juillet (the 14th of July) and La Fête Nationale (the national celebration) in Francophone countries, this day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution, and is a great excuse to pack up a French-inspired picnic.

Related Reading: The Cutest Coolers for Summer | Perfect Picnic Baskets for Taking Everywhere

There are plenty of French dishes you could make to honor the holiday (Salmon en Croûte, Chocolate Soufflé, and Potato-Leek Soup to name a few), but since it’s summer, here are some lighter, travel- (and heat-) friendly dishes ideal for dining in le parc.

Nibbles & Sips

You could make a meal of light bites and a refreshing drink to wash them down.

The Corsican

portable picnic cocktail recipe

Chowhound

A bottle of wine is fine, but this picnic-perfect drink honors France in the form of Lillet Blanc (and Italy via limoncello). It’s bright, bubbly, and citrusy—and best of all, it can be made ahead of time; just add the club soda right before serving. Get our Corsican Cocktail recipe.

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Grand Marnier Tea Cooler

summer tea cocktail with Grand Marnier

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July 14 also happens to be Grand Marnier Day, so an orange-accented cocktail would be appropriate. This is a simple mix of the complex French liqueur and iced tea with some fresh lemon and orange. Get our Grand Marnier Tea Cooler recipe.

Pistou Deviled Eggs

pistou deviled egg recipe with ratatouille

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This Provençal spin on deviled eggs adds pesto to the filling (you can always make pine nut-free French pistou if you really want to), then tops them with ratatouille for an elegant bite. Get our Pistou Deviled Eggs recipe.

Duxelles (Mushroom Paste)

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Duxelles spread on top of crostini make a perfect picnic snack that’s simple and packed with the umami earthiness of the French countryside. There’s not much to it, but make sure you don’t over-blend. Little chunks are good, and don’t forget to top it with slices of your favorite French cheese. Get our Duxelles recipe.

Related Reading: The Best Food Souvenirs to Bring Back from France (or Order Online)

Ratatouille Crostini

Ratatouille Crostini recipe easy summer appetizer

Chowhound

Another way to top crostini: that ratatouille again, the classic French melange of stewed summer vegetables. In this recipe, we actually roast them, but you could even grill them the night before and then mix them with the the other ingredients. Pack the bread separately, of course. Get our Ratatouille Crostini recipe.

Prosciutto Palmiers

Prosciutto Palmiers recipe

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Palmiers are traditionally sweet, but this savory spin on the delicate French dessert adds prosciutto, tomato paste, and gruyere to the puff pastry (which is store-bought, so this is far easier than it looks). Get our Prosciutto Palmiers recipe.

Smoked and Steamed Salmon Rillettes

Smoked Salmon Rillettes Terrine recipe

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In another deliciously non-traditional twist, pork is replaced by salmon in this easy French terrine. Smoked salmon, anise-scented Pernod, shallots, and a lemony butter and crème fraîche dressing combine for a silky-smooth spread. Get our Smoked and Steamed Salmon Rillettes recipe.

Sides

To complement whatever else you’re bringing along, even if that’s just some good bread and cheese.

French Green Bean Salad

Easy French Green Bean Salad recipe

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Haricot verts are such a tender, delicate-tasting variety of the green beans you see flooding the farmers markets in the summer. Toss them with a top shelf Dijon, shallots, garlic, and capers, and you’ve got a sophisticated side dish for a French picnic. Get our French Green Bean Salad recipe.

Carrot Slaw

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Tangy, crunchy carrot slaw would be a simple French side dish for all that bread and cheese. A good country-style Dijon, chives, parsley, and orange zest provide complexity to the shaved carrots. Get our Carrot Slaw recipe.

Frenchified Popcorn

popcorn with herbes de provence

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Skip the bagged potato chips and bring this popcorn for the occasion. It’s tossed with melted garlic butter and herbes de Provence, the fragrant French blend that often includes lavender. Get the Frenchified Popcorn recipe.

More Substantial Fare

If you want something a little more filling, these would make great mains with any of the aforementioned sides and snacks.

Ham and Camembert Baguette Sandwich

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A halved sweet baguette spread with fresh fig jam, topped with salty ham and creamy Camembert cheese, and garnished with spicy arugula is a perfectly balanced sandwich for any day, but it’s especially fitting for Bastille Day. (And if you let the salt, pepper, and oil slide, it fits into the five-ingredient picnic recipe category, always a plus.) Get our Ham and Camembert Baguette Sandwich recipe.

Salade Niçoise Sandwich

To add a little variety to your spread, include a healthy fish sandwich in the mix. Inspired by the classic French salad, this one has caper mayonnaise serving as a briny base that pairs traditional niçoise ingredients such as olives, red onion, and hard-cooked eggs with ahi tuna fillets. If you’re a vegetarian, no problem. Thanks to the addition of protein-rich eggs, this dish is hearty enough without the tuna. Get our Salade Niçoise Sandwich recipe.

French Ham and Cheese Quick Bread

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Make a quick bread and savor the slices dotted with ham and olives as you sprawl out on the blanket at the park. Simplicity is sweet. Get our French Ham and Cheese Quick Bread recipe.

French Lentil Terrine with Savory Carrot Custard

individual picnic terrines with French lentils and carrot custard

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Little jars of carrot custard topped with lentils, zucchini, leeks, and chèvre are a mini meal on their own, and an impressive dish to serve at brunch, or of course, on a picnic. Get our French Lentil Terrine with Savory Carrot Custard recipe.

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Egg Salad Gribiche

egg salad gribiche recipe

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Inspired by the classic French sauce of hard-boiled eggs, capers, cornichons, and fines herbes, this is a piquant update to your usual egg salad. Like all good egg salads, though, it’s messy, so you may want to bring crackers to scoop it up instead of making sandwiches. Get our Egg Salad Gribiche recipe.

Desserts

A little something sweet is definitely in order.

French Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache

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End your picnic on a sweet note with colorful white chocolate macarons. Even though these are one of the more difficult French pastries to master, Bastille Day is just the reason you need to push your baking boundaries. Bon appétit! Get our French Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache recipe.

Chocolate Pots de Crème

chocolate pots de creme (French chocolate pudding)

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If macarons seem too daunting, make these easy pots de crème—individual servings of rich chocolate pudding, basically. As long as you wrap them well so they’re totally water-tight and don’t jostle your cooler too much, you can tote them along anywhere. Get our Chocolate Pots de Crème recipe.

Financiers

financiers recipe

Chowhound

All the flavor of Proust’s famed madeleienes, none of the fuss of making them. These rich little numbers with brown butter, almonds, and vanilla bean seeds are made in a mini muffin tin and travel well…if they last long enough to make it to the picnic basket, anyway. Get our Financiers recipe.

Mendiants

chocolate bark recipe

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Mendiants are sort of like fancy French chocolate bark, usually circular in shape, and studded with dried fruit (including candied peel) and nuts. You can use any combo of ingredients you like, and feel free to make one big piece and break it apart—just eat it fast before it melts. Get the Mendiants recipe.

Related Video: Expert Tips & Tricks for Mastering Macarons


Recipe photos by Chris Rochelle

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