Labor Day is the time to make the most of summer’s dwindling daylight and receding sense of freedom. One way to keep the chill of the past couple of months going: Plan a Labor Day picnic that lets you have fun, without the stress of last-minute cooking. Here are 11 delicious recipes you can make ahead, then haul to the party.
1. Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket
Slow cookers, it seems, were made to deal with something like beef brisket, simmering it slowly until it renders into something tender and luscious. In this recipe, brown sugar, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, cider vinegar, and spices give it the picnic-appropriate appeal of good barbecue. Make it ahead and reheat. Get our Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket recipe.
2. Muffaletta Pasta Salad
Think of it as a NOLA-driven, pasta-salad update on the old chef’s salad. Hear, chewy al dente pasta shells are tossed with salami, provolone, roasted red pepper, celery, pepperoncini, and two kinds of olives. A bold red wine vinaigrette ties everything together in style. Get our Muffaletta Pasta Salad recipe.
3. Broccoli Slaw
Bagged, pre-shredded broccoli slaw meets up with shredded green and purple cabbage in this healthy coleslaw twist with an uncanny ability to hold up as it sits. A dressing of vinaigrette and Greek-style yogurt—along with chewy additions of dried cranberries and walnuts—makes it interesting. Get our Broccoli Slaw recipe.
4. Classic Pesto Pasta Salad
A chewy, hold-up pasta shape (here, we’ve used penne rigate) is slathered in summer goodness. That means halved cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, chopped basil, and a heaping cup of green basil pesto. Toss and let sit to allow the flavors to combine. Get our Classic Pesto Pasta Salad recipe.
5. Dill, Chickpea, and Feta Pasta Salad
Canned chickpeas and dense, chewy gemelli pasta gives this summer salad plenty of chew, and also, the ability to stand up over time. Toss these farinaceous elements with cucumber, feta, capers, chopped parsley and a dressing of white wine vinegar and olive oil. Get our Dill, Chickpea, and Feta Pasta Salad recipe.
6. Italian Tuna and Rice Salad
Two simple pantry items—oil-packed tuna and rice—form the backbone of this healthy and versatile salad. Stir in briny chopped olives, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, and tart vinegar and serve this salad over a bed of salad greens, stuffed into a pita, or rolled up in lavash for an easy Labor Day picnic dish. Get our Italian Tuna and Rice Salad recipe.
7. Slow Cooker Ranch Beans
Ranch-style beans are one of our favorite things at a picnic. Here, dried pinto beans are log simmered in the crockpot, with onion, tomato sauce, garlic, spices, cider vinegar, and brown sugar. They emerge rich, creamy-textured, and spicy. Get our Slow Cooker Ranch Beans recipe.
8. Carrot Slaw
Inspired by a French charcutier salad, this zesty, cool-looking mix of grated carrots and minced chives gets its vivid backbone from a dressing of Dijon mustard, olie oil, red wine vinegar, and orange zest. It gets better and better as it sits. Get our Carrot Slaw recipe.
9. Spicy Slow Cooker Chili
To start developing the flavors, sauté vegetables, ground beef, and spices, then put the mixture into the slow cooker along with tomatoes and kidney beans. Let the chili cook overnight or all day until it’s thickened and has a nice beefy flavor, then stir in jalapeños for a kick of heat. Get our Spicy Slow Cooker Chili recipe.
10. PBJ Bars
Everything we love about our favorite sandwich in bar form. Rolled oats and chunky peanut butter are mixed into a crumble that does double duty as both the bottom crust and a sweet, nutty topping. In between: a thick layer of chunky strawberry jam that bakes into a bubbly, fruity filling. Get our PBJ Bars recipe.
11. Herbed Potato Salad
This classic side dish is a must have at any summer party. Get our Herbed Potato Salad recipe.
Check out all of Labor Day recipes offered by Chowhound for more ideas to make your summer close-out the best ever. Don’t forget to check out the advice, tips and suggestion our members have for Labor Day.
Related Video: How to Make Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas