Claudia has been writing recipes online for many years. She enjoys coming up with unique and tasty dishes, especially sweet treats.
The Office Potluck: Love It or Hate It
Most people either love or hate the office potluck. On the one hand, they are a fun way to get together with coworkers; on the other, they can be an uncomfortable way to spend an afternoon with people you may not want to socialize with.
Whichever side people come down on, office potlucks are becoming increasingly common. They are a less expensive alternative to catered office parties.
Of course, with a potluck comes a big decision: what to bring. And that's not always an easy question to answer.
Office potlucks are different than backyard picnics, so the planning is a bit different.
- Will there be access to a stove or oven?
- Will there be access to refrigeration?
- What is the seating like? Will people be walking around holding plates, or will they be able to sit down?
- Does anyone have any dietary or allergy concerns? This one is tough in a large office, but it's something to think about.
- What time of day is the party going to be?
- Does the party have a theme or is it a holiday celebration?
Here's what you'll find in this article to help you make a decision.
- Easy Alternatives
- Cold Foods
- Hot Foods
- 10 Best Potluck Dishes
- Tips for a Successful Dish
- What Not to Bring
Not everyone likes, or wants, to cook. If the party planner has a sign-up list, it's usually the no-cook choices that go first.
Here are some easy ideas that you can find in most grocery stores.
- Chips and dip
- Vegetable tray and dip
- Fruit platter
- Sandwich tray
- Cheese platter
- Fried chicken
- Cutlery/paper products (Usually the office provides these items, but if they don't, it's usually one of the first things to get claimed on the list.)
Cold Food Ideas
Cold foods are fairly easy to bring. They don't need to be heated up and, especially if the party is in the summer, people appreciate something cool.
Keep in mind that they need to stay chilled so they don't spoil.
- Potato Salad—Try to stick to the no-mayonnaise varieties
- Macaroni Salad—Try to stick to the no-mayonnaise varieties
- Coleslaw—Try to stick to the no-mayonnaise varieties
- Deviled Eggs
- Antipasto tray
- Relish tray
- Layered dip
Hot Food Ideas
Hot foods are the trickiest thing to bring because they need to be reheated or kept warm. Slow cookers are ideal for these types of dishes.
Just make sure they stay warm so they don't spoil.
- Cheesy Potatoes
- Warm Dips
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Baked Beans
- Lunch Meat Sliders
- Pulled Pork
- Sliced Ham
10 Best Office Potluck Dishes
If you want your party contribution to be a sure-fire hit, then one of these ideas is the way to go.
- Cheesy Potatoes—Also known as church or funeral potatoes. It's a safe bet that almost everyone has had these at one time or another, and chances are that the dish will be empty before everyone gets through line. This recipe from The Country Cook is a good one.
- Italian Pasta Salad—A nice alternative to mayonnaise based salads. Cupcake Diaries has this delicious recipe.
- Fried Chicken—It may sound simple, but chicken can be picked up at the store, it's easy to eat, and it tastes good.
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs—These are ridiculously easy to make and bring in slow cooker. Bring some toothpicks for people to use. You can't go wrong with this recipe from Life in the Lofthouse.
- Seven Layer Dip—Bring a couple of bags of tortilla chips to accompany the dip and you have a hit. The folks over at Dessert Now Dinner Later know how to make this great dip.
- Hot Hawaiian Ham and Cheese Sliders—As long as you have a place to heat up the dish, these will be a home run. This recipe from Eating on a Dime is addictive.
- Fruit Platter—Whether you buy a ready-made one at the store, or you make your own, the fruit will be gone before you know it. It looks beautiful and it's a refreshing side.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars—Everybody loves these and they are easy to bring to the office. Double the recipe so there are plenty to go around.
- Buffalo Chicken Dip—Easy to prepare in a slow cooker, this recipe, from The Diary of a Real Housewife, is a crowd-pleaser. Bring tortilla chips, celery, or slices of french bread for dipping.
- Vegetable Tray—Another easy option that people love, the veggie tray. You can get it at the store, or step it up and make your own with some interesting vegetables and tasty dip. It's not very original, but the platter is always empty at the end of the party.
Tips for Success
The nice thing about office potlucks is that people aren't usually expected to bring their finest dishes. Everyone understands that it's not easy bringing in certain things.
That gives people more flexibility which means that people who bring in store-bought items don't get the evil eye like they do at family picnics. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a dish:
Tips for Making the Meal
Bite-size or small portions
Bring things that are easy to eat when standing up and that don't require cutting.
Light to none on the mayonnaise
While everyone loves salads with mayonnaise, it's nice to have lighter salad options. This is especially true for a summer party. Mayonnaise can spoil quickly so opt for the non-mayo version if possible.
Use slow cookers
The best way to bring in warm dishes to the office is in a slow cooker. Food can be made that morning or the night before, and then heated through the day until the party.
For things like cookie bars or lasagna, pre-cut the portions so people don't have to fuss in the line.
What Not to Bring to an Office Potluck
I've been to office potlucks where leftovers were brought and they tasted old. If you didn't have time to make anything, just buy a bag of chips. At least you will have brought somethings.
Strong smelling items
Fish can be particularly strong and the smell can linger for days.
People may find it difficult to eat without spilling on themselves or getting the sauce all over their hands.
Assemble yourself items
Unless the event is a taco bar, most people don't want to have to assemble food when there is a long line of hungry coworkers behind them.
This is far too much work for a potluck.
While many people like it, more will be turned off by it, especially after it has been sitting on the counter for a while.
Unless it's a soup event, steer clear of it. It's hard to eat and chances are that there won't be any bowls.
Olives with pits
If you are bringing a relish tray, spring for the pitted olives. You don't want anyone to break a tooth, or find the pits around the office for months to come.
We've all seen the casserole that is floating in grease. It's pretty unappealing and it's usually still there at the end of the day.
© 2019 Claudia Mitchell
Claudia Mitchell (author) on April 16, 2020:
Thanks for stopping by. Those cheesy potatoes are the best!
frogyfish on April 05, 2020:
Believe it or not, I have never eaten Cheesy Potatoes--something similar, but your crispy topping sounds yummy! Need to bookmark your recipes too...always needing that 'potluck' take! Thanks for sharing!
Jaden Holley on November 08, 2019:
Claudia Mitchell (author) on February 20, 2019:
Hi Thelma - You are right, these dishes are good for any kind of gathering. It is definitely tough to come up with good and easy-to-take things to an office potluck. Thanks for stopping by.
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on February 18, 2019:
These are good potluck ideas. The food are not only good for the office potluck but also for any gatherings with friends and family. Looking at the food photos makes me hungry and want to have a picnic with my family. Thanks for sharing this. Have a great day.
Claudia Mitchell (author) on February 11, 2019:
Thanks Patricia & Liz! You definitely want a good variety at the office potluck. It's no fun if everyone brings the same thing and unfortunately some things do go bad, but if there is access to refrigerators then it's not such a big problem.
Liz Westwood from UK on February 10, 2019:
There are similarities with bring and share after church lunches. The main thing is ensuring that there is a good variety. In the UK these kind of lunches used to be characterised by a lot of quiches. Thankfully the variety has improved these days. The issue we have now is wastage. What can you do with food that has been standing on a buffet in warm weather conditions for several hours? Sadly, due to food hygiene concerns, often a lot of leftovers get thrown away.
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on February 09, 2019:
You have offered a plethora of suggestions that will be helpful for potlucks of any kind Considering whether the items need refrigeration or warmth is so important I am marking this to share with friends Angels are on the way this evening ps