Never Bring These 10 Foods to a Potluck Party


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Good Luck with Your Potluck!

Originating in the 1930s during the Great Depression, potlucks are the tried-and-true tradition of communal dining where everyone contributes a dish. You'll usually see a little bit of everything: cheesy casseroles, spicy pasta salads, sweet homemade pies, and hearty chili. But let’s be real — not everything’s a hit. Certain foods are definite no-gos for various reasons, as feeding a crowd can be full of pitfalls. Here are 10 foods that you might want to think twice about bringing to your next potluck party. 

Related: 19 Summer Casseroles to Bring to the Potluck

Tasty butter chicken curry dish from Indian cuisine.
Wail Aldukhairy/istockphoto

1. Very Spicy or Overly Exotic Dishes

Bringing a super spicy curry to a potluck might win you some fans, but it could also have others sweating and reaching for water. Potlucks are really about dishes that everyone can enjoy, and not everyone's into hot food. So, serving something exotic and spicy might get you some raised eyebrows along with the high-fives. 

Related: The Spiciest Foods Around the World

Reser’s Classic Potato Salad

2. Store-Bought Salads

It might be tempting to grab a tub of premade potato or macaroni salad from the grocery store, thinking it's a clever shortcut. But often, it just ends up sitting there at the table — lonely and untouched, a sad bowl of preservative-packed disappointment. Potlucks are all about sharing a bit of homemade treat, and a store-bought salad tastes more like the refrigerator section. Save yourself the embarrassment and leave this one at the store.

Related: 19 Filling Dinner Salads You'll Actually Want to Eat

Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream

3. Frozen Desserts

 Ice cream and other frozen delights are refreshing treats on a hot day, but at a potluck, they melt into a sad, soupy mess. So, avoid the meltdown and always opt for desserts that hold up well at room temperature.

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4. Fast Food

Nothing screams, "I forgot about the bleeping potluck!" quite like showing up with soggy fast food, especially if it's from yesterday. This is definitely a no-go and will surely be a letdown amid the homemade offerings. Arriving with a bucket of KFC might seem like an easy fix, but it can come across as if you didn’t put in the effort, which might not sit well with others who took the time to prepare their dishes. 

Cheese plate

5. Strong-Smelling Foods

Bringing dishes with intense smells, like certain seafood or pungent cheeses, to a potluck can be a risky move. You might love the bold flavor, but you're not the only one who has to smell it! While these bold choices have their fans, their pungent smell can be a turnoff for some. To keep the peace (and the noses happy), it's probably a good idea to stick to something a bit more low-key on the scent scale.

Fresh Baked Apple Pie

6. Secret Meat Dishes

Dishes with hidden meat ingredients can unpleasantly surprise vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions. For example, apple pie might be delicious, but if the crust is made with lard, make sure it's labeled. This helps everyone make informed choices about what they're eating, avoiding any awkward or uncomfortable situations.

Russian traditional salad Olivier with vegetables and meat

7. Mayo-Based Anything

Mayo-based dishes at a potluck can be a slippery slope. While creamy salads and dips are crowd-pleasers, they don't always fare well sitting out for hours, especially under the warm sun at outdoor gatherings. To keep things safe and appealing, you might want to consider alternatives that hold up better over time and have a broader appeal. Plus, skipping the mayo could save everyone from the dreaded afternoon food coma!

Hand holding a variety of nuts and seeds

8. Nuts

Nuts do make everything taste better, but they are also a very common allergen — more than 6 million Americans of all ages are allergic to peanuts, and 4 million to tree nuts, according to Food Allergy Research and Education. The last thing you want at your next potluck party is to send someone into anaphylactic shock. So, to avoid a rush to the ER, consider skipping the nuts or at least clearly labeling any nutty concoctions.

Taste test

9. Anything You Haven't Tasted

Experimenting is great, but a potluck isn’t exactly the right place for first attempts. Without a test run, you won’t know if that new recipe needs a tweak — maybe it’s too salty, too bland, or just not right. And the last thing you want is to watch your untested creation become the party’s conversation piece for all the wrong reasons. After all, if you wouldn’t eat it, chances are, others won’t either. 

Lettuce and Greens
stephanie phillips/istockphoto

10. Leafy Greens

It's great to opt for a healthy choice at a potluck by bringing a leafy green salad as an alternative to the typical macaroni or potato salad. However, leafy greens might not be your best bet. Besides the risk of wilt, there’s also a fair chance of cross-contamination. From cutting boards to utensils and even unwashed hands — there are plenty of ways those fresh greens could turn into a gastrointestinal nightmare. We all love our greens, but no one wants to be remembered as the person who brought the salad that sidelined guests at the party. 

Related: These Dessert 'Salads' Don't Have a Single Vegetable in Them