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The Fall Picnic Ideas That'll Help You Plan The Perfect Outdoor Meal

The Fall Picnic Ideas That'll Help You Plan The Perfect Outdoor Meal

Savor the season in California with these fall picnic essentials and easy autumn picnic recipes.


6 min read

October 22, 2020

The arrival of the fall breeze and autumn colors means one thing: ‘Tis the season of pumpkin spice, apple pie, sweater weather, and crunchy leaves—need we say more? It’s almost impossible not to like autumn. Whether you enjoy the fall season because of Halloween or Thanksgiving, this time of year shows us how beautiful and picturesque transformation truly is. 

During this time of seasonal metamorphosis, nothing sounds more satisfying than a good old-fashioned fall picnic. California's unlimited opportunities for viewing the state’s autumn foliage make picnics an absolute must when it comes to spicing things up this season. If you need help coming up with awesome fall picnic ideas, we’ve compiled a list of picnic essentials and autumn picnic recipes that’ll make your outing even better.

Fall Picnic Essentials

Start your fall season off right with your better half. Plan a wonderful picnic and enjoy the colors of the season.
  1. Ditch the basic plaid picnic blanket, and purchase a linen knit throw from Caron’s Beach House ($67).
  2. Bring a colorful and durable tote from Pacific Tote Company ($120–$150) to carry your fall picnic items.
  3. Buy elegant and matching paper plates, napkins, and utensils from Harlow and Grey ($4–$15 per packaged item). 
  4. Pick up a spiced pumpkin candle from P.F. Candle Co. ($20) to create a magical ambience.
  5. Don’t forget a solar-powered Bluetooth speaker from Lemon California ($250) to play your favorite fall tunes.
  6. Put on cool shades from Blenders Eyewear ($38–$58) to finish off your autumn look. 

Fall Picnic Menu

This savory Carrot ginger dip is bound to jazz up your fall picnic menu. The simple dish can be enjoyed with pretzels, chips, or bread.

1. Carrot Ginger Dip

An underrated fall picnic recipe is carrot ginger dip. Easily enjoyed with almost anything, the delicious snack is a combination of sharp and tangy seasonings that create an explosion of flavors in your mouth. 


2 large carrots, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

1 ½  teaspoon of peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1 ½ tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon pure maple syrup

½ teaspoon of chopped garlic

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

A few slices of pickled ginger

Rice crackers or pretzels


  1. Put the carrots and fresh ginger in a saucepan, then cover ingredients with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Once boiling, cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
  3. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
  4. Drain the liquid portion of the carrot-ginger mixture. Keep both solid and liquid portions in separate containers.
  5. Place the solid mixture in a blender or food processor and add oil, syrup, garlic, salt, and ½ cup of the carrot-ginger liquid.
  6. Cover the blender with the lid, and puree for about 45 seconds.
  7. Gradually add more of the carrot-ginger liquid until you get the consistency you prefer.
  8. Pour your dip into an airtight container and let it cool.
  9. Before serving, add ground pepper and pickled ginger slices for garnish, and enjoy with rice crackers or pretzels. 

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Hearty, comforting butternut squash chili is always a good idea on a chilly fall day.

2. Butternut Squash Chili

When searching for autumn picnic food ideas, a hearty vegetarian chili with butternut squash is exactly what you need. If you’re looking to create a vegan version, simply use olive oil instead of butter, add dairy-free toppings, and you’re good to go. 


1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup olive oil

½ cup finely ground cornmeal

12 ounces turnips 

2 medium red bell peppers, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilies

2 cans drained chili beans

2 cups frozen corn kernels

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Several dashes of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

Salt (to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Balsamic vinegar (to taste)

Chopped green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, and sour cream (for serving)


  1. Peel and cut your squash into bite-size pieces.
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat, and whisk in the cornmeal until smooth.
  3. Stir in the turnips, bell peppers, onion, garlic, and tomato paste, and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Pour in the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, beans, corn, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce, and let it simmer for several hours.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar until it reaches your desired taste.
  6. When ready to serve, enjoy with green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, or sour cream on top.
Savor a flavorsome and colorful fall side dish using seasonal ingredients. Photo courtesy of the weets life.

3. Butternut Squash, Apple, and Feta Salad

Since autumn is an explosion of red, orange, and yellow, it’s only appropriate to prepare a fall picnic side dish that compliments the vibe. We just can't get enough of this scrumptious salad, especially since it brings together our favorite fall vegetables in one meal. 


1 small butternut squash, cut into ¾-inch pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1 small head radicchio, leaves torn 

1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 

1 cup feta, crumbled  

1 tart apple, sliced

¼ cup olives, pitted and halved 


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Season the squash with one tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Then, let it cool slightly.
  3. For the salad dressing, mix together the vinegar, dill, two tablespoons of olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper (combined).
  4. Place the roasted squash, radicchio, chickpeas, feta, apple, and olives in a bowl, drizzle with the salad dressing, and toss until thoroughly combined.
Complete your picnic basket with delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to end the meal on a sweet note.

4. Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Desserts are always a wonderful fall picnic food. These oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are just what’s missing from your autumn outing and are bound to make your day even sweeter. Easy to prepare, this fall picnic treat has the exact degree of soft and chewy you need in your life.


1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup chocolate chips or chunks


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Completely melt the butter in the microwave via 30-second intervals before letting it cool for 5–10 minutes.
  3. Pour the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk until ingredients are combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract until completely smooth.
  5. Add the oats to the wet ingredients to hydrate the grains, and slowly incorporate the dry ingredients. Toss in the chocolate chips or chunks, and fold everything together until no dry streaks of flour remain.
  6. Use a small cookie scoop to spoon the dough onto the baking sheet, leaving at least a one-inch space between each ball of dough.
  7. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before tasting the divine treats.

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