Categories: Social Life

7 Tips for Hosting a Holiday Potluck Party

Holiday potlucks are a fun and economical alternative to the traditional corporate holiday party or holiday family gathering. Holiday potluck parties offer an interactive element that allows your guests to get involved by cooking, baking, or even picking up a snack or dish from the store or a restaurant if time is of the essence. With a few tips for hosting a holiday potluck party, your event can be as successful as can be.

Holiday potlucks offer a great option for a Thanksgiving party or a Christmas dinner party. You might also enjoy a holiday potluck in between holidays with your coworkers and friends from work. Holiday potlucks around Easter can be just as much fun – just don’t forget the Easter candy. You can, of course, host a potluck party any time of year – it needn’t be a holiday. Holidays are just such a great excuse to organize a potluck!

“There is nothing tacky about asking guest to bring something – you’re not skimping; you’re simply encouraging others to share in the creation of this event,” says Jes Gordon, celebrity event producer and author of Party Like a Rockstar.

As you prepare to host your holiday potluck, don’t forget to give your guests quite a bit of notice so they have time to contemplate recipes, make a shopping list, buy ingredients, and prepare their chosen dish. A minimum of two weeks advanced notice would probably be a good place to start, but if you have a spontaneous crowd, you can surely give less notice and see how it works out. Consider these tips for hosting a holiday potluck party to help guide you in planning your own special potluck event.

1.    Consider keeping track of the potluck dishes your guests plan to bring. Ask guests what they would like to make or bring so that you have a running list for the menu. Don’t force the issue if people still want to think about it – planning ahead is just a good practice to ensure you don’t end up with five hams and no sides or a room full of desserts. Once you know what most or all of your guests are bringing, you as the host or hostess can then fill in the gaps for whatever items are missing once the potluck date gets closer.

2.    For a festive atmosphere, consider a color scheme or theme for your potluck.
“So tell folks to bring something other than the ubiquitous green bean casserole – get them involved in the environment as well,” says author and celebrity event producer Jes Gordon. “As with any type of co-op, the best way to make it a success is with some form of structure. I suggest coming up with a holiday palette for the party. Instead of regular red and green and blue and white, re-imagine your own holiday hues like chocolate brown and copper – or put a spin on the originals by using navy blue and silver for a Hanukkah party. This way when you request items, you can tell guests to keep the color palette in mind when making their offerings.”

3.    Make your potluck a little competitive and a lot of fun. “We have a potluck lunch for the corporate office right before Halloween that is very successful,” says Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive vice president for Half Price Books in Dallas, Texas. “We vote on the best themed dish and best tasting dish. Each department enters a decorated pumpkin and we vote on the most creative. We have great entries. I always bring my mac and cheese and it is a favorite! I have won best tasting for two years, so I have taken my name out of the entries.”

4.    Get creative with how you warm up potluck food and keep it warm. “Most people bring desserts because they are easy to keep,” explains Kathy Doyle Thomas. “Hot or cold is never an issue, but we have had great stews and soups in crock pots. My take on the party is that most people like hearty warm foods. Since we do not have an oven in the break room, I have gotten metal containers with lit Sterno under them to keep the food warm.”

5.    Open the potluck invitation

5.    Open the potluck invitation to as many guests as you can accommodate for a diverse menu and atmosphere. “I travel for work all the time, but I make sure I am at the luncheon and I participate,” Kathy Doyle Thomas shares. “I think it is very important that everyone on all levels of management participates.”

6.    Use a potluck as an opportunity to add new favorite recipes to your repertoire. “This mashed ‘potato’ recipe has caused me to meet many people,” shares Susan Schenck, author of the 2-time award-winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet. “They actually go around asking, ‘Who brought that recipe?’ until they find me. One of those people ended up being a good friend for six years now, all because she wanted that recipe!” See below for recipe!

7.    Don’t throw off your diet entirely if you attend a potluck!
“If you are dieting, eat BEFORE the potluck and also bring a bit of extra food for yourself so you won’t be tempted to eat the stuff that is not on your diet,” says author Susan Schenck. “Remember, you are there for the social life, not the food! So don’t go there hungry unless it is a dieter’s potluck.”

Special Potluck Recipe by Author Susan Schenck:

Cauliflower Pâté (“Mashed Potatoes”)

3 cups cauliflower, cut up
1 cup macadamia or pine nuts, soaked 4-8 hours, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
3/4 T powdered sea vegetables
1/2 T garlic

1.    Put into food processor, using the “S” blade, adding cauliflower a little at a time.
2.    Blend until the mixture looks light and fluffy like mashed potatoes. The mixture will not only look like mashed potatoes, but the taste will also be reminiscent of mashed potatoes!

Serves 8.


1 cup miso (unpasteurized if possible)
1/2 – 1 cup chopped onion
2 T minced garlic
1 cup fresh squeezed orange or carrot juice
1 cup raw nut butter (ex: almond)
4 T Nama Shoyu
1 T raw apple cider vinegar

Alternative Gravy: 2 cups fresh carrot juice, 10 T raw almond butter, 1 avocado, 4 T Nama Shoyu, 2-3 garlic cloves, 2 T agave.

Blend till creamy, add a bit of pure water if needed.

* Cauliflower Pâté and gravy recipes courtesy of Susan Schenck

About the Experts:
Jes Gordon is a celebrity event producer and author of “Party Like a Rockstar”. For more information, please see www.jesgordon.com.

Kathy Doyle Thomas is executive vice president for Half Price Books, a family owned bookstore chain based out of Dallas, Texas with 108 stores. For more information, please see www.halfpricebooks.com.

Susan Schenck is author of the 2-time award-winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet. For more information, please see www.livefoodfactor.com.

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