Celebrating Queer Potlucks: Recipes, Tips, and History to Explore

Potlucking is a queer tradition we shouldn’t be quick to let go of. Nina Katz delves into the history and importance of potlucks in LGBTQIA+ communities and shares recipes and tips for hosting your own queer potluck.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

I attended my first queer potluck the summer after I graduated from college. I was living in a new city, fresh from breaking up with my first girlfriend, and knocking on a stranger’s front door.

In my hands, I clutched my token of entry: a twisted loaf of chocolate babka. My grip softened as I was welcomed inside like an old friend. I wove my way through clumps of individuals who, like me, bore their queerness in the way they dressed, the way they cared for one another, and tonight, the way they ate. I released my offering onto the overflowing table, right between the green chile mac and cheese and a mason jar of pickled nopales.

I was raised by dinner party people, and my parents fully equipped me with the skills of a solo dinner host. My queer ancestors, however, left me their collaborative culinary art of potlucking. Though this was my first queer potluck, this very meal unfurled from a deep-rooted history of potlucks in spaces that don’t just contain queerness, but hold onto it.

Potlucks are meals that center community and celebrate variety. They can be spaces for showing up as our authentic selves—especially because of the opportunity to choose and prepare a food to bring. My babka was delicious, but it also allowed me to enter the potluck already feeling a bit like myself. Given that these values overlap so tenderly with those held by queer experiences, it seems hardly coincidental that potlucking has been a commonplace practice for past and present generations of queer communities.

Much potluck talk in the queer discourse refers to potlucks held by and for lesbians—also known as Lesbian Potlucks. Indeed, The Daughters of Bilitis, the first known lesbian civil rights and political organization in the United States, is credited with that first foray into queering the potluck. While queer people often felt rejected from the church communities or family reunions where potlucks or "covered-dish suppers" really got their start in America, this meal of the commons was swiftly adopted as a covert and nourishing get-together by lesbian communities across the country.

A table full of food for a potluck
A queer potluck hosted by the authorNina Katz

And yet, potlucks have existed at many intersections of queerness. Records of potlucks spanning the LGBTQIA+ alphabet are well documented in queer newsletters and fliers archived from pre-internet days. From the West Coast’s Seattle Gay News to the East’s Gay Community News out of Boston, announcements of potlucks were a constant bell ringing in the community calendars and classified sections. A flier for a 1994 Pride month get-together invited guests to bring a dish and come hear revolutionary activist Leslie Feinberg speak on trans liberation. Even ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a leading force in AIDS research, prevention, and organizing had its humble beginnings in a series of potlucks hosted for grieving community members.

Years after attending my first queer potluck, I began hosting my own. While I still relish curating a formal, coursed out dinner party with matching flatware and even some table manners, taking luck in the pot has allowed me to better imbue the values I seek and hold as a queer person into the meals I share with others.

For hosting a potluck for your own queer community, here are some potluck-friendly tips and recipes to get you started.

10 Recipes That Are Perfect for a Queer Potluck


Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Any buffet-style meal can fill a plate to its breaking point, so it’s best to have a beverage to wash everything down. Bringing something non-alcoholic like this zingy limeade can make a queer potluck even more inclusive for folks who would rather not drink alcohol, as well.

Jamaican Sorrel

2 glasses of sorrel in rocks glasses on a gold tray
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Sourcing dried sorrel (hibiscus) flowers is easy if you live anywhere near a Latin or Caribbean grocer. When I lived in New Mexico, agua de jamaica was the perfect cold companion on a hot summer day, as well as a warming punch for the winter holidays. Bringing this versatile drink to a potluck is an ode to the queer celebration of variety and adaptability.

No-Knead Focaccia

a round of foccacia on a cooling rack
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Focaccia is always the first to go at my potlucks and makes a great canvas for the miscellaneous juices and schmears that go rogue on a loaded plate. Pro tip: Pre-slice before arriving!


A plate with a slice of spanakopita
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

My identity as a queer person is layered like this gorgeous phyllo pie. No need to take up oven real estate to warm up Sohla’s Spanakopita when you arrive at your potluck destination; she (and I) recommend grabbing a slice when it’s at room temperature or even cold from the fridge.

Warm Farro Salad With Asparagus and Peas

Serious Eats / Yasmin Fahr

Grain salads are the casseroles of today’s potlucks. If you are going to bring one, let it be this bright, tangy, and delicious farro dish. Vegetarians and omnivores alike will thank you.

BLT Sandwiches

Two halves of a BLT stacked on top of each other
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Looking for someone to hold? Whether you are cruising your next queer potluck for love or find that all utensils are in use, this BLT is for you. If you are planning on bringing this sandwich, or any sandwich to a potluck, consider laying out the ready-to-assemble ingredients on a tray, buffet style, so that folks can engage with the fillings at their own rate.

Cold Soba

Classic cold soba noodles on a plate with condiments and a dipping sauce
Serious Eats / Diana Chistruga

Cold pasta adds a refreshing bounce to any potluck. One of my exes loved making cold soba noodles. I embrace the high chance of reuniting with an ex-lover (or two) at a queer potluck by bringing a dish that reminds me of them. To some attendees, this dish is a nutty and umami delight. For me, it is also a peace offering.

Chicken Yassa

Chicken yassa on a bed of white rice.
Serious Eats / Jillian Atkinson

Chicken yassa decks out the ever-affordable chicken drumstick in sweet, jammy onion, tangy citrus, and smoky pepper. With everything made in one pot, this is a stovetop-to-table recipe at its best. Break out that Dutch oven; every queer potluck needs a heavy bottom.

Jammy Fruit Bars

A wooden board and a plate with jammy oat bars
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

The farmers market where I live is a queer watering hole. Saturday mornings at the market are a great place to converge with friends, see who is dating who, and invite folks over for a potluck. I like supporting the rising wave of queer farmers by shopping their stands for seasonal fruit. Fill these bars with anything from apricots to strawberries or concord grapes—these desserts put the “fruit” in “fruity.”

Tres Leches Cake

A serving of tres leches cake on a colorful plate
Serious Eats / Maria del Mar Cuadra

Though this year marks my 10th anniversary of “coming out,” throughout the last decade, I have continued the slow churn of becoming the queer person I am today. 

Letting things unfold at their own pace is also true for this dessert; in tres leches, which means “three milks” in Spanish, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk, take their time transforming average vanilla sponge cake into something luscious and sumptuous. Fellow guests will devour this sweet treat and perhaps be reminded to trust the process, and enjoy a few queer potlucks along the way.