A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Part 4 of Food in Leiden: Potluck!

One of the great joys of studying abroad is being part of the international community. The friends I’ve met since moving here come from all over the world, and with that comes a whole host of different tastes, cuisines and childhood favourite dishes. A potluck can be a great way to show off your favourite foods, is a great way to have a casual evening with good friends, and delicious food. It’s a great way to encourage sharing of the stories behind food, and to try amazing new foods that you maybe wouldn’t otherwise.

For this event, everyone in your group brings a dish, maybe their favourite or something that remind them of home, with everyone trying a bit of everything. In this article I’m going to give some tips for organising a potluck, and a suggestion of good recipe types (though these are obviously from my own culture, the principles remain!).

You want a mix of sides, mains, carbs, and sweet. Think outside the box! (Source.)

Organising a potluck

✔ Make sure you have room!

Either a studio apartment, a living room, or get the ok from your roommates.

✔ Distribution of dishes…

Encourage a range of sweet and savoury dishes, or provide a pudding yourself (I do have a sweet tooth so this advice is optional)

✔ Cooking!

Does anyone need to cook or reheat food at your house? Make sure that people know what equipment you have so there’s no confusion. 

✔ Music?

A fun way to prepare for a potluck is to ask people to send music recommendations before, then you can make a playlist with something everyone likes.

Holding the potluck

✔ What to cook?

Stew or sauce-based dishes work well as everyone can try a piece, and you don’t have to worry so much about portioning. Check out Daniel’s post on Mexican food for some great ideas, or try out the mushroom bolognese from my last blog.

✔ Go simple and economic!

You want to cook a fair amount of food (everyone always seems to end up eating a lot at this kind of event), so make sure you stay within your budget

✔ Think about who’s there

If there’s someone with dietary restrictions (such as vegetarian, celiac, or halal), it’s worth checking that they’ll have something to eat!  If you can put the meat or gluten products on the side or alter your dish slightly, this would be a nice touch to make sure everyone is included.

✔ Don’t be afraid to bring snacks

While people are heating up or constructing food, some crisps or dip from the market, or a snack from your home are sure to go down well.

A selection of good potluck ideas (not all made by me, but definitely inspiring me for next time). Including a big vegetable lasagne, dips from the market, olives, and crudites, and delicious focaccia style bread! All perfect for sharing.

Top tips for everyone:

Don’t leave the hosts with all the clean up! (Source.)

❤ Don’t leave your host with the washing up, help tidy up and keep their apartment or space nice.

❤ Make sure there’s enough plates (otherwise could you bring one?)

❤ Bring something cute, like paper napkins, or reusable plastic cups.


I hope with these tips you can host or participate in a wonderful potluck, and that the sharing of food encourages the sharing of stories from home, and the creation of new ones here.

Check these links if you’d like to participate in more community cooking, or learn more about the role of food in social bonding. #CookforSyria is a particularly well established community cooking programme, which you could incorporate into your next potluck!

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