7 Ideas for Planning the Perfect Vegan Picnic

Planning the perfect vegan picnic may seem like a daunting task.

However, I’ve laid out exactly what you’ll need, and how you can get your hands on some vegan alternatives to the usual list of picnic food and supplies.

From start to finish, I’ve included my favorite vegan products and recipes to make your picnic planning process easy and fun.

Let’s get started!

vegan picnic ideas

1. Preparing For Your Vegan Picnic

Sunscreen

If you’re going to spend a day in the sun, it’s essential that you pack some sunscreen.

Most generic sun blocks are not vegan because they contain at least one of the following ingredients derived from animals and insects:

  1. beeswax - natural wax produced by honey bees
  2. chitin - a characteristic component of the cell walls of fungi, crustaceans, insects and other living creatures.
  3. collagen - structural protein found in animals
  4. elastin - highly elastic protein in connective tissue, found in animals
  5. lanolin - comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool
  6. stearin - obtained from animal fats created as a byproduct of processing beef

Which brands of sunscreen will keep you and your family protected from the sun but also adhere to a vegan lifestyle?

I'm glad you asked.

For a detailed guide vegan sunscreen as well as the brands we recommend check out this post here.

Lip Balms and Chapstick

If you're a frequent lip balm user and you think you are going to be out in the sun for long periods of time (because that can happen on a picnic) I suggest choosing a balm that has an SPF rating.

Your lips will thank you for it.

Check out my article on the top vegan lip balm brands, you'll find a few good choices that have spf ratings.  

Good luck!

Bug Spray/Insect Repellent

Spending the day surrounded by nature in your favorite park can be delightfully relaxing.

It can also result in unpleasant, itchy bug bites!

Enjoy your meal without being eaten alive by mosquitoes by packing bug spray.

Insect repellent is super helpful in keeping mosquitoes away from your tender skin.

However, one of the main ingredients in common insect repellents is the dreaded DEET.

Although DEET is vegan, it’s not exactly an ingredient that aligns with most vegans’ philosophies that revolve around living a natural, chemical-free, and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

DEET is a highly potent pesticide/insecticide; it’s so poisonous that even the Environmental Protection Agency recommends washing it off of your skin immediately upon returning indoors.

So, is DEET technically vegan?

Yes.

Is it potentially really harmful to living creatures, as well as your skin?

You bet.

So with that in mind, here are three DEET-free vegan bug sprays that are safe for your skin and the environment.

No products found.

Beat It! Deet-Free Insect Repellent
deet-free & chemical-free; lasts up to 8 hours; gentle protection for adults, children, & infants

Hand Sanitizer

Keep your hands squeaky clean with some on-the-go vegan sanitizer.

You’ll just need to be careful when selecting your sanitizer; many hand sanitizers contain glycerin, which can be derived from animals or plants.

Although a lot of companies do use plant-based glycerin, this does not guarantee that they do not test their products on animals.

Here’s a variety of vegan and cruelty-free products to keep your hands fresh and clean at your next picnic.

Bonus: they all smell awesome!

EO Botanical Hand Sanitizer Gel
Keeps both hands refreshed, healthy and clean while keeping germs out of the picture.; Organic lavender.
Hugo Naturals Hand Sanitizer
Vegan and gluten free; Never any parabens, phenoxyethanol, sulfates, PEGs, propylene glycol.
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps Lavender Hand Sanitizer
Bath and Body Soap; Hand Sanitizer

2. Setting The Scene

Wool Blankets

Wool is a tricky material to talk about with vegans and non-vegans alike.

Some might debate that this is, in fact, a cruelty-free material because sheep are not killed in the process of shearing them for their wool.

However, the process is a bit more complicated than expected.

Just as the dairy industry supports the meat industry by funneling cows that no longer produce a sufficient amount of milk to go to slaughter, so does the wool industry filter out sheep that no longer produce copious amounts of wool.

Essentially, every sheep that is sheared will one day be sent to slaughter.

Also, the shearing process can be aggressive and frightening for a little sheep, and leaves the animal vulnerable to external exposure.

Instead of purchasing a wool blanket for your next outing, opt for one made of cotton or polyester.

Here are a few cozy cruelty-free options…

Palm Beach Crew Brilliant Blanket & Wet Bag
Family size water proof blanket with weighted corners; Machine Washable/Air Dry Weighted & removable corner pockets.
PONY'S Premium Plaid Picnic Blanket
Cotton + Sponge + PEVA soft & comfortable lining and water-resistant backing; Ideal for any outdoor events: beach, picnic, camping, outing and sports

Picnic Baskets & Umbrellas

As far as picnic baskets and umbrellas go, they, of course, vary in material.

Many umbrellas and baskets, however, have leather handles to make them more durable and stylish.

Leather handles are marketed to help a picnic basket’s durability and assist in carrying heavy loads of picnic-related goods.

Leather is an obvious non-vegan material that can come from just about any animal, so it’s important to look for picnic baskets and umbrellas that aren’t made of this material.

Here are a few picnic baskets that will help you haul your picnic supplies without needing cruelty-based materials to get the job done!

These products are made instead out of wood, hemp, and wicker.

Picnic Time 'Prairie' Picnic Basket
Picnic Time Prairie classic woven picnic basket; Proudly made in the USA; Features durable woven Appalachian white ash wood construction

Here are a couple of cruelty-free umbrellas to protect you from the sun’s powerful rays, or help keep you dry if rain interferes with your outing.

These umbrellas are made out of 100% vegan leather, renewable bamboo, and hemp!

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Karma Gifts Travel Umbrella
Easy open Valve; Automatic button; Folds down to compact travel size

3. Storing / Serving / Eating Utensils

The issue with all of these items comes down to one key component – plastic.

Although some plastic items are free of animal-derived ingredients, many plastics contain “slip agents”, which reduce the amount of friction in the material.

These slip agents are typically made from animal fat. Although avoiding all plastic can be a big obstacle for a casual picnic, there are some easy and affordable alternatives!

Instead of bringing a pack of plastic cups, get some cute, reusable glass mason jars, like these Yorkshire Jars.

Opt for a handy-dandy wooden mini cutting board – like this set on Amazon – instead of the typical plastic version.

Save yourself the hassle of bringing along a bunch of plastic silverware and get a compact gadget like this titanium spoon-knife-fork combo!

For the best plant-based plates, bowls, and mugs invest in EcoSouLife’s Biodegradable Eco Dine Set made from a vegetable waste matter of corn, starch, bamboo and rice husks.

If you’re having trouble replacing your plastic storage containers and baggies, ECOlunchbox has got you covered!  Their Three-in-One Stainless Steel Food Container Set is the perfect solution to keep your food fresh and organized!  These containers could also be used as meal prep containers for your weekly meal preps.

4. Cooling Off: Refreshing Vegan Beverages

If day drinking isn’t your thing, have no fear; there are plenty of vegan-friendly non-alcoholic beverages to help you kick back and relax.

There are, however, some ingredients you’ll want to watch out for.

What to Steer Clear From

Minute Maid’s Ruby Red Grapefruit (and other juices) may seem harmless, but its ruby red color comes from an insect known as cochineal.

Tropicana’s Heart Healthy Orange Juice contains fish oil and gelatin from sardines, tilapia, and anchovies.

Some sodas, like Sunkist Orange soda, contain ester gum (also referred to as glycerol ester of wood rosin) which is chemically derived from animal fats.

What Are the Alternatives?

Now that we’ve gone through some of the ingredients and drinks you’ll want to steer clear of, let’s have some fun concocting delicious vegan beverages!

If you’re in the mood for something fruity, try making your very own Watermelon & Basil Cooler.  Simply blend a cup of watermelon chunks, a couple of large basil leaves, and some club soda or sparkling water.

My favorite blended non-alcoholic vegan beverage is a refreshing Pineapple Mint Agua Fresca. The recipe is so simple and satisfying; just blend three cups of pineapple chunks, three cups of water, and as many mint leaves as you’d like!​

Sidenote: Vegan Alcohol Dos & Dont's

Unfortunately, some alcohol does contain animal by-products, and what’s even more disappointing is the fact that most of these ingredients aren’t required to be listed on beer or wine labels.

Despite this unsettling fact, there are a few ingredients and brands you can easily avoid and swap out with other non-harming (and delicious) brands.

Wine

Barefoot wine uses gelatin and proteins from animal and fish products in their winemaking process.

Some vegan-friendly wine brands include Red Truck Wines, Frey Vineyards, and The Vegan Vine.

Beer

Similar to Barefoot Wine, Guinness beer sadly uses isinglass (made from swim bladders of fish) in their manufacturing process.

Vegan beer fans can rejoice over a cold glass of Coors, Miller Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Yuengling, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Liquor

It’s also important to avoid any alcohol that contains honey, as honey is a by-product of bees.

Thankfully, just about every brand of hard liquor is vegan, so feel free to add a shot (or two) of vodka, gin, rum, or whisky to your beverage.

Some of the most popular brands of vegan liquors include Absolut, Bacardi Rum, Grey Goose, Malibu, and Svedka.

5. Chowing Down

Pasta/Potato Salad Alternative

Who needs cheesy pasta or potato salad when you can have this baked vegan mac and cheeseless pasta?! This dish combines sweet potatoes, butternut squash puree, and nutritional yeast to create an every vegan cheese lover’s dream.

Sandwich Alternatives

Substitute meat and cheese sandwiches with nourishing summer pita bowls filled with sprouts, avocado, hummus, and really, anything your little vegan heart desires! Not only are these tasty snacks cruelty-free, but these convenient grab and go pita pockets are less messy than typical meat and cheese-loaded sandwiches.

Meat Alternatives

Looking for some fun and easy meat substitutes?

Any one of these 4 types of vegan jerky brands should do the trick. It’s a fantastic snack idea, as it’s low-calorie, portable, high in protein, and has plenty of options for people who have allergies or sensitivities to certain foods.

Or, sprinkle these Mother Earth Products Textured Vegetable Protein Chicken Bits on top of your pita pockets or on top of a fresh salad.

Bread, Cheese, & Cold Cut Alternatives

It’s easy to forget about meat and cheese when you’ve got veggies, fruit, and fun dips! Grab some baby carrots, cucumbers, snap peas, peppers, and whip up some vegan guacamole or easy hummus (it takes less than five minutes to make).

To add a little sweetness to your finger food menu, dip your strawberries, grapes, pineapple, and kiwi in some No products found.. I am a huge fan of this vegan dairy-free yogurt because it’s made with awesome ingredients and tastes amazing.

If you’re strapped for time and don’t have the patience for preparing a variety of vegan finger foods, simply order GoPicnic Ready-To-Eat Black Bean Dip & Plantain Chips. This gluten-free and energy-packed vegan snack is perfect for any outdoor adventure!

Condiments: Which Ones Are Safe for Vegans?

Lecithin (from animal tissues), oleic acid (from animal tallow), and glycerides (from animal fat) are three ingredients that are commonly found in synthetic butter, oils, margarine, spreads, and other condiments.

Ketchup and mustard are safe; but if you want spice up your meals with more vegan condiments, here are some solid options: 

Huy Fong, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
17 ounce sriracha hot chili sauce
Cholula Original Hot Sauce
Achieves an unbeatable authentic taste with no gluten or added sugar; Works well with a wide range of low-carb diets, including paleo and keto
Hampton Creek Just Mayo
The package length of the product is 3 inches; The package width of the product is 4 inches

No products found.

Living Intentions Salad Booster, Vegan Cheese
Salad Booster; Tastes great straight out of the bag; The ultimate boost to any savory meal

6. Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth

Who doesn’t want to indulge in a sweet treat at a sunny picnic in the park?!

Common desserts that come to mind are milk-filled brownies, egg-loaded cookies, and other butter-rich recipes that aren’t safe for vegans.

Although it can be tough to find vegan alternatives in a generic grocery store aisle, here are a few recipes made with healthy vegan-friendly ingredients like almond milk, coconut oil, cashew butter, flax seeds, apple cider vinegar, and even vegan marshmallows!

7. Cleaning Up Time!

Napkins & Towelettes

Using a paper napkin to wipe up leftover crumbs on the picnic table (or the corner of your mouth) may seem like a guilt-free process, since paper is a vegan item.

However, not all napkin/paper towel brands are created equal.

This is because companies like Procter & Gamble using animal testing.  Brands like Bounty, Charmin, Febreze, and Swiffer should also be avoided.

Don’t fret too much, though; cleaning up a mess is easy with the cruelty-free brand, Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation products are Leaping Bunny Certified and safe for people, their homes, their pets, and the environment.

Here are a few products (from Seventh Generation and other brands) that will keep your picnic clean and cruelty-free.

Napkins:

Seventh Generation Natural Lunch Napkin
100% recycled paper(90% minimum post-consumer, 10% pre-consumer for brown napkins); Hypo-allergenic napkins
Natural Value 100% Recycled Napkins
100% recycled with a minimum 80% post-consumer recycled content; No chlorine bleach; Safe for septic systems

Wipes:

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes
Kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses; Botanical disinfectant with the active ingredient Thymol (a component of Thyme Oil)
Seventh Generation Thick & Strong Free and Clear Baby Wipes
Made for your baby’s sensitive skin; As gentle as water; Thick and soft wipe for a gentle clean that is safe for baby, hands, and face

Trash Bags

Seventh Generation, along with Natural Value are two brands that outshine the rest in the trash bag department as well.

While these companies commit to being kind to all beings, they also formulate durable bags made from recycled materials.

Here are a couple of options that will help you keep your picnic neat and tidy.

Natural Value 13 Gallon Drawstring Kitchen Bags
PVC and plasticizer free garbage bags; BPA free drawstring bags; Core and boxes made from recycled materials
Seventh Generation Tall Kitchen Trash Bags
Gencore 3-layer technology, extra strength ideal for kitchen waste; Convenient flap tie closure

Have Fun!

Now that you’ve made all of the necessary preparations for your vegan picnic, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

So, kick back, relax, and enjoy your cruelty-free cocktail!

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