Is It Rude to Not Bring Food to a Potluck?

There are two essential ingredients for a potluck: people and food. So what should you think when someone shows up empty-handed?

Is it rude not to bring food to a potluck?

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Scenario: You're hosting a potluck and your friends are slowly starting to trickle in. Suzy brought her famous apple pie, and Natasha made your favorite green bean casserole for the occasion. But when Andrew and his new girlfriend Karen arrive, you notice that they're empty-handed. No dish, no bottle of wine, no flowers. Is that kind of...rude? The Simply Recipes editors weigh in below.

Anything More Than Empty Hands Is Acceptable

There are two essential ingredients for a potluck: people and food. These go hand-in-hand since the food is brought and eaten by the guests themselves. It's a fun communal activity that also takes some weight off the poor host.

So can you show up to a potluck empty-handed? Heck no. That's the whole point! I would never show up at a potluck without something in hand, and I certainly wouldn't want to open my front door during a potluck and find an empty-handed friend standing there.

That being said, acceptable items for contributing to a potluck is a fairly long list. A dish is preferred of course, but it doesn't have to be an intricate homemade dish that you spent hours of your life crafting. Not everyone loves to cook, and not everyone has the time for big baking projects. A nice loaf of bread from a bakery or a quick veggie dip is fine!

I will also accept drinkable gifts like wine, cocktails, beer, and mocktails (yes please) as well as flowers, a house plant, leftover Halloween candy, pretty much anything. It's not really about the item, it's about the thought behind it. Just be sure to let the host know if you're not bringing food to ensure there are enough dishes to go around!

Laurel Randolph, Editor

Contribution Comes in Many Forms

A very thoughtful friend once told me that the spirit of etiquette is to make the other person feel comfortable and appreciated. This statement is now my inner compass when thinking about the "rules of hospitality," like when a guest shows up at a potluck empty-handed.

If a guest enters your front door without a casserole, beverage, candle, or flowers, be gracious regardless. Appreciate them for coming—you invited them after all. Don't waste energy getting wound up or worse, judge people and lose friends over it.

The point of a potluck is to share with your community and contribute however you are able to. As a guest, if you can bring a giant salad, bring giant salad. If you can bring a bottle of wine, bring a bottle of wine. If you can contribute cash to pay for food, then pay up. If none of those are possible, show up early and help set up, or stay late and help clean up. 

Myo Quinn, Senior Editor