08/12/2014 09:55 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2015

5 Things You Should Never Put In Your Potluck Dish

You're probably not going to bring triple garlic dip or raw shellfish to a friend's get-together, but there are some less obvious foods to avoid, too.

By Lynn Andriani

  • 1 Green Bell Peppers
    While red, yellow and orange bell peppers hog the spotlight, greens are often maligned because they can taste bitter (as none other than Alice Waters declared in Chez Panisse Vegetables). Because they are harvested before they're ripe, they'll never taste as sweet as the other varieties. Another downside to being picked early: The skin is harder to digest and can cause people to burp. Instead, try: Tomatoes. They can be stuffed and roasted just as peppers can, yet tend to be easier on people's palates (and stomachs). Get the recipe: Stuffed Tomatoes with Sausage and Corn
  • 2 Cooked Carrots
    These healthy, grocery-store staples are commonly cooked, chopped and mixed into pasta salads, but they can be a tough sell since they often end up unpleasantly soft. Plus, a study shows crunch can go a long way toward making food tasty. Instead, try: Raw carrots. If you slice the vegetables thinly (you can do it yourself or buy them preshredded), there's no need to cook them, and they'll stay fresh and crunchy, almost like a slaw. Get the recipe: Crisp Carrot Salad with Currants
  • 3 Cilantro
    Disliking this herb -- a cornerstone in Mexican and Thai cuisine -- might not just be all in a picky eater's head. Some studies have linked an aversion to cilantro with specific genes involved in taste and smell, which suggests that the reluctance could be rooted in a person's DNA. Instead, try: Italian flat-leaf parsley. Its herby flavor will brighten any dish that you'd ordinarily add cilantro to, but it's much more widely liked. Typically used in Italian cooking, parsley goes especially well with tomatoes, whether in black-bean salad or salsa-like dips. Get the recipe: Tomato Relish
  • 4 Stinky Cheese
    You may love goat and blue cheeses (and we're right there with you), but it must be said that they aren't the most commonly adored dairy products out there. Even varieties that lack that punch-you-in-the-face smell still have a distinct taste many people just don't enjoy. Instead, try: Shredded Parmesan or cheddar. They're milder options for topping salads yet still deliver some oomph. If you want to bring a cheesy dish to a party, try a spread that uses Parmesan and sour cream or yogurt as a base. Get the recipe: Herb and Cheese Dip
  • 5 Raw Red Onions
    Piotr Marcinski/iStock/Thinkstock
    Red onions can add a critical zip to green salads and sandwiches and are often served raw because of their gorgeous color, which fades when cooked. Still, they have a pungent taste that can linger for hours or even days, and some people suffer indigestion or heartburn after eating them. Instead, try: Watered-down red onions. Soaking slices of the onion in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes before adding them to a dish will significantly lessen their bite. Or use scallions instead -- they give dishes a subtly sharp note but aren't as strong. Get the recipe: Everyday Green Chopped Salad

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  • Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart
    Maria Robledo
    Chances are you have everything you need to make this any-time-of-day tart in your kitchen already. Keeping the dish in its removable-bottom pan during travel ensures the pastry shell won't break; just don't forget to bring the pan home when you leave the party. Get the recipe: Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart
  • Smoky Black Bean Dip
    John Kernick
    This versatile dip -- which goes with tortilla or pita chips, on top of nachos or in quesadillas -- will keep for two days in the refrigerator. In fact, letting it sit will help the spices (coriander and cumin) flavor the puree more deeply. Get the recipe: Smoky Black Bean Dip
  • Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Salad with Chickpeas and Couscous
    Jeanne Kelley
    The best olives for this salad are the big, meaty green ones you can find in Middle Eastern markets. They have pits, but a good whack with the side of a chef's knife makes them easy to remove. You can serve this dish warm, chilled or at room temperature. Get the recipe: Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Salad with Chickpeas and Couscous
  • Killer Quinoa Salad
    Colin Erricson
    Quinoa, dried cranberries, dried apricots, avocados, green onions and toasted slivered almonds come together to make an ideal side for grilled chicken or pork. It can sit out on the buffet table for a little longer than most dishes, since it doesn't contain any ingredients that will spoil quickly. Get the recipe: Killer Quinoa Salad
  • Lentil Ratatouille
    Colin Erricson
    Cutting the eggplant, zucchini and carrots into larger pieces (about an inch square) will ensure they don't become mushy as they sit, and the salad will benefit from their crunch. Get the recipe: Lentil Ratatouille
  • Chickpea Plov
    Leah Lizarondo
    In the former Soviet republics and Russia, plov (also known as pilaf) is a hearty one-pot rice dish. This version omits the lamb and relies on chickpeas for protein, making it a perfect vegetarian entrée. Get the recipe: Chickpea Plov
  • Garden Tuna Checkerboard Sandwiches
    Colin Erricson
    Although all these sandwiches contain the same lemon-white wine vinegar tuna salad, their breads are different. Have a little fun and arrange them in a checkerboard pattern to keep people guessing. Get the recipe: Garden Tuna Checkerboard Sandwiches
  • Shrimp-and-Avocado Sushi Rolls
    Colin Erricson
    Using store-bought tortillas as extra wrappers around the seaweed is the trick to turning this Japanese favorite into an easy potluck dish. A simple, homemade wasabi mayonnaise offers a nice contrast to the crunchy cucumber. Get the recipe: Shrimp-and-Avocado Sushi Rolls
  • Chicken Divan Crepes with Gruyère
    This take on the well-known chicken-and-broccoli casserole is perfect for a large group, since each portion comes wrapped in its own crepe. Get the recipe: Chicken Divan Crepes with Gruyère
  • Cheesy Turkey Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa and Cilantro
    Ground turkey breast, low-carb tortillas, fat-free black bean dip and reduced-fat cheeses keep this usually calorie-laden, one-dish meal healthy (so guests will have more room for guacamole and chips). Get the recipe: /www.oprah.com/food/Cheesy-Turkey-Enchiladas-with-Tomatillo-Salsa-and-Cilantro>Cheesy Turkey Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa and Cilantro
  • Macaroni and Many Cheeses
    You can make the cheese sauce for this crowd-pleasing classic up to two days ahead of time and reheat it. Using a small pasta, like elbows, will make it easier to spoon out onto plates. Get the recipe: Macaroni and Many Cheeses
  • Pineapple-Cajeta Empanadas
    Chef Marcela Valladolid likes to make these pockets for potlucks because they don't require serving utensils and are easy to transport. Similar to dulce de leche, cajeta is available in some Latin markets, or you can substitute caramel sauce. The empanadas are a sweet addition to a brunch buffet, or you can even serve them as dessert. Get the recipe: Pineapple-Cajeta Empanadas
  • Sunny Lemon Cake
    Colin Erricson
    Bright and tangy, this cake will appeal to adults and children. Once frosted, it will keep in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in foil or waxed paper, for up to three days. Get the recipe: Sunny Lemon Cake
  • Banana Pudding
    Tina Rupp
    This traditional Southern dessert actually improves with age, so be sure to let it sit for at least four hours (or as long as overnight) before serving. This version from Maya Angelou includes all the classic ingredients. Get the recipe: Banana Pudding