~ These Memorial Day food recipes will be delicious additions to your holiday weekend menu! Lots of red, white and blue recipes … plus must-have summer party classics. And, don’t miss our tips to help you keep everything stress-free, so your summer kick-off is fun and relaxing (even for the hosts)! ~
Memorial Day always feels like the unofficial start of summer … that hopeful kick-off to more carefree, warmer days and easy, let’s-eat-outside-tonight recipes.
This year, make your Memorial Day celebration better than ever! With the perfect (EASY) foods, plus party-planning tips that make the festivities simpler for everyone (especially the hosts)!
Of course, you’ll be looking for some All-American, red-white-and-blue recipes to add into your backyard bbq routine, and we’ve got lots of ideas for you on that.
But every great Memorial Day menu also needs some of the summer classics, like hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad and coleslaw. We’ve got those for ya here, too!
Check out our full line-up of easy Memorial Day recipes, and choose some great new ones to try this holiday weekend … and maybe for cookouts all summer long (think 4th of July and Labor Day, for sure)!
And then don’t forget to pop down to the bottom of this post, for easy Memorial Day party tips. Planning, Decorating, and More!
But first, the very best part … let’s hook you up with some terrific recipes …
Memorial Day Food Recipes
Pre-Parade Red, White and Blue Fun!
You don't have to wait for suppertime to cue up the celebration. Get the star-spangled vibes going right from the breakfast table! These ideas are especially perfect if you're hosting a festive brunch before a morning parade.
This delicious red, white and blue breakfast is a lightened-up copycat of the super-popular "A.M. Superfoods Bowl" served up at First Watch restaurants nationwide. It's delightfully cool and creamy, but will keep you powered up until grillin' time later on!
Layer yogurt and granola with red and blue berries for a quick and easy Memorial Day breakfast your whole family will love. If you're hosting a pre-parade brunch party, use our suggestions to set out a DIY make-your-own parfait bar, too!
Appetizers, Side Dishes, Salads, and Drinks
Choose from star-spangled recipes, grilled favorites, or one of the must-have picnic classics!
These stunning fruit salads are sure to be the showstoppers of your Memorial Day weekend! We’ve lined up 5 terrific variations, from the very quickest and most basic … to full-on WOW factor. Choose which one you want to make, depending on how much time you’ve got!
Pasta salad is always a popular recipe at cookouts and potlucks! This updated version has all the bold flavors you love, but a few simple tweaks make it a bit lighter, too (so you'll have plenty of room for dessert).
This sunny, Mediterranean-inspired recipe highlights creamy fingerling potatoes and crisp green beans, tossed in a zingy olive oil and mustard vinaigrette. It’s delightfully un-fussy, with a surprisingly bold flavor. It’s just something different that stands out from the rest! And the absence of mayonnaise helps keep it cool and composed even in warm weather.
Strawberries, blueberries and mozzarella cheese set the red-white-and-blue scene in this vibrant salad. It's all highlighted by crunchy toasted pine nuts, summery fresh basil, and a maple syrup & balsamic vinaigrette dressing. As delicious as it is eye-popping!
For a different variation on your festive garden salad, try this one that includes feta, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and a honeyed red wine vinaigrette to highlight the fresh strawberries and blueberries. Another scrumptious option that's full of fresh flavor to lighten up your holiday menu!
Corn on the cob is the perfect side dish for an outdoor, summertime meal. And if you're already firing up the grill anyway, why not throw on your corn, too? It's super easy and gives sweet corn a wonderfully caramelized, toasty flavor! (Psssst .. while you're at it ... you could throw on some Foil Packet Potatoes or Grilled Asparagus, too.)
Is it going to be a sunny, hot Memorial Day in your neck of the woods? If so, then this gorgeous infused water is a must. It's a great alternative to sugar-y sodas and punch, too – which makes it an extra good thing if you're looking for Healthy Memorial Day recipes to keep your event on the lighter side.
This slaw recipe is the perfect middle ground between creamy, deli-style coleslaws and tangy vinegar slaws. It features a lightened-up Greek yogurt coleslaw dressing that needs just a few simple ingredients. Even better? It only takes about 5 minutes to toss together. Such a simple recipe! And it was tailor-made to cozy up alongside BBQ meats!
So impressive but ultra-simple, too! And, it works great as both a finger foods appetizer or a side dish (or ... both)! Grill up thin slices of packaged polenta, and top 'em with creamy mozzarella, and heaps of balsamic tomatoes and basil. So flavorful!
This super-easy recipe is an updated riff on the beloved Bean Salad served at the iconic Nick Anthe’s restaurant for more than 30 years. It’s uniquely delicious, but with no cooking and just a bit of quick chopping, it’s also ultra-fast (like, 7 minutes FAST!), so it's an ideal throw-together dish for last-minute potlucks.
Gotta have deviled eggs at summer get-togethers! But these are no ordinary eggs. The yolks are mixed with creamy roasted red pepper hummus, and just the right flavor-elevating combination of pepper strips, fresh herbs, and paprika. Unique and surprisingly delicious!
These pretty ice cubes are a snap to make, and so festive with refreshing sparkling water, club soda, or even just plain ol' tap water. Great tips for switching them up with fruit juice and different flavors and colors, too!
So many layers of flavor! This is our twist on traditional Mexican elote – a uniquely delicious side dish that’s perfect for picnics and cookouts (especially since it can be mostly made ahead). And after extensive testing, we’ve found a couple handy tricks for keeping it lighter, too! (For even more great corn salads – both raw and grilled – check out our complete list of Favorite Corn Salad Recipes.)
All the crowd-pleasin' flavors of buffalo chicken dip, in a scrumptious tortellini pasta salad! You'll love all the compliments you receive, and also that it's so easy to prep ahead of time (so you can relax and enjoy all the Memorial Day festivities). Serve it without the chicken for a vegetarian option.
This light, refreshing white sangria is a festive summer cocktail you can make by the pitcher. Cut your fruit into star shapes for your Memorial Day celebration, or just use your favorite chopped fruit. Add a splash of bubbly water to each drink for an effervescent sparkle!
Looking for a non-alcoholic alternative to the sangria above? This refresher relies on naturally red, white and blue ingredients, so there are no artificial colors or dyes, making this a drink you can feel great about serving to your family!
With its wonderfully smoky-sweet flavor, this recipe can be made thicker or thinner to taste – delicious either way! And so very easy, since you simply mix everything together right in the baking dish and then pop it in the oven. Bonus: It just happens to be vegan, so it's a great choice if you're not sure what dietary needs some of the party-goers might have.
Broccoli salad is a staple at family cookouts and summer potlucks. This no-mayo version is loaded with goodies (mmmmm ... like dried cranberries, almonds, red onions, and a few savory bacon bits) all tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce that's a fresh change-up from the typical creamy dressing. Lots of great substitution and variation suggestions, so you can tailor it to your own family's favorite ingredients!
Perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day! The sweetness of the melon and berries pop against a tangy dressing of golden honey and bright lime juice. Bits of feta add a final, tasty flourish (and put the "white" in red, white and blue)!
This showstopper takes those potluck-classic layered salad recipes to whole new heights (literally!). Piled high in a trifle bowl, it’ll be the “Oooooh … who made that?” hit of your Memorial Day party. But don't worry – it's not hard to do, and we’ve got plenty of shortcuts and make-ahead tips!
Such incredible flavor from a few simple ingredients! This grilled flatbread is perfect served as an (impressive!) appetizer, and it doubles perfectly as a main course if your Memorial Day guest list includes vegetarians.
The Main Event!
Whether you opt for an outdoor meal featuring hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, or a delectable pressure-cooked BBQ chicken, these main dishes offer lots of options for the "star" of your star-spangled Memorial Day menu!
These super easy and wonderfully flavorful marinated, grilled chicken breasts will become your go-to grilling recipe, all summer long! Featuring just a handful of simple ingredients like lemon juice, garlic and a wonderful pop of cumin, dinner will be marinating in no time, and ready to grill when you are. Kid-tested and 100% approved, too, so you know everyone at your Memorial Day party will be gobbling it up!
If you're grilling hot dogs this Memorial Day weekend, why not elevate the experience by offering a DIY hot dog bar, so everyone can customize their own, personalized creations? Start with these great combo ideas, like the spicy "Buffalo Dog" or the unique "Mexican Street Corn Dog" or the trendy "Bahn Mi Dog" ... mmmmmmm ... so many yummy topping ideas!
Wanna take your hot dog bar straight to the tropics? Welcome summer by turning your backyard cookout into an island paradise with hot dog toppings like Maui Onion Slaw, Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa, Passion Fruit Mustard ... and lots more delectably easy, summery ideas!
These flavor-packed burgers feature a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage. All seasoned with zesty Italian spices, and piled high with grilled peppers and onions, juicy tomato, and a warm, melty slice of fresh mozzarella. They’re easy to make, plus you can prep them in advance – so you're not rushing around at party time. (And if it rains on Memorial Day? No worries ... we've got alternate, indoor directions, too!)
These insanely delicious, ridiculously easy sandwiches are inspired by our epic family beach vacations along the Eastern Carolina shore. A perfect summer dish, this BBQ chicken recipe takes just minutes to prep (so you can spend more time enjoying your holiday)! If you'd rather use a slow cooker, try our super-popular Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches instead. Either way, be sure to serve 'em up with our No Mayo Coleslaw alongside – we created the recipes to go together ... they're quite literally MADE for each other!
All the peppers, onions, Mexican spices and creamy guacamole you love in fajitas … jam-crammed into one gloriously, scrumptiously satisfying burger recipe! With prep-ahead steps to make your life easier!
Such a party-worthy way to cook chicken! Spatchcocking your chicken allows it to cook faster and more evenly, and the wonderful grilled flavor just absolutely takes it to the next level. Simple and delicious, but sure to impress!
These hearty, nutrient-packed burgers start with mashed black beans, rice and zucchini ... with plenty of tempting savory, smoky flavor from onion, garlic, and chipotle peppers in adobo. All with a fraction of the fat of a traditional hamburger. Carnivore-approved, thanks to their meaty texture and a fabulous, crispy sear!
Star-Spangled Desserts to Finish Memorial Day Off in Style!
Choose one (or more!) of these favorite Memorial Day desserts to end your party with a celebration-worthy sweet treat!
So yummy with a moist, tender crumb, a hint of lemon, and a delicate almond flavor. Yet this cake is definitely swimsuit-season-friendly: it's oil free, refined sugar free, and even naturally gluten free. Great suggestions for changing up the flavors, too ("Cherry Bakewell" cake, anyone?).
Sure, you could offer fruit skewers on the appetizer buffet, served up with some refreshing fruit dip. BUT ... they become an absolutely to-die-for dessert, with the addition of cubed cake and a decadent Chocolate Dip! We've even got ideas for making them into a patriotic "fruit flag" with fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
This easy dessert recipe is refreshingly light and sweet, and so very simple (with just 5 ingredients)! Drizzle blueberry cream over warm angel food cake, toss on a handful of fresh berries, and sprinkle it all with a little lemon zest. Mmmmm … it’s truly special ... and you get big WOW-factor serving your guests dessert from the grill! (Not firing up the grill this year? We've got broiler and toasting directions, too.)
These darling mini cheesecakes are the perfect little treat for cheesecake lovers who are looking for a healthier, lower sugar dessert! The crumbly, nutty crust is topped with a velvety-smooth creamy layer and a final flourish of fruit. Decadent yet (surprisingly!) gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. Even better? You can make them ahead and pull them from the freezer and toss on some fruit just before dessert time.
A family classic recipe gets a modern makeover that's totally grandma-approved! This pretty Jell-O is easier than you'd think, and you can change up the colors for a refreshing treat all summer long (hint: it's gorgeous in rainbow stripes, too)!
In a hurry? How about a 5-minute recipe? Perfect! Oh, and if you REALLY like to plan ahead, this recipe can be made up to 3 months before your Memorial Day party! As pictured above, red and blue berries give it a patriotic vibe, and little chocolate chips add decadence. But, there are lots of other ideas to vary the toppings in this cool and refreshing treat, and to add in other dessert-worthy flourishes!
These cold, sweet, honey oatmeal cookie bars feature a luscious coconut cream topping underneath layers of berries for the perfect red, white and blue-themed dessert!. And hey hey ... absolutely NO BAKING needed!
These pretty pops are made with refreshing coconut water, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries for an extra-refreshing treat if the Memorial Day forecast looks hot and sunny. For a creamier popsicle, try a recipe more reminiscent of classic "bomb pops" or "firecracker popsicles". Or, if you're the type who thinks no party is complete without sprinkles, you'll love these fun Coconut Milk Popsicles. Lots of cool ways to chill out!
Filled with a citrus-y lemon cream, these cute fruit tarts are little bites of star-spangled joy! Make them ahead for a no-stress dessert that can hang out in the fridge until you're ready to serve them.
Tips for a Perfect, EASY Memorial Day Celebration
First and foremost, remember that a relaxed party host (or hostess) is a huge key to setting the tone for the entire party. If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, it’ll help to put your guests at ease and elevate the energy of your celebration.
Plus, Memorial Day is the perfect time for a chill, easy-breezy summer vibe. There’s no need to make it fussy or stressful in order for your party to be a huge success.
So … how do you do that (when you just want to dash around in a panic because you feel over-extended and behind schedule)?!?!?
BREATHE … we’ve got this!
Memorial Day Menu Planning
• Making the Menu: As much as possible, plan out your Memorial Day food ideas ahead of time. Write it all down (so you actually remember every last detail when things get hectic).
• Planning Drinks: Plenty of ice-filled coolers and a well-stocked drinks station will save you from having to play bartender. Make sure your menu includes a variety of beverages your guests can serve themselves. If you want a festive “signature” drink, go with make-ahead pitchers full of yummy refreshers – like the sangria and the infused water featured in our recipe list above.
• Grocery Shopping: Write up a master grocery list, and buy the shelf-stable items further in advance. That’s often a better way to shop before big events, so you don’t have to stress over a huge grocery trip at the last minute (especially before holidays, when supplies of some high-demand items might be running low at the store).
• Presentation: Planning a really big cookout and making a LOT of different dishes? When you have a free moment in the days ahead, start gathering the serving bowls, platters, and serving utensils (spreaders, serving spoons, cake cutters, etc.) you’ll want for each recipe. Label them with Post-it notes, so when you’re busily assembling everything at party time, it’s easy to instantly see which serving pieces you thought fit each recipe. Annnnnnd … you can easily ask other people to grab specific items for you, too!
• Cooking: In the day or two before your cookout, make any food ahead of time that you can. (Bonus points for recipes you can freeze even weeks or months in advance!)
Pro Tip: When planning your menu, try to choose as many make-ahead recipes as possible!
• Prepping: In addition to completing fully make-ahead recipes, look through your recipes to find ingredients you can chop and prep ahead, even if you can’t complete the entire recipe yet. Turn on some music, maybe grab a glass of wine, and enjoy yourself! Be sure to clearly label each baggie or container of prepped ingredients. Not only will that help you remember which ingredients are for what recipe, but then you can also enlist others to help you throw together the final recipes, too. Yay for helping hands!
• Ask for HELP: Speaking of help … ask guests to fill out the menu, so you don’t have to cook everything. It’s smart to give each cook a general guideline (like “appetizer” … or “green vegetable”), so you don’t end up with only desserts, or with 7 bowls of potato salad! Guests will be glad to bring something that’s truly needed and gets gobbled up, rather than wasting time on bringing a dish that ends up being redundant or doesn’t fit well with the overall menu.
• Have a Plan: Just like with the cooking, do whatever setup you can ahead of time, too. Ask neighbors to lend extra folding tables and chairs. Dig coolers out of the basement. Take care of all those staging things … which will totally stress you out at the last minute, but are an absolute snap to check off a few days early.
• Oh, Crazy Mother Nature!: When most people think of a Memorial Day party, they envision a warm weather, summer cookout or sun-drenched outdoor picnic. But sometimes the weather has other plans. Definitely consider the predicted heat … but also be prepared for rain. Make sure guests will be comfortable either way. Decide if you’ll have people come inside to cool off or avoid rain (and tidy up if you need to). Think of fun ways for people to cool off (water balloon fight?!?!). And consider clearing space in a basement or garage ahead of time, so the party can continue even if a thunderstorm rolls in.
Pro Tip: (which most people forget!) Don’t Strand the Grill Master
Be sure to set a couple of enticing appetizers on a nearby table, so people are sure to linger near your grill master, happily munching and chatting. Strategically place some key beverages near the grilling area, too. If, for example, your grill master happens to be a husband-type-guy-person, maybe pick a few particularly guy-attracting beverages (maybe your hubby’s fave beer!) and nestle them in a cooler specifically placed near the grill. So, you know … all your grill master’s friends have to hang around the grill if they want to grab a drink. 😉
• Trash: Don’t forget to set out trash and recycle cans at convenient places. (This one I used to forget allllll the time … until my first guest would wander into the kitchen, wanting to throw away a soda can. Doh!)
• Tunes: Try out your music setup ahead of time. (This is another thing I used to forget all the time.) Outdoor speakers … extension cords … play lists. Whatever you need to cue up great tunes! Get it all ready and have the fun music pumping from the moment your first guests arrive. It really does liven the mood! Just be sure the music isn’t too loud (and the speakers are properly placed) for people to easily chat.
Decorating Your Cookout Party
• Theme: Memorial Day’s obvious “Red, White and Blue” is an easy party theme!
For one thing, summer’s fresh fruit is naturally red, white and blue, thanks to all those strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. (And we have lots of star-spangled RW&B recipes in the list above.)
And, star-shaped cookie cutters are your best friend! Cut out decorative pieces of cheese, fruit, etc. to garnish and pep up whatever dishes you’re making!
• Decorations: If you want to go the extra mile and buy decorations, it doesn’t have to be over-the-top or expensive. Remember … casual, summer chill vibes! A few patriotic flags and paper banners, along with red, white and blue table coverings and napkins will easily set the stage.
Here are just a few quick ideas …
If you’re at the garden center, buy some pretty red and white flowers that you’ll plant in your yard after the party. You just killed two birds with one stone – yard work patrol AND party decorating committee!
For an evening party, twinkle lights always set a cozy, happy mood. You can find strands of simple, red, white and blue twinkle lights, or go even splashier and more theme-y with adorable star-shaped lights like these:
And if you’d prefer not to have too much trash for the landfill, you could invest in some dishwasher-safe, reusable plate and utensil sets. These come in both red and blue, and will be perfect all summer long … including for the 4th of July and Labor Day!
During the Party
• Welcome Committee: For the beginning of the party, ask kiddos to help welcome guests and show them where to place the food they’ve brought to share. Kids love to feel important and have a role to play! And that’ll keep you more free to finish last-minute things in the kitchen, or to enjoy circulating through your guests without having to pause the conversation every time someone new arrives.
• Use a Grill Thermometer: Remember that grill master we talked about earlier? If you did a good job funneling some friends over near the grill station, then your grill master may be a little distracted. No problem! A grill thermometer will make absolutely sure the meat reaches the safe zone before serving. (Here’s a handy guide with target meat temperatures.)
• Remember Food Safety: Have outlets and extension cords available, if needed, for hot plates and slow cookers. Extra ice-filled coolers or tubs of ice can help keep salads and other cold foods safely chilled longer. And, if the party will last all throughout the day, be sure to rotate food into the refrigerator to keep everything safe. If you want some munches on hand for in-between times, go with things like chips, pretzels and cookies that aren’t temperature-sensitive.
What Is Memorial Day? (And Most of All … A Thank You)
With all the celebrating and summer-kicking-off that happens over Memorials Day’s long holiday weekend, it’s sometimes easy to forget the actual reason that we’re all celebrating.
But I just wouldn’t feel right, putting together this article about Memorial Day parties, without pausing to think about why we come together on this particular weekend every year.
At its core, Memorial Day is meant as a remembrance of the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. Military. As History.com explains, “Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.”
Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday in May. It’s expanded into a three-day, party-filled, long weekend that’s often hailed as the unofficial summer kick-off.
But most of all, it’s a time to remember and to be thankful for those who have given their lives for American freedoms.
And for that … to all those who have lost loved ones in service to America … I want to extend a most heartfelt note of appreciation, of gratitude and thankfulness. Even as we celebrate, we also remember.