For me, Memorial Day marks the official start of the summer cooking season - a little premature as far as the calendar is concerned, but I don't need much of an excuse to fire up the grill.
When you plan your Memorial Day menu, why not think beyond standard burgers and hot dogs? There's certainly nothing wrong with those, but a cookout provides plenty of opportunities to get creative and wow your guests.
The Best Recipes for Memorial Day
Plan a perfect Memorial Day cookout with these 47 Memorial Day food ideas, including delicious grilled meat and seafood, spicy deviled eggs, and delicious salads.
Appetizers and Snacks
These Memorial Day appetizers can set the stage for the entire meal or be the entire meal. From deviled eggs through the easiest guacamole you’ll ever make, to whatever you can wrap in bacon, these recipes are sure to start your cookout right.
- Bacon Wrapped Shrimp: Seafood need not be complicated, and this Bacon Wrapped Shrimp recipe is a delicious crowd pleaser! It is quick, easy, and a lot of fun to make.
- Bacon Wrapped Scallops: Whether you're passing them around at a BBQ or planning an intimate dinner with a special someone, these Bacon Wrapped Scallops are elegant and accessible.
- Grilled Bacon Wrapped Scallops: The same wonderful flavors as the recipe above, but made entirely on your grill!
- Spicy Deviled Eggs: Deviled Eggs may not strike you as a summer cookout food, but with a tasty, spicy kick, this classic hors d'oeuvre fits in nicely with whatever you’re serving.
- Salsa Guacamole: Ripe avocado and fresh Pico de gallo unite (along with a little salt and a squeeze of fresh lime) to make the easiest and most delicious guacamole you’ll ever make!
- Pico de Gallo: The key to Pico de Gallo is all in how you prep the tomatoes, and it is easier than you probably think.
- Grilled Bacon Wrapped Asparagus: Even my friends who don't like asparagus have a hard time passing these up. The flavor of bacon infuses so thoroughly that you only need half a slice. They are the perfect appetizer, great on the side, and robust enough to serve as the main dish.
No matter what the main course is, these tasty sides will round out the meal nicely.
- Salt Potatoes: With the savory, salty crunch of french fries but without a drop of oil, this two-ingredient side can go just about anywhere. The trick to making these will surprise you!
- Crispy Baked Buffalo Wings: I was almost ready to call it quits on my quest to find an excellent recipe for homemade buffalo wings. I usually find deep frying at home to be more trouble than it's worth. That is until I discovered the secret to achieving perfectly crispy wings in the oven. (hint: it’s not baking powder!)
- Grilled Green Beans with Cumin and Smoked Paprika: I always thought about green beans as something for the skillet, wok, or steamer. But cooking green beans on the grill is easy and delivers a crispy, tender, and smoky side that is as simple as it is unique.
- Grilled Cauliflower Steaks (The Secret: Butter!): It's right there in the name. The secret is in the butter. I can't resist the smokey flavor and juicy interior between the grill charred outside. See how even your most carnivorous dinner guests will not be able to get enough of grilled cauliflower steaks.
- Mexican Corn on the Cob: This classic Mexican street food couldn't be easier to make at home. Charred, sweet, and smoky, it is a tasty warm-weather treat.
Salads and Salad Dressing
I would argue that no cookout is complete without a beautiful salad. From the light and fruity to the savory and robust, these salads are sure to become an essential part of your cookout spread.
- Cajun Potato Salad: This classic picnic salad has it all - creamy and crunchy with a spicy kick of Cajun spices. Everyone loves this riff on classic potato salad!
- Egg Salad: A true cookout staple. This straightforward recipe makes for an egg salad that is perfectly balanced in flavor and texture. Once you’ve mastered a few simple techniques, you will realize the secret to making the best egg salad.
- Spinach Salad with Bacon: Of all the Spinach salad recipes I have tried, this is hands down my favorite. Hearty enough to be a meal on its own but fits right in with your Memorial Day cookout spread. Tip: try swapping out the bacon for pork belly; you'll thank yourself.
- Spinach Strawberry Walnut Salad: With baby spinach, fresh strawberries, crunchy walnuts, salty, creamy feta and a wildly delicious strawberry vinaigrette, this is a show stopper of a salad that you'll want to make on repeat.
- Strawberry Vinaigrette: Fresh strawberries and strawberry preserves set this one apart from others like it. Brightly flavorful with a vibrant red color it's a homemade salad dressing that you'll find yourself wanting to use on all kinds of green salads and fruit salads this spring and summer.
- Italian Pasta Salad: It's an ideal picnic dish, but one that you can enjoy with any meal. This salad packs a diverse blend of flavors and textures and truly stands out, especially with its homemade Italian dressing.
- Summer Farro Salad: This one is packed with raw vegetables, pecans, farro, and peanut butter massaged kale. That's right, peanut butter massaged. Intrigued? You've got to try it.
- Italian Potato Salad: This is anything but your traditional potato salad. Red potatoes combined with cucumber, tomatoes, olives, capers, boiled eggs, herbs, oil, and vinegar for a lighter take on a cookout classic that is one can of tuna shy of a full meal.
- Strawberry Spinach Salad: Light, sweet, and tangy, this salad is ideal for your Memorial Day cookout. With four ingredients and a homemade dressing, you'll be asking how does such a small list of ingredients amount to such a big flavor?
- Tabouli Salad Recipe: You need not worry about leaving your vegetarian guests hungry this year. Bulgur wheat and a whole galaxy of Middle Eastern flavors make this salad delicious, hearty, and totally satisfying.
- Charlie Bird Farro Salad: This salad is famous for a reason. Toasted farro merged with an array of ingredients; it is as lovely to look at as it is to eat. The eclectic recipe somehow amounts to a wonderfully balanced and thoroughly delicious salad.
- Mexican Street Corn Salad: It is a salad in and of itself. But pile seafood or grilled meat on top and it’s a gorgeous meal.
Memorial Day is a time to get your money's worth out of your grill. Savory, juicy, tender meats charred over an open flame is a cookout done right.
- Spicy Grilled Shrimp: It's hard to go wrong with grilled shrimp—the simpler, the better, in my opinion. Choose your degree of spicy, thread them on a skewer for easy grilling, and enjoy within minutes.
- Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Kabobs: Juicy, tender, and full of flavor, I can all but guarantee these kabobs will be a hit at your cookout. I strongly recommend using fresh rosemary here. The dried stuff just falls short.
- Easy Grilled Lamb Chops Recipe: Lamb chops are fantastic on the grill and don't require much seasoning or marinating. There is very little prep time needed and even less time to cook (depending on how rare you prefer them).
- Grilled Shrimp Tacos: This is a delicious warm-weather dish with a kick. Juicy grilled shrimp in a warm tortilla topped with cabbage and radish slaw finished with a homemade shrimp taco sauce is a sure-fire way to bring smiles and full bellies.
- Grilled Chicken Thighs: This is the epitome of a no-fuss recipe. Just three ingredients, two of which you probably already have in your kitchen, and your grill. Whether you're feeding a crowd or need something easy on a busy weekday night, you can get a lot of mileage out of this recipe.
- Lamb Kabobs: While this one requires a small arsenal of herbs and spices, you’ll taste how this marriage of flavors comes together beautifully.
- Grilled Carne Asada: Perfectly executed, authentic carne asada is a beautiful thing. And that's precisely what this recipe delivers. Serve it on its own, make tacos or nachos, even throw it in a salad. Your meat-loving dinner guests will thank you.
- Grilled Tuna Steaks: Sear quick over a hot grill and enjoy these perfectly rare tuna steaks that harmonize beautifully with a sesame soy dipping sauce. I recommend going with sushi-grade Ahi tuna, although other types of tuna will work just fine.
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork: Cooking low and slow can deliver flavorful pulled pork that virtually melts in your mouth. When you are busy hosting a cookout, the set-it-and-forget-it nature of the slow cooker makes life a little easier on you.
- Crispy Pork Belly: When it's done right, pork belly is an absolute treat. Done wrong, not so much. It is all about the technique here. But this recipe is so simple and with such a high payoff that it's a must try.
- Pork Belly Sliders with Brioche Slider Buns: These sliders are decadent and loaded with irresistible Asian flavors. Homemade brioche slider buns piled high with slabs of Chashu Pork and crunchy slaw, then finished with a spicy, tangy sauce. You simply have to try this recipe!
Must-Have Bread and Condiments
Don't underestimate the power of bread and condiments made at home. It is easy to rely on the store-bought stuff until you realize just how quick and easy it is to make these things yourself. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
- Brioche Bun Recipe: Baking isn't everybody's forte, but there's nothing like fresh homemade bread. This recipe is so simple. It takes about ten minutes to prep. There's no need to knead. Be sure it will make a baker out of you yet.
- Brioche Slider Buns: You won't believe how easy it is to make brioche slider buns from scratch with this no-knead recipe. So fresh, fluffy and delicious, you'll never go back to the store bought version.
- Brioche Hot Dog Buns: Try these homemade hot dog buns and you'll never go back to the store-bought variety!
- Garlic Aioli: There are endless uses for garlic aioli. The traditional way of making aioli can be time-consuming, but with this immersion blender method, you can make deliciously creamy aioli in five minutes. (Use it to make Sriracha Aioli and/or Pesto Aioli too.)
- Quick and Easy Dill Pickles: Once you realize just how easy it is to make pickles at home, you're likely to make them a kitchen staple. Dilly, salty, and with a satisfying crunch, you will find plenty of use for them beyond the cookout.
- Homemade Mayonnaise: Making your own mayo is easier than you think. This recipe uses avocado oil and takes just minutes to make.
- Easy Sweet and Spicy Bread & Butter Pickles: As a condiment, topping, or snack, I love these tangy, crunchy pickles that pack a punch.
Essential Summer Desserts
Don't think of it as an indulgence. These deserts are an essential part of any cookout. Cookies, brownies, and pies, there's something for everyone.
- S'mores Brownies: If you're not sold on the name alone, just imagine a crunchy, creamy, fluffy bite of sweetness that you've loved since childhood. With this east ruff on the original, you don't even need a campfire.
- Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies: These cookies are crispy, chewy, and light as a cloud. The flavors come together in perfect unity, and with just a pinch of salt, they are irresistible.
- Cowboy Cookies: When it comes to cookies, I love lots of texture and flavor. These cookies are bursting with both. Crispy, chewy, chocolaty, nutty, and fruity, no two bites are the same.
- Fresh Strawberry Pie: If you’ve never had fresh strawberry pie, you’re missing out! This is my mother-in-law’s tried and true recipe.
Spending all day between the warm sun and a hot grill will have anybody crying out for a cold beverage. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Homemade Tonic Water: The ultimate gin and tonic starts with this homemade tonic water. It's all about finding the right balance between sweet and bitter without overpowering the flavor of the gin. It took me a while to settle on a recipe I could get excited about, but this is the one!
- Campari Spritz: This classic cocktail is ideal for a hot summer day. The bittersweet orange liquor is enlivened with effervescent prosecco—Swap Campari for Aperol for a slightly sweeter take.
- Rhubarb Cocktail: I love this sweet, herbaceous refresher. Floral and tart with a spike of rum, it tastes like summer feels. I'm more of a red wine kind of girl. But once rhubarb appears on the market shelf, I know I have to have this one.
- Non Alcoholic Sangria: it took me a while to develop a satisfying recipe for non-alcoholic sangria that wasn't basically sweet fruit juice. That is until I realized the secret: orange bitters. Together with fresh fruit, juices, and hibiscus tea, this mocktail tastes like the real thing.