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50 recipes to celebrate the 4th of July — from finger foods to desserts

Need some inspiration for your Independence Day feast? We've got you covered.
Step up your Fourth of July spread with these desserts, drinks, sides, salads and barbecue recipes.
Step up your Fourth of July spread with these desserts, drinks, sides, salads and barbecue recipes.TODAY Illustration / Nathan Congleton / TODAY / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

What do you serve at a Fourth of July party? Whether it's a smaller gathering or a big backyard cookout, it's best to have all bases covered.

This means preparing some savory finger foods for guests to snack on upon arrival, a variety of salads (many of which are easy to make ahead), barbecue (one of the most popular Fourth of July foods) and, of course, dessert. And with scorching summer temperatures, it's always great to serve some refreshing beverages for folks of all ages to enjoy in addition to your holiday cocktails.

To celebrate our country's Independence Day, here are 50 of our best Fourth of July food ideas.

Finger foods

Brats in a Blanket

Brats in a Blanket

Jyll Everman

A twist on classic pigs in a blanket, these beer-boiled bratwursts are wrapped snugly in puff pastry and paired with a creamy beer cheese dipping sauce. One bite and you'll never go back to eating the traditional version again.

Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Buttery, creamy and cheesy — with bacon on top! — these potato bites are the perfect union of flavor and texture. Adding crushed potato chips and fresh chives to garnish takes this dish to the next level.

Briny capers and fresh dill are the perfect complement to rich and creamy egg yolks. Deviled eggs are timeless party starters that will never go out of style.

These meatballs have layers upon layers of flavor … literally. The onion shells help keep the meatballs moist and add both flavor and texture. You may need some extra napkins with all that juicy goodness (or just serve with toothpicks for easy eating).

Get a gorgeous dip on the table with Samah Dada's recipe. Smooth, creamy and flavorful, this can be an easy finger food for the Fourth served with a variety of sides, from pita chips to flatbread to crunchy and colorful veggies.

Cobb Salad in a Crispy Bacon Cup

Stuffed with creamy avocado, chopped egg, tomatoes and crisp lettuce, these bite-sized bacon cups are the perfect way to enjoy a classic Cobb salad.

Light, crunchy and oozing with cheesy mashed potatoes, this easy-to-make finger food for up to 12 people will be the fastest food in your spread to go.

Al's Grilled Vegetable Skewers

Al is a certified master of the grill and his veggies skewers are so delicious and easy to make, they might just become your favorite go-to summer side.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Meredith Brokaw

Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, fried green tomatoes are a quintessential summer staple. We recommend pairing these delicious bites with fresh homemade ranch dressing.

Mini Italian Tuna Tacos with Guacamole

These tuna tacos blend traditional Mexican and Italian flavors into tasty little bites that are perfect for entertaining.

Salads

"There's something so refreshing about the combination of juicy watermelon and salty feta," says Siri. "When you add sweet blueberries, you have the perfect, patriotic summer salad."

Layered Veggie Salad

Layered Veggie Salad

Robbie Shoults

Anyone who's a fan of a seven-layer dip will fall in love with this healthier version, chock-full of raw, fresh veggies and topped with some creamy, cheesy bacon. The layers look nice in a clear a bowl and the ingredients can be easily substituted with whatever produce you have on hand.

Raw Brussels sprouts, when shaved, provide a beautiful canvas for toasty walnuts and sharp cheeses, all tossed in a simple lemony dressing. It's a fresh, healthful salad that will go great with other festive Fourth of July foods.

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad

Grilled vegetables add a naturally smoky touch to this classic pasta salad tossed in a tangy vinaigrette originally created by chef Matt Abdoo's mom. (Mom always knows best!)

Icebox Pasta Salad

Icebox Pasta Salad

Elizabeth Heiskell

When you need to use whatever you have in the fridge, turn to this recipe. It's one of the best summer salad recipes with pasta. If you have red onion, a little piece of squash or zucchini, berries, peaches, apples or one random tomato, just throw it in there. Plus, it's great when made ahead because of the marination and best served at room temperature — making it one of those easy 4th of July recipes to bring to a potluck.

Adding tuna to pasta in a zippy vinaigrette is a great way to make this salad shine as an entrée. And with fresh herbs and red onion, it's a perfect foil to the heavier dishes on the table.

Fennel, Artichoke and Grapefruit Salad

Creamy avocado and juicy citrus form a perfect marriage in this lively summer salad recipe. There's no lettuce involved but plenty of flavor from fennel, artichoke and ricotta salata. Once tossed in a spicy mustard vinaigrette, this dish will make your taste buds pop!

Roasted Tomatoes with Strawberries

This unexpected duo is a match made in sweet, vibrant heaven. You can roast the tomatoes in advance and assemble the dish just before serving. You can use strawberries that are slightly underripe for this so the "green" flavor complements the sweetness of the tomatoes.

"This potato salad recipe has been in my family for at least three generations. Creamy, slightly sweet and a little zesty, it's a go-to side dish in my house. But I could honestly eat it as a meal all by itself for lunch," Sandra Lee says of this summer staple. "I just love it!"

Chef D's Potato Salad

Chef D's Potato Salad

Damon Stalworth

The mayo, the mustard, the pickled relish: Damon Stalworth's potato salad has all of the classic potato salad ingredients. A delightful addition to a rack of barbecued ribs slathered in sauce or a quick standalone lunch, this is a simple recipe mixed with hard-boiled eggs for a little extra protein.

Barbecue

Sweet, sticky, savory and tender, these teriyaki beef skewers definitely have it all! No matter when you serve them, they're sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

Just when you thought pulled pork couldn't get any better, Al spices things up with this sweet-and-savory recipe. Cooked slowly for hours and tossed in a spicy vinegar sauce, this pulled pork recipe has a truly tropical twist.

This on-theme burger is loaded with flavorful marmalade and aioli and is a great choice if you opt for this traditional Fourth of July food.

Red White & Bleu Chicken Burger

Don't want beef? This tasty chicken recipe is easy to make for a crowd because you won't constantly be taking temps for everyone's burger order. You just grill the chicken and assemble with melty blue cheese and red pickled onion.

Barbecue chips plus barbecue sauce equals the ultimate barbecue recipe. Here, Sunny Anderson brines bone-in pork chops, grills them, lightly dunks them in a classic barbecue sauce and dredges them in crushed barbecue-flavored kettle chips.

Smoked BBQ Ribs

Smoked BBQ Ribs

Ed Mitchell

Pitmaster Ed Mitchell knows his way around a smoker. His smoked barbecue pork ribs are surprisingly easy to prepare and are fall-off-the-bone tender.

Al's BBQ Brisket

Rub brisket with Al's favorite spice mix, then let it rest overnight before cooking. The end result is a super juicy, smoked brisket that will definitely be the hit of the cookout.

For an authentic Tennessee barbecue pulled pork sandwich experience, all you need is just a bun, a pile of meat and a squirt of sauce. Take things up a notch by topping it with some pickles, coleslaw, herbs or potato chips for crunch.

BBQ Shrimp Skewers

Looking for something a little lighter for Fourth of July? These succulent shrimp will be a bright and zesty addition to your summer spread.

Beer-Marinated Grilled Chicken

Marinating chicken in beer makes it extra tender and juicy. It also lets the bold spices and aromatics soak deep into the meat for added flavor.

Drinks

Martha Stewart's Iced Red Tea

"Iced tea with orange and lemon slices is one of my favorite summer drinks," Martha Stewart says about this refreshingly citrusy drink.

Thai Iced Tea

The base of this comforting-yet-refreshing drink is black tea with spices like vanilla, cloves and cardamom added in. It's supposed to be super sweet and is served over a ton of ice, but by making it at home you can control the amount of sweetness as a chilled non-alcoholic treat for friends and family.

Ginger Hibiscus Mocktail

This vibrant, icy drink has a sweet flavor from the hibiscus flowers and a bit of pep from the ginger ale. You can garnish it with fresh mint leaves and lemon or add your own Fourth of July spin by tossing in some blackberries or blueberries.

Kick off your Independence Day gathering with a refreshing summer sip. This colorful lemonade-stand upgrade is sure to hit the spot.

Sunny's Grilled Coconut Lemonade

Grilling the lemons for lemonade adds a subtle smokiness to the most summery of drinks, and the coconut cream adds a tropical taste. The two simple changes take this classic refresher to the next level.

Grapefruit Spritz

Grapefruit Spritz

Jordan Salcito

This is a non-alcoholic take on a wine spritz. Grapefruit is always refreshing in a spritz and an extra dry ginger ale keeps the drink bright. The bitters ensure balance.

The Happy Berry

Kids may love juice boxes but by simply mixing your favorite berries and water in the blender, you can welcome the little ones at your Fourth of July bash with a fresh and nutritious treat.

A cold glass of lemonade is so refreshing on a hot summer day. My favorite recipes are full of lemon flavor. This one uses the fruit in three ways: its juice, fresh slices, and a syrup cooked with the rinds," says Martha Stewart.

Ginger-Orange Mocktails

Make a big pitcher of this light, fizzy and flavorful drink. The prep is easy with just three ingredients. Just pour them together and mix!

Mint Lemonade

Mint Lemonade

Maureen Petrosky

A handful of ingredients is all you need to make this delicious summer drink that's like a mint julep for the whole family to enjoy.

Desserts

Sunny's Easy Patriotic Poke Cake

Poke cakes are super simple, taste great and make for a very pretty slice on the plate. Sunny Anderson decorates hers with vibrant red and blue berries with swirls of red and blue sauce inside the vanilla and sour cream-frosted cake.

This recipe is fun, festive and simple for kids to follow. It's the perfect treat to bring to any summer barbecue or pool party. Just beware of the sugar high.

Siri Daly's Rice Cereal Star Pops

This recipe shakes up classic Rice Krispies treats with flag-colored sprinkles, fun shapes and lollipop sticks.

Despite being a showstopper when presented to guests, this recipe is super simple to make and tastes incredible with cool, creamy vanilla balancing the gently tart huckleberry all sandwiched between a warm, chewy sugar doughnut.

Independence Ice Cream Cake

We're big fans of shortcut desserts, which is why this recipe is one of our favorites! Make the cake look even more impressive by piping the whipped cream on top using a large star-shaped piping tip.

Watermelon Dessert 'Pizza'

Equal parts thirst-quenching and indulgent! Watermelon "pizzas" are made using thick slices of baby watermelon (it's prime season, after all) and are such an easy way to serve dessert. You can set up a mix and match toppings bar so guests can make their own, too.

Red, White & Blue Popsicles

Who doesn't love a popsicle, especially when it's made with real fruit? They're easy to eat, a fun dessert and are color customized to suit the patriotic summer celebration.

Strawberry Ice Cream Pie

Strawberry Ice Cream Pie

Alex Guarnaschelli

"I love baking a fresh pie crust and then just filling it with fresh fruit and ice cream. It's simple and really takes me back to my childhood," Alex Guarnaschelli said of her summery recipe. "I think strawberry ice cream works best with a drizzle of aged or reduced balsamic vinegar for some grown-up acidity. If you want to get even more into summer, top the berries with some fresh basil or mint leaves."

Red, White and Blueberry Pie

An easy, no-bake pudding pie is almost simple enough for kids to make on their own. From the beginning to end, this recipe is perfect for summertime fun for kids in the kitchen.

Bacon S'mores

Bacon S'mores

Dan Whalen

Is it really a summer gathering without s'mores? How about bacon s'mores? Thick-cut bacon has a similar structure as the graham cracker and adds a whole bunch of flavor dimension for the salty-sweet fans out there.