Memorial Day is almost here, which means so are barbecues, beach days and all the other glorious activities that come with summer's unofficial start. However you're planning to spend your Memorial Day weekend, choosing the right dishes to help you sink your teeth into all that sunshine, is imperative. So we are here tohelp!
Hosting a big barbecue blowout? Become a pitmaster with grilled chicken and steak in sweet and zesty marinades, light seafoods, veggies and more. Hitting up someone else's get-together? Choose a few make-ahead dishes, from pasta salads to shrimp po'boys, that'll easily transfer wherever the fun takes you. We promise, the host will be seriously impressed! Hanging at home with family and enjoying the (fingers crossed) fabulous weather? Gather up the season's best and brightest and make a spread that will make everyone feel like the school days ahead are numbered.
While it's easy to turn to old classics like hot dogs, burgers, potato salads and such, it's so much fun to try inventive spins and flavorful takes on what summer tastes like. In this roundup, you'll find peak summer produce highlighted in recipes like a Spain's take on Mexican street corn and a salad with plump tomatoes, charred corn and Middle Eastern halloumi cheese. Pasta salads get upgrades with exciting ingredients (hello, BLT!) and even the burgers get a wildly delicious makeover with oozing cheese centers.
It may sound like professional-grade stuff, but we promise all these recipes are easy to make for every skill level at any cookout. All that'll be left to do is make Memorial Day desserts — and enjoy!
Appetizers and sides worth celebrating
This spin on pasta salad has bright citrus flavors, smoky and spicy notes from the chiles and loads of freshness from an assortment of vegetables. The best part about this recipe, other than the fact that its flavor improves as it sits in the fridge, is that you can customize it, adding whatever vegetables or pasta you have on hand.
Is it a salad, a dip or cornbread? Well, it's all three! This wonderful trifle is bursting with sweet corn, crunchy bell peppers, sharp and creamy cheeses and salty bacon. It can be served in a clear dish for a fun appetizer or on the side of your main dish.
This recipe calls for slow-roasting a pork butt on the grill for the ultimate nachos recipe — but, truth be told, you can still use this skillet-on-the-grill technique to whip up any variation of the popular appetizer. It's all about layering the chips with an even distribution of cheese and toppings for a great bite every time.
Maíz rustido is Spain's version of Mexican street corn. Like its south-of-the-border counterpart, this sweet corn is charred and served with salty cheese, smoky spices and zesty citrus. It will be on the plate in less than 30 minutes.
There's something undeniably refreshing about the combination of juicy watermelon and salty feta. When you add sweet blueberries, you get the perfectly patriotic summer salad.
Samin Nosrat loves this recipe because she believes that cooking a bunch of vegetables is one of the most luxurious things you can do for someone. She enjoys showing people that simple, humble ingredients can be extraordinarily delicious.
We love how this corn gives you a combination of sweet, spicy, smoky and salty all in one bite! Creating such a range of flavor notes makes it a shoe-in at any party, especially if you're bringing a dish and don't know what else is on the menu.
Alex Guarnaschelli turns to a combination of tomatoes and strawberries for this uniquely sweet salad. You can roast the tomatoes in advance and assemble the dish just before serving. We like strawberries that are slightly under-ripe for this because that “green” flavor note complements the tomatoes.
Corn relish has traditionally been eaten throughout the South and stored in the larder for leaner months. Bryant Terry's family has found multiple uses for this tangy condiment: stuffing it into tacos, serving it atop beans and simply sautéing it to serve as a side dish.
No need to boil water to prep this no-cook grain salad! Couscous just needs to be rehydrated before serving. For this recipe, you'll combine the couscous with a few staple pantry ingredients, then let it soak in the dressing for a couple hours (or even overnight, if you'd like to prep it in advance). Serve it chilled or room temperature — no heat required!
Simpler than quiche, this veggie-filled summer galette is a beauty on the table. It's perfect for potlucks as it can be put out as an appetizer, side dish or a main for those who don't want meat.
Using steamed potatoes from the bag saves time and makes potato salad prep quick and easy. Then just toss them with a simple dressing, charred onions for a sweet and smoky flavor and you'll be on your way.
A colorful salad that's a mix of different vegetables hits the spot on a steamy summer evening. Everything can be prepped ahead of time and, while the recipe serves six, is easy to double for a larger gathering.
Kardea Brown loves Southern-style mac and cheese because it's cheesy and hearty, yet sturdy. It's basically a custard-style baked macaroni and cheese with eggs, heavy cream and sharp cheddar cheese. There's no denying this dish is irresistible — your fellow potluckers will agree.
It's true — everything is better with bacon! In this recipe, the beloved BLT sandwich is transformed into pasta perfection. It's a unique and versatile dish that can be a side at barbecues or an entrée all on its own.
As vibrant as it is fresh, this salad is all about using ripe, in-season ingredients. Juicy tomatoes, cool watermelon and zesty herbs make this summery salad sing. It's also best served at room temperature, so there's no need to occupy extra space in the fridge.
Need something to satiate your guests while you tend to the grill? Whip up this classic dip in no time and serve as a snack with store-bought or homemade tortilla chips or raw vegetable crudités.
This recipe is really tasty and easy to throw together for a picnic or an afternoon barbecue. It lasts for days in the fridge, too, so you can make it a few days before your picnic without worrying about a soggy salad.
The fruity sweetness of the brown sugar and peach preserves complement the smokiness of the bacon and bourbon in these baked beans. They're always the first side dish to go at any barbecue.
Loaded with sweet and spicy pickled vegetables to go along with the herby and briny feta dip, this platter requires only a few minutes of cooking, which means you'll have a cool kitchen while preparing a veggie-packed dish that is light, fresh and robust in flavor.
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, this is a simple recipe mixed with hard-boiled eggs for a little extra protein.
This recipe uses everything in the icebox. If you have red onion, a little piece of squash or zucchini, leftover chicken, berries, peaches, apples or one random tomato, throw it in there. This is also amazing the next day and delicious at room temperature, so it's a great option for a make-ahead dish that doesn't need to be packed in a cooler.
This recipe is as seasonal as it gets! Tomatoes are at their peak right now, and so is sweet and juicy corn. It couldn't be a better time to throw all these seasonal vegetables together to make a delicious salad. Add a little Middle Eastern flair to the salad with grilled halloumi. Halloumi is the only cheese you can grill, and once you grill it, it changes its texture and flavors completely, which goes so well with the rest of the salad. Make this super simple but super flavorful salad for your next party!
Jet Tila loves this recipe because it's an easy way to get delicious vegetables onto your cookout menu (if you're already grilling meats, why not throw some veggies on there, too?). Grilling is the fastest and tastiest way to cook vegetables.
Valerie Bertinelli's go-to recipe for warm-weather entertaining, this recipe no-cook, full of flavor, only requires a few ingredients. All the elements pair so well together and make for an easy and impressive starter or side dish.
No mayo alert! This Japanese-inspired pasta salad is filled with edamame, carrots and bell peppers, and its dressing is made with miso, ginger, soy and sesame. It gets better as it sits, which means it's perfect for picnics.
This slaw is straightforward and simple so as not to distract or take away from whatever main dish is being served at mealtime. But the subtle tang, sweetness and creaminess of this slaw will surely enhance the flavors of a great batch of fried chicken.
Grilled Mexican street corn is an exciting way to kick up the all-time favorite summer side! It adds so much flavor, you may never be satisfied with just butter ever again.
The main event
"Jerk chicken is spicy by nature. What was once a method of preparing food surreptitiously by Jamaican Maroons has become Jamaica's greatest contribution to the culinary canon: a tapestry of flavors, aromatics and spices," says Kwame Onwuachi. To cool it down, serve it with his coconutty Braised Cabbage and Carrots.
We love grilled steak in the summer, and this recipe with chimichurri sauce is a great way to change it up. The sauce is fresh, zippy and packed with fresh herbs like parsley and oregano, plus garlic and shallots, so it's really the ideal accompaniment to a range of meats and seafood, from chicken to heart swordfish to other cuts of beef and pork. Personally, the strong, bright flavors taste the best when balanced by the natural smokiness that comes from grilling proteins over a flame. So when looking for healthy spring and summer recipes, look no further.
This summer, salad is getting dressed up and upgraded from starter to main course. In this recipe, I use a blend of lettuce and radicchio to create a balanced salad with a slight bite, topping it with seared steak, pears and cucumbers. To bring it all together, the salad is tossed in a creamy, sharp, garlicky blue cheese dressing.
These burgers are incredibly easily to make and packed with so much flavor. "Every single person who has ever tried them loves them!" says Ronnie Woo.
No guest would ever guess this make-ahead steak recipe took only 30 minutes. It's great for entertaining since you can put the meat in the marinade and prep the sauce the day before to make cooking and serving a cinch.
Grill up perfect pork chops with just four easy ingredients for a sweet and savory dish that no one will be able to resist.
The secret to moist, tender, evenly cooked chicken is roasting it in the oven, then finishing it on the grill. Roasting the bird in halves cooks it evenly while locking in the juices and also intensifies the marinade flavors.
Pulled pork with barbecue sauce isn't just a dish — it's a technique. Browning and braising are core techniques that should be applied to tougher cuts of meat to make them fancy and tender.
The slaw is a flavorful, healthy, comforting and has the Asian flavors we all love. It's as tangy as it is creamy, with the apples adding a natural sweetness. It pairs perfectly with the pulled pork.
Don't let the long list of ingredients fool you: This burger is easy to put together. The multiple layers of flavors in the meaty burger start by making our homemade barbecue seasoning, which is a simple mixture of dried spices and herbs like paprika, cumin, chili powder, sugar and some fresh garlic and onion. Blended into the signature tangy sauce made from a burger lover's favorites (ketchup, mustard, hot sauce honey and more) and topped with cheese and zesty pickles make the extra effort of measuring and mixing well worth it. It's a comfort meal tailor-made for summertime.
This pizza incorporates so many fresh summer flavors and puts a bright spin on a traditional pie. The seasonal veggies and rich walnut pesto are an irresistible combination. Cooking the pizza on the grill makes it even more summery and adds a deliciously smoky char to the dough.
This refreshing salad tastes like summer on a plate. The bright citrus, sweet watermelon and grilled shrimp really showcase the light and fresh flavors of the season.
Grilling over charcoal is the favored way to cook most fish and seafood in Ghana — especially along the Accra coastline where there is an abundance of fresh seafood, and up into the region alongside Lake Volta. This recipe is inspired by Zoe Adjonyoh's experience in Jamestown, Accra, where she watched local fishermen hauling in their catches.
JJ Johnson loves cooking with Peruvian-style adobo sauce. This recipe features the unexpected sweetness of rice vinegar along with West African palm sugar, known for its rich, caramel flavor.
Grilled salmon is a healthy dish that doesn't always get to shine come Memorial Day amid the smoked meats and dogs. But with only 10 minutes prep time and 10 minutes on the grill, it's totally worth making and is great for a lighter spread.
Tired of the same old burger? Stuff it with your favorite cheese and smoky bacon for an over-the-top inside-out bacon cheeseburger.
According to Bobby Flay, you can create a delicious, multi-purpose barbecue sauce with ingredients you most likely already have on hand.
"My husband Ryan taught me this technique with the foil and I'll never make ribs any other way!" says Katie Lee Beigel. "It's so easy and foolproof."
Bobby Flay loves to make pork chops on the grill. They only need a little seasoning and a flavorful sauce on the side to make them so satisfying and delicious.
When entertaining, Siri Daly is a big fan of setting up topping bars so that guests can help themselves. In the summer, nothing is more fun or festive than a hot dog bar … except maybe grilling those toppings in foil, making cleanup a breeze!
Spice up the grill with this easy seafood dish. These shrimp have an amazing smoky flavor due to the charring of the chili in the marinade. It takes ordinary to extraordinary, plus the marinade uses only six simple ingredients.
There is chili, and then there is chili from the grill. Cooking the ingredients in an open searing hot Dutch oven in a covered grill allows the ingredients to get both a flavorful browning without losing any natural juices to the flames and plenty of smoky flavor. The result is a complex, delicious chili — perfect as a hot dog topping.
Rich, dark maple syrup, smoky spices, and fresh lime juice add sweet and sour contrast to this easy steak-and-salad combo. The maple caramelizes on the grill as it cooks, adding savory charred flavor and beautiful grill marks.
These ribs get infused with a ton of flavor from a wet rub and grilling process. Damon Stalworth loves serving these tasty ribs with summery salads, seasonal grilled veggies and traditional barbecue sides like baked beans, potato salad or mac and cheese.
Make the chicken a day or two in advance, whip up a super simple, two-ingredient slaw and then bring the buns to assemble well-stacked sandwiches at the barbecue.
This recipe is the perfect sweet heat, sticky baby back rib for anytime of year — but it tastes especially sweet at the start of summer.
This spicy, herby chicken is full of bright, zesty flavors and is very easy to make. The yogurt tenderizes the chicken as it marinates, making the meat very tender. It goes with everything — but is especially nice with pita or other flatbread bread and a big cucumber-tomato salad.
Here’s a plant-based paella bursting with bright, Spanish flavors. The chickpeas provide the protein. Tradition calls for cooking the veggies right in the paella pan, not directly on the grill, but live fire intensifies their color and flavor.
Nothing says summer by the beach like a classic New England lobster roll. It's refreshing and satisfying and, for Will Gilson, always brings back memories of summertime with his family. Buttery, toasty buns filled with creamy lobster salad make the perfect lunch for a day spent lounging by the ocean.
Whether you're planning to entertain all summer long or are craving some spice in your life, these wings will be there to make you feel as if you're on a much-needed tropical vacation. Just be prepared to eat a lot of them — they're addicting.
Transform your usual turkey burgers with just a few easy ingredients. Soy sauce, cilantro, water chestnuts and a few other pantry staples add a ton of flavor and terrific texture to these easy-to-make burgers.
Shrimp rolls have all the fresh, summery, seafood flavors as a lobster roll but are more economical. Plus, shrimp is more readily available than lobster and just as delicious.