We never turn down a Memorial Day weekend BBQ (or picnic, pool party, cookout...you get the picture). While we’re always up for eating hot dogs, hamburgers and watermelon wedges, they don’t exactly spark joy the millionth time around. So, put down the processed cheese slices, back away from the weenie buns and make room for mouthwatering cocktails, appetizers, mains, sides and desserts on your menu. Here are 55 Memorial Day recipes—from light and tangy coleslaw to grilled flank steak—that will make this year’s holiday one for the books. (P.S., here's how to create the ultimate backyard get-together—even if it's just you and your family.)
1. Boozy Lemonade Granita
The quintessential summer drink is all grown up. All you need to spike it is your favorite vodka or gin. Wow ’em with homemade lemonade and hollowed-out lemons for cups (or just use the store-bought stuff and serve it in one communal bowl).
2. Raspberry-Lime Champagne Punch
Fresh-squeezed limes and ripe raspberries add tart sweetness that seamlessly rounds out the vodka and wine. If you don’t want to splurge on Champagne, prosecco or cava will work just fine.
3. Rosemary Melonade
This alcohol-free blended drink is equal parts pretty and refreshing. It’s also loaded with pineapple, strawberries and watermelon, so just pretend it’s a fruit salad and have three.
4. Mint Lime Southern Sweet Tea
The recipe calls for green tea instead of black, giving it a lighter look and milder taste. Add lemonade to make an Arnold Palmer, or whiskey and honey for a quick cocktail.
5. Grapefruit Radler
When you want a fancy drink but don't feel like busting out the shaker, lean on the grapefruit radler. Just mix grapefruit juice with a little sugar, then pour in your favorite wheat beer.
6. Frozen Aperol Spritz
Frosé? We don't know her. This bev stars effervescent prosecco instead, which comes to life thanks to fresh citrus and a dash of Aperol.
7. 15-Minute Gazpacho with Cucumber, Red Pepper and Basil
This cold tomato soup couldn’t be any easier to make. Round up your produce, olive oil and seasoning, plop them in the food processor or blender and give it a whirl.
8. Aran Goyoaga’s Niçoise Salad
This has all the elements of an unforgettable summer salad. Goyoaga, a food photographer and blogger, uses bonito tuna, fried capers and dill in her version, inspired by her time spent in the Spanish fishing village of Bermeo.
9. Caprese Salad with Grilled Zucchini
What is it about caprese salad that never gets old? The trifecta of tomatoes, basil and mozz probably has something to do with it. We’ll give you two more reasons by adding grilled zucchini and a drizzle of balsamic.
10. Prosciutto-Wrapped Cantaloupe with Balsamic Glaze
Fruit salad is something everyone can get behind, even more so when its covered in strips of salty prosciutto. Store-bought glaze will work fine, but you can also reduce balsamic vinegar over medium heat to make your own.
11. 20-Minute Burrata Salad with Stone Fruit and Asparagus
Make sure your kids get a serving; between the sugar snap peas, plums, peaches and cherries, there’s bound to be something actually nutritious in there that they’ll like. (If not, there’s always the cheese.)
12. Grilled Peach and Halloumi Salad with Lemon-Pesto Dressing
No limp lettuce leaves here, folks. Think mixed greens, fresh basil and crisp green beans topped with charred summer peaches, salty halloumi and toasted pine nuts.
13. Fruicuterie Board
You won't need to work too hard at all to put together this stunning centerpiece. All the in-season stone fruits, melons and berries will handle the the heavy lifting.
14. 15-Minute Cucumber-Avocado Blender Soup
We can't decide what we love more, the uber-refreshing soup that takes minutes to whip up or the Asiago-encrusted baguette for dipping.
15. Avocado Chicken Salad
Ditch globby mayo for avocado and add scallions and celery for crunch. With a spritz of lemon, fresh dill and a whole lot of cracked black pepper, this spread is ready for crackers, sandwiches or a sneaky spoon.
16. Skillet Nacho Dip
This bubbling-hot app ground beef, onion, tomatoes, cheese, green onions, salsa and pickled jalapeños. Buy (or, dare we say, make) tortilla chips for dipping, put out the sour cream and your work is done.
17. Grilled Flatbread Pizza with Artichoke, Ricotta and Lemon
Homemade pizza just got way easier. Snag a few flatbreads from the supermarket, load them up with your favorite toppings and pop 'em right on the grill. This pie also subs ricotta for tomato sauce, and we’re never going back to marinara again.
18. Watermelon Feta Skewers
OK, we said no watermelon, but you have to try this dish. Summer’s official fruit mascot is teaming up with feta for a savory, smoky twist that you definitely don’t want to miss.
19. Mini Peach Tarts with Goat Cheese and Honey
Simple enough to whip up in 30 minutes (thanks, store-bought puff pastry), elegant enough that your guests will never know.
20. Loaded Baked Potato ‘Chips’
We have serious love for potatoes in all their forms, but this one may take the cake. You get bacon, cheddar cheese, potato and sour cream in every bite without having to commit to an entire spud.
21. Spicy Avocado Hummus
Break out the cherry tomatoes and pita chips, there’s a new dip at the barbecue. This hummus-guac hybrid has earthy nuttiness from tahini, plus spice from jalapeño and cayenne.
22. Roasted Poblano and Corn Guacamole
Come summer, we want charred corn on *everything*, and guac is no exception. It gives it a smoky je ne sais quoi we never get tired of.
23. Cuban Sliders
Aka the quickest way to feed a hungry crowd. Did we mention it'll only take you six ingredients?
24. BLT Tacos
White bread who? Swap it for taco-sized tortillas, bake a batch of thick-cut bacon and assemble. We use creamy avocado and a squirt of lime in place of mayo, but feel free to spread a layer on before adding the fillings.
25. Smoky Barbecued Corn
It’s tough to find a better mate for burgers, ribs and steak than sweet yellow corn. It’s even tougher to find a better match than this corn, which is charred on the fire before being spread with lime-chili mayo and dusted with Parmesan and smoked paprika.
26. Avocado and Black Bean Pasta Salad
No backyard shindig is complete without a chilled pasta salad. Just be sure to prepare it right before the party so the avocado remains nice and green once everyone starts making their plates.
27. Japanese Potato Salad with Eggs, Ham and Cucumbers
If your favorite part of any dish is the crunch, you’re in luck. This fun twist on potato salad calls for crispy cucumbers, peas and carrots, plus umami-rich Japanese mayo made with savory mushroom powder.
28. Light and Tangy Coleslaw
The party doesn’t start until the slaw walks in. This one has a zesty, acidic vinegar base (see ya, mayo) and pairs with everything from brisket to burgers to hot dogs. It also has all the vibrancy of cabbage, carrots and scallions that you won’t find in the store-bought kind.
29. Zoodles with Avocado and Mango Sauce
You’ll be shocked how quickly this “pasta” dish comes together. Spiralize two zucchinis, blend the tropical sauce (hey there, coconut milk and mango chunks) and combine. Then, get yourself a cold one and kick back on the patio.
30. Creamy Dilled Red Potato Salad
Chopped red onion offers crunch alongside semi-smashed potatoes and a sauce made from mayo, Greek yogurt and dill. Feel free to add celery or other crunchy bits, but we won’t blame you if you opt for less time at the cutting board.
31. Kale and Brussels Sprout Caesar Slaw
Make room for greens tossed in a Caesar-inspired dressing made from sunflower seeds, almonds, Dijon and lemon juice. Did we mention it calls for a whole cup of blue cheese? Yeah, that’s our kind of salad.
32. 5-Ingredient Smoked Gouda-Thyme Mac and Cheese
Can you eat barbecue without a heaping scoop of mac on the side? Sure, but we wouldn’t want to. This one stars smoky grated Gouda, which gives it a nutty, buttery component no one can complain about.
33. Roasted Cauliflower Sliders
One bite of this vegetarian sammy and you won’t miss the beef, we promise. The cauliflower slices are drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with smoked paprika and thyme and roasted until browned. Our favorite thing about this dish, though, is the spicy yogurt spread.
34. Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa
This recipe can be tackled year-round since it calls for the shrimp to be sautéed on the stove, but we'd be remiss to not suggest skewering and grilling them on the barbecue instead.
35. Slow-Cooker Pulled Chicken
Set it and forget it overnight so all you have to do on the big day is shred the chicken.
36. Grilled Flank Steak with Lemon-Herb Sauce
Let the steak chill in olive oil, Worcestershire, vinegar, garlic, chili powder and herbs for up to an hour. After grilling, let it rest for 15 minutes, then serve it with a zippy mix of mustard, lemon juice, fresh herbs and the secret ingredient, anchovies.
37. Grilled Jerk Chicken Cutlets with Mango Salsa
Here’s the tropical retreat you ordered. Jerk seasoning brings warm spices like cinnamon and cayenne to the table, and it just so happens to pair wonderfully with mango and lime juice. Serve with rice or mixed greens.
38. Bacon Cheddar Cheese Stuffed Burgers
Sick of the same old hockey-puck patties? Same. Mix bacon, shredded cheddar, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper into the ground beef for a caramelized, cheese-encrusted burger full of salty-savory goodness. Even better? They’re only five ingredients and 30 minutes away.
39. Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork
This sweet-and-spicy main works in sandwiches, salads, quesadillas or all by itself. The slow cooker also saves you from sweating over the stove on a hot summer day.
40. Smoked Ribs with Honey Butter Brown Sugar
If you’ve been dreaming about buying your own smoker, now’s the time. And this is an excellent way to break it in. Pork ribs turn melt-in-your-mouth soft after nearly seven hours, and these are seasoned with both dry rub and brown sugar-honey butter.
41. Camarones al Mojo de Ajo
Tender shrimp swimming in lemon-garlic butter is just the entree for an intimate alfresco dinner party. Serve them with plenty of bread or white rice to soak up the leftover sauce.
42. Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce
We have a big crush on tzatziki because it tastes good on pretty much everything. And once you know how to make it, it’s basically impossible to stop.
43. Pineapple Korean Chicken Thighs
Ready for a fresh take on grilled chicken? Dress it with ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic and gochujang. The recipe says to cook them in the oven, but we’re throwing those babies on the grill instead. (Bonus points for grilling the pineapple, too.)
44. Chickpea Burgers
These legumes can do so much more than just hummus. And making hand-formed patties out of them turns out to be beyond easy (don’t you just love the food processor?).
45. Crispy Baked Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
If you consider tilapia the boring white bread of the fish world, these tacos have a bone to pick with you. After being dredged in egg, taco seasoning and flour, they bake to maximum crunchiness before getting topped with sour cream and zesty slaw. Someone pass the lime wedges.
46. Mini Mason Jar Apple Pies
It wouldn’t be Memorial Day Weekend without an appearance from America’s signature dessert. We serve these Granny Smith- and Honeycrisp-filled cuties à la mode because, well…who wouldn’t? (Oh, and save time by using store-bought dough.)
47. Strawberry-Mango Hawaiian Shave Ice
It’s hot out there, y’all. Take a trip to Maui without ever leaving your backyard via a chilly blend of sugar, strawberries, mango and toasted coconut. No shave ice machine required.
48. Lemon Pie with Blueberry Meringue
We love a classic lemon pie, but one look at this one has us ready to abandon all things basic forever. This color combo inspires oohs and aahs every single time. The secret to that dreamy lavender meringue? Freeze-dried blueberries.
49. One-Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet
Have you met the easiest dessert on the face of the earth yet? She’s pleased to make your acquaintance. Cool off with this genius treat made from twice-frozen watermelon purée. No one will ever guess that it’s just pure fruit.
50. Mini Strawberry Ice-Cream Pies
Crumbly graham cracker-crust, warm roasted strawberries, a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sold yet? Good. Sprinkle on some blueberries for a patriotic finishing touch.
51. Cake Batter Dip
Your inner child’s tummy is grumbling. Confetti cake mix, powdered sugar and vanilla make for a crowd-pleaser the kids will be begging to have for their birthdays. (Don’t forget the sprinkles. Lots and lots of sprinkles.)
52. Peaches-and-Cream Ice Pops
Round up the ice-pop molds, it’s time for dessert. Brown sugar-cinnamon peaches start out by roasting in the oven, then get marbled with a vanilla-almond yogurt mix. Your favorite store-bought pops won’t know what hit them.
53. Strawberry Pie with Strawberry Crust
A pretty-in-pink crust dyed with freeze-dried berries is a surefire way to wow every single one of your guests (or you know, your roommate).
54. Lemon-Berry Sheet Pan Trifle
We modernized the old-school British treat by trading a crystal-cut bowl for an easy baking sheet. It's still got all the meringue, whipped topping and fresh fruit of the O.G.
55. No-Bake Berry Tiramisu
Some show their patriotism with flag tees and sparklers. We bake. This red-white-and-blue treat is a sweet centerpiece for your holiday spread, and sweeter still because it doesn’t need any time in the oven.