Memorial Day weekend is one of our favorite times to get together with friends and family — it’s an important moment of both remembrance and celebration, and it marks the unofficial start to summer. This year, we’ve found a bunch of options that mix up traditional Memorial Day recipes with more adventurous, bolder flavors, giving you a range of options (while always steering clear of refined grains and sugars).
We’ve divided these Memorial Day recipes into easy-to-peruse categories, from appetizers to drinks and desserts, and also separated make-ahead recipes from those that are grilled and served immediately. We think that cooking should be for everyone, so the recipes we’ve selected here should work pretty easily for most home cooks — with the exception of the popsicles, which require a silicone mold, they don’t need any special equipment or advanced skills. Most of these recipes are fairly easy and quick to make, so if the person wearing the apron is as good a grill master as they claim to be, these Memorial Day recipes should be simple, fun, healthful, and delicious.
It’s always a good idea to have some healthy, tasty snacks on hand because they’re the best way to avoid blood sugar spikes that lead to hanger (and the resulting, wildly unnecessary family feuds). With lots of fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and big flavors ranging from deviled eggs to grilled shishito peppers, we’ve found some great ways to kick off your cookout.
1. Caprese Skewers
Exactly like a Caprese salad, but in tiny skewer form so it’s easier to snack on while standing up at an outdoor party. You can also swap the tomato out for cubed watermelon and add sliced serrano peppers on top for a fun play on the original.
Try the recipe from Bellyfull.
2. Buffalo Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs are among our favorite appetizers (especially since we started swapping out the mayo for Greek yogurt) but sometimes it’s fun to add an unexpected-but-familiar flavor, like buffalo sauce and blue cheese.
Try the recipe from Cupcakes and Kale Chips.
3. Mexican Guacamole
This guacamole from excellent recipe author Charbel of My Latina Table is delicious, easy, and authentic. Serve with classic tortilla chips, or opt for crudités like sliced bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, and zucchini sticks.
Try the recipe from My Latina Table.
4. Roasted Beet Dip
This delicious beet dip adds a festive splash of color to any table. This recipe is delicious on its own, but if you want to make it even creamier, you could add a half-cup of cannellini beans or some goat cheese.
Try the recipe from Always Nourished.
5. Shishito Peppers with Lemon-Yogurt Dipping Sauce
Shishito peppers are the fun snack version of Russian roulette because every tenth pepper tends to be spicy, and you never know if you’re going to be the lucky winner. They’re also a great bang for your buck — we usually find them at the local grocery for $4 a pound, and you can often get them at Costco for even cheaper.
Try the recipe from Vindulge.
6. Grilled Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp cocktail is always a hit at any party but doesn’t exactly keep well under the summer sun, so the make-ahead version is a bit of a gamble. In this version, you get a great appetizer to kick off grill time, and the shrimp are sure to get passed around and eaten the second they’re cooked.
Try the recipe from Garlic and Zest.
7. Peri-Peri Chicken Wings
Peri-peri is a spice blend that originated in Mozambique, and it’s fantastically hot and flavorful — but not at all hard to find. (You can pick up a bottle of peri-peri sauce from Trader Joe’s these days.)
Try the recipe from Chili Pepper Madness.
8. Grilled Jalapeño Poppers
Jalapeño poppers are a familiar sports bar favorite, but this unbreaded version is much healthier and just as delicious. Consider mixing Greek yogurt-based cream cheese with the Boursin for fewer calories and a creamier texture.
Try the recipe from Well Seasoned Studio.
9. Grilled Halloumi
Halloumi is a semi-hard sheep’s cheese that hails from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, and it’s pretty unquestionably the most grilling-friendly cheese ever invented. Salty, tangy, and mild, everyone is sure to love this cheese — which can be enjoyed on its own or added to basically any salad.
Try the recipe from Healthy Recipes.
10. Spanish Tortilla
The classic tortilla is a national dish of Spain, and it’s absolutely perfect for a party. You can make this cold, creamy omelet the day before, then slice it into cubes and serve it with toothpicks.
Try the recipe from Spanish Sabores.
Is it just us, or are the side dishes always the secret star of any meal? At Thanksgiving, we’re always just as excited about the mashed potatoes as we are the turkey, and when it comes to a cookout, we’re just as thrilled about sides like watermelon feta salad and asparagus rafts as we are about the main course, whether that’s coconut milk shrimp skewers or steak tacos.
11. Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)
If you like elote (the beloved grilled Mexican street corn that always makes a great grilling companion), you’ll love esquites, the off-the-cob variation that works beautifully as a summer salad. This is one of our favorite Memorial Day recipes because it’s got so many fun flavors but is such an easy crowd-pleaser.
Try the recipe from Serious Eats.
12. Herb and Mustard Potato Salad
Potato salads don’t have to be a heavy, mayonnaise affair — we love this incredibly simple, vegan-friendly play on a German potato salad.
Try the recipe from Mad About Food.
13. Thai Green Papaya Salad
This green papaya salad is perfectly balanced and holds up well in the heat, which makes it an ideal side dish for a cookout.
Try the recipe from Hot Thai Kitchen.
14. Watermelon Feta Salad
Tangy and sweet, this salad is packed with mint, which actually tricks your brain into making you feel cooler — which is a great idea in the heat.
Try the recipe from Tori Avery.
15. French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese
A classic salad with a bright, zingy dressing, this is a great option to have on hand as both a side dish and a vegetarian main option.
Try the recipe from Once Upon a Chef.
16. Green Bean Salad with Balsamic Basil Vinaigrette
If you’re looking for a salad that can really stand up to the heat, look no further: a green bean salad is the way to go. Make sure to blanch the green beans for just two minutes and no longer — you want these to stay crispy-tender, not fully cooked.
Try the recipe from Carl’s Bad Cravings.
17. Spring Quinoa with Asparagus, Peas & Pickled Onion
This perfectly seasonal, protein-packed recipe is delicious as-is, but it can also easily be made vegan — just leave out the boiled egg and replace the Greek yogurt in the dressing with avocado.
Try the recipe from Love and Lemons.
18. Spicy Cucumber Salad
This simple, flavor-packed side is a great option to bring if you’re invited to a cookout and don’t know what else is going to be on the table. Chances are it’ll be a quiet hit, and there’s no chance you’ll steal the thunder from someone’s aunt’s traditional potato salad.
Try the recipe from Eat Well 101.
19. Grilled Asparagus Rafts
Asparagus is one of our favorite seasonal vegetables, but grilling it can be a tricky affair that requires expert use of tongs… unless you just skewer a bunch of asparagus together into these ingenious rafts.
Try the recipe from Leite’s Culinaria.
20. Grilled Zucchini with Balsamic Glaze
Simple, delicious, tasty, and healthful, this is a crowd-pleasing side that highlights one of our favorite summer vegetables.
Try the recipe from Healthy Seasonal Recipes.
21. Grilled Eggplant Salad with Freekeh
This Middle Eastern-inspired eggplant salad could be made ahead of time, but it would also be amazing served warm right off the grill.
Try the recipe from Feasting at Home.
22. Miso Corn on the Cob
With just six ingredients, this miso corn on the cob is seriously simple to make — but it’s an absolute umami bomb.
Try the recipe from Two Spoons.
From grass-fed burgers to mushroom tikka skewers, these Memorial Day recipes run a wide gamut of flavors and protein sources. We found a few less-expected plant-based options, pescatarian choices, and plenty of white and red meat, so there’s something for everyone.
23. Citrus-Marinated Steak Tacos
These steak tacos are bright, delicious, and crowd-pleasing. You can marinate the flat iron steak the night before so that it’s flavor-infused and perfectly tender for the grill.
Try the recipe from Foodie Crush.
24. Hawaiian-Inspired Chickpea Burgers
Plant-based eaters will be grateful for an option like these protein-packed, well-spiced chickpea burgers topped with pineapple and avocado — instead of another marinated portabella mushroom cap.
Try the recipe from Emilie Eats.
25. Grilled Chicken and Grape Kebabs
Grilled grapes might sound strange, but they’re incredibly delicious — and they’re excellent with chicken. This recipe calls for chicken breast, but we’d consider subbing for chicken thighs, which have a higher fat content that tends to do better on the grill.
Try the recipe from A Farm Girl’s Dabbles.
26. Coconut Milk Shrimp Skewers
Fried coconut shrimp is a tasty, classic appetizer, but it won’t win any awards for its health benefits. Consider this marinated, grilled version, which is more delicate, just as delicious, and totally healthful — so it makes a great main dish.
Try the recipe from Grilling 24/7.
27. Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps
Swap the sugar for honey, and these lettuce wraps. They can also easily be made into a low-carb option by simply leaving out the rice.
Try the recipe from Good Life Eats.
28. Marinated Grilled Salmon
If you really like your guests (or you’re hosting a smaller party) consider making a big plank of grilled salmon. Serve with the skin-on or remove to serve over salad.
Try the recipe from Recipe Tin Eats.
29. Lamb Kofta
A Middle Eastern dish, kofta is made using ground meat — in this case, spring lamb. We love the rich spices (not to mention how fun it is to eat off a skewer).
Try the recipe from Caroline’s Cooking.
30. Blackened Grouper
A classic dish in the south (especially in Florida), there are technically a ton of different ways to prepare grouper, but the only one we really acknowledge is blackening, which is just the most flavorful.
Try the recipe from Taste of the South.
31. Grass-Fed Burgers
It’s a cookout — don’t overthink it. Make classic burgers using grass-fed beef, which has been shown to have higher concentrations of a variety of vitamins and minerals and a lower fat content than grain-finished.
Try the recipe from Healthy Recipes.
32. Herbed Honey Mustard Chicken Breasts
Honey mustard chicken is a true crowd-pleaser. Serve with whole grain buns for healthful sandwiches or sliced for salads.
Try the recipe from Simply Scratch.
33. Plant-Based Mushroom Tikka Skewers
These mushroom skewers rely on almond milk yogurt and plenty of spices to infuse these mushrooms with a big, bold flavor. An excellent plant-based option that vegan guests are sure to love.
Try the recipe from Cook With Manali.
34. Marinated Fish Skewers
These skewers can be made with any of a variety of white fish, so they’re flexible, tasty, and seriously budget-friendly. We love the spice blend, which is inspired by Middle Eastern Sephardic Jewish cooking.
Try the recipe from Tory Avery.
These desserts range from creamy frozen treats to hot-off-the-grill delicacies, but they all have one thing in common: they use zero refined sugar. Some of them get a little extra sweetening boost from honey, maple syrup, or dates, but many others derive their sweetness solely from the best source possible: fresh fruit.
35. Creamy Coconut and Mixed Berry Popsicles
These DIY popsicles are as pretty as they are tasty (and they’re way better for you than store-bought). For a vegan option, just swap maple syrup for the honey. To make them especially belong among Memorial Day recipes, layer strawberries and blueberries for a patriotic effect.
Try the recipe from Forks Knives Swoon.
36. Fudgy Almond Butter Blondies
Made with tons of almond butter and coconut flour, these blondies are definitely protein-packed — and while they’re 100% sweetened (hi, maple syrup and coconut sugar) they contain exactly zero refined sugar.
Try the recipe from Ambitious Kitchen.
37. No-Bake Fruit Pizza
With a crust made out of dates and cashews, a creamy filling made from Greek yogurt, and an array of fresh fruit on top, this has to be one of the healthiest pizza recipes we’ve ever seen.
Try the recipe from The Healthy Toast.
38. Blueberry Pie Bars
No added sugar or oil is needed to make these gooey blueberry pie bars, which are sweetened only with fruit — and taste fantastic.
Try the recipe from Oatmeal With A Fork.
39. 4-Ingredient Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Making homemade ice cream is a fun project, but it takes ages and the result is often not what you’d hoped for. This strawberry frozen yogurt, on the other hand, is foolproof, fast, and super healthy. Win/win/win.
Try the recipe from A Sweet Pea Chef.
40. Homemade Fudgesicles
These fudge popsicles are rich and delicious, but the ingredients are pretty wholesome. They’re totally worth shelling out for some silicone molds (you’ll use them all summer long anyway).
Try the recipe from Gluten Free On a Shoestring.
41. Grilled Figs with Balsamic Glaze and Goat Cheese
This is one of those dishes that tastes incredible, is seriously elegant, and is basically impossible to mess up. It’s a perfect dessert, but it could also be served as an appetizer (or you could do both).
Try the recipe from Against All Grain.
42. Grilled Stone Fruit with Honey Lemon Yogurt Sauce
Stone fruits like peaches, plums, and apricots take beautifully to the grill. Dust a little cinnamon and cardamom in the pit for a little added flavor.
Try the recipe from Jessica Levinson.
These thirst-quenching beverages will keep your crowd hydrated and happy. The alcohol-free blends are great for everyone (and also make excellent mixers) and the cocktails are super low-ABV patio sippers. We like to keep a two-gallon dispenser filled with water on hand, too, just to make sure everyone’s staying hydrated in the heat. If you feel like getting fancy with it, you can throw in a couple slices of cucumber and some lemon rounds, too.
43. Peach Iced Tea
Like a Southern sweet tea, but without all the refined sugar (and a big hit of fresh, juicy peach flavor). This is a wonderful drink on its own, but could easily be made into a cocktail with a splash of bourbon.
Try the recipe from Hungry Healthy Happy.
44. Watermelon Agua Fresca
This is an incredibly refreshing summertime drink. We like to throw in a few handfuls of mint before blending and simply leave out the sugar (honestly, watermelon is sweet enough on its own). This is ideal as-is, but would also work well with tequila or mezcal.
Try the recipe from Dinner at the Zoo.
45. Honey Lavender Lemonade
The addition of a little lavender elevates anything — including a simple honey lemonade. This one is sure to be a hit with folks of all ages (and for those who drink spirits, it would be delicious with vodka or gin).
Try the recipe from Fit Foodie Finds.
46. Earl Grey Gin Punch
We tend to double the amount of tea that the recipe calls for, and replace the sugar with a cup of orange juice, so the ratio should end up being more than 1 to 3 alcohol to mixer, making this a light, refreshing cocktail that doesn’t pack too much of an, ahem, punch.
Try the recipe from Food Republic.
47. Pitcher Palomas
Palomas are just a perfect summertime drink, given that it has a big base of grapefruit juice and sparkling water, after all. We love that this drink is mostly hydrating ingredients with a little kiss of alcohol, perfect for a cookout.
Try the recipe from Fed and Fit.
48. Coconut Lime Cilantro Cooler
A cocktail with ultra-hydrating coconut water is just a seriously good idea when it’s hot out. If you’ve never tried muddling cilantro in the bottom of a cocktail before, we recommend the practice — it’s weirdly great.
Try the recipe from Mom on Timeout.
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