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15 Awesome Memorial Day Recipes Kick Off Summer

I can’t believe that Memorial Day Weekend is coming up soon. Does May seem like it’s going by fast? Memorial Weekend officially kicks off summer and with that comes the food we enjoy most: fresh summer produce, eaten outside, super casual, with friends ~ which, hopefully, is back to stay. I have some awesome Memorial Day recipes to kick off summer.

Although Sweet Shark and I have some traditional summer holiday dishes, I decided to search for some enticing new Memorial Day recipes to share that could become part of a great Memorial Day menu. These delicious Memorial Day recipes will take you to the 4th of July and on through summer.

Summer also means white sandals, white jeans, and white anything.  But let’s talk food.

For summer dishes, from starters to entrées to sides to dessert, I’ve gathered some delicious sounding and looking recipes you should definitely try.

I wanted to give you plenty of time to read, study, and PIN these Memorial Day recipes. I’m pleased as punch to focus on food and share these Memorial Day recipes with you.

How did I decide on these particular dishes for my Memorial Day recipes? I searched through Pinterest, clicked on over 50 promising recipes (I’ll be honest, the pics were a big factor because the food has to look great first, right?). I focused only on sites that were from bloggers because I wanted “home~grown” recipes that real~life people like you and I make and love.

And then I searched through some of my own most popular recipes that I know will be perfect for summertime.

Kick~Off Summer: 15 Awesome Memorial Day Recipes

As a cooking instructor for 15 years, I’m picky about recipes. As always, I have certain criteria:

  • Are they clearly written?
  • Are the instructions clear?
  • Are the ingredients (fresh, tasty) available?
  • Are the recipes easy to make?
  • Are the dishes attractive and appealing?

Admittedly, I lean toward dishes that I know our friends would like and fit our Texas grilling, outdoor, summer vegetable, barbecue esthetic.

Although I haven’t personally made most of these recipes, in some cases, I’ve made similar ones. My biggest criteria: would I make all of these myself? Did I feel comfortable recommending them to you? The answer to both questions had to be a resounding yes or the recipe got booted off the Memorial Day recipe list. I’ve also included tips that I would share in a cooking class.


In my neck of the woods, we call this dish Texas Caviar, but Cowboy Caviar from The View from Great Island is close enough. It’s so pretty and fresh. Serve it with lots of chips because it will go fast.

TIP: This dish is prettiest when all the ingredients are diced the same size and the dice is uniform.

summer corn black bean caviar

I love anything with bacon and we love jalapeńos ~ if they are not too hot. I love the idea of wrapping bacon around tater tots.  And anything dipped in ranch dressing is a winner.

These Jalapeño Bacon~Wrapped Tater Tots with Ranch Dressing from Spicy Southern Kitchen is my idea of a great appetizer: easy to make ahead and for serving with toothpicks, they are a one~bite flavor bomb.

TIP: Jalapeños are usually not very hot, but if you have kids at a party, you might make a batch without them.

bacon~wrapped tater tots

Another great appetizer that I love for summer is Pimento Cheese. Serve it with crackers or celery sticks. You can easily double this recipe if you need more for a crowd. For Kentucky Derby, we serve it in a silver bowl, but for a Memorial Day summer party, I would use a melamine bowl.

southern pimento cheese


The Café Sucre Farine shared this Mexican Chopped Salad, which is similar to the Cowboy Caviar, but the addition of romaine lettuce definitely puts it in the salad category.  Jicama and fried corn tortilla strips add crunch to an already beautiful salad of fresh vegetables.

If you from up North ~ that’s north of the Mason~Dixon line ~ you may not know what jicama is. It looks a bit like a coconut, but you can slice or dice it. It provides a great crunch; if you don’t have it in your area, don’t worry. You can just leave it out.

TIP: Think how your recipes will look placed together on a buffet table. I would probably not serve the Cowboy Caviar and the Mexican Chopped Salad together because they look too much alike.

Mexican chopped salad

I love the combination of watermelon and feta and I’ve made a version of this salad for years, sans the blueberries. Watermelon, Feta Blueberry Salad from Running in a Skirt is perfect to celebrate Memorial Day. It’s pretty, oh so fresh and refreshing, and healthy.

Watermelon Feta Blueberry Salad

My all~time favorite salad for summer and a party is Jalapeńo Cornbread Salad. (The link to the cornbread is on the salad post.) I always served it at our Kentucky Derby Party, but I’ve also made it for summer parties. It does take time for the prep, but it is oh~so~worth it.


Around my neck of the woods (Texas), we love our barbecue. For the star of the meal, barbecue ribs can’t be beat, especially if they are smoked outside.

Now we know that in some parts of the country, some folks favor pork ribs and some people favor beef ribs. (If you know where I’m from, you know which I prefer, but I’ve never turned up my nose at any rib.)

This recipe for Smokey Barbecue Ribs from Julie’s Eats & Treats doesn’t specify which type of animal, so pick the one that you prefer ~ no civil wars on a patriotic holiday. Baked in the oven, the smoky taste comes from liquid smoke.

TIP: Eating anything barbecue with your fingers is messy. Provide plenty of napkins or even rolls of paper towels on the tables for your guests. Even a couple of small packs of baby wipes to really clean sticky fingers will be appreciated.

AAwesome Memorial Day Recipes Kick Off Summer. If you need some yummy recipe suggestions for a Memorial Day celebration, here are several to check out. From starters to salads, to barbecue and dessert, this recipes are perfect for any patriotic party. #memorialdayrecipes #salads #barbecue #dessert

If you are not a meat~eater or want to offer your guests another protein choice, you could add this recipe for Best Barbecue Chicken Thighs from That Which Nourishes.

I love using chicken thighs; they stay moist and tender and cost less than chicken breasts. As large as they come today, one thigh is perfect for one serving.

Barbecue Chicken Thighs

Side Dishes

I love all the sides of a special occasion meal (like dressing and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving). I’m a slaw lover and I can’t envision a summer party or picnic without a slaw of some sort on the table. This one from Sammi of Happi Homemade adds apples and almonds for crunch and blueberries for color. Red, White and Blue Slaw is as patriotic as a slaw can get.

TIP: Some parts of the country, mainly the Southeast, like more of a vinegar-based slaw. Around “these here parts”, we prefer a mayo dressing. Honestly, I like a mixture of mayo and lemon juice for a tangy taste. You could even use Ranch Dressing!

Red, White and Blue Slaw

You’ve got to have some kind of potato salad on any Memorial Day recipe list. This version is very different from what we usually serve on a summer holiday. Garlic~Herb Potato Salad from Cooking Classy just sounded so darn good that I want to try it. Bonus points: you can serve it warm or cold. Personally, I like potato salad at room temperature for the best flavor.

TIP: Remember that cold inhibits flavor. Some foods should be allowed to come to room temperature to taste best. A little extra seasoning can also compensate for foods that contain mayonnaise and should be kept cold.

Garlic Herb Potato Salad

I also have to share Sweet Shark’s Southern Potato Salad. We are partial to it. It is full of flavor and everyone loves it.

potato salad

Summer corn and okra aren’t quite in season yet, but it seems like a green vegetable is in order. We love zucchini and Lemon Garlic Grilled Zucchini sure seems like a winner. Grilled vegetables just taste better. Dashing Dish adds great flavor with the addition of lemon juice and garlic used in two ways. If you like, throw in asparagus, summer squash, or red bell pepper strips for a medley of color.

TIP: Slicing the zucchini on the diagonal increases the pretty factor and allows more surface area to have grill marks.

Grilled Zucchini


We have to finish our Memorial Day recipe list with something sweet and festive. 

For dessert, what is more American than cupcakes with blueberries and strawberries (O.K. apple pie)? I love keeping with the patriotic theme and Red, White and Blueberry Cupcakes fit the bill. Buttercream Blondie shares a nearly made~from~scratch cupcake recipe that can be used for many different occasions.

Red White and Blue Cupcakes

If cupcakes are too heavy for you or you want a fruit dessert, try Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries. Perfectly in keeping with the red, white and blue theme, these little bites of fruity goodness from Dessert Now, Dinner Later will be a big hit. She has a cute video to show you how to make this dessert. I actually think combining this fruit dessert with the cupcakes would give guests 2 great options ~ they can have 1 of each.

Awesome Memorial Day Recipes Kick Off Summer. If you need some yummy recipe suggestions for a Memorial Day celebration, here are several to check out. From starters to salads, to barbecue and dessert, this recipes are perfect for any patriotic party. #memorialdayrecipes #salads #barbecue #dessert

If you want a truly all-American dessert, this apple pie is the best I’ve ever made. I got the recipe from a friend when we had a girlfriend’s apple piemaking party.

slice of apple pie with ice cream

I hope that you like these menu choices for your Memorial Day recipes as much as I do. Make them all or pick just one or two. Or just read about them. Save them to your Pinterest boards.

If you want more Memorial Day recipe ideas, check out these Pinterest Boards: Appetizers and Small Bites, Salad Recipes, Chicken Recipes, Potato Recipes, Vegetable Recipes, or Dessert Recipes.

Which recipes are your favorites?

pin for later graphic in blue
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  1. Did you know that all the pictures on the first page of your blog are faded?.thought you’d like to know.

    1. Mona, it’s not me. You are only the second person who has ever mentioned this issue. Checked with my WordPress guru and he said it might be your color settings. Sorry that you are not getting the full benefit of the posts. Please try again.

  2. I just took the first zoom through these and they are soooo enticing I’m headed back now to save them!.

  3. Each photo makes my mouth water. I love the tip about letting salads come to room temp for a better flavor or adding more seasoning for a dish needing to be refrigerated. But I have a question. I’m curious why salads that contain mayonnaise need to be refrigerated if the mayo you buy in the grocery store is on the shelf? I’ve always refrigerated but have always wondered why. Thanks for a great post Carol!

    1. Cindy, you are so welcome for the tips. When mayo is on the grocery shelf, it’s been vacuum sealed. No air getting in. It still has a shelf life. Once you open the jar, you are letting in air and germs. Mayo, which contains eggs, is a highly PHF ~ potentially hazardous food. If left out too long ~ more than an hour or so, it starts breaking down. Surrounding temperature also plays a factor in length of time you can leave PHF out.Hope that helps.