If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your Memorial Day menu, then you’ve come to the right place. The long weekend is an early kickoff to summer as friends and families across America gather for picnics and cookouts to remember those who gave their lives serving their country. Standards like burgers, chicken, macaroni salad, and coleslaw are expected, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to your guns by using the same recipe you have for the past five years. To give you a little food for thought, we’ve found eight recipes that are perfect for Memorial Day menus and included a few updates to the old standards.
1. Homemade Relish
In addition to your usual ketchups, mustards, slaws, and any other toppings you set out for people to pile onto their hot dogs and hamburgers at a summer cookout, why not add a homemade relish to the mix? The first recipe is for 1¼ cups of a basic relish from Michael Chiarello via The Cooking Channel.
- 1 cup diced dill pickle
- ¼ cup hot or sweet mustard
- 1 tablespoon pickle brine
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
Directions: Combine all ingredients, stir, and serve with hot dogs or hamburgers.
2. Grilled Jerk Chicken
A spicy alternative to your burgers and hot dogs is jerk chicken. People can choose to eat it on its own or go through the burger bar setup by making a sandwich or wrap and adding extra fixings – all you’ll need to do as host is grill up the chicken. You could also take the marinade and make jerk chicken kabobs instead. Paul Chung grew up in Jamaica and gave this recipe to Food & Wine.
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 medium scallions, chopped
- 2 Scotch bonnet chiles, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon allspice berries, coarsely ground
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 (3½- to 4-pound) chickens, quartered
Directions: In a food processor, combine the onion, scallions, chiles, garlic, five-spice powder, allspice, pepper, thyme, nutmeg, and salt; process to a coarse paste. With the machine on, add the the soy sauce and oil in a steady stream. Pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish, add the chicken, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before proceeding.
Light a grill. Grill the chicken over a medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve.
3. Dilled Potato Salad with Feta
Potato salad with feta cheese, bell pepper, and a Mediterranean mix of ingredients but no mayonnaise will not be what people are expecting this Memorial Day, and it will be what you serve when you make Food.com’s recipe. You’ll leave everyone wanting more of this new twist on an old classic.
- 2 pounds small red potatoes, unpeeled
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cucumber, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
- ½ cup sliced green onion
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Directions: Bring potatoes and water to cover to a boil. Cook 25 to 30 minutes or just until tender; drain and cool. Cut potatoes into quarters. Whisk together vinegar, oil, dill, salt, and pepper. Pour over warm potatoes. Stir in chopped bell pepper, cucumber, and green onions; add cheese and toss to combine. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
Jim ’N Nick’s Bar-B-Q gave its coleslaw recipe to Bon Appétit, and this easy-to-make dish will be a hit at Memorial Day picnics. It can be made up to eight hours ahead of time. Proceed through the directions up to the point where you drain the cabbage, then cover and chill the dish until you are ready to transfer the cabbage, adding the remaining ingredients.
- 1 (2-pound) head of green cabbage, quartered, cored, cut crosswise into ⅛-inch-thick slices (about 14 cups)
- 1¼ cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup grated peeled carrots
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
Directions: Place cabbage in large bowl. Add vinegar and sugar; toss to coat. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Toss cabbage mixture well; cover and let stand 30 minutes longer. Drain cabbage. Transfer drained cabbage to another large bowl. Add carrots, green onions, and mayonnaise; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Hamburger Seasoning
Give your burgers some love before they head to the grill with a flavorful rub. Since variety is the spice of life, here are two options to choose from for your Memorial Day grilling. Both are from AllRecipes.com: the first is a basic seasoning that elevates any burger and makes 2 tablespoons, and the second is for a cajun seasoning that makes ¼ of a cup.
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Directions: Combine the paprika, salt, pepper, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper in an airtight container; seal. Shake to combine. Store in a cool, dry place between uses.
- 1½ tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Directions: Combine the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper, basil, and oregano in a bowl until evenly mixed. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
6. Macaroni Salad
Another wonderful, classic side is getting a slight twist, this time from Jo Cooks. Bacon has been added to this traditional macaroni salad to give an unexpected bit of flavor to every bite. It makes enough to serve around six and can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.
- 2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained
- ⅓ cup diced celery
- ¼ cup minced red onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 6 slices bacon, fried and chopped
- ½ cup diced vine-ripened tomato
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 1½ tablespoons cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
Directions: In a large bowl combine the macaroni, celery, onion, bacon, parsley, and tomato. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream, and salt. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
7. Strawberry Layer Cake
If you’ve always wanted to make a layer cake but have been thwarted by the thought of too many leftovers, a gathering like Memorial Day provides an opportunity to make one of these beautiful desserts. Stay light and fresh with this recipe from Martha Stewart, which uses a minimal amount of frosting. If you are pressed for time, you could also use store-bought pound cakes and still use the filling recipe below.
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 2¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- coarse salt
- 1¾ cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1⅓ cups low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 pounds strawberries, sliced ⅓ inch thick
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- coarse salt
- 2 cups cold heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
- 1½ cups store-bought or homemade rhubarb jam or strawberry jam
Directions: To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, with rack in center position. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep); line with parchment cut to fit. Butter parchment paper; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat in vanilla. Divide batter between pans. Bake, rotating halfway through, until tops spring back when gently touched and a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool in pans for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cakes and invert onto racks; remove parchment and let cool completely.
For the filling, combine strawberries with granulated sugar, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving syrup. Whisk cream with confectioners’ sugar until medium peaks form.
Trim cake tops. Slice cakes in half horizontally. Generously brush 1 cake layer with some reserved syrup and spread on ⅓ of the jam. Top with ⅓ of the filling, then ⅓ of the whipped cream. Repeat with two more cake layers. Top with remaining cake layer, bottom side up. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
8. Red Velvet Cookies
You could take an inspiration from cake and stay patriotic in color with red velvet cookies. These cookies from Smart School House are also a huge time saver, using red velvet cake mix in the base. Of course, you could go all from scratch — in that case, use this recipe. The recipe below yields about two dozen cookies.
- 1 box of red velvet cupcake or cake mix
- ½ cup (1 stick) of butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Cream cheese frosting
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add all of the cake ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Place small spoonfuls of dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Place the frosting on the cookies once they are completely cooled.