19 Memorial Day Recipes for a Next-Level Cookout

Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri
Photo: Victor Protasio

While summer *technically* starts in late June, for us, it really begins on Memorial Day Weekend. And with the start of summer also comes the start of grilling season, so you might as well throw an epic cookout to celebrate. Think Ultimate Loaded Chili-Topped Hot Dogs, Smoked Brisket, and a Grilled Vegetable Flatbread with Smoked Almond Muhammara that we've dubbed a vegetarian masterpiece. And don't miss the opportunity to grill salads like this Charred Cabbage Salad with Pecan Dukkah and Chile-Lime Butter and Grilled Kale with Smoky Ranch Dip. To cool down, you'll need some drinks, too—how does a Piña Colada sound? And with some impressive side dishes, desserts, and appetizers to round the whole thing out, you'll have a menu people will be talking about all season long. Read on for all 20 Memorial Day recipes to make this year.

01 of 19

F&W's Ultimate Burger

F&W’s Ultimate Burger
© Con Poulos

Meat expert Pat LaFrieda of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors worked with us to create the most delicious homemade burger blend, combining five cuts of meat into the juiciest, beefiest, and most consistently delicious burger you'll ever have. The only toppings you'll need are ketchup, mustard, torn lettuce, and sliced tomatoes—keep it simple and let the burger patty shine.

02 of 19

Layered Blackberry-and-Turmeric Lemonade

Layered Blackberry-and-Turmeric Lemonade
Charles Masters

This spritzy, summery drink from Julia Momose is a showstopper with its distinct pink and yellow layers. It's also incredibly versatile: Swap in raspberries or strawberries for the blackberries, double the recipe for a crowd, or serve the homemade soda and the turmeric-spiked lemonade on their own.

03 of 19

Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri

Grilled Chicken with Chimichurri
Victor Protasio

The secret to this perfectly juicy grilled chicken recipe from chef Anthony Endy is twofold: One, let the chicken sit in the aromatic citrus-and-herb flavored brine for 24 hours, and two, once your coals are hot, keep it moving on the grill. After the initial sear, turn the chicken often, and grill until a probe thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 155°F. Try serving the chicken with Santa Maria–Style Pinquito Beans and a Mild Tomato Salsa on the side.

04 of 19

Ultimate Loaded Chili-Topped Hot Dogs

Ultimate Loaded Chili-Topped Hot Dogs
Jen Causey

Like any "loaded" situation, this hot dog is all about constructing your plate. Split-top buns allow you to hollow out the sides a bit, fitting extra toppings into each bite. A touch of sweetness in the chili balances out the salt from Corn Nuts and the hot dog, while the sharp bite of pickled jalapeños creates balance. Radishes and sour cream offer a welcome hit of freshness. The chili can easily be made ahead of time for quick assembly the day of.

05 of 19

Smoked Brisket

Horn Barbecue Smoked Brisket
Andrew Thomas Lee

This smoked brisket is self-taught barbecue expert Matt Horn's signature recipe — the star of the menu at his restaurant, Horn Barbecue, in Oakland, California. The 2021 Food & Wine Best New Chef spent weeks perfecting this recipe, and says time is the most important ingredient in this dish. You need to be patient while the meat's internal temperature rises to 203°F (95°C), but it's worth it when your smoked masterpiece is ready.

06 of 19

Esquites-Style Poblano Pasta Salad

Esquites Pasta Salad
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Esquites is the creamy corn salad version of elote, the beloved Mexican street food where corn on the cob is slathered with mayo and sprinkled with chili powder and Cotija cheese. Here, we've taken esquites and turned it into a pasta salad, loaded with charred corn, zucchini, scallions, and poblano chile. A crema-mayo mixture flavored with lime and cilantro adds a bright finish, and Cotija and ancho chile powder seal the deal. The hearty dish is ideal for barbecues or packing for a picnic. We call for orecchiette, but you can also try this with shells, lumachi, or any smaller pasta that will catch the corn kernels in its nooks and crannies.

07 of 19

Charred Cabbage Salad with Pecan Dukkah and Chile-Lime Butter

charred cabbage salad
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Nick Cobarruvias draws on his Mexican heritage for his menu at San Francisco's Otra, layering complex flavor combinations into dishes like this crisp-tender cabbage salad. At the restaurant, he seasons the charred cabbage with the chile-lime butter, which is mildly spicy from árbol chiles and bright from lime zest. The pecan dukkah adds earthiness from the cumin and pops of citrus from the coriander, plus a lovely nutty flavor and texture from the toasted pecans and sesame seeds.

08 of 19

Lahem Meshwy (Lamb Shish Kebabs)

Lahem Meshwy (Lamb Shish Kebabs)
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Simply spiced with paprika, salt, and pepper, these grilled lamb kebabs have been a mainstay at League of Kitchens instructor Jeanette Chawki's family cookouts for years. Be sure to cut the lamb into equal-size cubes to ensure even cooking, but feel free to mix and match the vegetables on each skewer. Pair these succulent kebabs with Jeanette's creamy Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip) and refreshing Biwaz (Parsley and Onion Salad) on thin Lebanese pita for the perfect handheld meal.

09 of 19

Black Cherry–Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

Black Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches Recipe
Photo by Greg DuPree / Prop Styling by Christine Keely / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer

Here, homemade chocolate cookies encase store-bought black cherry ice cream for the ultimate ice cream sandwiches. They can keep in the freezer for up to a month, too, so you can easily prepare them ahead of your cookout and then serve them day-of.

10 of 19

Garlicky Grilled Shrimp

Garlicky Grilled Shrimp
© John Kernick

Chef, cookbook author, and F&W Cooks contributor Marcella Valladolid keeps her grilled shrimp marinade simple, but it gets a lot of flavor from the mix of garlic, onion, white wine, and lime juice. After a few minutes on the grill, the shrimp are ready to go.

11 of 19

Fresh and Easy Piña Coladas

Fresh and Easy Piña Coladas
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Coconut milk provides richness that rounds out sweet-tart chunks of frozen pineapple and adds a creamy texture to this lighter take on classic piña coladas. Be sure to vigorously shake the can of coconut milk before opening to recombine the coconut liquids and coconut cream.

12 of 19

Green Curry Beef Skewers with Fried Basil Oil

Green Curry Beef Skewers Recipe
David Loftus

"Although green curry paste goes well with all types of meat, it brings out the best in red meat," cookbook author Leela Punyaratabandhu says. "I use beef here, but just as often I use boneless lamb from the leg. The basil oil is a finishing touch that perfumes the dish with the scent of Thai basil and provides richness."

13 of 19

Maine-Style Lobster Rolls

Maine Style Lobster Rolls
Victor Protasio

Former Food & Wine editor Mary-Frances Heck refers to these lobster rolls as "knuckle sandwiches" because they showcase the knuckles—the segments that connect the claws to the carapace—which are the sweetest, most tender meat on a lobster. Dressed simply with mayo, the cold salad sits in a hot, buttered bun. Her tip for tackling the admittedly tedious work of cracking the shells? Do it with a friend and a cold beer.

14 of 19

Rosé Sangria with a Mixed-Berry Ice Ring

Rose Sangria with a Mixed-Berry Ice Ring
© John Kernick

Justin Chapple, Food & Wine's Culinary Director-at-Large, uses a Bundt pan to make the ice ring for his delicious rosé-and-rum sangria. It's packed with blueberries, raspberries, sliced strawberries, and blackberries, along with some fresh currants, if you'd like. The end result is a colorful ring that pops against the rosy drink.

15 of 19

Crostini with Grilled Sweet Onions and Blue Cheese

Crostini with Grilled Sweet Onions and Blue Cheese Recipe
Johnny Autry

On the river, chef Andrae Bopp wraps whole sweet Walla Walla onions in foil and tosses them into the coals of the campfire to roast and caramelize; here we've adapted his recipe for your home grill. Don't skip the zippy honey-vinegar drizzle—it coaxes out even more flavor from the sweet onions and balances the blue cheese.

16 of 19

Coal-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Coal roasted sweet potatoes
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer and John Somerall / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Maximize the life cycle of a fire by cooking hardy vegetables like sweet potatoes directly in the coals. Buried in embers, sweet potatoes become meltingly tender and perfumed with smoky flavor. When they're done, brush away the ashes and any burned skin, leaving charred bits for textural and visual contrast. Crack open the skins, and the smoky flesh becomes the perfect canvas for spicy or sweet seasoned butters, a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, or a drizzle of maple syrup.

17 of 19

Grilled Vegetable Flatbread with Smoked Almond Muhammara

Grilled Vegetable Flatbread with Smoked Almond Muhammara Recipe
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

In addition to turning heads at your cookouts, this vegetarian masterpiece is packed with make-ahead options and smart shortcuts. Make the Smoked Almond Muhammara up to three days in advance and stash it in the fridge; you can even skip a step and substitute two cups of jarred roasted peppers for the grilled bell peppers. If you're working with a small grill, cut the flatbread in half, or use lavash instead.

18 of 19

Potato Salad with Fresh Corn And Basil

Potato Salad with Fresh Corn and Basil Recipe
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Red baby potatoes are ideal for potato salad because of their tender skins and creamy interiors that hold together, even when cooked. Quickly soaking the onions in vinegar mellows their bite and allows the summery fresh herbs to shine in the dressing. Be sure to taste the salad after chilling and adjust the seasoning before serving.

19 of 19

Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

three strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

These sweet and tangy Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting pair juicy, fresh berries with vibrantly colored and concentrated freeze-dried strawberries for the ultimate summer treat. Processing the dried strawberries with a touch of sugar helps to keep them from clumping together so they evenly disperse in the batter. A simple, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting keeps these moist and tender cakes well-balanced and beautifully decorated.

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