Fireworks and sparklers are fun, but our favorite part of Independence Day is definitely the food and drink. A great cookout needs a balanced of mains, sides, drinks, and desserts. To help you prepare, we’ve gone through our recipes to put together eight awesome 4th of July menus.
It’s fitting to cooking a meal of American classics on the most patriotic day of the year. We recommend a loaded cheeseburger as a centerpiece, with grilled corn, potato salad, cornbread, and green beans on the side. Finish the meal with a buttery blueberries crisp. Our watermelon cooler takes the classic summer fruit and spikes it with tequila and a Scotch bonnet pepper-infused simple syrup.
In New England and down the Eastern Seaboard, summer is the time for clambakes. This dramatic, festive cookout is a perfect way to celebrate Independence Day. The concept is simple—dig a pit on the beach, build a slow fire, and bury layers of food and seaweed. Part of the fun is deciding what food to use. Clams are of course traditional, but also consider mussels, crabs, and lobsters, plus corn and potatoes.
Aren’t able to cook on the 4th of July? No problem—we’ve got plenty of make-ahead dishes that you can bring along to a grill-free picnic. You’ll be tempted to eat our fried chicken straight out of the oil, but it’s great cold. On the side try our spicy, cheesy cornbread and Tennessee-style mustard coleslaw.
Find all of these dishes and more in our collection of 4th of July menus.
An All-American Cookout
This year, celebrate July 4th with a spread of classic American dishes with a twist: A maximalist burger recipe from Ernest Hemingway, grilled corn with herbed goat cheese butter, and potato salad made with roasted potatoes for extra flavor. On the side, let summer produce shine in a fresh green bean and peach salad, and for dessert, sweet blueberries star in a classic, buttery crisp that’s divine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A tequila-watermelon cooler served no-fuss in a pitcher makes the perfect fruity refresher to sip all evening long.
An East Coast Barbecue
For a backyard barbecue, you can’t go wrong with a menu of East Coast favorites. The simplicity of these dishes is masked by a depth of flavors: Burgers are stuffed with creamy blue cheese, flank steak gets a kick from a coffee and soy sauce marinade, and chicken is rubbed with a fiery blend of dried spices and basted in tangy duck sauce. Add a few simple sides and an easy berry dessert for a relaxed summer celebration.
A Global Grilling Spread )
Keep the grill going all evening with a menu of internationally inspired dishes: A juicy grilled rib eye is perfectly matched with charred scallions, sweet grilled tomatoes, and earthy, garlicky mushrooms. Mexican rice pudding pops end the meal on a cold, sweet note, and a pitcher cocktail made with ripe summer strawberries makes an ideal backyard sipper.
A New England Seafood Cookout
With lobster, oysters, and fresh sweet corn on the grill, creamy shrimp chowder, potato and iceberg salads, baked beans, and more, this menu of classic coastal New England delights is perfect for entertaining outdoors this summer. Make the side dishes ahead, and enjoy a cooling gin and tonic while you man the grill; once the fire’s going, the oysters and lobster cook quickly. Finish it all off with a blueberry slump—an uncomplicated dessert that beautifully showcases our favorite summer berry.
A Simple American Summer Barbecue
For simple, low-stress entertaining this summer, we turn to our favorite classic American cookout dishes: juicy hamburgers from the grill stuffed with blue cheese, smoky chicken wings bathed in a spicy sauce, creamy potato salad, fresh summer succotash, and rich, fudgy brownies. Everything but the burgers can be made up to a day ahead, so your only task come party time is to fire up the grill, drink in hand.
A Fourth of July Picnic
This Independence Day, watch the fireworks while nibbling on a picnic chock-full of summery produce. Set up camp on the beach, in the park, or wherever the show may be, and enjoy a menu of salads that travel well and stay fresh all day long. Supplement your entrees with salty potato chips, icy tumblers of cucumber gin cooler, and a dessert of colorfully layered summer trifle in individual mason jars—storage and serving vessels in one.
A Summer Comfort Picnic
The hearty flavors of Southern-inspired comfort food take on a certain lightness when served chilled. This menu, great for a gathering of six to eight, is for eating with your hands: spread your blanket out in the warm evening sun and linger until the fireflies flash in the dark. Toast with chilled Lambrusco (it’s our favorite summer sparkling red) and tuck in to a meal of spicy-sweet corn bread, mustardy slaw, classic cold fried chicken, and dense, rich brownies.