Best Summer Recipes…for Memorial Day and Beyond

With Memorial Day only a couple of days away, many of us are planning get togethers, cookouts, and picnics with friends and family. And while some people like to plan their menu weeks in advance, others (as I quietly raise my hand) are a little more on the last-minute side of things when it comes to planning. In the case of last-minute planning, it’s always nice to have some easy summer recipes to fall back on.

It’s with that in mind that we set out to find some fantastically fun, but equally quick and easy summer recipes that will not only be perfect for a patriotic plate on Memorial Day, but will continue to wow your fellow party-goers on the 4th of July, Labor Day, and all summer long.

To find the perfect Memorial Day menu, we searched some of our favorite foodie sites and blogs. Of course, with so many sites, recipes, and culinary twists out there, it can be a bit overwhelming, so to pick our favorites, we made sure that every recipe met the following criteria:

  1. Simple, easy-to-find ingredients.
  2. Easy and quick preparation.
  3. Options for ingredient additions or substitutions to suit every palate. (We’ve included “Richmond Mom Recommendations” at the end of every recipe to help you out!)

The following menu offers a complete line-up with an appetizer, a main dish, a side, a dessert, and a festive summer drink that’s perfect for kids and adults alike.

Now, as you know, for our Best of Richmond series, we typically like to focus on local Richmond resources. But in this case, we decided to branch out a bit. However, if you have favorite summer recipes, patriotic or otherwise, we would love to hear about them! We might even use some for a later article focused on Richmond Mom reader favorites! Please feel free to share with us at

In the meantime, fire up the grill and get ready to celebrate with these tasty summer recipes!

1. “Old Glory” Layered Dip

Old Glory Dip via

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 12

This traditional seven-layer dip from Relish relies on simple ingredients and easy assembly – and it’s a crowd-pleaser every time. Best of all, you can make this dip ahead of time and have it ready as a quick starter dish when guests arrive or as a snack for the family while you’re cooking the main meal. With fast, easy prep, it’s sure to be a go-to for any summer gathering.

Why we love it: What we really love about this recipe is the fun flag theme. Plus, if you’re always looking for ways to get the kids to help out in the kitchen but get a little nervous when kids and cooking come together, then this is the perfect way to get them involved. Kids will love assembling the layers, then creating the flag decoration on top.

See the full original recipe here.

Richmond Mom Recommendations:

  • To keep the patriotic theme going, be sure to serve this tasty dip with blue corn tortilla chips.
  • For an even more detailed flag, you can use shredded iceberg lettuce to create the background for your black olive “stars.” Serve extra lettuce, tomatoes, and olives on the side for guests to add to their plate.
  • If you’re looking for a way to lighten up the menu, try substituting hummus for sour cream.
  • Add a packet of taco seasoning to your sour cream or hummus for an added kick.
  • Add shredded Monterey Jack or white cheddar cheese (or any white cheese of your choice) over top of the sour cream before adding the tomatoes and olives to keep your white background, but add even more flavor.


2. (Red, White and) Kicked Up Blue Cheese Burgers

Kicked Up Blue Cheese Stuffed Hamburgers via

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4

A really good burger is the staple of any backyard barbecue. With their versatility and simplicity, burgers are a favorite for kids and adults alike. This recipe, compliments of Emeril Legasse, offers a burger that is juicy, flavorful, and full of fun options.

Why we love it: A burger can be as simple as ground beef (or turkey) formed into a patty and thrown on the grill, or it can be “kicked up” for even more flavor. As you would expect from Emeril, this recipe goes the “kicked up” route and we couldn’t love it more. With a few key additions, it offers just the right flavors to keep your guests coming back for more.

See the full original recipe here.

Richmond Mom Recommendations:

  • If you’re looking for a lighter alternative, substitute ground turkey for beef.
  • Not everyone loves blue cheese – so if you need options for pickier palates, substitute cheddar, pepperjack, or any other cheese of your choice.
  • Keep your red, white, and blue theme going by adding tomatoes and white onion, or, if you skip the blue cheese, try red onion which will offer a purple-ish/blue color to your plate.


3. Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad via

Prep Time: 15 minutes for assembly, 3 hours to chill
Cooking Time: 12-14 minutes for the corn
Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Serves: 6

No summer cookout would be complete without a delicious salad on the side. And this recipe from Everyday Good Thinking more than fits the bill. With fresh, seasonal ingredients and light, summer flavors, this salad will be a hit with everyone at the table. Because it needs time to chill, make it up in the morning so that it’s ready to serve when your guests arrive.

Why we love it: The complex flavors of this grilled corn and black bean salad will surprise you when you see just how easy it is to make. Relying on seasonal summer ingredients, it offers just the right blend of sweet, tangy, and savory. Best of all, it can be served on its own, or as a salsa-style dip with tortilla chips.

See the original full recipe here.

Richmond Mom Recommendations:

  • While this recipe doesn’t stick with the red, white, and blue theme that we’ve offered for other dishes, it’s easy to add some blue with blue corn tortilla chips served on the side.
  • Want to add a little spice? Add a finely chopped jalapeno pepper (with or without seeds depending on your heat preference).
  • If you have a corn-on-the-cob loving crowd, make extra lime dressing and grill additional ears of corn while you’re grilling up your burgers.


4. Patriotic Berry Trifle

Patriotic Berry Trifle via

Prep Time: 35 minutes, plus one hour to chill
Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Serves: 10-12

While a trifle sounds like a decadent dish, this delicious dessert from Sunny Anderson and Food Network Magazine couldn’t be easier. Not only is it easy-to-make thanks to pre-made angel food cake, but it serves a crowd and offers a cool ending to a delicious meal. We’re pretty sure you’ll love this dessert so much that you’ll want to serve it all summer long – patriotic holiday or not.

Why we love it: This dessert doesn’t just look amazing, it tastes every bit as good as it looks. And, with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream, your red, white, and blue Memorial Day theme is a breeze. Best of all, it’s yet one more thing you can make ahead of time so that you don’t have to hang out in the kitchen once your cookout gets going.

See the full original recipe here.

Richmond Mom Recommendations:

  • To make this recipe even easier, use pre-made whipped topping that’s been thawed ahead of time.
  • If cream cheese is too heavy for your taste, substitute instant pudding (white chocolate, cheesecake, or vanilla flavors work well). Simply mix the pudding according to the directions until it’s soft set, then combine with your whipped cream/whipped topping.
  • For a fun twist, make individual serving trifles by layering your ingredients as described above in Mason jars. Tie red, white, and blue ribbons around each jar to keep your theme going!


5. White Peach Sangria

White Peach Sangria via

Prep Time: 5 minutes, plus one hour to chill
Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Serves: 10 (2 cup servings, including fruit)

What would a cookout be without the perfect cocktail? And when it comes to summer drinks, this white peach sangria from Vegan Family Recipes is just about as perfect as it gets. With the addition of strawberries and blueberries, it makes a colorful and patriotic treat for grown-ups, with plenty of kid-friendly “mocktail” options, as well.

Why we love it: Sangria is a summer favorite for many. But of course, not everyone likes alcoholic drinks. So the versatility of this recipe makes it a hit for us. While the original recipe is definitely “adult,” you can substitute plenty of non-alcoholic beverages into the mix so that it’s family-friendly and suitable for any age.

See the full original recipe here.

Richmond Mom Recommendations:

  • To turn this recipe into a non-alcoholic drink, simply substitute a lemon-lime soda (about 1 ½ – 2 liters) for wine and add a peach-flavored juice (like Welch’s White Grape Peach juice) in place of the other alcoholic ingredients.
  • If adding juice, you may want to cut back on the sugar.
  • Make ahead of time to allow the fruit to infuse with all of the other ingredients.