I always say that my favorite season is the one we’re headed into. There’s nothing like the crisp, chilly days of fall and I love watching the world wake up up spring (and the coziness of winter — well, unmatched). With so much to look forward to, I can hardly contain my excitement for the days ahead, and there’s nothing better than getting after my seasonal bucket list. Keeping all this in mind, it’s no wonder that one of my favorite (long) weekends of the year falls right at the end of May. It’s the easy, breezy epitome of summer, and with a few tried-and-true Memorial Day recipes in your rotation, there’s nothing stopping you from kicking off the season with a gathering to remember.
While Mondays often merit a collective sigh and the start of a slow transition into the workweek, Memorial Day marks one of the few exceptions when this rule no longer applies. I’m happy to sleep in and wake up to a day that’s turned into summer before my eyes. The sky is sunny and the atmosphere is light — it’s the carefree sort of magic that warm-weather days are made of.
So let’s soak up all the summery goodness and get to designing our dream Memorial Day menu. Whether you’re hosting a crowd, entertaining for friends, or it’s just you and the fam — kick back, relax, and indulge in the deliciousness below.
Feature image by Belathee.
Image by Michelle Nash
Memorial Day Drinks
Lavender Lemonade from The Cookie Rookie
Why We Love It: Meet the most refreshing beverage of summer ’22. If your tablescape design is top of mind, this’ll be sure to delight. The lightly floral, but vibrantly stunning sipper can be enjoyed minus the alcohol or spiked with a splash of vodka (or really, whatever you think tastes best).
Hero Ingredient: Dried lavender infuses your simple syrup with a sweet and almost spicy flavor, playing a perfect contrast to the puckery, sour lemon juice.
Get the recipe for Lavender Lemonade.
Agua Fresca from Downshiftology
Why We Love It: It doesn’t get much simpler (but simultaneously, more delicious) than agua fresca. Blending the chopped fruit of your choice with water, a squeeze of citrus, and a little something to sweeten things up is all this recipe asks of you. Because while the kitchen may be my happy place, I’d much rather be enjoying the sun outside with a delicious beverage in hand.
Hero Ingredient: Because this recipe contains three ingredients (four, if you count water), the fruit’s the standout star. As such, be picky with the flavor you want to shine. My faves? You can never go wrong with strawberries or papaya.
Get the recipe for Agua Fresca.
Strawberry Rosé Sangria
Why We Love It: When Camille Styles Executive Producer, Michelle, first graced the site with this stunner of a sangria, I immediately added it to my list of must-make summer recipes. After all, what’s better than a bottle of rosé but a pretty, pink-hued wine flecked with fresh fruits and herbs?
Hero Ingredient: You may be adding more ingredients to the mix, but it’s still the key that you select a good bottle of rosé. Michelle notes that dry, slightly acidic bottles are best. Let her guide you in the right direction.
Get the recipe for Strawberry Rosé Sangria.
Image by Michelle Nash
Memorial Day Appetizers
Burrata With Pesto & Figs
Why We Love It: Everyone loves an easy, four-ingredient appetizer (this writer included). But what I love even more? Snacking on figs at their elusive peak-freshness. While dried versions get me through the off-season, there’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into their soft, stunningly-kaleidoscopic interior and reveling in their sweet, honeyed taste. The only way to improve upon the rapturous experience? Make this dish, stat.
Hero Ingredient: Search high and low for burrata. It’s worth the hunt.
Get the recipe for Burrata With Pesto & Figs.
Summer Crudités With Classic Ranch
Why We Love It: There’s a reason the Hidden Ranch commercials depict a bucolic setting, with pastoral hills painting the screens of TVs across America. Veggies and ranch epitomize summer at its best, and this elevated version takes your grazing to the next level. Arrange a tumble of crudités on a board (crunchy peppers and sun-ripened tomatoes, recommended). From there, dip to your heart’s content.
Hero Ingredient: From my experience, the more dill-forward the ranch, the more irresistible the dip. If you prefer fresh dill, up the amount from a teaspoon of dried to a tablespoon of fresh. I wouldn’t blame you if you opted for a little more.
Get the recipe for Summer Crudités With Classic Ranch.
Easy Guacamole from Eating Bird Food
Why We Love It: Everyone has a go-to guacamole recipe they swear by. Some keep it simple and smooth with nothing more than avocado and a few seasonings while others like it chunky thanks to some tomato or charred corn. I love that this take keeps things traditional while throwing a little spice into the mix. And don’t sleep on the cilantro — it’s a must.
Hero Ingredient: Even better than the cilantro? Red onion adds a sneaky, sharp pungency.
Get the recipe for Easy Guacamole.
Image by Michelle Nash
Memorial Day Salads + Sides
Watermelon Tomato Caprese Salad
Why We Love It: This twist on the classic caprese salad is all about color… and flavor… and crunch. Seriously, there’s nothing more satisfying than sinking your teeth into a cool cube of watermelon and being greeted by a creamy ball of bocconcini (that’s a mini mozzarella ball, to you) on the next bite. You might encounter a few skeptics, but they’ll be convinced after the first forkful.
Hero Ingredient: Nothing keeps things fresh and peppery like a handful of basil leaves.
Get the recipe for Watermelon Tomato Caprese Salad.
Grilled Peach and Asparagus Salad With Spicy Pepitas, Cashew Mozzarella, and Goji Chipotle Dressing
Why We Love It: Camille’s quick to note that while this recipe includes my favorite summer fruit (juicy, ripe peaches) this is far from the fruit salads of yore. As you celebrate the start of summer, this salad will remind you of all the in-season goodness you have to look forward to. It’s sweet, savory, and incorporates just a hint of smoky flavor. In other words, perfect.
Hero Ingredient: The Goji Chipotle Dressing combines an array of unexpected ingredients (goji berries, dates, and chipotle powder) into one deliciously-balanced salad topper.
Get the recipe for Grilled Peach and Asparagus Salad with Spicy Pepitas, Cashew Mozzarella, and Goji Chipotle Dressing.
Classic Caprese Salad from Love & Lemons
Why We Love It: For those who love to keep it classic. There’s nothing easier or that screams summer more than this Italian favorite. While you can always be consistent with one tomato varietal, opting for a bright, beautiful mix of heirlooms will make all your guests gasp in delight.
Hero Ingredient: While the three key components (mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes) contribute equal value, for me, it’s really about that fruity drizzle of EVOO.
Get the recipe for Classic Caprese Salad.
Tomato, Avocado, & Cucumber Salad With Feta
Why We Love It: Hi pretty lil ‘salad, where have you been all my life? Seriously, as a lover of a good pink-and-green combo, this aesthetic pile-up of produce has my heart. Snappy cukes and creamy avocado, plus fresh herbs and pickled red onions. I’ll be eating this from now until Labor Day.
Hero Ingredient: The vinaigrette’s honey adds that little touch of sweetness you didn’t know you needed, but will very much appreciate.
Get the recipe for Tomato, Avocado, & Cucumber Salad With Feta.
Image by Michelle Nash
Memorial Day Main Course Dishes
Cilantro Lime Salmon With Mango Salsa from Half-Baked Harvest
Why We Love It: There are a million and one ways to cook and season salmon (seriously, we’ve tried — and succeeded). But there’s something about topping your fish with a bright and fruity salsa that has me swoonin ‘hard. Your filets get rubbed with a generous coating of chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper, giving everything a welcome heat to offset the salsa’s sweetness. This is salmon, reimagined for summer.
Hero Ingredient: Everyone’s Memorial Day could use a little nod to the tropics. Mango makes it happen.
Get the recipe for Cilantro Lime Salmon With Mango Salsa.
Garlic Grilled Shrimp Skewers from Downshiftology
Why We Love It: When the end of May comes around, I immediately pull my skewers out of storage (yes, I keep my seasonal grilling gear stored away in winter) and write a list of all the recipes I’m ecstatic to try. These shrimp skewers? Sitting squarely at spot # 1. The flavor is bright and garlicky, while the grilling time keeps your shrimp juicy and fresh. And I’ll happily consume the marinade with a spoon.
Hero Ingredient: Is it just me, or is parsley a seriously underrated herb? This recipe gives it the spotlight it deserves.
Get the recipe for Garlic Grilled Shrimp Skewers.
Chimichurri Fish Tacos
Why We Love It: We’re BIG taco fans over here (the majority of the team is based in Austin, after all) and we know a thing or two about what makes a taco, a taco. Ample attention needs to be given to the tortilla, your protein has to be well-seasoned, and your toppings gotta round things out with spice, flavor, and freshness. These fish tacos? Check, check, and check.
Hero Ingredient: A simple, but standout recipe, made all the better with a generous spoonful of homemade chimichurri.
Get the recipe for Chimichurri Fish Tacos.
Memorial Day Desserts
Gluten-Free Lemon Bars
Why We Love It: When life gives you lemons, disregard the fact that you’re not gluten-free and make these amazing lemon bars anyways. They’re a sweet, summery dessert that, at first-glance, might look humble, but are full of zesty, zingy flavor. Try to eat just one. I dare you.
Hero Ingredient: A graham cracker crust fills each bite with nostalgia.
Get the recipe for Gluten-Free Lemon Bars.
Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake
Why We Love It: It isn’t summer without a go-to strawberry shortcake in your baking arsenal. While many gluten-free versions have turned out to be a flop, this recipe manages to maintain the original’s fluffy interior and golden, crispy crust. And if you’re looking for a life-changing hack to help you achieve perfectly-circular shortcakes — well, you’ll have to click through to find out.
Hero Ingredient: Macerated strawberries make the most of summer’s best berry.
Get the recipe for Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake.
Berries & Cream Layer Cake
Why We Love It: While I love the grandeur and awe inspiring height of any and all layer cakes, sometimes, they’re just not worth the effort. This beauty is soooo much simpler than it seems, and retains all the (accessible) artistry of its more complex, cakey cousins.
Hero Ingredient: The trifecta of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are an Americana daydream.
Get the recipe for Berries & Cream Layer Cake.