Whether gathering in remembrance or kickstarting summer, these Memorial Day food ideas are sure to impress. Incorporating patriotic hues and American culinary classics will be a breeze this year with an array of appetizing options.

First Things First: Hors D’oeuvres

Crudites & Cheese Platter

Difficulty: Very Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes

One of the most exciting starters is a gorgeous platter of cheeses and crudites (French: raw vegetables). All the prep is in the presentation, and with no cooking, who could ask for anything simpler or more wholesome? Check out these tips for selecting and arranging cheeses to get your creativity going at www.foodnetwork.com.

Shrimp Cocktail Shots

Difficulty: Easy
Cook Time: 40 mins
Chill Time: 1 hr
Makes: 6 to 8 servings

If you are up for something a little more involved, serving up classic shrimp cocktail with an individualized twist in shot glasses is an elegant option. These delicately flavored shrimp are perfectly paired with spicy dipping sauce. Make both the shrimp and sauce up to a day in advance for easy preparation.

Swizzle Tip: Stuff lettuce leaves in the bottom of shot glasses to reduce the amount of wasted sauce and make it easier to dip.

Preparing the shrimp:

  • 8 cups (2 quarts) water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 pounds (21/25-count) shrimp, peeled except for the tails and deveined
  1. Combine everything except the shrimp in a 4-quart saucepan or pot over high heat and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add the shrimp, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Cover with a tightfitting lid and let sit until the shrimp are opaque and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with paper towels and set it aside.
  4. When the shrimp are ready, drain them in a strainer set in the sink. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet and arrange in a single layer, removing and discarding any solids from the poaching liquid that have stuck to the shrimp (discard the contents in the strainer as well). 
  5. Let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 10 minutes
  6. Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour until chilled.
Preparing the cocktail sauce: 

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
  1. Stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. 
  2. Taste and season with more pepper as needed. 
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Makes about 24 bites

Mouthwatering bites of succulent mushrooms spiced up a bit with hot sausage will really knock their socks off. Make these little guys days to weeks in advance and then freeze them until needed (up to 3 months!) for a convenient and delicious last-minute appetizer option. 

Of course, they also taste great fresh out of the oven. To reheat, just pop them in the oven for 15 minutes and let sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.

  • 24 ounces, weight White Button Mushrooms
  • 1/3 pound Hot Pork Sausage
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1/3 cup Dry White Wine
  • 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese
  • 1 whole Egg Yolk
  • 3/4 cups Parmesan Cheese, Grated
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Wipe off or wash mushrooms in cold water. Pop out stems, reserving both parts.
  3. Chop mushroom stems finely and set aside.
  4. Brown and crumble sausage. Set aside on a plate to cool.
  5. Add onions and garlic to the same skillet; cook for 2 minutes over medium low heat.
  6. Pour in wine to deglaze pan, allow liquid to evaporate.
  7. Add in chopped mushroom stems, stir to cook for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set mixture aside on a plate to cool.
  8. In a bowl, combine cream cheese and egg yolk. Stir together with Parmesan cheese.
  9. Add cooled sausage and cooled mushroom stems. Stir mixture together and refrigerate for a short time to firm up.
  10. Smear mixture into the cavity of each mushroom, creating a sizable mound over the top.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  12. Allow to cool at least ten minutes before serving; the stuffed mushrooms taste better when not piping hot.

Dinner: The Main Attraction

Here are some delicious recipes for perennial favorites that will make for a remarkable dinner celebration, and are perfect for outdoor or poolside entertaining.

Red, White and Blue Side Salad

Prep: 10 mins
Difficulty: Very Easy
Serves 6-8 guests

  • 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce 
  • 1/2 cup blueberries 
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries 
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds 
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces 
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese 
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese 
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, or to taste 
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, or to taste 
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, or to taste 
  • Salt, to taste 
  1. Toss the romaine lettuce, blueberries, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, walnut pieces, feta cheese, and goat cheese in a large bowl. 
  2. Pour the vinegar, syrup, and grapeseed oil over the salad one at a time; toss until evenly coated. 
  3. Season with salt.
Boston Baked Beans

Prep: 30 mins, Soak beans the night before
Cook: 4 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
Serves 8-10 guests

  • 2 cups navy beans 
  • 1/2 pound bacon 
  • 1 onion, finely diced 
  • 3 tablespoons molasses 
  • 2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 
  • 1/2 cup ketchup 
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
  1. Soak beans overnight in cold water. Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  3. Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion.
  4. In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in reserved bean water to cover the beans. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for 3 to 4 hours in oven, until beans are tender. Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry.
French Potato Salad
The title may say French, but it's still a Memorial Day tradition

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Difficulty: Easy
Serves 6-8 guests

  1. 2 1/2 pounds fingerling or small new potatoes, halved 
  2. Coarse salt and ground pepper
  3. 1/4 cup olive oil
  4. 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  5. 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  6. 1 small shallot, minced (~2 tablespoons)
  7. 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  8. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  9. 1/4 small red onion, sliced
Note on Substitution: If you don't have sherry vinegar, try cider or champagne vinegar instead. Use your favorite fresh herbs in this potato salad to make it your own.

  1. Place potatoes in a large pot; cover with cold water by 1 inch and season generously with salt. 
  2. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. 
  3. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Add potatoes and onion and toss to combine. 
  6. Serve at room temperature. To store, refrigerate, up to 1 day.

Cheddar Bacon Burgers

Total time: 30 min.
Difficulty: Moderate
Makes 4 burgers 

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon steak sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
  • 8 cooked bacon strips
  • Optional toppings: lettuce leaves and tomato, onion and pickle slices
  1. In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. 
  2. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. 
  3. Shape into four patties.
  4. Grill burgers, covered, over medium heat or broil 3 in. from the heat for 4-7 minutes on each side or until a thermometer reads 160° and juices run clear. 
  5. Top with cheddar cheese slices. 
  6. Grill 1 minute longer or until cheese is melted. 
  7. Serve on buns with bacon and toppings of your choice.

Dessert is served! 

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

Prep time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Difficulty: More difficult
Serves 8-10 guests

A warm slice of spiced apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to top off a good meal will lend a distinctly American flavor to the holiday gathering. While making your own pie crust is always a treat (make it up to a week ahead and freeze it until the day of the party), this pie will taste great even with the pre-made variety.

Crust Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds or almond flour (can substitute 1/2 cup flour if you don't have almonds)
  • 16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled in freezer for at least 15 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3 to 6 Tbsp water, very cold
Filling Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 pounds of 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices of peeled and cored good cooking apples such as Granny Smith, Pippin, Golden Delicious
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Egg Wash
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp cream
  1. In a food processor, combine flour, almonds, salt and brown sugar, pulse to mix. 
  2. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. 
  3. Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again.
  4. Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface. 
  5. Carefully shape into 2 discs. Do not over-knead the dough! You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These bits of butter are what will allow the result crust to be flaky. 
  6. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  7. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F.
  8. Combine sugar, flour and spices in large bowl. Use your hands and mix in the apples so they are well coated, then add brandy and vanilla extract.
  9. Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator.
  10. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. 
  11. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, use a metal spatula to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. 
  12. Gently fold in half. Place on to a 9-inch pie plate, lining up the fold with the center of the pan. 
  13. Gently unfold and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.
  14. Spoon in apple filling, mounding slightly in center. Roll out second disk of dough, as before. 
  15. Gently turn over onto the top of the apples in the pie. 
  16. Pinch top and bottom of dough rounds firmly together. 
  17. Trim excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. 
  18. Fold dough under itself so that the edge of the fold is flush with the edge of the pan. 
  19. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork.
  20. Stir yolk and cream in small bowl to blend. 
  21. Brush over top of pie. 
  22. Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. 
  23. Bake pie until crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F. 
  24. Tent the rims with aluminum foil or a pie protector if the edges are browning too quickly. 
  25. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, anywhere from an additional 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of apples you are using. 
  26. Transfer to rack; let stand 1 hour. 
  27. Serve pie warm or at room temperature.

Relax and Refresh: Party Drinks

Here are two recipes for deliciously boozy punch that will set your spirits soaring without over-doing it. Keep it cold without watering down the flavor by adding frozen fruit and rounds of freezeable, submersible LED ice cubes from PartySwizzle.com. 

For non-alcoholic options, check out our Country Western Appetizer blog post for delicious Sweet Tea and lemonade recipes!

Bourbon Punch

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Very Easy
Serves 6-8 guests

  • 1 L bourbon
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 3 lemons, juiced and  peeled
  • 1 orange, juiced and peeled
  • 1 L green tea
  • 250 mL champagne or club soda
  • Sprinkle of grated nutmeg
  1. In a large punch bowl, muddle together citrus peels and sugar until clumps form. 
  2. Brew tea for 30 minutes, then remove tea bags and allow to cool. 
  3. Add tea to the punch bowl with sugar and peels, then stir in fruit juice and bourbon. 
  4. Fill each glass 2/3 full, then top off with champagne and grated nutmeg just before serving. 
Swizzle Tip: Brew the tea the day before and refrigerate overnight for easy preparation.

Red & Blue White Sangria 

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Very Easy
Serves 6-8 guests

  • 1 Bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • 2 oz. orange liquor (Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier)
  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 8 strawberries, sliced
  • 16 oz. club soda or ginger ale
  1. Add wine, orange liquor, peaches, lemon slices, lime slices, blackberries, and strawberries in a large pitcher. 
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 6 hours.
  3. Top with club soda or ginger ale in each glass, stir and serve.
Share your best Memorial Day food ideas.

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