Easy, breezy outdoor meals are a hallmark of summer. From last-minute picnics in parks to quick dinners eaten poolside (or just in the backyard), we want dishes that satisfy us without excessive planning or preparation. After all, summer brings a bounty of ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables that basically just ask you to slice them up and set them out.
Summer technically begins June 21, but Memorial Day’s our first long weekend in warm, sunny weather. And you can bet we’re spending a lot of time in the great outdoors. These 30 simple, warm-weather dishes are our go-to recipes, without question—and we bet they’ll have you celebrating your first (unofficial!) day of the season in style.
The flavors in this quick and easy grilled corn are magically summery: the herby basil butter complements the natural sweetness of the corn, while the char from the grilling adds a nice element of smokiness.
This vibrant, bright-as-heck salad has a small handful ingredients and just one instruction—mix together everything in a bowl, toss, and serve. It celebrates all the delicate flavors spring produce offers, but is still hardy enough to hold up for hours without wilting or getting soggy.
You’ll never make guacamole the same way again after trying this version. Grill the avocados before mixing them into this zesty, cheesy spread, which is especially perfect for a backyard BBQ.
What could be more perfect for an outdoor meal than a bright, crunchy coleslaw? This take on the classic BBQ side dish has lots of za’atar, celery seeds, and tangy Greek yogurt. And if you’re worried about it getting soggy, as some coleslaws notoriously do, worry not—this one’s salted ahead of time, then squeezed before tossing in sauce, so it soaks up all the moisture from the dressing and stays perfectly crunchy for days.
This classic Southern vegetable gets taken in a whole new direction when skewered over the grill and sprinkled with a spicy, tangy Sriracha and lime salt.
Juicy summer tomatoes really shine in this easy summer appetizer, which calls for a piquant marinade (lime, fish sauce, chili, and shallot) and a quick kiss from the grill.
This is the major upgrade pasta primavera has been waiting for since…well…1970. Green vegetables get to strut their stuff without being weighed down with cream; for that signature richness that sets pasta primavera apart, we’ll turn to butter or olive oil instead. This one’s great hot or cold.
Fluffy eggs, perfectly seasoned farro, and a bevy of crunchy, cooling vegetables—what more can you ask for from a salad? This one keeps for days, so make it ahead before you’re ready to party, or keep leftovers to enjoy with all the extra burgers throughout the first week of June.
We like sweet potato fries that are crunchy but not leathery, tender but not oil-soaked, and sweet potato-ey without being too…well…sweet. With the help of Kenji J. López-Alt’s sage advice on frying, we’ve created a recipe that achieves all those qualities, and then some, while staying fuss-free to boot. These’ll go excellently with any of those burgers or skewers below.
10. Halfsies Chicken
This no-nonsense chicken recipe is perfect for a big crowd—all you need is five simple ingredients and a bit of planning (you just let the chicken marinate overnight before it hits the grill the next day).
This seemingly simple dish is loaded up with tips for the crispiest, juiciest grilled shrimp out there: air-drying, dry-brining, adding baking soda, and snuggling on the skewers.
As impressive as it is easy to pull together, this tender flank steak can come together in the oven or on the grill, while the chimichurri-esque green sauce needs just a whiz in the food processor.
These vegetarian-friendly burgers have just the right balance of heat (thanks to paprika, cumin, and chili) and sweet (thanks to fresh summer corn).
What makes something Alabama-style? A “white” barbecue sauce, which is tart and tangy with mayo and vinegar, that’s famous to the state.
The key to pulling off this Genius-approved grilled pizza is simple: buy the ripest, freshest, best tomatoes you can find at the farmer’s market.
If you’re trying to eat a little less meat these days, but still crave an umami-rich, juicy-as-heck beef burger, this is the recipe for you. A heap of vegan ground beef, plus cheese, if you please (we do!) come together to form a patty that actually holds together when you griddle or grill it. Sandwich the patty into a toasted bun (or, better yet, an English muffin!), then top it with whatever pickly bits you like best.
Two ingredients. About ten seconds. The best chicken marinade you’ve ever concocted. (Try it on beef, or tofu, or any vegetables of your choosing, too.)
The best part about this fried chicken (aside from the flavor, and tender meat): It’ll hold warm in the oven for up to a few hours, so you can have everything ready to go before any guests show up.
If salmon’s more your speed, try out this so-simple rendition. It can hang out in the oven while you set out the rest of your party spread (or sip on a michelada—your choice!).
Bake off this crackle-crusted, extra-moist olive cake the day before the big holiday. That way, all you have to do the day of is slice and serve with fresh fruit and dollops of whipped cream.
These gluten-free cookies are tender and crumbly and rich and chocolatey all at once. Make an extra-big batch, because once people get a taste, we guarantee they’ll disappear.
These nostalgic ice cream pops are just three ingredients—yellow cake crumbles, vanilla ice cream, and finely diced strawberries—and make the most refreshing dessert on a hot summer day.
Chocolate pudding is always in season—but this one is especially summery and ready for Memorial Day, thanks to the addition of bitters (you already have some from all the cocktails you’re mixing up, right?!). Heat, stir, and let set—you’ll be hard pressed to find another dessert so easy yet so rich.
These cute little layer cakes make the perfect personal-size dessert. Finish them off with fresh whipped cream, blueberries, and raspberries for an easy treat that still feels very festive.
A classic for a reason! It’s got the perfect mix of bright lime, herbal tequila, sweet orange triple sec, and a slick of salt to cut through it all. Try these on the rocks or blended—with or without fruit, your choice!)—and share with everyone at the BBQ.
Looking for a drink that’s savory, refreshing, and totally sessionable? The michelada is just your ticket. Packed with umami (worcestershire sauce! clamato! celery salt on the rim!) and a pleasant fizz (Mexican-style lager works best here), you can pair this drink with any of the snacks in the top section of this recipe guide, or finish out the afternoon quietly while sipping on one.
27. Tea Thyme Soda
This non-alcoholic bubbly drink is a riff on your favorite iced black tea, plus an herby-sweet thyme syrup. If you do want to go the cocktail route, though, bourbon fits in here nicely.
Similar to a margarita, this cocktail for a crowd uses a simple combination of blanco tequila, fresh-squeezed (this is key) pineapple juice, lime juice, and plenty of lime and pineapple wedges for garnish.
This sweet, colorful refresher makes the perfect drink for any kids in attendance (although the adults might also like it with a splash of vodka).
30. Red Sangria
This red sangria is an absolute must for any hot-weather get-together; mix up all the ingredients (plus any type of fruit you like), let those flavors meld overnight, and serve over ice the next day.
What are you making for Memorial Day? Firing up the grill? Hosting a potluck? Share all your ideas in the comments below!
We originally published this article in May 2018, but who doesn’t want some new Memorial Day menu ideas in 2021?