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35 Best Memorial Day Side Dishes to Kick Off Summer

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This article was updated in May 2024 to include more of our favorite Memorial Day recipes.

There’s a change in the air on Memorial Day. It’s a long weekend, it’s finally grilling season, and the last day of school is just a few weeks away. There’s so much to get excited about on the first (unofficial) day of summer, starting with these 35 side dishes to serve with burgers, ribs, and more on Memorial Day.

1. Early Summer Panzanella

Panzanella is, inherently, a summer salad. After all, it’s a canvas for in-season tomatoes and fresh basil. This recipe emphasizes early summer produce like garlic scapes, which are whirred into a pesto marinade (so much tastier than a splash of red wine vinegar, IMO).

2. Instant Pot Baked Beans With Bacon

Baked beans are a must-make side dish for Memorial Day gatherings and summer picnics. These homemade beans put the canned version to shame, but are nearly as easy to prepare, thanks to the efficient Instant Pot.

3. Summer Farro Salad

I’m not saying that I’m metaphorically pushing pasta salad aside in favor of this nuttier, grainer, side salad…but I’m not not saying that. Because farro is a small grain, it really allows for larger ingredients like fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, and tomatoes to pop.

4. Grilled Eggplant & Peach Caprese Salad

You didn’t hear this from me but you don’t actually need heirloom tomatoes to make a delicious Caprese salad. This one introduces two seasonal produce all-stars—peaches and eggplants—which are dressed up with the more traditional fixings of mozzarella and basil.

5. Spicy Watermelon With Tomatoes, Prosciutto & Salted-Lime Yogurt

We stan a no-cook salad: this one is hearty enough to serve as the main course thanks to a generous portion of prosciutto, but you can easily divide it up among a crowd for Memorial Day.

6. Cacio e Pepe Panzanella With Corn & Burrata

Don’t tell the other Panzanella salad on the list but I like this one better, thanks to the cacio e pepe croutons (you heard me) and creamy burrata cheese. Sure, fresh corn isn’t quite at its peak around Memorial Day, but it will be just as delicious with fewer perky cobs.

7. Creamed Corn

Despite the name, there’s actually no cream—or any dairy at all—in this “creamed” corn recipe. It gets its milky liquid from the corn liquid that’s scraped straight from the cob.

8. Grilled Romaine With Hot Dog Crispies & Pickle-Mustard Vinaigrette

Hot dogs obviously need to make an appearance at your Memorial Day picnic, but bet you never expected them to come in the form of a side dish and especially in a salad.

9. Creamy Cucumber Salad

We’ve got lots of ideas for make-ahead side dishes—this isn’t one of them. The nature of cucumbers dressed in a combination of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise means that they’ll get soggy quickly, so it’s best to make just before serving in order to preserve the crunch.

10. Grilled Zucchini With Big Beans, Kale & Mustard Vinaigrette

This recipe uses a remarkable technique to ensure that the beans don’t separate from the dressing, leaving a far-from-enticing salad on the table. “Enter: the Spanish technique, escabeche, in which a warm ingredient cools in a tangy dressing, drawing flavor into the center of the ingredient as it comes down in temperature,” explains recipe developer Abraberens.

11. Garlicky Roasted Potato Salad

Out of all the potato salad recipes on our site, our readers call this one their very favorite. There’s still a little mayonnaise and a little mustard, but there are also really crispy spuds, which make the salad so much more appealing.

12. Pasta Salad

Everyone has their own definitions of what does and does not belong in a pasta salad so we paid attention to the consistent remarks: corkscrew-shaped pasta, olives, some element of greens, cured meat, and a tangy dressing.

13. Coleslaw

No Memorial Day picnic is complete without our very best coleslaw, which has “a restrained amount of mayo, plus tangy Greek yogurt and tangier cider vinegar,” according to recipe developer Josh Cohen.

14. Bread & Butter Salad With Dijon Vinaigrette

Everything you love about a Parisian ham and cheese sandwich in the form of a crowd-friendly salad. It’s not exactly patriotic, but it’s too delicious to pass up.

15. Marcy Ragan’s Grilled Panzanella Caprese

Panzanella, meet grilled cheese. Grilled cheese, met Caprese. These three dishes are so harmonious that we can’t believe this is the first time they’ve ever come together for a delicious summer salad.

16. Sriracha-Lime Corn Salad

Fresh corn on the cob is a symbol of summer, so of course we’re going to use it every which way. Here, fresh corn kernels are sautéed with diced red bell pepper; towards the end of the cooking process, Sriracha, chopped cilantro, Cotija cheese, and lime juice are folded in with the vegetables.

17. Homemade Potato Chips

If there aren’t potato chips at your Memorial Day picnic, I don’t want to be there.

18. Effortless Oven-Roasted Corn on the Cob With Husks

Grill is a little crowded? This simple, mess-free technique transforms corn on the cob into a sweet side dish without taking up any precious grill space.

19. Roasted & Raw Broccoli Salad With Creamy Miso Dressing

Both the crowns and stems of broccoli are utilized in this side salad. If you’re worried about using broccoli stems, peel the outer layer from them first—that exposes the more tender part of the stalk.

20. Grilled Tomatoes With Bracing Vinaigrette

Grilling tomatoes seems like a recipe for disaster but the truth is, if you just grill them on one side, it’s far less likely that they’ll completely fall apart through the grates.

21. Smoky Eggplant With Whipped Ricotta & Pistachios

This is a loosely defined side dish (meaning that it could just as easily be an appetizer or someone’s lunch during the summer), but the combination of grilled eggplant and creamy ricotta is so delicious that no one will question whether or not to eat it.

22. Maricel E. Presilla’s Cuban Avocado, Watercress & Pineapple Salad

Raw pineapple? Don’t know her. Broiled pineapple, however, is my new favorite sweet-smoky salad topping.

23. Garlickiest Garlic Bread

No one will complain when they spot a platter of garlic bread on a table filled with other Memorial Day mains and sides.

24. Michel Richard’s Glazed & Glistening Haricots Verts

Haricot verts are still in season around Memorial Day (but not for much longer!) so make the most of them. By cooking them in a combination of chicken stock, butter, and garlic, you’ll impart them with so much flavor.

25. Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi’s Basic Hummus

Hummus is so much better when you make it yourself, but it’s always way more time-consuming. Ottolenghi and Tamimi share a quick trick for soaking the chickpeas quickly so you can get to dipping.

26. Watermelon Tomato Salad With Cumin & Fennel

Food52 founder Amanda Hesser loves serving this juicy salad as a side dish and we can’t recommend it enough for Memorial Day.

27. Orzo With Blistered Green Beans, Burst Tomatoes & Feta

Our brightest pasta salad ever! We love how the pasta—in this case, orzo—takes a back seat to summer vegetables like fresh green beans and cherry tomatoes.

28. Cornbread

If there are burgers, ribs, and pulled pork around, there’s gotta be cornbread too. “Using half cornmeal and half all-purpose flour, our recipe ensures corny flavor with a light, tender crumb,” writes recipe developer Emma Laperruque.

29. Fully Grilled Caesar Salad

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, which means that we’re grilling anything and everything in sight. Romaine hearts are brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and grilled until charred.

30. Grilled Peach & Apricot Salad

Don’t reserve stone fruit for dessert. Let them come to the party early with this savory salad that also invites prosciutto, feta cheese, and kale.

31. The Chunkiest, Herbiest, Greenest Guacamole

If you prefer your guacamole to have a chunky texture rather than a super smooth one, you’ll love the taste of this version. It has all the classic call-outs—avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapeño peppers—plus tomatillos and a touch of garlic.

32. Absurdly Addictive Asparagus

One of our most popular recipes of all time, community member KayKay combines pancetta, garlic, pine nuts, and citrus to create a bright, savory side that pairs well with anything grilled. Bonus: This comes together in under 30 minutes.

33. Grilled Chicory Salad With Chile-Fennel Dressing

Recipe developer Asha Loupy writes “Something truly magical happens when you grill chicories.” We especially agree when you heed her advice and pair your freshly charred chicories with a dressing “bolstered by spicy serrano chiles, a hearty dose of garlic, and aromatic fennel seeds.”

34. Grilled Eggplant With Miso & Doenjang

Grilled eggplant lacquered in miso and doenjang belongs at your barbecue for two reasons. One, its sweet and savory notes make it the perfect counterpart for hot dogs and sausages. Two, the next day, you can repurpose your leftovers into a snackable eggplant dip by blending them with tahini and olive oil.

35. Ignacio Mattos’ Grilled Favas

Charred, whole favas spiced by chili, brightened with lemon, and boosted with anchovy—these snackable, grilled beans are what you’ve always wanted from a plate of blistered shishitos.

What are your go-to side dishes to serve on Memorial Day?

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