Best 4th of July Menu For a Cookout

Having a cookout for Independence Day and need some ideas for your 4th of July menu? These tried-and-true recipes are always a big hit and can be prepared ahead of time so you have time to enjoy the party.

the best 4thof July menu for a cookout

If you have been following along here lately, you probably know by now that my annual 4th of July party has become a tradition.

It’s a pretty casual event that is mostly centered around getting together with friends, relaxing in the backyard, and praying not to get rained on. Having a thunderstorm roll through right about the time that the grill heats up seems to be part of the tradition, too 🙂

I used to try to come up with a new set of 4th of July recipes every year. But my friends were always asking for the original ones.

So for the last couple of years, I have stuck with basics. And that seems to make everyone happy.

Even better…that makes it easier for me since most of these recipes can be made in advance and I know they will all turn out.

So I thought I would share my 4th of July menu in case you are looking for some ideas for your own cookout.


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Red, white and blue salad

red, white and blue berry and goat cheese salad

Everyone loves this red, white and blue berry salad.

It looks very patriotic and it’s really easy to make.  What more could you ask for?

Grilled chicken, avocado and mango salad

grilled chicken garden salad with fruit and nuts

Or if you want a more tropical salad, this one topped with avocado, mango and grilled chicken may be what you’re looking for.

It combines tropical flavors with chicken for a refreshing, summery salad that can be served as a side or a main dish.

4-ingredient pasta salad

4 ingredient pasta salad with pesto

You can’t have a summer cookout without pasta salad.

It’s super easy to make, always tastes better when it’s made in advance and everyone loves it.

And this version only requires four ingredients so there isn’t even a lot of chopping.


Slow cooker mac & cheese

crock pot macaroni and cheese

In my neck of the woods, a cookout isn’t a cookout without Mac & Cheese…even if it isn’t made on the grill.

With this crock pot version of Mac & Cheese, you can get it ready and turn it on before everyone arrives, and you don’t have to worry about it again.  Food that can be made in advance is a bonus in my books!

The best garlic bread

garlic bread on a piece of foil

I have some friends who would show up for a party if this garlic bread was the only food I was serving…they love it that much!

It’s another make-in-advance recipe, which always makes getting ready for the cookout easier.

And it can be made in the oven or on the top rack of the grill.

Grilled asparagus

Grilled Asparagus on a plate

Okay, now we’re on to the grill recipes.

This grilled asparagus recipe always goes over really well with my crowd. I like to buy the big bags of asparagus from Costco so I know I’ll have enough for everyone.

You can also make it in the oven if your grill is too full with all of the other food.

Main dishes

Fall-off-the-bone ribs

grilled ribs with homemade bbq sauce

These Bar-B-Q spareribs are another one of my crowd favorites. Everyone once in a while, I decide not to make them and I always have a few people ask where they are.

They do take a little more prep work than some of the other recipes, but all of that part is done in advance.

Which makes the actual grilling part of the recipe (when everyone is usually hovering over you waiting for the food to be served) very easy.

Note: These can also be cooked in the oven if that’s easier for you.

Pesto turkey burgers

grilled pesto turkey burger

Burgers are a staple for cookouts, but I have some friends who don’t eat beef, so I make turkey burgers instead.

And actually after I tried this recipe, I haven’t made a beef burger since!  

They have a ton of taste, fewer calories, and no-one has ever complained about not having regular burgers.

Burger toppings charcuterie board

burger toppings charcuterie board beside a plate of hamburgers

If you’re looking for a great way to serve the toppings for your burgers, this charcuterie board works well.

It’s made on a baking sheet so you don’t need a fancy board to put it on.

And you can put it together ahead of time, store it (covered) in the refrigerator until you need it and then easily carry the whole thing out to where you are serving.

Easy to eat chicken kabobs

chicken shish kabobs on a plate with salad

These Chicken Kabobs are actually a fairly new addition to my 4th of July menu.  But they were such a big hit that I’ve made them for every cookout I’ve had since.

There’s something about eating really delicious chicken off of a stick that everyone loves 🙂

Spicy chicken wings

a plate of marinated spicy chicken wings with blue cheese dressing on the side

I can’t have any kind of a party without having chicken wings…my friends would literally go to Publix deli and buy some if I didn’t serve them. (And Publix deli does have some pretty tasty wings…I have to admit).

Just to make sure that nobody confuses my homemade wings with the Publix variety, I like to spice things up a bit with these Asian Chicken Wings.

They aren’t spicy as in super-hot, but they have a lot of spicy flavor. And they really go fast around my place!

Grilled rotisserie chicken

grilled rotisserie chicken on a bbq spit

Rotisserie chicken is another 4th of July staple around my house. I usually put it on to cook before everyone arrives and then let it sit for a while before carving it.

That gives it a chance to cool down, and makes it easier to cut. It’s a little more work than some of the other dishes on the menu, but it’s so good that it’s worth it!


Patriotic mini cheesecakes

blueberry, cherry and whipped cream mini cheesecakes in an American flag design

Mini cheesecakes are a simple red, white and blue dessert that everyone loves! .

While it sounds complicated, this recipe is actually really easy to put together and can be made ahead of time.

Patriotic Rice Krispie treats

patriotic red, white and blue rice krispie treats

For a no-bake dessert that looks very patriotic and the kids love, you can’t beat these Rice Krispie treats.

Cut into the shape of stars and decorated in red, white and blue, they also look great on your buffet or dessert table.

Red, white and blue yogurt parfait

strawberry blueberry yogurt parfait in a tall glass

For a light and refreshing end to your 4th of July meal that is also fairly healthy, this red, white and blue yogurt parfait is perfect.

It’s super fast and easy to make (takes less than 5 minutes), uses berries that are in season this time of year, and it tastes delicious!

No churn berry ice cream

close up of no churn berry ice cream with berries

Ice cream has always been a staple of summer cookouts.

And I love to make my own rather than going for the store-bought kind.

This recipe is really easy to make, doesn’t require any special equipment and tastes delicious.

Fruit charcuterie board

fruit charcuterie board with green grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, pineapple and dips

If you want to serve fruit at your Independence Day get together, try arranging it like a charcuterie board.

It looks pretty and makes it easy for everyone to help themselves to whatever types of fruit they like.

You can find more red, white and blue desserts HERE.

Non Alcoholic Drinks

Homemade lemonade

Homemade lemonade

For a non-alcoholic drink, this homemade lemonade cannot be beat.

It’s easy to make a big batch. And there’s something about fresh-squeezed lemons that just tastes so much better than the store-bought kind.

Cold brew lemon iced tea

cold brew lemon iced tea

Or if you prefer iced tea, you can make your own homemade version of this, too.

It’s not hard to do and it’s so refreshing!

Mojito mocktail

Mojito Mocktail

For guests who like the taste of a cocktail without the alcohol, this Mojito mocktail recipe is always a hit.

And it’s easy to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions so everyone will be happy.


Red, white and blue Jello shots

red, white and blue jello shots displayed on an American flag tray

I never know whether Jello shots count as a cocktail or a dessert. They’re kind of a bit of both.

In any case, they always make an appearance on the 4th of July because they’re so easy to do and you can make them in the right colors!

Berries and lime sangria

3 glasses of berries and lime sangria in mason jar cups on an American flag tray

Of course, you can’t have a 4th of July cookout without some refreshing drinks.

Sangria is always a big hit with my friends at summer parties.

Since it can be made ahead of time and served in a drink dispenser, it’s a stress-free addition to the menu.

This berries and lime sangria recipe is one of my favorites.

Strawberry mimosas

strawberry mimosas in tall glasses

These strawberry Mimosas take advantage of in-season strawberries to make the perfect afternoon cocktail.

And they’re always a big hit at my 4th of July party.

Frozen watermelon margarita

frozen watermelon margaritas

What’ a 4th of July cookout without a little watermelon?

These frozen Margaritas use fresh watermelon and are super tasty.

I always make a big batch of them (rather than doing them one at a time) because everyone wants one.

And that’s my go-to cookout menu that I’ll be making for my 4th of July party this year.  

Since all of the recipes are easy and can be prepared ahead of time, they definitely cut down on my day-of-party stress!

More 4th of July party ideas you might like

Or browse all of our 4th of July ideas.

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4th of July cookout recipes

This post was originally published on June 29, 2017 but was updated with new content on February 16, 2024.

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