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Happy 4th of July: Festive recipes to celebrate Independence Day

This is not a sponsored post or endorsement made in coordination with or paid by any of the brands or individuals mentioned here—only offering a few suggestions based on things my family and I have tried and enjoyed.

July 4th in the United States celebrates Independence Day. On that date in 1776, the 13 original colonies claimed their independence from England, forming a new nation.

If your family is like mine, years past may have been celebrated with large BBQs complete with burgers and hot dogs, pasta and potato salads, corn on the cob, and assorted sodas and beers (for those of age to drink, of course.) When I was growing up, my grandparents had an above ground pool at their home, and at my house we had a community in-ground pool. I spent a lot of time at both of them so depending on where our summer feast took place and if it wasn’t raining, taking a dip in the pool was absolutely in order while dinner was being made.

For dessert, we typically took a trip to get soft-serve ice cream or ate an American flag cake—which many of you probably know and have likely made or tasted at least once, if not many times: a rectangle-shaped poundcake or a boxed vanilla cake mix covered with whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries arranged in the shape of a flag. Finally, a trip to see fireworks at a local park capped off the night, where we would sit on a blanket or folding chairs, or stand near the car, to watch the magical bursts of colors in the night sky.

This year will no doubt be very different. Maybe a large gathering you may have planned with your family and friends was downsized or turned into a virtual celebration with some of them instead. I have also seen some creative ways that communities are celebrating in the absence of being able to have large, in-person gatherings: drive-through fireworks, for example, are being planned at the Iron Pigs Minor League baseball team ballpark for the holiday weekend in the Lehigh Valley, PA.

No matter how you are celebrating this year, here are some festive food ideas that you can still hopefully try.

Drinks & snacks

Cherry Sangria Fizz—I’ve tried and made a lot of Sangria recipes. Each one, I’ve loved for different reasons. Many of them, sadly, I haven’t documented. I am going back, slowly, to retry and write things down. A good excuse to make some cocktails? Why not? 😉

This Sangria recipe, I enjoy because the red wine mixed with the cherry juice makes it a very nice color. It has a sweet-tart flavor and adding some seltzer (optional but suggested) makes it a little lighter and more refreshing. This recipe calls for frozen berries since I made it for Thanksgiving one year, but in the summer you can and absolutely should add in-season fresh blueberries and pitted and halved cherries to your carafe.

Local beer, wine, and spirits—In the U.S. there are tons of great options, with new ones opening it seems left and right. In the summer, I admittedly like IPAs (the juicier and hazier the better), seltzer, rose wine, and gin & tonics about the best because they tend to be more refreshing.

Creamy Pesto Dip—Easy to make with just a couple of ingredients, serve it with an assortment of chips or fresh veggies.

Main courses

Grilled orange chicken—A sweet and sticky orange grilled chicken is a nice change to BBQ chicken for a cook out.

Grilled Garlic Shrimp—This is a great option for pescatarians if everyone else was planning on eating grilled burgers and hot dogs, without resorting to veggie burgers or veggie dogs, or for anyone that just wants something different. Serve with grilled vegetable kebabs. Cook the proteins and vegetables on separate kebabs since they will finish cooking at different rates; that way, the shrimp won’t overcook while the zucchini, for example, is still cooking.

Hot dogs and hamburgers—A classic for a cook-out, of course. Keep it simple and traditional, or maybe try something different:

  • Wegmans has pre-made burgers that are stuffed with creative things, like Greek-style turkey and chicken burgers made with feta, spinach, oregano and other seasonings; bacon and cheddar cheese beef burgers; and blue cheese beef burgers. ShopRite also has similar varieties, too.
  • Applegate Farms sausage is a good alternative to hot dogs. I don’t eat a lot of meat but do actually enjoy the brand’s chicken sausage, which is easy to find at many grocery stores. It’s organic, free of antibiotics, and humanely raised.]

Side dishes

Grilled corn with toppings—This can be intimidating but is actually very simple. Once you try it, it’s hard to go back to regular, boiled corn on the cob.

First, don’t peel the husk entirely off of the cob; peel it back, remove the silk, and leave the husk attached at the end. Peel up the husk and wrap the corn in it again, place corn directly on a grill that has been oiled and pre-heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook about 8-10 minutes, turning every couple of minutes until it starts to soften. I find that the husk helps to steam and soften the corn during this first cooking. After this, I take the corn off the grill, peel back the husk or remove it entirely (if you don’t want to keep it for presentation), brush with butter or oil, add salt and pepper, and grill again directly over the heat another 5 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit so the corn gets a little charred, rotating frequently.

That’s it: grilled corn! Serve simply with butter, salt and pepper, try a flavored butter (homemade or store-bought, such as this garlic-cheese butter from Wegmans), or try it Mexican elotes “street corn” style. To make elotes, start with a pre-made Mexican seasoning (or make your own simple Mexican seasoning blend that you can use on much more than corn) followed by an easy and creamy spread to slather on the corn.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp—A classic pairing that can make for a delicious summer dessert. Serve with ice cream or lightly-sweetened whipped cream.

Grilled Peaches—If you have the grill fired up, this is another great dessert recipe to try.

Let me know what you’re planning and eating for the 4th of July in a comment below!

Find more ideas in my other post, A Feast Inspired by the 50 States.

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