Memorial Day Food Ideas and Inspiration

elotes grilled street corn on plate

While Memorial Day is held every year to remember those who have passed in military service, it is also a day that many Americans decide to wheel out the BBQ. Initially, the holiday began as Decoration Day, where the graves of soldiers were decorated with flowers and flags.

President Lyndon Johnson claimed that Waterloo, NY, was the original birthplace of Memorial Day—dozens of other towns continue to claim the same. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, passing the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved several holidays—including the newly christened Memorial Day—to the nearest Monday.

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. But why is such a solemn day also associated with cookouts?

Moving the Memorial Day holiday gave federal workers the day off and created a long weekend, probably to allow time for acts of memorializing fallen soldiers. However, it was that three-day weekend at the end of May that many began to associate the holiday with the beginning of summer, not so much the memorialization of fallen military members.

Whether you celebrate the beginning of summer, remember those who have fallen, or do both—we think that food can be a part of recognizing and celebrating. With the holiday just around the corner, we thought we’d share a few ideas that might make your Memorial Day cookout one of the best-tasting yet.

International Ideas

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day, the beginning of summer, and America as a country than embracing the diverse cultures that create our nation? Here are some fantastic ideas to incorporate into your celebration.


Elote is a popular street-side treat and snack. The word elote means corn cob in Spanish, and Mexican Elote is grilled corn of the cob slathered in a mayo cream sauce and garnished with chili powder, cheese, and lime. Not only is this delicious, it’s possibly one of the easiest side dishes to add.
All you need is husked corn, grilled for roughly 10 minutes, immediately brushed with your favorite mayo, sprinkled with cotija cheese, chili powder, salt and pepper, and a splash of freshly squeezed lime juice.

Peri Peri Chicken

Portuguese Peri Peri chicken is deliciously crispy, flavor-bursting, tender, and juicy on the inside chicken dish that’s immensely popular. It’s mildly spicy, with creole seasoning, lemon, and herbs. It’s a perfect dish to consider if you’re craving something different this summer. You can adjust the spiciness of Peri-Peri chicken to suit your tastes, and to make this recipe even more convenient if you don’t have time to make the Peri-Peri sauce yourself, you can always find and purchase it premade.

Caribbean Barbeque

Did you know BBQ most likely originated from Indigenous peoples and the Caribbean? The flavors of the Caribbean are vast, from fiery hot habanero pepper influences to tropical fruit sweetness. Other areas mix the earthiness of all-spice or splashes of vinegar for a tangy bite, while most share the traditional depth of slow-and-low smoke flavor. Caribbean barbeque takes many forms, and there are so many recipes that you’ll find one tailored to precisely what you love for flavor. If you’re unsure where to begin, no other cooking style is as closely thought of as Caribbean or Jerk seasoning.

American Inspiration

The Hamburger

We can’t mention Memorial Day BBQ without mentioning the all-American classic of the hamburger. And while a juicy burger straight from the coals is often delicious, here are a few ideas to make your Memorial burgers unforgettable.

  1. Bison Burgers – Switch it up and try unusual meats or combinations of different proteins to make a mouth-watering, unique-tasting burger that will have your friends and family wanting seconds.
  2. Bacon and Kimchi Burgers – Over the top on flavor with two thinly stacked patties, kimchi, and a spicy sauce created with sambal oelek, mayo, and ketchup, these burgers are perfect for those looking for a kick and tangy taste of kimchi.
  3. Greek-style Lamb Burgers – If you adore Greek food, this hamburger is for you on Memorial Day. Succulent ground lamb with shallots, garlic, mint, and oregano flavors can be placed on a bun or within a pita. Then top them with fresh romaine, red onion, thinly sliced tomato, tzatziki sauce, and a sprinkle of feta for a gyros-like bite that will leave you wanting more.
  4. Philly Cheesesteak Burgers – Love Philly’s? Love burgers? Why not have both? Create your hamburger patties your favorite way, then brown onions and peppers in a pan. Before the burgers are finished, add smokey provolone cheese slices topped with peppers and onions, and add your favorite condiments.

Side Dish Inspiration

  • A Southern staple, the Jalapeno popper is the perfect side dish to any BBQ. You can go the traditional route of frying them or consider baking them with a unique mix of sweet summer corn, mozzarella, and a dash of savory miso for a rich flavor that tames but doesn’t overwhelm the heat.
  • Mac and cheese stuffed zucchini are a fantastic means to sneak in a few more vegetables for the pickiest of eaters while serving up a side dish synonymous with summer get-togethers.
  • Take the classic flavors of the Caesar salad and turn it into a pasta salad! Garlicky, creamy, and hearty, it’s a perfect pairing for a Memorial Day barbeque.
  • Grilled Watermelon Feta skewers are a unique and flavorful twist on a recipe that is possibly in every restaurant during the summer months. Sprinkled with fresh basil, sweet watermelon, tangy feta, and a drizzle of reduced balsamic on a skewer is a fun take on a watermelon salad.

Whether you celebrate Memorial Day for the beginning of summer sunshine, the long weekend, remembering those who have fallen in the line of duty and active service—or all three, let us help you make meals to remember. Order the freshest seafood, meats, spices, and more to be delivered right to your front door and create memories that will last all year.