35 Delicious Memorial Day Recipes You Can Prep Ahead of Time
WRITTEN BY: Sabrina Tillman
Article at a Glance
All-American backyard cookout recipes can be laden with added sugar, seed oils, and excess sodium.
Luckily, it’s easy to avoid ultra-processed, unhealthy Memorial Day foods when you plan ahead.
Here, you’ll find 35+ options for healthier, seed-oil-free snacks, mains, and desserts that you can prep ahead of time.
You don’t have to DIY everything. It’s a holiday, after all. Scroll to the end for our list of the best-quality convenience items that require little more than opening a package or bottle, then accepting all of the praise.
It’s the first national holiday after a monotonous string of workdays and a mix of gray skies and wintry weather. We want to celebrate Memorial Day with enough fanfare to usher in the season of sunny skies and fireflies in giddy run-through-the-sprinkler fashion without forgetting our fallen servicepeople.
We do this best by gathering to watch parades march along shady flag-lined boulevards then congregating in backyards to laze, laugh, and lunch. Avoid the gloopy pucks of potato salad, tasteless frozen burger patties, suspect ultra-processed hot dogs, and oversalted, seed oil-laden potato chips with our roundup of better-for-you Memorial Day recipes.
Our Memorial Day recipes nod to the barbecue classics, sans inflammatory seed oils, gluten, and excess sugar. We also offer our picks for the best store-bought helpers because not everything needs to be homemade (you’ve waited for this day off, after all).
Appetizers and Party-Starters
White Bean Queso
Undrained cannellini beans provide just enough aquafaba (culinary glue) to make this creamy vegan queso thick enough to coat a corn chip. Oven-blistered jalapeño and garlic are blitzed with nutritional yeast, white beans, and raw cashew butter to make a shareable dip that’s both simple and complex.
Roasted Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Honey
Blushing beets blended with creamy goat cheese gives this dip its striking fuchsia hue. Use store-bought roasted beets, blitz the ingredients in a food processor, and you’re ready to stun.
Avocado Deviled Eggs
This mayo-less deviled egg recipe can sit for longer on a sunny backyard table. The creamy, satisfying richess of avocado makes mayo redundant. Simply hard boil the eggs, combine the yolks with avocado, dijon mustard, lemon juice, and seasonings and pipe the filling into the egg white cradles if you feel fancy.
Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Snappy, salty, savory, Asian chicken lettuce wraps cup ginger-garlic-shallot-spiked ground chicken and diced shrimp. Drizzle a sauce of salty coconut aminos, honeyed apple juice, and fiery hot sauce thickened with almond butter on top of each wrap and you officially have a conversation starter.
Veggie Tortilla Pizza
More tostada than pizza, this vegetarian appetizer provides a big nacho wedge that you can munch as you walk around. Spiced refried black beans (mash up drained canned black beans if you can’t find these) get spread on top of a toasted tortilla, topped with veggies and shredded cheddar, then baked until the cheese bubbles. Swirl a simple avocado crema on top of the pizzas, sprinkle with diced scallions, and serve.
Chipotle Potato Crisps
Thick-cut homemade potato chips air-fried or oven-crisped don’t involve copious amounts of oil and deep-fried mess. No, they’re not as easy as store-bought chips but they’re arguably more addictive and certainly fresher. Serve with a creamy green chili dipping sauce and make sure to grab a few before you set them down on the buffet table.
People forget about this simple throwback but set it out at a party, and people will crowd around it. Make your own five-ingredient cocktail sauce, adding as much nose-tingling horseradish and hot sauce as you’d like.
Retro and bountiful, charcuterie boards appeal to our eat-with-our-eyes-first tendency. The bonus points they earn for being no-cook could be negated when you get home and realize you don’t have a clue how to arrange a bunch of different ingredients on a board. Learn how to fold, pile, and style like a champ from a seasoned food blogger.
Grilled Pork Loin
Coat uncooked pork loin with a light brush of honey before sprinkling on an herb and seasoning dry rub. Marinate until you’re ready to light the grill, taking care not to overcook this lean meat. Serve sliced on a platter with chutney and grilled pitas, with corn tortillas and pineapple salsa, or on a mound of sliced grilled fennel and apples.
Green Goddess Salmon Burgers
Homemade green goddess dressing made creamy with Greek yogurt and mayo (choose one made with avocado oil), anchovies, and a generous spattering of garden-fresh herbs gets slathered on top of well-spiced salmon patties. Grill or skillet-fry the burgers and serve with gluten-free buns or a tangle of arugula and sliced avocado.
Beijing Lamb Skewers
Switch up the usual chicken or beef skewers with chunks of lamb seasoned simply with salt, dried chili flakes, and cumin seeds. Use Zero Acre oil to brush the seasonings on the meat and sear each side with the smoky flames of a hot grill. Indulge your primal urges and hoist a drippy bit of still-skewered meat into your mouth, no utensils needed.
The secret to this six-ingredient chicken: marinating it for as long as 24 hours does all the work of sealing in an exotic blend of spices tempered by coconut cream. Simply bake or grill until golden and lightly charred, then don’t tell anyone how hard you didn’t work.
Grilled Steak with Herb Butter
Hot grill. Steak topped with lazily melting herb-studded butter. Not much more needs to be said here except that you should use Zero Acre oil to brush your steaks or grill grates to avoid sticking.
Teriyaki Chicken Burgers
Asian-Hawaiian fusion shines in an approachable way in these grilled teriyaki chicken burgers. Sharp ginger, spring-green chives, and full-bodied sesame oil, and savory coconut aminos season ground chicken that gets slightly smoky and charred on the outside. Top with a grill-caramelized pineapple ring and chili-spiked aioli.
Smoked Pork Shoulder
Slow-smoked meat imparts an umami, woodsy flavor that clings to fatty cuts of protein. It’s a backyard project that, well, emits a lot of smoke, but you can’t replicate the flavor with liquid smoke and a prayer. Piquant yellow mustard, crisply acidic apple cider vinegar, apple juice, lemon and cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder add sweet-salty-peppery depth to the pork.
The secret to tender bites of beef: a sprinkle of baking soda. Next, marinate the beef in a bath of salty, funky, savory, and spicy splashes of sauces and oils. Baste some of the reserved sauce onto the beef kabobs as they grill to give them a sticky coat.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower
Serve this one as a side dish or a main dish for pasta-and-cheese-loving kids (and kids at heart). Macgyver this one any way you will — use lentil or chickpea dried pasta, sub vegan-friendly cheese and milk, omit the all-American crumble of Ritz crackers on top.
Instead of burning boca burgers (because, really, how long do you grill them?), bake these quinoa burgers flavored with dill, chives, garlic, and toasted cumin. Serve with burger fixings or with a side of hummus.
No, these don’t taste like chicken… arguably, they taste better. Cheap and bland, cauliflower provides a blank canvas for assertive flavors like sesame, ginger, garlic, and red chili peppers. Toss cauliflower florets in a chickpea flour batter, dunk in gluten-free breadcrumbs, then bake for 25 minutes. Douse crispy cauliflower in homemade sweet and sour sauce and a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds and scallions.
An ingenious take on the smoky and deeply savory flavor of ribs, these vegan ribs pack the umami punch and toothsome texture you want without the bone and gristle. King oyster mushrooms are sliced into one-inch thick slabs, flash-fried in a pan, coated with a mix of store-bought barbecue sauce (we like Yo Mama’s or Date Lady), hickory liquid smoke, and a cornstarch slurry, then broiled to make the sauce sticky.
Crispy Baked Falafel
Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, falafel is typically deep-fried, doused with hummus, and served wrapped in a pita cloak. It’s as close to a brick-in-the-gut feeling as a vegan can get. This oven-baked falafel recipe uses pantry ingredients and comes together in about 35 minutes.
Mushroom Veggie Burgers
A mix of mushrooms star in this veggie burger recipe binded with brown rice, walnuts, and ground flaxseed and flavored with half a pantry shelf of sauces and spices to deliver just the right balance of sweet, umami, savory, and spicy.
Cucumber Noodles with Thai Peanut Sauce
Slather creamy, nutty, sour, slightly spicy Thai peanut sauce on a leather shoe and you might consider eating it (or at least licking the sauce off). A masterful sauce to tuck in your back pocket and never let on how easy it is to make, Thai peanut sauce even makes cool, crunchy spiralized cucumber something to talk about.
Grilled Wedge Salad with Spicy Ranch
If you’ve never tried grilled lettuce, get ready for enlightenment. There’s something sexy about the way the high heat of the grill singes sturdy leaves of iceberg or romaine, leaving them a little smoky, a little wilted and blushing. This grilled wedge salad doesn’t stop there; it educates on how to top this fork-and-knife salad with a homemade spicy ranch that’s shockingly simple and irresistible.
DIY Salad Dressings Without Seed Oils
Salads can be relegated to the “a little something green” on the side of a plate, but they’re only as good as the quality of their ingredients — and only as interesting as the imagination of their creator. But you can elevate the most basic lettuce, cucumber, and tomato salad with a snazzy dressing. Consult our easy salad dressing roundup to witness how five or six pantry staples can convince anyone to have a second helping.
Sesame Noodle Salad
A tangle of gluten-free angel hair mixed with sweet snap peas, julienned carrots and red bell peppers, crisp cucumber, and grassy cilantro leaves gets coated in a sesame dressing with notes of citrus and spicy ginger. If the tiny bit of brown sugar in the dressing offends you, substitute with monk fruit, allulose, or honey. This one gets better as it sits.
Southwestern Chicken Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing
This meal-in-a-bowl Tex-Mex salad pleases palates that don’t prefer salad. Taco-seasoned chicken breasts sit atop romaine leaves, diced tomato, black beans, corn, and avocado. Toss with a simple dressing made with sour cream, cilantro, salt, and lime juice and everyone’s happy.
Ubiquitous at Midwestern potlucks and parties, the classic broccoli salad recipe takes a nutrient-packed vegetable and smothers it with a dairy-heavy dressing, chopped bacon, and shredded cheddar. And this keto broccoli salad is no exception because, well, these ingredients are tasty. Pick a mayo made with avocado oil and sub plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream if you must, and if you’re not down with a powdered keto sweetener, use a little maple syrup or honey.
French-style Potato Salad
No gloopy potato pucks here. Creamy boiled baby potatoes get tossed with chicken broth, vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, and a generous spattering of fresh chopped herbs. Finely diced shallots and champagne vinegar add understated elegance to the humble potato.
Strawberry & Watermelon Arugula Salad
Understated and elegant, this salad balances contrasting flavors masterfully. Bitter, punchy arugula curls around sweet and juicy cubed watermelon and strawberries. Fresh basil and mint provide garden-fresh perk, sliced shallots add a mellow onion note, crumbled feta adds salt, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette adds musky, acidic, fruity notes.
No-Bake Cookie Dough Bites
Seemingly simple but surprisingly fussy, baking stay-soft chocolate chip cookies requires the right blend of moisture and slight underbaking. Dispense with this altogether and satisfy sweet cravings with no-bake cookie dough. This gluten-free version combines oat, almond, and coconut flours with cashew butter and maple syrup to make safely edible but addictive cookie balls.
No-bake Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
Why anyone would choose to fuss with a bain-marie to gently bake a cheesecake is beyond us. In this recipe, the freezer does the work of solidifying the crumbly crust and the silky, creamy filling. This no-dairy cheesecake relies on raw soaked cashews, coconut oil, and full-fat coconut milk to give it an unctuous mouthfeel. Freeze-dried strawberries add concentrated berry flavor and a ballet pink hue to the cake.
Birthday Cake Truffles
These truffles have a celebratory charm whose easy make-ahead method makes them ideal for a large gathering. Almond butter, oat flour, and maple syrup make up the bulk of the inside, and a little butter and melted white chocolate serve as the candied outer layer. Rainbow-colored sprinkles make these birthday themed, but you can dispense with that confetti and dust the truffles with cocoa powder or powdered freeze-dried raspberries.
Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart
Earthy, rich, and slightly bitter, dark chocolate needs perking up if it’s to star in a tart. Sun-ripened raspberries provide a hint of sweet and sour that softens any harshness in the dark chocolate. A conservative amount of maple syrup adds an oaky sweet note to the tart, but it’s the bashful bridesmaid in the background.
Chocolate Pudding Cake
Springy on top, fudgy and melty on the inside, this chocolate pudding cake doesn’t ooze like a lava cake but charms all the same with its half-baked vibe. The technique to get the pudding right requires no-stir restraint, but follow the directions and you’ll reap the reward.
Best Ready-Made Picks for Your Cookout
Just because you may want to avoid seed oils, excess added sugar, and possibly gluten doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch. That’s a whole lot of hassle, especially when you’re feeding a crowd. We recommend our best picks for store-bought convenience foods with better-for-you ingredients.
Teton Waters Ranch
Grass-fed burgers, hot dogs, brats, and sausages with none of the suspect additives — just pure beefy flavor.
Humanely raised meat without antibiotics or GMO additives, Applegate Farms turkey burgers, hot dogs, and chicken apple sausages are open-and-grill quickies that everyone can agree on.
Salad Dressings & Condiments
Fody’s unsweetened ketchup, salsas, sauces and marinades pack gut-friendly flavor without a lot of added sweeteners and chemicals you can’t pronounce.
Build a low sugar, no dairy pantry of seasonings, sauces, and salad dressings made with extra virgin olive oil with intention. Noble Made offers mild, medium, and hot buffalo sauce, goes-with-anything citrus herb marinade, and less common but fabulous carrot ginger dressing.
Choose avocado oil-based salad dressings and mayo accentuated with distilled vinegar, herbs, spices, and feisty flavors like chipotle, smoked paprika, and tamari.
Chips & Snacks
Popcorn and puffs made with coconut oil, ghee, or avocado oil in fabulous flavors similar to kettle corn, cheese, and flamin’ hot without the garbage.
Grain-free tortilla chips made with avocado oil and seasonings you recognize like red chile powder, nutritional yeast, and coconut milk powder. Pair the Ranch tortilla chips with a black bean dip, or the Fuego chips with guacamole.
Let’s face it: Crisp, salty potato chips are hard to beat. Look for Boulder Canyon potato chips made with avocado or olive oil — the cheddar sour cream and jalapeno flavors are particularly addictive.
You don’t have to sacrifice fun and convenience in order to stay healthy this memorial day. Keep inflammatory oils low with these easy, make-ahead recipes and swap in Zero Acre oil when you cook for more healthy fats and unbeatable taste.
Combine some store-bought convenience with a few homemade recipes, toss a few things on the grill, then slip your shoes off and let shady blades of grass tickle your toes. It’s the season for languishing in the outdoors long after the sun slinks gloriously out of sight.
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