On July 4, 1776, our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, and now we gather in parks around the country to ooh and ahh at fireworks displays. Before that happens, we must feast, and this summertime holiday is filled with barbecues, picnics, and cookouts of all types.
If you really want to dazzle at your gathering, you’ll need to add extra pieces of flare to your typical dishes. And I don’t just mean dressing it up with a sparkler. Everything Americana goes in this festive holiday for family and friends. Whether you’re on vacation somewhere exotic or at home actually working today, these mouth-watering treats can make you stand up at attention and feel a touch more patriotic.
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Independence Day Main Dishes
The Best Hamburger Ever
Grilling burgers is an American summer tradition, and there are few better ways to taste freedom than with a juicy, beefy cheeseburger. Take it up a notch by incorporating shredded cheese into the ground beef mixture and topping it with grilled onions. Don’t forget to toast the buns (and splurge on high-quality buns) for a memorable taste nobody will forget. They may be free, but your friends will hail you as their king/queen with these beauties on your table.
BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Ribs are an American barbecue staple, but we have a love/hate relationship with them. Not everyone cooks ribs right, so we’re sometimes left with rough, hard tendons that are unappetizing to even the most die-hard fan. Pre-cook your ribs in a slow cooker overnight to ensure the tendons and other tissues melt into the meat, then finish them on the grill for the perfect glaze. And don’t use store-bought barbecue sauce when you can make your own.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Well not technically a main dish, barbecue sauce is often a feature of Fourth of July main dishes. Instead of buying off the shelf, which can be an expensive and overly produced experience, learn to make your own. We often think of French chefs making the best, most luxurious foods, and this is because they’re masters of the sauces. If you can master a good barbecue sauce and learn to adjust smoke, sweet, and spice, you’ll be a hit at any summer gathering. You probably already have the ingredients and don’t even realize it.
Texas-Style Smoked Brisket
Texas is unique even by American standards, and they’re the ones who perfected the smoked brisket. It only takes some salt, pepper, and a little bit of garlic powder to dry rub, and slow cook at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Trimming your brisket before putting it in the smoker is the key to creating a perfectly moist brisket. The RecTec smoker above is capable of creating a perfect smoke ring nobody else in the neighborhood can match.
Kalua pig is a traditional Hawaiian dish served a luaus. A whole pig is typically cooked in a fire pit with hot stones and banana leaves, but it can also be done quite effectively in a slow cooker. All it takes is some Hawaiian sea salt, liquid smoke, and pork shoulder or butt roast. You can obviously pick whichever parts of the pig you’d like, but those are the best. Make a Crock-Pot full and bring it with you wherever you go with some Hawaiian sweet rolls or rice.
The Perfect Hot Dog
Hot dogs are beloved by American, and every region has its own style. Whether you prefer corn dogs, Chicago dogs, Sonoran dogs, Dodger dogs, or Seattle-style, it’s crucial that you cook them right. With a little finesse and the right topping selection, you can explore the entire United States through hot dogs. Toast the buns on the grill for an added level of flavor, texture, and presentation.
Independence Day Appetizers
Deviled eggs are one of the tastiest recipes a noob cook can bring to a picnic or barbecue. It’s also a classic dish recognized and beloved by people across the country. Whether you use mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (a debate I’m not invested enough in to care about), add Dijon mustard, paprika, and fresh chives to create a tempting appetizer people will fight over.
American Flag Caprese Salad
All it takes to create an impressive themed starter is some purple potatoes, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, basil, olive oil, and herbed cheese spread. Lay out like you see above in the familiar American flag shape, and you’ll have a simple dish with professional-level presentation and plating.
Mexico is a large part of U.S. history, and Mexican dishes are enjoyed everywhere. Incorporate Mexican flavors into your Independence Day barbecue by seasoning your corn cobs with mayo, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges to introduce your party to the best way to eat corn on the cob.
Independence Day Desserts
Brown Sugar Fruit Dip
The natural sweetness of fresh summer-ripe fruit gets a creamy kick with this simple dessert. A mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, and whipped cream is flavored with vanilla, brown sugar, and even coffee, honey, or cinnamon, if you prefer. You can even add some liquor to bring another dimension to the bowl. And be extra patriotic with red, white, and blue fruits.
There are a ton of recipes online for Flag Cake, and the differences will mostly be in the cake, as the general idea is to simply layer blueberries, strawberries, and frosting on top in an American Flag design. Betty Crocker takes things a step further by integrating the flag design into the cake itself. Do a combination of both to really become the talk of the town.
Red and Blueberry Tart
Berries just happen to have the perfect red and blue colors to make mixed-berry desserts perfectly patriotic. A mix of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries on top of fresh-made pastry cream and crust makes this a crowd-pleaser with layers of sweet and tart that are smoothed out at just the right time. This is a simple dish with complicated flavors, a true melting pot dessert.
Independence Day Drinks (Alcoholic)
Red, White, and Blue Strawberry Jello Shots
If you’ve never heard of Jello shots, I assume you’ve never been to college, and you’ve certainly never been friends with a white girl. This adult take on a young-adult classic uses real strawberries, blueberry jello, and gelatinous cream (or coconut milk to stay vegan) for an alcohol-infused treat that’s almost a desert in itself. You won’t even notice the vodka or Everclear inside, bringing a whole new dimension to the fireworks.
Red, White, and Blue THC Shots
Now that cannabis is either recreationally or medically legal in the majority of the country, THC-infused drinks are becoming more popular. THC syrups like the Baked Bros bottles above, can be poured into any non-alcoholic or alcoholic drink to infuse both flavor and THC into the drink. Cherry, Unflavored, and Grape (with a little food coloring and vegetable glycerin) can make a three-layered shot that makes everyone happier to see shiny things at night.
It looks simple, but this is actually a somewhat nuanced drink to make that’s well worth the effort. First, mini watermelons are carved and hollowed out to make “cups.” The scooped melon is pureed with lime juice and simple syrup to make ice cubes. The melon shell is then filled with lemonade and ice cubes, and a beer is leaned inside. Add an umbrella, sparkler, American flag, or whatever other pieces of flair to make a unique drink everyone will flock to.
At any given moment, you can make a “Hawaiian” cocktail by simply adding Blue Curacao, a citrus liqueur that’s actually native to the Caribbean. But we add coconut rum and pineapple juice, so it’s basically a blue pina colada on the rocks, making our cultural misappropriation more appropriate. Still, it’s a great fruity drink that can be made super strong with the addition of pineapple, or even orange rum.
A Shot of Kentucky Bourbon
While any country can make a decent whiskey, only Americans distill bourbon, and Kentucky is the epicenter, with the vast majority of the world’s bourbon coming from this one state. There are two ways you can pay tribute to Kentucky’s contributions to Americana – drink a glass of neat bourbon like Angel’s Envy above or marry your sister. There are a lot of great farmers and bootleggers in this great state who know what they’re doing with liquor.
Independence Day Drinks (Non-Alcoholic)
Few things quench our thirst on a hot summer day better than fresh lemonade. Of course, fresh lemon juice is too tart on its own, and the healthiest way to sweeten it is with fresh fruit. Use blueberries, strawberries, and apples cut into stars to add a decorative flair that’s a perfect fit for the holiday.
Red, White, and Blue Smoothie
Give people a healthy option that tastes like a milkshake but is actually frozen fruit, ice, and greek yogurt. Kids and adults alike can enjoy both the look and taste of this creamy, dreamy drink. And because it’s sweetened with fruit and honey, you can have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
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