No Party, No Problem: 9 Recipes That Will Make Your Memorial Day One to Remember

Remember the food, not the circumstances.

Published May 20, 2020.

So your plans for a long weekend away or one spent gathering with a big group of friends got canceled. Memorial Day might look different this year, but as long as you’ve got a grill and some nice weather, you can make it one you’ll remember for the food, not just for the unusual circumstances.

Grilled Sweet Potato SaladGrill Fried Chicken WingsVietnamese Grilled Pork Patties
From left: Grilled Sweet Potato Salad, Grill-Fried Chicken Wings, Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties (Bun Cha)

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

No white potatoes, no hard-boiled eggs, no mayo-based dressing, and no indoor cooking—this is not your average potato salad. We use the grill to both steam and char the sweet potatoes by cooking them in a disposable aluminum pan until they’re cooked through, then transfer them straight onto the hot cooking grate to give them some flavorful char. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
1 small red onion
3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes), plus lime wedges for serving
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2½ pounds sweet potatoes
1 (13 by 9-inch) disposable aluminum pan
2 ounces feta cheese
3 scallions
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Grill-Fried Chicken Wings

These might be the crunchiest wings to ever come off a grill. Grill-fried chicken may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually possible to make great fried chicken without deep frying. To make it happen on the grill, we brined the separated wings and tossed them in seasoned flour, then grilled them over a two-level fire. We cooked them on the cooler side of the grill until the coating was dry and then brushed the chicken with oil to help brown the coating. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
Salt and pepper
¼ cup sugar
3 pounds chicken wings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patties (Bun Cha)

Vietnamese bun cha—a vibrant mix of grilled pork, crisp salad, and delicate yet resilient rice vermicelli, all united by a light yet potent sauce—is as fun to eat as it is to make. Each component is prepared and plated separately to allow diners to combine them according to their taste. Want a scaled-down version? We also have a recipe that’s designed to serve two. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
8 ounces rice vermicelli
1 head Boston lettuce
1 English cucumber
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 small Thai chile
3 tablespoons sugar
1 garlic clove
⅔ cup hot water
5 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ cup lime juice (2 limes)
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground pork

Peri Peri ChickenGrilled Bacon Burgers with Caramelized OnionThai Grilled Beef Salad
From left: Peri Peri Chicken, Grilled Bacon Burgers with Caramelized Onion, Thai Grilled-Beef Salad

Peri Peri Chicken

There are lots of ways to flavor grilled chicken, and this spicy African version is one of our favorites. To achieve the characteristic crisp skin, we used a two-level fire. We rendered the skin over the hot side and then let it finish cooking gently on the cooler side of the grill. And for the robust flavor, we made a spicy, complex, and rich paste using arbol chiles instead of the traditional but harder-to-find peri peri peppers. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
4-10 arbol chiles
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
8 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 shallot
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (2 lemons) plus wedges for serving
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
6 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks)
½ cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 (13 by 9-inch) disposable aluminum pan (if using charcoal) or 2 (9-inch) disposable aluminum pie plates (if using gas)

Grilled Bacon Burgers with Caramelized Onion

When it comes to grilling burgers, Memorial Day is the time to go all out with a recipe that puts savory, bacony bliss in every bite by putting the bacon in your burger instead of just on top of it. There’s still technique involved: For the most bacon flavor and juicy texture, we processed raw bacon in the food processor and then cooked it briefly in a skillet so it would incorporate easily into the ground beef and disperse more bacon flavor throughout the burgers while staying moist and juicy. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
8 slices bacon
1 large onion
Salt and pepper
1½ pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
4 ounces blue cheese (optional)
4 hamburger buns

Thai Grilled-Beef Salad

This dish has everything: crunchy cucumbers, tender meat, fresh herbs, and a punchy dressing that holds it all together. We also made our own toasted rice powder, a traditional ingredient in Thai grilled-beef salad recipes. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon white rice
3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon sugar
1 (1½ pound) flank steak
Salt and white pepper
4 shallots
1½ cups fresh mint leaves
1½ cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 Thai chile
1 seedless English cucumber

Grilled Lamb Stuffed Pitas with Yogurt SauceNorth Carolina Barbecue Pork on a Charcoal GrillChocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
From left: Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pitas with Yogurt Sauce, North Carolina Barbecue Pork on a Charcoal Grill, Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pitas with Yogurt Sauce

Seasoned with herbs and warm spices, pressed between pita rounds, and grilled, these lamb sandwiches inspired by Middle Eastern arayes offer a flavorful, juicy, street food–style alternative to the everyday burger on a bun. To balance the sandwiches’ richness, we serve them with a bright and cooling yogurt-tahini sauce. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup minced fresh mint
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper
2 pounds ground lamb
4 (8-inch) pita breads

North Carolina Barbecue Pork on a Charcoal Grill

Memorial Day weekend is a great time to tackle a grilling project, and this one does North Carolina proud. To create a North Carolina–inspired barbecue pork recipe on a charcoal grill, we used a grill setup called a charcoal snake. This C-shaped array of smoldering briquettes provided low, slow, indirect heat to the center of the grill for upwards of 5 hours, so we needed to refuel only once during the long cooking time. And as a nod to the two distinct styles of barbecue pork in North Carolina, we offered two different chopping and saucing options. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You'll Need
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ tablespoons pepper
1 (6-pound) bone-in pork butt roast, with ¼-inch fat cap
1 (13 by 9-inch) disposable aluminum pan
4 (3-inch) wood chunks
1 recipe Lexington-Style Barbecue Sauce or Eastern North Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

For a sweet finish to your Memorial Day meal, these well-proportioned sandwiches feature relatively small, thin cookies and precise scoops of ice cream that give each bite the perfect combination of textures and flavors. We added water to the dough to prevent the cookies from turning rock-hard in the freezer, as well as plenty of browned butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla, and salt to compensate for the flavor-dulling effect of the freezer. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon table salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1 cup for optional garnish
3 pints ice cream

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