The 4th of July is all about dressing up in ridiculously patriotic attire, decorating the backyard in American flags, turning the music up and having people over for an all-day picnic or barbecue. Then, of course, there’s the beach parties, parades, music festivals and fireworks that every town puts on. But let’s not forget, we’re celebrating America’s independence!
While the parades and fireworks are wild and fun, the food on Independence Day is simple and, for lack of a better word, American. It’s usually cooked outdoors and consumed at regular intervals throughout the day because the food keeps flowing from the grill and people keep adding dishes to the picnic table in a potluck style.
Here’s all the 4th of July food you need to eat to help you celebrate America. Prepare for a feast!
Let’s jump right into it! The hot dog is a classic American food staple and it’s the star of Independence Day. Other than thousands of people gathering to watch Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest on Coney Island, Americans are throwing heaps of wiener dogs on the grill.
Whether you put ketchup or mustard on your dog is the great, unsettled debate among the American people. Our advice? Squeeze both condiments on the dog and add a squirt of relish. Yum. It doesn’t get more American than that.
If you’re at a picnic or a barbecue on the 4th of July, there is a VERY high chance that there will be more than one type of potato salad on the table. That’s because people love to believe that their potato salad recipe is the best!
It’s one of those side dishes that Americans are very proud of, and the best recipe is usually passed down within the family. If you’re looking to make it yourself, boil potatoes for 15 minutes (unskinned), then peel and chop them. Throw them in a bowl with hard boiled eggs (chopped), mayo, vinegar, bacon bits, sliced onion and whatever else you think might make a worthy potato salad to show off to your friends! Mix it up and you’ve got yourself another version to add to the table.
You won’t see the potato salad on the picnic table without its fraternal twin, the macaroni salad. You’re probably wondering why you would need two very similar, yet totally different carbolicious sides at a picnic? Well, it’s tradition. And just as there will be different versions of potato salad on the table, there will be different versions of the macaroni salad.
If you want to contribute your own version, boil a pot of elbow macaroni, then throw in some of the same ingredients from the potato salad, such as mayo, vinegar and onion. Add other goodies like capsicum, carrot, celery and a little bit of mustard. How can you not need both carbolicious sides?!
For some reason, the hamburger (as American as it is) doesn’t get as much love as the hot dog on Independence Day. People still throw it on the barbie, but it’s there as another option in case the dogs run out. Toast the buns, grill the patty, throw a slice of cheese on it (if you like), then dress it up with lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup and mustard. Mmm, better than McDonald’s.
Baked beans may seem small, but they are mighty. It’s one of those side dishes that you can’t deny because you know, deep down, that baked beans go with what you’re eating at a barbeque. And no side gets left behind on the 4th of July.
Put a fun twist on your baked beans recipe by adding diced ham, maple syrup, cooked onion and a dash of Worcestershire sauce to the pot. Mmmm. That’s more like it!
You’ll notice deviled eggs at a 4th of July picnic hiding behind the beans and the salads. You won’t be able to fit them on your overflowing plate of food, so you look at them and say you’ll be back.
Then you go back for seconds and they’re gone! That’s the common saga of the deviled eggs. People don’t usually cook enough to suffice an entire barbeque, so you gotta make sure to put the deviled eggs on your plate first! Better yet, bring your own!
Boil eggs, then peel the shell and slice the egg lengthwise. Scoop out the yolk and place it in a bowl. Mash the yolk using a fork and add the ingredients you used for the potato salad (mayo, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper). Scoop out the mixture, place it back into the sliced egg white and sprinkle it with paprika. Voilá! More deviled eggs for everybody!
Corn On The Cob
This is a no-brainer, although, the way you cook corn on the cob is yet another great American food debate. You can either throw the shucked corn on the grill for 20 minutes, making sure to turn it every five minutes (this method gets you that crunchy, chargrill taste).
Or you can grab a sheet of aluminum foil, place a few slices of butter on it, wrap the corn in it, then place it on the grill for 20 minutes. This method gives you that tender, buttery corn taste. So what’s it gonna be? With or without the foil? Don’t make it more complicated than it should be! Corn is corn, ya know?
You’ll have your traditional fruit salad and your awkward fruit shish kabobs on the 4th of July, but what some crafty Americans love eating is fruit pizza! Whip up a sugar cookie crust (basically, bake one extra large sugar cookie), spread a thick layer of cool whip over the top, then layer it with fruit. Bonus points if you get patriotic and design an American flag fruit pizza using blueberries, strawberries and banana. Tastes like America!
Poured in a red solo cup because #Merica.
Bowls and bowls of watermelon! Get creative with it by throwing it on the grill and sprinkling it with salt (sounds weird, right?!). But seriously, grilled watermelon gives it a smoky and sweet taste that will knock your socks off.
Americans also love carving watermelon… just like you would carve a pumpkin. It’s a funky way to spice up the fruit platter. And, of course, fruit tastes better when it’s eaten out of a watermelon carved as a pirate ship.
You’ll only see a clambake if you’re celebrating the 4th of July in the Northeast United States. At a proper New England Independence Day picnic, you’ll find an awkwardly extra large pot on the table that’s filled with red potatoes, corn, mussels, littleneck clams, shrimp and lobster tails. That pot of seafood has been steaming and soaking up butter for many hours and it’s begging you to dig in! You don’t have to tell us twice!
Just like you’ll find a clambake in New England, you’re sure to find BBQ something at a 4th of July picnic in the South! It could be BBQ ribs, BBQ brisket, BBQ chicken, BBQ chips — you name it! That BBQ sauce is going to dress something up and it’s going to be delicious. If you happen to be heading to an Independence Day celebration in the South, just bring a bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce and you’re good to go!
At the end of the day — after all the parades, picnics and fireworks — light a campfire and pull up a chair. It’s time to make S’mores. You’re probably thinking that you can’t possibly fit anything else in your stomach after a day of continuous eating, but alas! You can make room for an ooey-gooey S’more.
Roast marshmallows over the fire and break out the graham crackers and the chocolate. Place the fluffy, slightly burnt marshmallow in the middle of the graham crackers and chocolate to make the best American treat to end a great American holiday. That’s how you celebrate the 4th of July!
About the author:
Marina Nazario is a food and travel writer from America, currently living in the land Down Under. She’s passionate about meeting people, immersing herself in different cultures, and eating her way around the world. You can follow her misadventures on Twitter and her blog Marina’s Milestones.