Recipes for Memorial Day Grilling and Chilling

15 Recipes
A plate of grilled chicken with potato salad and kimchi.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

15 recipes for relaxed Memorial Day entertaining


I learned from my mother (a retired caterer) to make dessert first when cooking for company. I think of it as her little addendum to the saying (and our family motto), “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.” Making dessert first ensures that there will be dessert — a comforting thought — regardless of when it will be eaten.

When planning my Memorial Day cookout, I translate this approach to: Get dessert chilling while I do the grilling.

Certain desserts demand to be made in advance, particularly frozen favorites like mint chocolate chip ice cream and hibiscus lime paletas. Both come together quickly but they need at least 4 to 5 hours or, better, overnight to firm up in the freezer.


Building on the ice cream theme, coffee toffee ice cream sandwiches are a contemporary, more adult take on a childhood favorite. Instead of vanilla ice milk flanked by that chocolate cakey-cookie thing that invariably stuck to your fingers, toffee-studded coffee ice cream is sandwiched between macarons. Bonus: They are gluten-free without even trying to be. And if you don’t have an ice cream maker, stracciatella and vegan bananas Foster are great no-churn options.

Even easier than ice cream, granitas require no special equipment beyond a shallow, freezer-safe dish and a sturdy fork. Mixed melons with rosewater granita and granita di caffe (coffee granita) are examples of using favorite fruits and beverages to make this frozen delight.

With dessert chilling, the main course can be simple and, in the spirit of the holiday, should be grilled. For burger-lovers, make a dry-aged burger with Gruyère and homemade garlic mayonnaise. Or this inside-out quinoa burger, which uses the same fixings as a classic burger — the patties are not only vegetarian but also gluten-free.

For chicken lovers, gochujang glazed grilled chicken is sweet and tangy with a little bit of a kick. If you spatchcock your chicken (or have the butcher do it for you), brick chicken grills up quickly and will have your dark and white meat ready at the same time.

Supplement the burgers and chicken with a platter of grilled vegetables. The smokiness from grilling makes them delish as is. Whip together a lemon aioli, easy carrot top pesto, or even a salsa verde (all of which will need to chill in the fridge until serving time) to serve alongside.

With dessert already taken care of, you’ll have some time to hang out with your guests while the grill heats. And once the grilling is done, all that’s left to do is chill out and enjoy the party.


Chocolate Mint Ice Cream

Fresh mint brightens the mintiness of this creamy classic studded with bits of bittersweet chocolate.
Time15 minutes
YieldsServes 4 to 6

Hibiscus Lime Paletas

These icy, frozen hibiscus and lime paletas use fresh lime juice to strike a balance between sweet and tart for the perfect summer treat.
Time35 minutes plus freezing
YieldsMakes 6 popsicles

Coffee toffee ice cream sandwiches

Epicurean, toffee-studded coffee ice cream is encased in macarons for a contemporary, more adult take on that childhood favorite. Bonus: it is gluten-free.
Time2 hours 40 minutes
YieldsServes 10

Stracciatella ice cream

An Italian dessert similar to chocolate chip ice cream, this no-churn ice cream is simple to make.
Time20 minutes
YieldsMakes a generous 1 ½ quarts.

Vegan Banana Foster 'Ice Cream'

Bananas are the base for the creamy, custard-like texture of this vegan ice cream which goes decidedly adult with the addition of rum and spiced, candied pecans.
Time30 minutes
YieldsMakes a generous quart

Mixed Melon Granita with Rosewater and Pistachios

This mixed melon granita recipe includes rosewater and crunchy pistachios that take it over the top. Quick and easy to prepare and perfect for summer entertaining.
Time15 minutes, plus 4 hours' freezing time
YieldsServes 8

Granita di caffe (coffee granita)

Granita di caffe con panna, a parfait of sweetened granular espresso ice layered with dollops of barely sweetened whipped cream will stave off any hint of overheated doldrums.
Time20 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8

Brick chicken

The technique for brick or “spatchcocked" chicken is simple. The chicken roasts or grills more quickly than if left whole, and the skin is crispy throughout.
Time2 hours
YieldsServes 4 to 6

Gochujang Glazed Grilled Chicken

Gochujang, a Korean fermented soybean paste with red chiles, gives this grilled chicken a little kick.
Time45 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8

Dry-aged Burger with Gruyère and Homemade Garlic Mayonnaise

A burger patty made with some proportion of dry-aged steak is so aromatic, you dare not dress it up with anything more than a little cheese (Gruyère) and mayo (homemade).
Time30 minutes
YieldsServes 4

True Food Kitchen's inside out quinoa burger

The burger consists of red quinoa flavored with chile flakes and cumin, fresh mint and oregano. Sandwich the patties with lightly dressed vegetables and feta cheese.
Time1 hour
YieldsMakes 5 burgers

Grilled vegetables

Grilled vegetables are perfect for everyday meals, special occasions and everything in between.
Time40 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8

Lemon aioli

The classic sauce of Provence is just garlic, egg, lemon and olive oil, emulsified into a dipping sauce you can serve with shellfish, artichokes or new potatoes.
Time10 minutes
YieldsServes 4 to 6

Easy Carrot Top Pesto

This easy pesto recipe makes use of leftover carrot tops, although flat-leaf parsley works great here too.
Time10 minutes
YieldsMakes 2 cups

Salsa verde

Fresh cilantro and spinach, garlic, lime juice and olive oil make up this salsa verde. Feel free to add anchovies and capers, tomatillos, onions and, of course, chiles.
Time10 minutes
YieldsAbout 1½ cups