Use These Summer Menus to Inspire a Season of Fabulous Warm-Weather Meals

Grilled Buttermilk Chicken Tenders with Dipping Sauces
Photo: David Malosh

Next time you're wondering what to make for a fabulous summer meal, we've got you covered. And we're doing more than just sharing recipes: We went ahead and put together curated menus that will take you from Memorial Day straight through Labor Day, whatever that occasion may be. Each menu includes appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and dessert that you can serve al fresco—or indoors with plenty of tropical cocktails and mocktails, too.

To kick things off, you'll find the ultimate menu for a Memorial Day picnic. We're keeping things low-key and delicious with homemade potato chips that have a patriotic spin, burgers, and a vegetable side dish that you can grill. After all, it's not truly an all-American holiday unless you're firing up the grill. To complete the meal, we have a recipe for a spectacular fruit crumble that makes use of one of summer's brightest produce stars: blueberries. Don't forget to serve with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Holidays aside, you'll also find summer menus inspired by Italy, coastal New England, and other all-American regions. Complete with dishes like tomato-basil bruschetta, butter-poached lobster rolls, and fried chicken sandwiches, these menus are loaded with recipes that you'll want to eat all season long. Even if you can't take a dream vacation, we think you'll find that these menus have the power to transport you somewhere special.

Next time you're wondering what to make for an outdoor dinner party, summer weekend supper, or special occasion, turn to these menus.

01 of 09

Memorial Day Barbecue

Herb-Roasted Pecans with Red, White, and Blue Potato Chips
Noe Dewitt

Celebrate the unofficial start of summer with a festive menu that everyone will love. As an appetizer, whip up an all-American classic: Our Red, White, and Blue Potato Chips, pictured here, are patriotic and crowd-pleasing, which makes them the perfect holiday appetizer. For your main course, you just can't beat cheeseburgers—after all, this is a barbecue. Our Aged-Cheddar-and-Swiss Cheeseburgers are an upgraded take on summer's signature dish, and we know your whole family will be excited to dig in. For a side, we love the Watercress, Strawberry, and Toasted-Sesame Salad, which perfectly balances out the burgers. Then there's dessert: Blueberries are in season, so show them off by whipping up our Blueberry Crumble.

02 of 09

Classic New England Summertime Dinner


It's not summer without a little shellfish. Start your New England-inspired meal with a staple: Clam Chowder. After everyone has had their fill of the appetizer, move on to the main course, which has to be our Perfect Lobster Roll, pictured here. We serve the succulent meat in top-split hot dog buns with butter and lemon for a classic Down East flavor. While chips certainly work as a side, we love the idea of pairing these rolls with Crisp Zucchini-Panko Fries. For dessert, you just can't beat our No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake.

03 of 09

A Refreshing Summer Dinner

gazpacho salad with croutons
Christopher Testani

This seasonal spread requires minimal cooking and requires hardly any prep time. As an appetizer, serve our Thai Zucchini-Coconut Soup—it's served cold, so you'll need to plan ahead so that it has time to chill. In keeping with the cool theme, prepare Ceviche with Scallion and Sesame as your main course, which can be served alongside our Gazpacho Salad with Croutons, pictured here. Round out the meal with everyone's favorite summertime treat: ice cream. Martha's Strawberry Ice Cream should do the trick.

04 of 09

A Tasty Trio

Emily Kate Roemer

Can't make it to Italy this summer? Gather friends on a warm night and enjoy the next best thing: this Italian-American feast. Prepare Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta as your appetizer, then treat loved ones to Pork Milanese with Arugula Salad as your main course and side dish all in one. For dessert, bring out the meal's shining star: Cannoli Dip, pictured here, is a fun twist on the classic Italian pastry.

05 of 09

Meatless Menu

spinach-feta pizza slab pie
Linda Pugliese

Take it easy with this relaxed summertime menu that's great for a small group or a crowd (just double the recipes). A spread of dishes for all to share is a great way to eat any day of the week. Our Charred Eggplant Dip is a delicious appetizer, and it pairs nicely with the Spinach-Feta Pizza Slab Pie (pictured here), which you'll definitely want to make for an entrée. Whip up our Marinated Peppers with Mint and Sesame as your side dish, then treat everyone to Peach Salad with Melon and Lillet as a simple, refreshing dessert.

06 of 09

Fried Chicken Sandwich Dinner

Fried Chicken Sandwich
Chris Simpson

Grab a blanket, utensils, and some napkins, then head outside to savor our easiest fried chicken feast ever. It starts with an ultra-traditional appetizer: Classic Deviled Eggs. Next up, treat everyone to the Fried Chicken Sandwich you see here. Serve it with sliced tomatoes or homemade pickles. As a side dish, we love our Quick Collard Greens. Then it's time for dessert. Embrace the best fruits of the season, and make our Peach Slab Pie.

07 of 09

Seaside Seafood Feast

Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette
John Kernick

Whether you're dining beside the water or at home anywhere in the country, this sumptuous and superstar seafood-inspired menu is the epitome of summer. Start with raw Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette, pictured here, followed by Grilled Halibut Steaks with Potatoes, Olives, and Onions. Our Strawberry Biscuit Sheet Cake, a strawberry shortcake-inspired dessert, makes for a sweet ending.

08 of 09

Fourth of July Cookout

Test Kitchen's Favorite Potato Salad
Ren Fuller

Fire up the grill for a crave-worthy feast. We suggest you kick the meal off with Tomato, Feta, and Red Pepper Cazuela. Next up, Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak with Peppers and Onions, which you'll serve with our Test Kitchen's Favorite Potato Salad, pictured here. End the night on a patriotic note and serve a red, white, and blue dessert: Our Star-Spangled Ice Cream Sandwiches absolutely fit the bill.

09 of 09

Mussels and Fries Menu

drunken mussels with chorizo and white beans topped with parsley leaves
Con Poulos

Take summer dinner to the next level with this stellar menu. It takes a bit more time than others here, but it's well worth the effort. As an appetizer, prepare our Shaved Fennel, Zucchini, and Celery. Next up, treat everyone to Drunken Mussels with Chorizo and White Beans, pictured here. In this dish, mussels are served in the same savory broth in which they were steamed: a mixture of white wine, garlic, shallots, and herbs. Serve the irresistible double-fried French Fries with a dipping sauce of Dijon mustard and chopped chervil or garlic aioli. And if anyone still has room left for dessert, they'll be thrilled to see you bring out our Favorite Crème Brûlée.

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