33 Genius Summer Recipes for Labor Day

September  2, 2020

Whether you've scouted out a camping spot in the woods or will be bumping around at home, these recipes will make the long weekend better, more festive, more memorable, and therefore make it last, maybe, forever.

Don't just grill a burger; stuff it with bacon and chorizo and smear romesco all over it. Eat pimento cheese. And barbecue chicken with two types of mayo. Stand around drinking boozy grasshopper shakes and eating little salt-crusted potatoes and making a mess of yourself.

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Let's go all out for Labor Day. Here are 33 ways to do it.

1. José Pizarro's Salt-Crusted Potatoes With Cilantro Mojo

salt-crusted potatoes with cilantro mojo

Think you know how to boil potatoes? Think again. Instead of a big pot, this recipe turns to a wide pan, just enough water to cover, and a hefty amount of salt. The result? Your new favorite app or side dish.

2. Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus

Sure, making hummus with just-cooked, not canned, chickpeas takes more time, but this method cuts that usual cook time (1 1/2 to 2 hours) down to 20 to 40 minutes. Yep. 

3. Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Grasshopper Shake

A creamy, refreshing, salty grasshopper shake, here to make grasshopper shakes cool again. Mint sprig on top: not optional. 

4. Jennie Cook's Zucchini Butter

When grated and cooked down, down, down, zucchini goes from watery to buttery—perfect for spreading on toast, smearing inside a sandwich, or dolloping on a grain bowl. 

5. Parker & Otis' Pimento Cheese 

Grated cheddar cheese, jarred pimentos, and lots of mayonnaise—pimento cheese is so much more than the sum of its parts. We love it on buttery Ritz crackers as an appetizer, but it's just as great turned into a grilled cheese (with bacon!). 

6. Virginia Willis' Deviled Eggs

If deviled eggs are the ultimate party app, then this is the ultimate recipe. Virginia Willis sticks to a classic ingredient list with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and cayenne. But a knob of butter makes all the difference. 

7. Louisa Shafia's Watermelon, Mint & Cider Vinegar Tonic

Meet the most refreshing drink you'll have all summer—thanks to juicy watermelon, fresh mint, and cider vinegar. Add a splash of vodka or gin if you so please.

8. Roberto Santibañez' Classic Guacamole

"There is a very important textural thing to guacamole," Roberto Santibañez told me. "We never really mush up the avocado. You want to feel everything." 

9. Brigit Binns' Crab Cakes

A fuss-free recipe for the freshest crab the season has to offer. But if you can't find fresh? Zero worries. We made these with some good quality canned crab and jarred pimentos, and they still turned out to be little bites of summer.

10. Maricel E. Presilla's Cuban Avocado, Watercress & Pineapple Salad

It would be difficult, even impossible, to find a grilled protein—steak, chicken, fish, tofu, you name it—that wouldn't want to team up with this salad.

11. Canal House's Marinated Zucchini

Grilled zucchini goes from good to great, all thanks to this zippy marinade made with olive oil, garlic, and red wine vinegar. 

12. Whitney Wright's Sweet Corn Butter

Whitney Wright learned the magic of turning one ingredient (fresh, sweet summer corn) into butter while working the vegetable station at Per Se restaurant in New York City, but it's all the clever ways she uses it (think: slathered on biscuits, melted into a queso-style dip) that make it extra genius.

13. Yotam Ottolenghi's Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce

A warm-weather, vegetarian take on meaty ragu spooned over polenta. In this case, hunks of eggplant steal the show, and dried cornmeal makes way for fresh, sweet corn. 

14. Sarah Leah Chase's Scalloped Tomatoes

Finally: A tomato casserole that's mostly tomatoes. A little bread sops up the juices and a layer of melted Parm on top keeps you coming back. 

15. Michel Richard's Glazed & Glistening Haricots Verts

Green beans do the talking here—backed up by a little butter, chicken stock, garlic (yes, unpeeled!), and Parmesan.

16. Kevin Gillespie's Creamless Creamed Corn With Mushrooms & Lemon

Creamless creamed corn?! Don't worry, there's still milk involved—except, it's "corn milk," scraped from the cobs. So yes, it happens to be completely vegan, as well as completely delicious.

17. Vera Obias' Cheddar & Black Pepper Cornbread

Cornbread gets the scone treatment—and turns out a lot better for it. Instead of stirring in melted butter, you cut in cold butter. (Oh, and then mix in lots of cheese.)

18. Kevin Gillespie's Barbecue Chicken With Alabama White Barbecue Sauce

If you have yet to try white BBQ sauce, now's the time. With a homemade mayo base and lots of garlic powder, cayenne, and black pepper, it does magical things for grilled chicken—and pork and zucchini and tempeh...

19. Michael Ruhlman's Pasta With Tomato Water, Basil & Garlic

Diced tomatoes—and their water—make this pasta as summery as can be. The recipe calls for fresh basil, but feel free to swap in another herb, like mint, dill, or chives. 

20. Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers

This ingredient list is long—including not one, not two, but three types of pork (ground, chorizo, and bacon)—but oh, is it worth it. 

21. Michael Ruhlman's Rosemary-Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Fried chicken plus anything is a summer menu just about anyone will love. This recipe is great hot and crisp, of course, but it's equally wonderful room-temp. 

22. Steven Raichlen's Salt-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Grilled in Cloth (Lomo al Trapo)

Beef tenderloin is very, well, tender. But it could use some help in the flavor department. Enter: a salt crust and smoky trip to hot coals. 

23. Samin Nosrat's Spinach & Cilantro Soup With Tahini & Lemon

Soup might not sound like the first thing you want to make when it's hot and sticky, but what about an instant, restorative green broth that will jolt you to life? You can even make a pared-down version Samin described on Home Cooking, her podcast with Hrishikesh Hirway, with nothing more than stock, frozen peas, tahini, and lemon. And you should!

24. Sohla El-Waylly's Ranch Fun Dip

Sohla El-Waylly created this recipe, a colorful spin on Fun Dip candy, as a fresh road trip snack to counter all the potato chips and fast food, but it's also a simple way to eat more vegetables anywhere—from picnics and long car rides to speedy desk lunches at home.

25.  Scott Peacock's Boiled Peanut Butter Cookies

These chocolate-peanut butter puddles take about five minutes to stir together, without having to turn on the oven. Hooray! They go by all manner of names across the U.S. (like preacher cookies, poodgies, and simply no-bake cookies). With Scott Peacock's tips, you'll land exactly the gooey texture you want.

26. Jami Curl's Strawberry & Butterscotch Whipped Cream Cake

You can stir the batter together for this simple vanilla cake with only a bowl and spoon—no special equipment required—and be topping it with berries and whipped cream in under an hour. (Or buttercream and sprinkles, if that's your speed.)

27. Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

A North Carolina coast pie, now famous all across the country. Picture: a crumbly Saltine crust, a custardy lemon filling, and wave after wave of whipped cream. 

28. Martha Stewart's Slab Pie

Feeding a crowd? Martha Stewart has an idea: slab pie, assembled in a sheet pan, ready for the masses. 

29. Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie

A fresher take on the classic blueberry pie. Whipped cream or ice cream on top is a must. 

30. Nigella Lawson's One-Step, No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

A peppy coffee ice cream in one step, no ice cream machine needed. Who else could have dreamed this up besides Nigella Lawson? 

31. Brooke Dojny's Blueberry Snack Cake With Toasted Pecan Topping

Cornmeal and lemon zest make this cake the perfect place for blueberries and pecans to happily settle down. 

32. Stella Parks's Pie Dough

Any fruit (peaches, apricots, blueberries) would be so lucky to be baked inside this flaky-as-heck pie crust. Oh, and what to dollop on top? Here's an idea...

33. Genius Yogurt Whipped Cream

Seeking a Genius topper for any dessert? Found one. Yogurt makes whipped cream extra-tangy and extra-good. Adjust the ratio as you see fit. 

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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  • Ryan
  • kathleen cherrier
    kathleen cherrier
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Ryan August 28, 2014
Michael Ruhlman's pasta recipe is great. Plenty of variations to try with it.
kathleen C. August 27, 2014
Great collection of recipes. I can't wait to try them. Thank you.