2021 Labor Day Recipes: 26 Labor Day Cooking Ideas

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The pumpkin and spice lattes may be out already, but we don’t let summer slip away that easily.

There is corn left to shell, meats to grill, and cold, creamy desserts to eat in a hurry before they melt. The sun is still shining and we’re making the Labor Day weekend menu.

To keep this summer interesting, go for tasty versions of the classics. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite chefs’ must-have recipes for warm-weather parties, and we guarantee these dishes will exceed guest expectations.

It’s the unofficial end of this sunny season, so we’re turning up the heat on the grill all the way.

Starters and side dishes

Getty Images / Cavan Images

If the Labor Day menu dips into summer seafood, try Alex Guarnaschelli’s irresistibly creamy crab dip. Great for entertaining, it’s versatile and can be as spicy (or sweet) as the host prefers.

Grilled corn and halloumi salad

Lauren Zasar

This recipe is as seasonal as it gets! Tomatoes are at their peak right now, as is the sweet, juicy corn. Now couldn’t be better to mix all those seasonal veggies together to make a delicious salad with a little Middle Eastern twist, thanks to grilled halloumi.

Ginger Miso Pasta Salad

Courtesy of Valérie Bertinelli

No mayo alert! This Japanese-inspired pasta salad is filled with edamame, carrots, and peppers, and its dressing is made with miso, ginger, soy, and sesame. It improves when seated, which means it’s perfect for picnics.

Bacon and Caramelized Onion Dip

Anthony Michael Contrino

Caramelizing the onions and bacon together is the secret to this creamy dip that’s a winner for any party. It’s amazing on its own or topped with mozzarella and toasted before guests arrive. This will prepare their appetites for all the smoked meats to come!

Grilled Al Vegetable Skewers

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Make sure your veg sides stay tender and crisp without them all mixing up in a bowl. Al’s Grilled Vegetable Skewers are the versatile side dish for any type of main course at a barbecue. They are light and suitable for Labor Day, as zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes are usually in peak season during this time.

Grilled Potato Salad

TODAY

This is not your usual potato salad. Bright spring onions, sweet blueberries, and the smoke they get from cooking on the grill make this light and crispy side dish wonderfully unexpected and delicious. It’s an ideal solution for people who don’t like the mayo-based version.

Grilled Corn with Chili Honey Butter

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

It’s all about butter, baby. Grab some seasonal sweet corn at your local market, then take the party up a notch with sweet, spicy, smoky and salty flavors.

Burrata Caprese Salad

Courtesy of Valérie Bertinelli

Valérie Bertinelli’s go-to recipe for hot-weather gatherings, this no-bake recipe, full of flavor and only requires a few ingredients. All the elements go so well together and make an easy and impressive starter or side dish.

Grilled zucchini rolls

Joy bauer

This simple appetizer looks glamorous and impressive but is super easy to prepare. Zucchini has a subtle earthy flavor that perfectly complements the light ricotta cheese filling. Basil leaves provide a fresh, tangy, peppery and aromatic touch for the perfect late summer application.

Entrances

Grilled chicken thighs with adobo sauce

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

The Peruvian adobo sauce will transform a plain old grilled chicken into a mouth-watering masterpiece. The recipe features the unexpected sweetness of rice vinegar and West African palm sugar, which coats each thigh with a rich caramel flavor.

Chef D's grilled and glazed back ribs

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

When cooking for a group with a bunch of sides and toppings, grilled ribs always encapsulate that summery feel. Chef D bathes his in a humid bath before grilling to ensure that every taste bud’s expectations are exceeded.

Caribbean Hot Dogs with Creole Potato Salad

Nina Compton

Hot dogs and… mustard? Ketchup? Not this year! Enjoy Nina Compton’s fun Caribbean twist on the cooking classic with her simple yet exceptional recipe. Along with her refreshing tropical hot dog topping, she serves the main course with a Creole potato salad that’s too good to skip.

Provolone Wrapped Hot Dogs with Giardiniera Relish

Speaking of teaching an old (hot) dog new tricks, Anthony Contrino’s Giardiniera Relish is a wonderful way to impress Labor Day guests. The giardiniera, which loosely translates to “gardener” in Italian, needs to rest at least two hours (ideally overnight) before serving, making it the perfect barbecue condiment to make ahead of time.

Low Country Boil aka Frogmore Stew

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Frogmore’s stew is a one-pot mix – a “boil” – of cutting edge summer offerings from the Netherlands. You don’t need to do much more than find the best ingredients and make them sing in this easy recipe that is truly a summer celebration experience.

Grilled Caprese Chicken with Blister Tomato, Burrata and Torn Basil

The dads of the grill

This dish tastes like summer, with smoked and crispy grilled chicken, sweet tomatoes and creamy cheese. It’s an appetizer, salad and main course all in one.

Sunny Anderson BBQ Salmon

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Want that sweet, smoky barbecue flavor, but tired of the heavier meats? Sunny Anderson has a solution: barbecued salmon. Salmon, an excellent fish for a crowd because it is plentiful and not too expensive, basks in all the good flavors. When you follow the expert advice for grilling fish, you will find it easy to get those perfect doneness marks.

Grilled Vegetable Paella

Steven randazzo

Grill all your favorite late-summer veggies in this take on Spanish paella, perfect for a vegetarian Labor Day spread. The open flame of the grill adds a natural smoke to this impressive dish that’s filling enough to feed a crowd as a main star or as a hearty all-in-one side dish.

Quick and delicious burgers

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

For those who want a more traditional Labor Day menu, this burger recipe is a must! Why? Because Laura Vitale explains how to mold pancakes easily and quickly! With just six minutes of cooking time, these delicious burgers won’t require a lot of time on the hot grill, so everyone can enjoy the party.

Al Roker's BBQ Grilled Shrimp

Getty Images

Al uses olive oil with a high smoke point in his marinade so the shrimp don’t burn, keeping the shell to ensure the smokiest flavor possible.

Natalie Morales Easy Grilled Chimichurri Soy Steak

Alanna Hale / At Home With Natalie: Simple Recipes For Healthy Living, From My Family’s Kitchen To Yours

This pre-cooked steak is perfect for entertaining. Put the meat in the marinade and make the tangy chimichurri sauce the night before (it gets even better when it’s sitting down!)

Desserts

Vanilla Ice Cream Strawberry Cookie Cake

Samantha Seneviratne

Pre-made cookies and store-bought ice cream make for a pleasant and easy dessert. Assemble it ahead of time and let it cool in the freezer until you’re ready to dig. Topped with a few fresh strawberries, everyone will think you’ve become a gourmet pastry chef (we won’t say if you don’t!).

Sweet potato steak with cornbread

Courtesy of Will Coleman

“Cornbread and sweet potatoes were two things one could always find at my table growing up. These two dishes were a crucial staple on my ancestors’ plates – and this dish reinvents them by combining them.” , Will Coleman explains about his shoemaker. , which begins with hot spices, maple syrup, sweet potatoes, plums and blackberries and ends with a cornbread crumble.

Pink lemonade ice pops

Elena besser

Sometimes a summer gathering just needs popsicles! Instead of buying in the store, try this four-ingredient recipe made with fresh ingredients like pink coconut water, lemons, agave nectar, and a pinch of salt to balance the acidity.

Summer fruit crumble

Elena besser

Celebrate the bounty of summer with this foolproof dessert that’s easy to make and bursting with beauty. Guests can remove their slice, and when topped with fresh vanilla ice cream, they’ll beg for a few seconds.

Grilled stone fruits with blue cheese and honey

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

When you can’t decide between dessert and cheese, make this dish. It’s a little salty, a little sweet and perfectly balanced. It’s just the thing when the grill has been on all day but you’re not quite ready to let those hot coals go.

Summer Lattice Cherry Pie

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

It’s a pancake pie, meant to feed a crowd and generally a rustic affair, looks lovely inside and out. And the beautiful trellis on top of the pie filled with one of summer’s favorite fruits is a sight.


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