6 Foods to Bring Fireworks to Your Fourth of July Festivities

Add patriotic pizazz to your side dishes this week with these tried-and-true recipes
Basil on fruit tray

Kait Ecker

I’ll leave it to you to master the grilling, but if you need a popping side to steal the show at your Fourth of July gathering, I have you covered. These classic, yummy, and simple dishes will make your taste buds explode … not literally though.

Texas Caviar

Texas Caviar in a Chip

Kait Ecker

This is a classic recipe my mom would bring to our Fourth of July shindig at my grandma’s. It’s fresh, tasty, and the vinegar dressing keeps the ingredients stable in the heat.

1 can pinto beans
1 can black-eyed peas with jalapeños
1 can shoepeg corn (normal whole kernel canned corn works too)
1 cup chopped red and green bell pepper
½ cup chopped celery
1 small onion, chopped

For the Dressing:
½ cup oil
¾ cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

Combine all of the ingredients, then emulsify the dressing and pour over the caviar. I’d recommend chopping the vegetables into very small pieces because it’s easier to eat. I also modify my mom’s recipe and toss some salt, fresh cilantro, and chili powder into the dressing for a little extra flavor. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight, and then serve with tortilla chips.

Cucumber Pasta Salad

Chopped green onion

Kait Ecker

Every summer my dad and I crave this salad like none other. It’s a recipe from my mother, so you really can’t go wrong. It’s fresh, creamy, and perfectly simple. For a festive spin that will have your fellow party-goers oohing and aahing at more than the fireworks, try making it with red-colored pasta. 

1 pound bowtie pasta, cooked
15 fluid ounces coleslaw dressing (my mom uses the bottled Marzeti kind)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 peeled, chopped cucumbers
3 diced green onions, or 1 small yellow onion

Kait Ecker

After you’re done with all the chopping and the pasta is cooled, mix the ingredients together and marinate overnight. This pasta salad is like goulash, and the more it sits, the better it tastes.

Clam Dip

Due to popular demand, my grandma makes this dip for all occasions. The recipe originally came from my grandma’s good friend’s mom decades ago, and over the years, it has become an iconic snack in our family. Needless to say, the creamy, tangy spread will make you light up the night with smiles of satisfaction. (If you’re feeling icky thinking about clams, keep in mind that 7-year-old me couldn’t tell that they were in there, and I proceeded to eat more than my fair share of dip.)

8 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup Miracle Whip or Hellman’s mayo 
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon catsup or 1 tablespoon of chili sauce (my grandma prefers the chili sauce)
6 ounces canned clam meat

Combine all of the ingredients except for the clams, and beat with an electric mixer until it’s light, fluffy, and thoroughly whipped. Stir in the clams. My grandma then recommends chilling it to allow the flavors to blend. If you don’t have clams on hand, she says you can also use shrimp. Serve with potato chips or crackers.

Fruit Sparklers

Fruit Sparklers

Kait Ecker

The great thing about fruit is that it comes naturally in a whole slew of vibrant colors, including red and blue! Instead of marshmallows or bananas rounding out the color scheme, my variation on this simple classic uses goat cheese for something a little less sweet.

12 ounces blueberries
12 ounces raspberries
6 ounces goat cheese
kabob sticks
Optional: balsamic reduction, finely chopped basil for garnish 

Roll the goat cheese into the number of sticks you’re planning on making (I did 17). Skewer the fruit on the stick, and then top it with the ball of goat cheese. Feel free to use your own creative license to arrange the fruit and cheese as you please. If you’re feeling extra fancy and like showing off a bit, sprinkle balsamic reduction and finely chopped fresh basil over the top.

Grandma’s Bacon Baked Beans

You can’t have a cookout without the baked beans. Just like the very big fireworks, these are not to be messed with. This recipe, courtesy of my grandma, makes savory, melt-in-your-mouth beans. Whether paired with grilled chicken, brats, or burgers, my grandma’s beans are the perfect addition. 

2 cans (3 pounds, 7 ounces each) Bushes baked beans
1 can (1 pound, 12 ounces) B&M baked beans
1 can (15 ounces) black beans
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
2 teaspoons dry mustard
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 packages bacon, fried until just done (not too crispy)
2 onions chopped and fried in bacon fat

Mix ingredients together in a large baking pan and bake at 350°F for at least an hour, or until the sauce is syrupy and the beans are hot.

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator pickles

Kait Ecker

Don’t forget the pickles at your Fourth party because the burgers and brats get lonely without them. My mom makes the best pickles, no joke, and these bread and butter pickles are refreshing, sweet, and salty.

1 cup sugar
½ cup vinegar
1½ teaspoons celery seed
7 cups thinly sliced unpeeled cucumbers (get the nice small ones at the farmers market)
1 tablespoon salt

Mix the sugar, vinegar, and celery seed together and let it sit until the sugar dissolves (this may take a while). Place the cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and mix in the salt, then let it be for 3 hours before draining off the liquid. Pour the sugar mixture over the cucumber mixture and combine. Even though you’re not technically canning, I’d still recommend using a mason jar simply because it’s the easiest vessel to keep your pickles in. After they’ve been refrigerated for three days, you can eat ’em up. If by some miracle they’re not devoured at the party, no worries, because they can hang out in your fridge for a year.