Hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, apple pie… They’re all the hallmarks of Fourth of July cookouts and picnics, but as tasty as those throwback dishes are, they’re also a little tired. This year, surprise your guests — and treat yourself — to a July 4th spread that’s well outside the box.

Hot Weather, Cold Soup

Fourth of July typically means soaring temps and sweaty stints over an equally hot grill, but there are ways to counteract the weather other than popsicles and ice packs. Cold soups like gazpacho are tasty, easy to whip up, and fun to serve. Pour yours into shot glasses as a way to whet appetites or use wine glasses or Champagne flutes for a fancier twist.

Chilled Spring Pea Soup via Food & Wine

Bacon Kebabs with Asian-Inspired Relish

Bacon? Good. Kebabs? Good. Asian anything? Soooo good. Sweet and Spicy Bacon Kebabs with Scallion-Ginger Relish brings all that deliciousness together and you can do most of the prep ahead of time.

Bacon? Good. Kebabs? Good. Asian anything? Soooo good.

Make the glaze, assemble the relish and kebabs, then grill and baste during your party. The rest is sticky, sweet, Instagram-worthy history.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

While the more widely known Chinese egg rolls are heavy, require access to a fryer, and won’t last long tucked into your picnic basket, Vietnamese Summer Rolls are light, crunchy, and perfect for snacking while you’re waiting on fireworks or lounging by the pool. This recipe calls from shrimp, but feel free to substitute tofu or skip the protein altogether — the real magic is in the veggies, herbs, and peanut sauce anyway.

Curried Corn on the Cob

Corn on the Cob FTW

Mexican corn, also called elote, is all the rage. Even supermarkets are carrying frozen, bagged versions complete with cilantro, lime, chilies, and queso fresco, but this Curried Corn on the Cob recipe takes the idea in a different direction. Instead of cumin and queso we get curry powder and crumbled goat cheese. The result is hot, spicy, and creamy, not to mention irresistible.

New Keto Twists on Old Classics

Keto is all the rage, and if it works for you that’s great, but switching to a low-carb, high-fat diet means trading in some of your Fourth of July favorites for edited versions. The good news is that some of the updates are darned delicious.

Keto Lemonade, via Healthful Pursuit
  • Keto Lemonade swaps refined sugar in favor of erythritol, a low-calorie sugar alcohol that won’t affect your blood sugar or insulin levels. Add in Himalayan rock salt, aloe vera, and plenty of fresh lemon juice, and you have a refreshing beverage that also packs extra minerals and aids in digestion.
  • Pork Carnitas Lettuce Wraps pull double-duty as a keto-friendly recipe that also works for carboholics. Make the spiced-up pork and lay it out for guests with plenty of toppings (cilantro, onion, lime wedges) and tortillas for those who want them.
  • Cauliflower ‘Potato’ Salad may seem odd, but bear with us… Yes, potatoes are life, but if those little tubers aren’t working for you, this tasty combo of cauliflower, Greek yogurt, dill, and cornichons is the perfect balance of chewy, tangy, herbaceous, and sweet.

Cold Sesame Noodles with Summer Vegetables

Pasta salad is another Fourth of July mainstay, but all that mayo and can feel stodgy. Maybe it’s time for a change. These Cold Sesame Noodles with Summer Vegetables evoke the same general vibe as your mama’s farfalle and Italian dressing concoction but with an Asian spin. Like regular pasta salad, this recipe only gets tastier overnight.

AlternaBurgers

Okay, there are some people who just can’t handle a Fourth of July without some kind of burger, so these are for them.

Savory Salmon Burger
  • Bon Appetit turns to seafood for this Salmon Burger with Pickled Cucumbers. It feels fresh and light, and you’ll get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids, too.
  • Go Greek with Feta-Stuffed Lamb Burgers. The grilled brioche is perfectly buttery, and the burger is juicy and rich, while the baby spinach, red onion, and cucumber-studded tzatziki provide a light and zesty counterpoint.

White Barbecue Sauce Ribs

Ribs are the gold standard of July 4th eats, but while everyone is busy lacquering their meat with traditional red sauce, you’ll be bucking tradition with Alabama white barbecue sauce. This super tangy option is packed with mayonnaise, vinegar, horseradish, lemon juice — all things designed to perk up your taste buds and make your ribs a little livelier rather than heavy and sweet.

Miso-Glazed Grilled Zucchini

Even the most dedicated carnivore will find their inner vegetarian when you grill vegetables instead of steaming or boiling them.

The grill adds a smoky depth that’s not easy to duplicate indoors, and the fermented soybean paste on these Miso-Glazed Grilled Zucchini only helps bring out that earthy flavor.

The grill adds a smoky depth that’s not easy to duplicate indoors, and the fermented soybean paste on these Miso-Glazed Grilled Zucchini only helps bring out that earthy flavor. Serve as is or alongside more of that white barbecue sauce for dipping.

Handheld Desserts

Rather than work your tail off rolling out crust only to watch people attempt to balance slices of cake and pie on their knees while perched in lawn chairs, explore the wonderful world of handheld desserts.

Sour Cherry Hand Pies
  • Summer Berry Crostini with Lemon Ricotta Honey has the essence of cheesecake but in miniature, with red and blue berries for a bit of patriotic flare.
  • Sour Cherry Hand Pies satisfy your craving for old-school desserts without sacrificing portability.
  • Prosecco Grapes are a sweet treat that delivers quite the buzz, too. Two pounds of grapes, a whole bottle of bubbly, and some vodka to boot — that oughta do it!

There are some Fourth of July traditions that deserve to be preserved, but your menu isn’t one of them. How are you planning on spicing up your recipes these summer?