A round-up of our favorite potluck recipes for July 4th, with appetizers, entrees and sides, just in time for your Fourth of July celebrations. With tips for hosting a safe gathering in the midst of a pandemic.
(Updated post.) July 4th is finally here! Usually, it's the high-water mark of the potluck season, with all its attendant strange-but-yummy party-food concoctions. It's always one of my favorite parts of the summer—not just because of the food, but also the warm weather, summery cocktails, and, of course, the camaraderie.
But 2020 has rained all over that parade.
How can I host a party and not spread COVID-19?
We are currently witnessing a surge in coronavirus cases. No matter what your political leanings, the likely cause of the new surge has been confusion. Social distancing precautions to prevent the spread of the virus were abandoned too soon. People want so badly to return to normal, and I completely relate. But any resemblance of normalcy is likely a long way off.
But that doesn't mean that you can't be around fellow human beings at all.
I suggest having your party outdoors in a large, open space. Anyone not in the same quarantine circle (groups that have quarantined in the same house) sets up 6 feet away from the quarantine circle next to them. You can bring camp chairs, a small table, and even a grill.
If possible, arrange the party in a circle so that nobody has to shout. It's okay to share a grill, if needed, but try to maintain social distancing at all times. Wear a mask. Please. Bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down tables and the outer surfaces of containers.
Can I spread COVID-19 by sharing food?
The CDC reports that there is no evidence that coronavirus spreads through food preparation or consumption. But it doesn't hurt to be overcautious. I suggest masking up when you're prepping food that you plan to share outside your quarantine circle. Although the virus needs living cells to survive, we don't know how long it could stay viable on the surface of a potato salad, for instance, if you sneezed on it. I also wipe down the outsides of any food containers with sanitizing wipes.
And, of course, always wash your hands thoroughly and follow normal food safety precautions: although the virus won't multiply on your potato salad, harmful bacteria WILL.
I'd also suggest having a single person serve their own food to guests. This prevents multiple hands on serving utensils.
Obviously, you can't wear a mask and drink a beverage or eat your food. So take it off, but stay 6 feet away from anyone outside of your circle.
It's the best we can do right now. We're human beings, and we need to be around other humans sometimes. But we have a responsibility to ourselves and everyone else we come in contact with to use these precautions. You can also check out my ideas for a virtual get together in my Virtual Memorial Day Potluck Recipes Roundup.
A happier topic: Fourth of July food
When I think of potluck recipes for July 4th, the first thing that pops into my head are those "salads" that have no business being called salad, since they contain no lettuce—or anything even remotely healthy. Instead, they are curious amalgamations of syrup-soaked canned fruit, marshmallows, coconut, and more—perhaps even Jell-O. Fear not! I will NOT be providing a recipe for "dessert salad".
Instead, these are savory potluck recipes for July 4th get-togethers that I hope you'll enjoy. Remember to carefully keep the cold things cold and the hot things hot: we want to avoid outbreaks of food poisoning! As we all get together to celebrate the birth of our nation and to enjoy food and friends, let's remember to stay hydrated and to be safe. Happy Fourth!
Without further ado, here are my favorite potluck recipes for July 4th!
Rarely do Phil and I attend or host a potluck or football party without a pie tin of Phil’s Taco Dip and a bag of tortilla chips. It’s VERY easy to make and travels well, so win-win. You can jazz it up with a layer of taco meat and one of refried beans, add black olives, go low-cal by choosing low-fat varieties of cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and sour cream—whatever floats your boat.
Vibrant, Fiery Mango-Habanero Salsa is perfect served with tortilla chips. Using flash-frozen mango chunks simplifies the prep, and like any salsa, it travels well. Plus, it's more beautiful and exotic than your standard potluck dip. For more salsa ideas, try Restaurant-Style Tomato Salsa, Fresh Salsa Verde, or Pico de Gallo!
Easy Cutting-Board Guacamole is lightning-fast and absolutely delicious. Mashing the avocado on the cutting board and folding in the ingredients gives you more control over the mashing and mixing process without making a mess. Scale this recipe up as needed to feed just a few or a crowd.
If you have a way to plug in a crockpot, you'll definitely want to bring a load of Michelle’s Sweet & Zingy Asian Meatballs. They're made from scratch and far better than the pre-made globs-in-a bag. They’re also healthier because they’re baked and finished in the sweet, zingy sauce. We bring a crockpot full of these to almost every party by demand.
Salads and sides
You can't have a potluck without pasta salad, amiright? Creamy pasta salad is the perfect bring-along side dish for potlucks and tailgate parties. With an herby, tangy dressing for the win! This salad is best made a day in advance so that the flavors have a chance to deepen and meld.
Easy Greek Pasta Salad is the perfect make-ahead-and-go side dish for cookouts and potlucks. It's lighter than the traditional mayo-based pasta salad (like the one above). I love to make it at least a day in advance because the flavors get that much better!
Classic potato salad is my not-quite traditional spin on the potato salad we all grew up with, containing hard-boiled eggs, celery, onion, mayo, and more. Plus, hacks to ensure that this classic potato salad never turns out bland! Or, try my Loaded Baked Potato Salad!
Summer Panzanella Salad is an out-of-the-box side-dish. It features gorgeous summer tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, onions, and toasted bread that soaks up a delicious dressing. Add the dressing 30 minutes to 2 hours before your party!
Grilled Italian Sausage Sandwiches with Pepper-Onion Foil Packs are the perfect meal-prep, pack-up-and-go entree for destination cookouts. We make it at home, at the park for picnics, at tailgate parties, and more. They're always a hit! Prep the foil packs in advance, and you'll pull this off without any stress at all!
Carne Asada with Fajita Vegetables is a lightning-fast, Mexican-inspired marinated skirt steak and fajita vegetables. Meal prep by making the marinade and slicing the veggies the night before.
Grilled Beef Kebabs with Vegetables are flavored with a delicious, tangy marinade. They make a perfect main AND side for cookouts!
Grilled Tri-Tip Steak with Chimichurri Sauce is a perfect dish for cookouts, featuring juicy, flavorful meat accented by a tangy herb sauce. The steak can be grilled on a gas or charcoal grill, or seared and finished in a hot oven in a cast-iron skillet.
Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms are a summer fixture at our house. You can make the mushrooms and onions in a cast-iron skillet right on top of the grill!
I hope I've given you some inspiration for holding an enjoyable, delicious—healthy—Fourth of July cookout.
Stay safe. Stay well.