A Sparkling 4th of July Potluck

Before you light up the sparklers and the Roman candles, it’s a good idea to celebrate America the old fashioned way, with lots of delicious homemade food made by friends and family. Here’s a Sparkling 4th of July Potluck that has a quick party menu with minimal clean-up so everyone can enjoy the fireworks when it gets dark.

Whizz, bang, boom! Summer is finally here, so we can enjoy some warm-weather favorites, like Barbecue Ribs or Grilled Shrimp Skewers, the Best Macaroni Salad, and lots of sweet and salty grapefruit Paloma Cocktails.

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On the 4th of July, backyards all over the country are bustling with festivities. Is your family is anything like mine? Because we like to host a big, casual backyard barbecue party every 4th, where anyone is welcome as long as they bring a dish to share.

Someone has to keep a mental note of who’s bringing what, though, so we don’t end up with 16 berry flag cakes and a bag of hot dog buns for dinner.  Guests are assigned a side dish, salad, appetizer, or dessert, and all the host has to do is set the table and maybe light up the grill.

Before you light up the sparklers and the Roman candles, it's a good idea to celebrate America the old fashioned way, with lots of delicious homemade food made by friends and family. Here's a Sparkling 4th of July Potluck that has a quick party menu with minimal clean-up so everyone can enjoy the fireworks when it gets dark.

My aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins are a close-knit bunch. Of course we all love to eat,  but we have specific recipes we are known for making for the table, which, depending on the weather and the guest list, is usually groaning with the weight of bean salads, coleslaws, and grilled meats. These signature recipes get requested year after year, and we love them like old friends.

For this holiday party, I decided to gather them all up into one big spread to show you just how it’s done in the Midwest. Here are my family’s must-have, make-or-break, non-negotiable recipes for summer barbecues.

Make one or make all, but whatever you do, don’t miss the fireworks.

Beer Brats to make Wisconsin proud:

Take it from me, this is the definitive way to cook up a batch of Wisconsin Beer Brats, using a par-cooking method and your favorite bottle of beer. They’re easy to cook up ahead of time, then all you have to do is brown them on the grill when the coals are hot. Instructions for cooking bratwurst in the slow cooker are included in the instructions, too.

Serve them hot with all the fixings: spicy hot mustard, sauerkraut, hot peppers, and grilled onions.

Before you light up the sparklers and the Roman candles, it's a good idea to celebrate America the old fashioned way, with lots of delicious homemade food made by friends and family. Here's a Sparkling 4th of July Potluck that has a quick party menu with minimal clean-up so everyone can enjoy the fireworks when it gets dark.

Pasta Salad the way it’s supposed to be:

Easy Cold Pasta Salad is fun to eat and loaded with crunchy, colorful vegetables, antipasto style. Plus we keep it mayo-free for outdoor, warm weather gatherings, and dress it up in an Italian vinaigrette and lots of Parmesan cheese.

Sometimes we make it with our favorite zesty dressing from the store, but this Homemade Red Wine Vinaigrette works nicely, too.

Set it and forget it Slow Cooker Calico Beans:

If you absolutely adore slow cooker recipes, you may have already tried this recipe for Slow Cooker Calico Beans.

Part sloppy Joe, part baked beans, and 100% delicious, these are a weekend staple at my house.

Before you light up the sparklers and the Roman candles, it's a good idea to celebrate America the old fashioned way, with lots of delicious homemade food made by friends and family. Here's a Sparkling 4th of July Potluck that has a quick party menu with minimal clean-up so everyone can enjoy the fireworks when it gets dark.

All the Fresh Corn you could ever eat, on or off the cob:

We like to switch it up in the corn department, but one thing’s for sure: there is always, always some type of corn.

If there’s space on the grill, we cook up a dozen ears for the hungry ones and make Cowboy Corn on the Cob, which is grilled and slathered with a rich sour cream sauce that’s made with chili powder and a hint of cayenne. Then we cover them with chopped scallions and a squirt of fresh lime juice.

Cowboy Corn on the Cob is sweet and spicy all at once! Make it on the grill or in the oven for the perfect summer side dish. So easy and packed with flavor!

Another wonderful option along those lines is a big bowl of esquites, or Mexican Corn Salad. You can make it with frozen corn, too, and it’s delicious.

Green chilies, onion, cilantro, cotija cheese, and tossed in a mayonnaise and sour cream dressing. It’s definitely an up and comer and worth the mention. (Elotes is the almost same thing, still on the cob! So great!)

When it comes to summer salads, nothing gets the party started quite like tangy, spicy Mexican Corn Salad, aka esquites. It’s the spoonable, easy-to-eat cousin of elotes, or Mexican Street Corn, and it can’t wait to be on your next summer barbecue menu!

Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Cheese:

Every year, someone totes a tub of Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Cheese and every year, we ask for more. In my family, we call this salad Piggly Wiggly salad, named for the smiling red pig on the sign at our hometown grocery store. This iconic broccoli salad recipe is yours for the making, in case you’ve been craving it since childhood.

Lots of readers like to change this around to make their own variations. Here are some ideas from the comments on that post:

  • Sunflower seeds and raisins
  • Bell peppers and mozzarella
  • Add mustard to the sauce
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo
  • Use Zevia instead of sugar
  • Add dried cranberries or grapes
  • Use a different type of vinegar

OMG good Veggie Pizza:

Remember those tubes of crescent rolls at the store, next to the eggs? The ones that explode? Well, it’s only fitting that we include them for the 4th of July.

Veggie Pizza is a quick appetizer that uses crescent roll dough, Ranch Dressing Mix, and any and all vegetables you care to add. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! This is always the first thing that disappears.

Is it really pizza? Sort of. Is it good? Oh, absolutely.

And to wash it all down? Fruit Punch with a fresh berry ice ring:

Since our parties are packed with little kids eager for it to get dark outside, we always fill our grandma’s punchbowl with a classic Fruit Punch, a concoction they guzzle by the glass. Fresh berries frozen inside a jello mold make a pretty ice ring to keep it cold all evening. After all, it’s berry season, we can be a little indulgent.

Speaking of indulgent, a little spiked punch is always a grand idea for those who prefer the stronger stuff. Keep a bottle of something nearby.

Gorgeous Strawberry (or any berry) Shortcake, yes please:

What a dessert to end all desserts! Homemade biscuits team up with whipped cream and beautiful berries.  They’re tossed with just a little sugar and a pinch of salt to bring out their lovely flavor. I wouldn’t blame you if you just made this and called it a night. It’s a perfect dessert for crowds because everyone can build their own.

Don’t skimp on anything. We wait all year long for this dessert!

Here’s our table. We try to keep the clean-up to a dull roar so everyone can hustle out the door and watch the show, so sometimes a plastic fork or two shows up (even though we usually end up washing those, too!)

Happy Fourth, everyone! Hope everyone has a sparkly, relaxing Independence Day.

May all your sparklers sparkle and your black snakes wiggle. And may none of your snap-n-pops be duds. No matter what your holiday plans are, make sure they’re fun, easy, delicious, and (as a mother I have to say this!) as absolutely safe as can be. 

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