22 Labor Day Cookout Recipes

Send off summer right with these grilled or smoked dishes

Delicious Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

As the kids head back to school and the end of summer approaches, it's time to end the season with one last, big cookout. Try these recipes for your smoker or grill to make your Labor Day party spectacular. Try your hand at ribs or go beyond basic for some gourmet burger options.

  • 01 of 22

    Painkiller Cocktail

    Painkiller cocktail recipe

    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    The Painkiller is a popular tropical cocktail. It was created in the 1970s at the Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands. It's a fun and fruity mix of pineapple, orange, coconut, and a bold rum. Just as summer hits us with warm, sunny days, this is the ideal drink for backyard entertainment.

  • 02 of 22

    Slow-Cooked Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken

    Slow cooked oven baked bbq chicken recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    These delicious fall-off-the-bone tender chicken legs are covered with bbq sauce for an absolute delight. Drumsticks are one of the least expensive cuts of chicken you can buy, and, of course, kids love them because they are meant to be eaten by hand. Cooking the chicken at a low temperature allows the meat to become tender and stay juicy, without the barbecue sauce turning too brown and possibly burning.

  • 03 of 22

    Watermelon Punch

    Watermelon Punch

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    Watermelon punch is the ultimate non-alcoholic party drink to wrap up summer and is even better when the punch bowl is the watermelon. Made with fresh fruit, plus some sugar for sweetness, it's a fun and easy way for everyone to cool off at your outdoor bash.

  • 04 of 22

    New Old-Fashioned Cocktail

    New Old-Fashioned Cocktail With Woodford Reserve
    S&C Design Studios

    Peach and bourbon are a fantastic pairing, and the two come together in a magical way in the new old-fashioned recipe. It puts a fresh summer fruit twist on the old-fashioned, one of the best bourbon cocktails of all time. The recipe is simple, so anyone can make it at home.

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  • 05 of 22

    Easy Chelada With Mexican Beer

    Easy Chelada With Mexican Beer

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    If you always top a Corona beer with a lime wedge, you'll love the flavors of this easy Mexican beer cocktail. A chelada is nothing more than bottled beer mixed with lime juice and salt, but carries the flair of a properly prepared cocktail, especially when served in salt-rimmed glasses.

  • 06 of 22

    Grilled Tomatoes

    Grilled Tomatoes

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

    Tomatoes on the grill are a great way to enjoy summer's favorite vegetables or fruit, or... tomatoes. It's true that tomatoes are fruits, botanically speaking, and it shows in their soft texture. These juicy, bright grilled tomatoes are good hot or at room temperature, making them a great choice for easy entertaining, since they can be done before anyone shows up at the door or in the yard.

  • 07 of 22

    Old-Fashioned Watermelon Rind Pickles

    Watermelon rind pickles recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    If you thought the watermelon rind was just for the compost bin, think again. This old-fashioned recipe from down South takes what is usually discarded when eating this summer fruit and makes it into a sweet treat. Watermelon rind pickles can be served as part of an appetizer or picnic spread with other pickles and snacks or simply enjoyed as a sweet snack anytime the mood strikes.

  • 08 of 22

    Black Bean and Mango Salad

    Vegan Black Bean and Mango Salad

    The Spruce / Emily Hawkes

    Bean salads are a popular choice for picnics, barbecues, and make-ahead weekday lunches. This black bean and mango salad combines fresh bell pepper, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro for a simple vegetarian, veganhigh-protein, and gluten-free recipe.

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  • 09 of 22

    White Bean Hummus Dip (Gluten-Free)

    White Bean Hummus Dip (Gluten-free)

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Need a quick appetizer for your guests? Make this white bean hummus with ingredients you probably already have on hand. This is a simple recipe is made with the usual suspects, including olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice, and seasoned with a bit of cumin and fresh parsley, but made with white beans instead of chickpeas for a completely different flavor profile and texture.

  • 10 of 22

    Thai Rice Noodle Salad With Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

    Thai Rice Noodle Salad With Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    This Thai rice noodle salad is fresh and flavorful, and it's simple to make, too. It features vermicelli rice noodles and lots of fresh summer vegetables—feel free to add or substitute depending on what's available at your local market. You also have the option of tossing in cooked baby shrimp or tofu.

  • 11 of 22

    Bulgogi Chicken

    Bulgogi Chicken

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Spice things up for your holiday spread with this smoky, sweet bulgogi chicken. Bulgogi is most often made with thinly sliced beef, but it’s just as fantastic with chicken. Use a grill if you can—bulgogi means “fire meat” after all—and don’t be afraid of a little char. The smoky sizzle of a charcoal fire can't be beat.

  • 12 of 22

    Classic Coleslaw

    Classic Coleslaw

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Coleslaw is an essential summer salad for cookouts, picnics, or potlucks. Our refreshing version needs only 7 ingredients and is the perfect balance of creamy, tangy, crunchy, and sweet tastes. Enjoy it as a cooling side for barbecue meats, a tasty topping for burgers, hot dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches, or to add pizzazz to a plate of fried chicken or fish.

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  • 13 of 22

    Burrata Salad

    Burrata Salad

     Elaine Lemm

    Grilled nectarines take on a nice texture, and the sweetness is a good match for the smokiness of the grill. Paired with crisp lettuces, fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes, and gooey cheese, this burrata salad is an impressive first course or side dish.

  • 14 of 22

    Delicious Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

    Delicious Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

    Chicken thighs are the juiciest, most flavorful part of the chicken—and they're less expensive than chicken breasts. Take it a step further, and when the bone is left in, they taste even better. But you have to treat them right when you cook them, and this easy grilled BBQ chicken recipe does just that.

  • 15 of 22

    Brazilian Picanha Steak

    Top sirloin cap or picanha recipe

    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

    The top sirloin cap is also known as picanha is the specialty of a churrascaria or Brazilian steakhouse. The flavorful meat is skewered, grilled, and sliced before serving. Picanha is not often carried on supermarket shelves, but it is usually available by request at a butcher or good meat counter. Traditionally, picanha is grilled on long skewers, but for the home cook, it will be a lot easier to cut the steak into portions for smaller skewers.

  • 16 of 22

    Cajun Burger

    Cajun burger with remoulade sauce.
    Diana Rattray

    Take your cookout to the bayou. Adding Cajun seasoning and mustard to the burger patties before grilling gives them a delicious flavor on their own. You can serve it with a mild Cajun-spiced barbecue sauce, or step up the heat any way you want. Try a thick slice of pepper jack cheese or a hot and spicy barbecue sauce. If you make an extra messy burger try an extra-hearty (and crunchy) bread for the bun.

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  • 17 of 22

    Yakiniku Sauce for Grilled Meat

    Yakiniku Sauce for Grilled Meat

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Yakiniku sauce is a mixture of savory and sweet flavors with bold sesame essence that is used to season grilled meats in Japanese cuisine. Typical ingredients for making yakiniku sauce include soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sesame seeds. The addition of sesame oil and garlic adds more complexity and boldness to the sauce. Try this flavorful sauce the next time you fire up the grill.

  • 18 of 22

    Grilled Tandoori Cod

    Grilled Tandoori Cod

    The Spruce / Crystal Hughes

    This tandoori cod recipe is simple to prepare and delicious as well. You will need only an hour of marinating time and minutes on the grill to enjoy flavors inspired by Indian cuisine. Enjoy tandoori cod with your favorite rice dish and grilled vegetables for an easy and healthy dinner.

  • 19 of 22

    Grilled Beer Braised Bratwurst

    Grilled Beer Braised Bratwurst

    The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

    These brats are simmered in beer and peppercorns, making them extra juicy and filled with lots of great flavors. Once grilled, drop in a bun, top with your favorite condiments, and you'll have a perfect meal for the game or any occasion. 

  • 20 of 22

    No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cheesecake

    No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cheesecake

    The Spruce/Cara Cormack

    When juicy red strawberries come into season, few fruit desserts are easier or more appealing than this no-bake strawberry icebox cheesecake. It has all the same rich, creamy taste of your favorite restaurant cheesecake, layered with graham crackers instead of a crumbly crust. Assemble it in advance in under 20 minutes, for a fast, party-ready dessert.

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  • 21 of 22

    Refreshing Frozen Lemonade Pie Recipe

    Refreshing Frozen Lemonade Pie Recipe

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

    This simple summertime lemonade pie is made with a 3-ingredient filling and graham cracker crust. This version is made with sweetened condensed milk, but you can also make it with ice cream.

  • 22 of 22

    Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

    Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

    The Spruce / Nyssa Tanner

    This ice cream sandwich cake makes a terrific frozen treat for any occasion. Purchase premade ice cream sandwiches for a quick and easy crowd-pleaser, or make your own ice cream sandwiches with any flavor of ice cream and shortbread, graham crackers, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, or favorite flavor of cookies for a truly custom indulgence. Kids can even make this no-bake ice cream sandwich cake by themselves.