The All-American Fourth of July Barbecue

Party Foods with a Patriotic Past

On July 4th, in parks and backyards across the United States, Americans will celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, family, friends and barbecue. Firing up the grill on the Fourth of July has become as much an American tradition as dressing up in red, white and blue. This holiday weekend, most barbecue fans will probably be focused more on the taste of their food than its history.  But many of the grill-friendly foods traditionally enjoyed on the Fourth have a pedigree that ought to make patriots proud.

Corn, for example, was domesticated by Native Americans in Mexico centuries before Columbus sailed, spread throughout the continent, and became a staple food of the American colonists who eventually founded the U.S. The red strawberries and blue blueberries often served with white cream on Independence Day in a delicious salute to the colors of the American flag descend from native North American plants. And if you eat grilled peppers, grilled squash, or potato salad at your patriotic picnic, you’re also eating foods that America introduced to the world.

American corn

Menu for an All-American BBQ

Though the traditional American barbecue feast already features many native foods, with a little extra effort, you can make your July 4th BBQ a true celebration of New World foods, American history, and the ingenuity American farmers. Base your meal around native plants and animals for a more eco-friendly feast that honors this nation’s past. Buy fruits, vegetables and meats produced right here in the USA, and you’ll support American farmers and help preserve your country’s agricultural future. Here are some suggestions for a truly All-American July 4th barbecue menu:

All-American Burgers: As a vegetarian myself, I’d personally recommend a veggie burger based on a classic American staple food: the black bean. Black beans are tasty, highly nutritious, and widely available from American farmers.

For the meat-eaters at your party, why not go lean and local with a turkey burger? The Thanksgiving icon is a native bird (in fact, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin proposed that the turkey be honored as the national bird of the United States rather than the eagle).

Those who crave red meat on the Fourth can go All-American with a bison burger. Bison meat boasts less fat and more protein than beef. Choose humanely raised, grass-fed bison meat from a U.S. farm.

New World Sides: Higher in essential Vitamin A than the ordinary potato, the sweet potato also hails from the Americas, and is excellent baked, made into salad, or sliced into a healthier version of the fry.

Fresh sweet corn is in season locally in many U.S. states in July. American-grown summer squash and zucchini are just coming into season in the Midwest at this time of year, and should be available in abundance in the South.

A Patriotic Picnic Finale: Unfortunately,  the apple tree  really isn’t “as American as apple pie” — it’s an import from Asia.  But strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, black cherries and cranberries are all native American fruits. A fresh berry salad or berry cobbler made with fresh local fruit would make a tasty tribute to American food history.


Related Stories on Care2:

July 4th: National Parks Celebrate America’s 235th Birthday

Will Environmental Bans Make July 4th Fireworks a Thing of the Past?

Locavores Can Now Find Seasonal Recipes on Epicurious


Photo Credits: Grilled Zucchini by Jeremy Keith. Used under Creative Commons license. Detail of corn photo from USDA, public domain.


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

Here is a dessert that I love to serve... Make a double batch of graham cracker crust. Press into the bottom of a cake pan. Slice strawberries in and fill up with blueberries. You may use what ever you'd like to add as a filler, such as strawberry gelatin, chocolate pudding, etc... Spread cool whip over the top. Up in the corner, place blue berries for the stars, and sliced strawberries to make the stripes. Let set, and serve. It's sure to be a hit.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Hoooo, bbq-ed veggies!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago


Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez6 years ago


Jaelithe Judy
Jaelithe Judy6 years ago

Patricia Ann, the "All-American" in the title is meant to refer to the fact that every food I recommend here is both native to the Americas (and therefore both a nice nod to American history and an eco-friendlier choice than imported species) and available from American farmers at this time of year (and therefore suitable for locavores). You could absolutely have an all-vegan BBQ that also fit these guidelines. Please note that I specifically mentioned a vegan burger option -- in fact I recommended a meatless burger as my personal choice.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Deborah R., to each his own. Live and let live and like clara H. said, "...get off your high horse and quit trying to push it on people."

Patricia Ann A.
Patricia A6 years ago

Thanks for the article, but I am not sure what "real food" means, or "All American"? I had a fantastic Vegan beach barby on Fourth with about 100 friends, local and home garden goods, I thought it was real, perhaps I was mistaken. Anyway, hope everyone had a great holiday!

clara H.
Clara Hamill6 years ago

Nice article and thanks for not pushing your diet on us. Deborah give it up not everyone is going to eat your diet so get off your high horse and quit trying to push it on people.