The Fourth of July is one of our favorite holidays. Barbeques, beers, beach… it’s the making for a perfect day. (Just don’t forget to brush up on the latest hangover cures.) The three B’s aside, it’s also an opportunity to get crafty in the kitchen.
From cheesecake shots to patriotic popcorn, here’s the best of red, white, and blue bites for the most enjoyable (and healthy) Independence Day yet.
Photo: Dessert Now, Dinner Later
1. Patriotic Popcorn
Not to be corny, but this colorful snack is sure to win over the appetites of kids and adults alike. A sprinkle of sweet, touch of salty, and a whole lotta holiday flair (err, food coloring) makes this delicious kettle corn the star of the party. Tip: To avoid purple kernels, wipe your pot after cooking each batch.
2. Red, White, and Glue Granola
As far as red, white, and blue recipes go, this one isn’t quite as vibrant as the rest. But what it lacks in color, this granola makes up for in the flavor department. Unsweetened coconut and sliced almonds provide some crunch while raisins and dried cranberries add sweetness. And instead of relying on the listed amount of honey, we suggest cutting it down to 1/4 cup and doubling the amount cinnamon.
3. Patriotic Parfait
This Fourth of July, try one of our very own recipes for an easy patriotic breakfast or midday snack. Raspberries, cherries (which may help sore muscles recover after a tough workout), and blueberries make up the red and blue layers while vanilla-infused plain Greek yogurt creates the white stripes Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. Kuehl, K.S., Perrier, E.T., Elliot, D.L., et al. Department of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR. Journal of the International Sociology of Sports Nutrition, 2010 May 7;7:17. . A little lemon zest on top, and you’re done! (Served in a mason jar, it’s picnic friendly too.)
4. Bare Naked Nachos
Don’t let the name fool you: These nachos are anything but naked. Individually dressed with mozzarella cheese, chicken, and salsa, no chip is left behind in this dish. (Unless you munch on some extras while baking—which we strongly support.)
5. Firecracker Smoothie
We love a good smoothie, but this layered glass is almost too pretty to drink (almost). Stacked rows of raspberry, banana, and strawberry scream patriotism. Soy milk and hydrating coconut water add creaminess and a touch of sweetness. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut and extra fruit.
6. Grilled Blackberry, Strawberry, Basil, and Brie Pizza Crisps
Brie mine, delicious pizza! It may not be Valentine’s Day, but we still think you should treat yo’self to at least a slice of this berry and basil heaven. Loaded with brie, it may not be the healthiest menu option, but each small piece delivers a dose of basil’s anti-inflammatory properties. We say dig in!
7. Betsy Ross Toast
Here’s an ode to the famed flag maker herself, Miss Betsy Ross. There’s not a lot to making these toasts (beyond a steady hand and some precision), but kids and adults of all ages will love them. Layer a piece of whole-wheat toast with cream cheese and then spread with strawberry or raspberry jam. Now comes the fun part—create an American flag with blueberry stars and banana stripes.
8. Red, White, and Blue-chetta
This sweet and savory appetizer turns an old favorite into a blueberry-infused patriotic dish. All the normal bruschetta elements are there—bread (choose a whole-wheat loaf), tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and cheese. The sweet blueberries balance out the saltiness from the mozzarella for a totally satisfying starter.
9. Red, White, and Blue Sliders
These baby turkey burgers have all sorts of good stuff. We love the idea of a sweet and sour dressing made from blueberries and vinegar. The turkey burgers (which are leaner than ground beef) topped with roasted red pepper and feta incorporate some Mediterranean flair for an American celebration.
10. Chicken and Apple Sausages with Blueberry "Ketchup"
Now hold it… hold it right there. We know blueberry ketchup doesn’t sound appealing, but think of it as a sweet and spicy sauce (there are no tomatoes in this ketchup, don’t worry). With apples incorporated in the sausage and plums in the sauce, this main meal is extra fruity. To make the ketchup a tad healthier, cut back on the brown sugar (with all that sweet fruit, just one half-cup is plenty).
11. Watermelon and Feta Flag
Grab a box of toothpicks and invite some friends over for this sweet, salty, and simple Fourth of July appetizer. Piles of blueberries, diced watermelon, and feta cubes create a no-hassle flag without all that finicky arranging of fruit.
12. Blueberry, Strawberry, and Jicama Salsa
Why so blue, sweet salsa? Just the result of an abundance of juicy, fiber-filled blueberries. Pico de gallo may be a classic, but the ingredients in this salsa are heart-healthy and help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Plus, it’s an excuse to eat more chips.
13. Festive Quinoa Salad
We love quinoa for all its essential amino acids, but it's also extremely versatile and always delicious. This recipe (obvi) uses red quinoa, while blue cheese and blueberries provide the remaining patriotic hues.
14. Patriotic Chopped Salad
Now that we’ve probably overdone it with the watermelon and strawberries, we’ve got two new red foods for you: pomegranate seeds (known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure) and red bell peppers. Jicama creates a light and refreshing white layer with some crunch, while chicken and cashews add protein as well as healthy fats. This dish is all about careful arrangement, so we suggest transferring each ingredient onto the serving dish from a drinking glass.
15. Red, Mint, and Blue Fruit Salad
Full of hydrating watermelon and seasoned with cooling mint, this is the ideal salad recipe for a scorching hot day. It may be missing the white, but a handful or two of feta can solve that—or jicama if you’re dairy-free.
16. Patriotic Quinoa Salad
Quinoa is one of our favorite vegetarian proteins to add to salads. Its nutty flavor complements almost everything—fruits and veggies alike—and it’s high in fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese. With a touch of lime and an unexpected tangy ingredient, this recipe is both light and flavorful.
17. Red, White, and Blue Salad
Lettuce turn up the beets before diving into this healthy salad. This is a party, after all! And more importantly, this dish can help ward off cancer and other diseases. Feeling fancy? Stack the salad on layers of goat cheese.
18. Patriotic Chopped Fruit Salad
Avoid fruit salad overload by bringing this unique recipe to the table. Topped with poppy seeds, basil, and a tangy lime dressing, it’ll please everyone from food critics to children.
19. Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad
Potato salads usually rely on heaps of mayo, but this version uses a mustardy oil-and-vinegar dressing instead. Blue potatoes—which get their hue from a high flavonoid content—are the star ingredient, while yellow and red potatoes play (equally important and tasty) supporting roles.
20. Watermelon and Jicama Salad
This salad is red, white, blue, and … green? Fresh basil and mint plus a little lime juice act as a super-light (and green) dressing. The watermelon and jicama—an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber—add a crisp, cool, and refreshing base.
21. Patriotic Salad with Quinoa
Time to whip out the trusty star-shaped cookie cutter again! But this time, there are no cookies involved, just watermelon and a handful of other fresh and healthy ingredients. Greens, berries, and watermelon make up the base, while cooked and chilled quinoa adds protein and a slightly nutty flavor.
Photo: Garnish & Glaze
22. Overnight Coconut-Almond French Toast Casserole
French toast is often classified as a breakfast food, but we like to save the best meals for last. Because, well… dessert. With coconut flakes, sliced almonds, and berries galore, this can almost be considered a healthy dish (keyword: almost). Just substitute the French bread for a whole-wheat variety and use coconut cream instead of half and half.
23. Stars and Stripes Cheesecake Shots
Shots, shot, shots (of cheesecake)! That’s right, these delicious desserts are served in shot glasses, offering built-in portion control. We suggest adding a layer of pomegranate or strawberry slices to the bottom for an extra boost of antioxidants.
24. Angel Food Cake-Berry Skewers with Cheesecake Dip
Cubes of angel food cake nestle between strawberries and blueberries (raspberries and blackberries work too!) on these festive skewers. Pre-made cake would no doubt be easier, but feel free to make your own. Enjoy the skewers as-is or serve alongside this healthier cheesecake dip made with nonfat Greek yogurt and light cream cheese.
25. Red, White, and Blueberry Yogurt Popsicles
Though these striped treats look complicated to make, they’re actually a piece of cake—and a great alternative to one too. Full of natural fruits and Greek yogurt, they could almost be considered a healthy breakfast.
26. Marshmallow and Berry Skewers
This recipe couldn’t be easier—no equipment required! Slice the strawberries (loaded with vitamin C and manganese) and layer between mini marshmallows and blueberries on wooden skewers. Snack on the skewers as is or pop them onto the grill for a healthier (slightly distant) relative of the s’more. (Just make sure to remove before the marshmallows melt completely.)
27. Festive Drunk Strawberries
Why have regular chocolate-dipped strawberries when you can have vodka-soaked white chocolate strawberries? And did we mention they’re also dipped in sprinkles? This recipe may sound like a classed-up version of a college party dessert, but we assure you it’s both tasty and respectable—to fraternity brothers and professors alike. Disagree? Skip the vodka!
28. Brandy and Berry Cookies
These cookies are studded with pretty little red, white, and blue morsels in the form of dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, and blueberries (soaked in brandy for good measure). Feel free to cut down the sugar, or even substitute applesauce for a healthier cookie. Egg whites and nonfat Greek yogurt reduce the fat content while upping the protein, and whole-wheat flour amps up the fiber.
29. Buckwheat-Topped Trifles
These trifles combine different textures with a silky smooth layer of coconut milk, cashews, and chia seeds, topped with crunchy buckwheat. The recipe also includes Irish moss (which is actually a type of algae—a superfood known for its high iron and protein content) that works as a thickening agent.
30. Double Berry and Coconut Pops
These no-sugar-added popsicles have only five ingredients—strawberries, light coconut milk, vanilla extract, blueberries, and Stevia. All it takes is a blender (and a little patience to carefully layer each color into popsicle molds).
31. Vegan “Jell-O” Terrine
This lighter dessert makes for a gorgeous red-white-and-blue centerpiece. All you need is fresh fruit juice (strawberry, banana, and blueberry) and agar powder (a vegan alternative to gelatin). This is a great recipe to make ahead since it needs time to gel in the fridge.
32. Triple Berry Raw Cheesecake
"Raw cheesecake” may not sound like the most appealing dessert, but this treat is totally dairy-free. Dates, pecans, hazelnuts, and tempeh—a slightly nutty plant-based protein made from fermented soybeans—come together for a crust that's packed with protein and healthy fats. The filling uses soaked cashews and berries for a creamy cheesecake-like consistency.
33. Coconutty Semiffreddo
This dessert looks like it takes a lot of patience, but we swear it’s really straightforward. Made from whole ingredients such as berries and coconut milk, this dessert is relatively guilt-free too. Frozen berries will work just fine mixed into the semifreddo, though fresh ones will look much more appealing on top.
34. Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries
Though this dessert requires a full block of cream cheese (feel free to sub plain Greek yogurt for half of the cream cheese), we love that just one doctored-up strawberry is plenty satisfying. Sliced almonds add some crunch to the oh-so creamy center.
35. Swirled Cheesecake Bars
While a pre-made Graham cracker crust saves time and energy, a homemade one is surprisingy simple to create and saves you a lot of added sugars. The bar itself is made up of light ingredients, including reduced-fat cream cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, and egg whites (to keep things fluffy). Stevia—a plant-based sweetener that can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar—stands in for the white sugar normally used in baking. Feel free to choose homemade jam or low-sugar preservatives for the swirl.
Photo: Just Putzing Around the Kitchen
36. Lemonade Spritzers with Berry Ice Cubes
This cocktail is berry delightful. It’s also easy to make! With only four ingredients, they can be poured and stirred in a snap, making you the hostess (or host) with the mostest—but with the leastest kitchen responsibilities. Just make sure to freeze the berry ice cubes in advance.
37. Strawberry Lemonade Fizz
This kid-friendly drink is gettin’ fizzy with it—thanks to a secret sweet ingredient. To cut back on sugar, use sparkling water instead of soda and all-natural lemonade sweetened with agave. Those over 21 can spike if with vodka or gin. Cheers!
38. Red, White, and Blue Smoothie
This smoothie is great for vegans, those who don’t imbibe, or really anyone. With eight different fruits and protein-packed seeds, it’s a great way to start the day or enjoy for dessert—instead of other sugar-loaded treats.
39. Red, White, and Blue Boozy Ice Cubes
There are regular ice cubes, and then are boozy ice cubes. While both come in handy on the Fourth of July, the latter certainly make for a better party. Customized with your colorful booze of choice, the drink options are endless. If clear alcohol is your go-to, simply drop berries into the ice cube tray and toss them into your drink when frozen.
40. Strawberry and Stripes Daiquiri
The frozen strawberries in this cocktail are loaded with vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. The watermelon provides lycopene (which helps protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays). And the alcohol? Well, that’s because it’s a holiday.
41. Boozy Watermelon Stars
This recipe can be made boozy or not (though we think indulging in moderation on America's birthday is more than acceptable). These fruity treats are no-bake and no-fuss. In fact, the hardest part is slicing the watermelon in rounds before letting a cookie cutter do all the work. Pop a blueberry (or baby marshmallow) in the center of each vitamin A- and C- filled slice of watermelon for a cute and quick bite.
42. Make-Ahead Frozen Daiquiris
With burgers to grill and side salads to prepare, you’ll appreciate these make-ahead cocktails. Way less naughty than a beach resort daiquiri, this version uses whole fruits (strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple), rum, and ice. We also love how hip these drinks are served up in little mason jars.
43. Festive Sangria
This party drink gets the “healthier” stamp of approval for being filled with fiber-rich fresh fruit. Plus, wine (in moderation) may help protect the heart and control cholesterol levels (win!) Red wine: a drink to your heart. Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, 2010 Oct-Dec; 1(4):171-176. . We like to skip the simple syrup since the fruit is plenty sweet.
Originally posted June 2013, updated June 2014.