Power to the Party: 23 Labor Day Main Dish Recipes for Your End-of-Summer Bash

Collage of photos of Labor Day main dishes: black bean burgers, chicken wings with fish and soy sauce, grilled whole fish, and grilled cauliflower

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt, Shao Z., Vicky Wasik, Joshua Bousel]

By now, you should be all set with Labor Day sides and desserts, so now it's time to start thinking about the main event. Old standbys like burgers and grilled chicken may be great, but Labor Day is a time to pull out the big guns and send off summer right.

To that end, we've got show-stopping grilled mains for every palate, from Peruvian-style chicken sandwiches to whole fish tacos and vegan banh mi. You'll find all of those recipes and more in our roundup of 23 party-worthy Labor Day mains.

Burgers

Thick and Juicy Home-Ground Grilled Cheeseburgers

A thick grilled cheeseburger on a bun with shredded lettuce, onion, and tomato

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

We can't say it enough: If you want better burgers, you have to grind the beef at home. Doing it yourself gives you total control over texture (we like a fine grind for grilling) and flavor (while chuck is fine, a mixture of short rib, brisket, and sirloin is better). Meat gets harder to chop as it warms up, so you'll have the best luck if you chill both the beef and your meat grinder before getting started.

Get the recipe for Thick and Juicy Home-Ground Grilled Cheeseburgers »

Pimento-Jalapeño Cheeseburgers

A grilled burger topped with pimento cheese, plus pickled jalapeño, tomato, onion, and shredded lettuce, on a bun

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

It's hard to beat a slice of gooey American cheese on a burger, but pimento cheese might come close. We process the spread until it's just about smooth before putting it on the burgers, to help it melt and stay emulsified. To stick with the spicy theme, we also garnish the burgers with pickled jalapeño slices.

Get the recipe for Pimento-Jalapeño Cheeseburgers »

Sausages

The Best Grilled Hot Dogs

A hot dog cooking on a grill

[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

Natural-casing hot dogs are easy to grill—you could just throw them on the fire and end up with decent results. But for the best flavor (and lowest risk of the skins exploding), we recommend simmering the sausages with beer and sauerkraut before quickly charring them on the flames.

Get the recipe for The Best Grilled Hot Dogs »

Grilled Bratwurst With Warm German Potato Slaw

Grilled bratwurst on a roll with red cabbage, herbs, and mustard

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

The simmer-and-sear method works especially well for bratwurst, which can be difficult to cook evenly on a grill. In this recipe, we make the most of the simmering step by cooking potatoes, onion, bell pepper, and cabbage with the brats. Don't forget the Dijon, which is sharp enough to cut through the rich slaw.

Get the recipe for Grilled Bratwurst With Warm German Potato Slaw »

Chicken

Sweet-and-Sour Grilled Chicken Skewers (Yakitori Nanbansu)

Grilled sweet-and-sour chicken skewers (yakitori nanbansu) on a green dish

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Chicken skewers are a cookout staple that can be a little boring, but this recipe is anything but. What sets this chicken apart is nanbansu, a vinegary Japanese sauce made with rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. Not only does the marinade itself have tons of flavor, but the sugar in it ensures the chicken caramelizes beautifully on the grill.

Get the recipe for Sweet-and-Sour Grilled Chicken Skewers (Yakitori Nanbansu) »

Grilled Tarragon-Mustard Chicken Skewers

tarragon mustard chicken skewers

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

Sweet, savory, and tangy flavors combine in the marinade for these chicken skewers, a simple mixture of mustard, honey, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and fresh tarragon. Tarragon's strong profile is balanced out here by sweetness and acidity from the other ingredients; acids in the lemon and mustard tenderize the chicken and add flavor simultaneously. Once the meat is marinated, there's nothing to do but thread it onto skewers and throw it on the grates—as with many of our grilling recipes, we recommend using a two-zone fire, cooking the meat over high heat first but moving it to the cooler side if it threatens to burn.

Get the recipe for Grilled Tarragon-Mustard Chicken Skewers »

Peruvian-Style Grilled-Chicken Sandwiches With Spicy Green Sauce

Peruvian grilled-chicken sandwiches topped with lettuce, avocado, and a cilantro-jalapeño sauce

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

It may not be what we've deemed our best grilled-chicken sandwich ever, but this version, which starts with the classic components of Peruvian-style grilled chicken, can't be too far behind. The chicken is marinated with salt, cumin, paprika, black pepper, garlic, vinegar, and vegetable oil before it's grilled, then served on sturdy rolls with lettuce, avocado, and a creamy cilantro- and jalapeño-based sauce.

Get the recipe for Peruvian-Style Grilled-Chicken Sandwiches With Spicy Green Sauce »

Grilled Spicy Chicken Wings With Soy and Fish Sauce

Grilled chicken wings marinated in soy and fish sauce, scattered with cilantro leaves

[Photograph: Shao Z.]

Frying isn't the only way to cook chicken wings—they come out wonderfully tender and flavorful when grilled. Here, we marinate the wings with a combination of soy sauce, fish sauce, Shaoxing wine, and spices before cooking them over a two-zone fire: Cook them most of the way through on the cooler side, then transfer them to the cooler side to crisp up.

Get the recipe for Grilled Spicy Chicken Wings With Soy and Fish Sauce »

Grilled Chicken With Za'atar

Grilled chicken rubbed with za'atar (Middle Eastern spice blend), next to lemon wedges and a sauce for dipping

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

A whole grilled chicken needs nothing more than salt and pepper to be tasty, but it can also serve as a canvas, allowing you to play with all sorts of other flavors. I'm partial to coating the bird with za'atar—our homemade version is a mixture of oregano, thyme, savory, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. Just as with roasting, spatchcocking is the best way to cook a whole bird on the grill.

Get the recipe for Grilled Chicken With Za'atar »

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Patties With Jalapeño-Mint Yogurt Sauce

grilled tandoori chicken patties on pita bread

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

These chicken patties take inspiration from tandoori chicken, with cumin, coriander, paprika, and turmeric lending plenty of warm spice and fresh ginger providing heat. A little yogurt mixed with the ground chicken and seasonings helps them stay moist on the grill. Serve them on toasted burger buns or naan, topped with a creamy, refreshing yogurt-based sauce spiked with jalapeño and mint.

Get the recipe for Grilled Tandoori Chicken Patties With Jalapeño-Mint Yogurt Sauce »

Seafood

Grilled Blackened-Fish Sandwiches

Grilled blackened fish sandwiches with lettuce and tomato

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

We're of the opinion that too few people in this country choose seafood as the star of their cookout, but these blackened-fish sandwiches, flavored with paprika, oregano, thyme, onion and garlic powder, and cayenne, are a guaranteed hit. In Florida, blackened-fish sandwiches are typically made with grouper, but mahi-mahi or any other firm white fish will work.

Get the recipe for Grilled Blackened-Fish Sandwiches »

Grilled Whole Fish With Molho à Campanha (Brazilian Pico de Gallo)

Grilled whole fish with molho à campanha (Brazilian pico de gallo) spooned over it

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Grilled fish fillets make for easy, quick portioning, but whole fish are much easier to grill well—the skin protects the meat and keeps it from falling apart. Your guests will get a bit messier eating it, but that's part of the fun, right? Here, we grill whole fish (branzino, mackerel, and trout are all good bets) and serve them with molho à campanha, a vinegary Brazilian sauce similar to pico de gallo.

Get the recipe for Grilled Whole Fish With Molho à Campanha (Brazilian Pico de Gallo) »

Whole Grilled Fish Tacos

Grilled whole fish on a platter with peppers, cucumber slices, and lemon slices, with fish tacos and accoutrements on plates nearby

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Once you're comfortable grilling whole fish, you've got a whole world of options for how to eat it, and tacos are always a crowd-pleaser. In this recipe, we flavor the fish with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder, cumin, lime juice, and olive oil, then serve it with plenty of tortillas, pico de gallo, and fresh vegetables, so that guests can assemble their own tacos.

Get the recipe for Whole Grilled Fish Tacos »

Grilled Shrimp With Garlic and Lemon

Grilled shrimp with garlic and lemon, sprinkled with herbs, in a wooden dish

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

There are a couple secrets to making perfect grilled shrimp. Start by shelling the shrimp, tossing them with salt and baking soda to keep them firm and juicy, and letting them air-dry. When you're ready to grill, pack the shrimp tightly onto skewers, coat them with oil, and cook them over the hottest part of the fire. The result will be tender, moist, snappy shrimp with a great char. Flavor your grilled shrimp simply with garlic and lemon, or toss them with chermoula for a North African twist.

Get the recipe for Grilled Shrimp With Garlic and Lemon »

Beef

Chacarero Chileno (Chilean Steak and Bean Sandwiches)

Chacareros chilenos (steak sandwiches topped with tomato and cooked green beans)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This Chilean steak sandwich pairs grilled beef—we prefer skirt steak, hanger steak, or flap meat—with tomatoes and green beans, the latter of which we cook in boiling water until totally tender. Brushing the meat with aioli before grilling encourages even browning. You can add smashed avocado to the sandwich if you want, but we think it's rich enough without it.

Get the recipe for Chacarero Chileno (Chilean Steak and Bean Sandwiches) »

The Best Carne Asada

Sliced carne asada surrounded by accoutrements (tortillas, lime wedges, cilantro, and salsa)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

A good marinade is the easiest way to improve your grilled steaks. For carne asada, that means chilies, citrus juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, cumin seed, coriander seed, and brown sugar. We also mix in soy sauce and fish sauce—two less-than-authentic ingredients that loyal Serious Eaters know are secret weapons for making food taste more savory.

Get the recipe for The Best Carne Asada »

Muffuletta-Style Grilled Stuffed Flank Steak With Salumi, Provolone, and Olive Salad

Grilled steak pinwheels stuffed with muffuletta sandwich–inspired fillings (olives, provolone cheese, and cold cuts)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

What if a simple marinade isn't enough for you? Try rolling your steaks up with flavorful ingredients before grilling, for a delicious main dish that makes a show-stopping presentation, too. We have lots of combinations to choose from, but my favorite is this muffuletta-inspired version, in which we stuff the steak with cold cuts, provolone, and olive salad.

Get the recipe for Muffuletta-Style Grilled Stuffed Flank Steak With Salumi, Provolone, and Olive Salad »

Pork

Grilled-Pork Sandwiches With Grilled-Plum Chutney and Cabbage Slaw

Grilled-pork sandwich topped with miso slaw and a chutney of jalapeños, scallions, and grilled plums

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

If this is going to be your last cookout of the year, make it count by grilling as much of the meal as possible. This sandwich pairs grilled pork loin with a flavorful chutney made of grilled plums, scallions, and jalapeños, all piled onto grilled buns. The miso slaw is the only thing that doesn't hit the fire—we want to keep the cabbage crunchy to complement the soft chutney.

Get the recipe for Grilled-Pork Sandwiches With Grilled-Plum Chutney and Cabbage Slaw »

Balinese Pork Satay (Sate Babi) With Sweet Soy Glaze and Peanut Sauce

Balinese pork satay (sate babi) topped with a sweet glaze and peanut dipping sauce

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

You could spend your whole summer grilling nothing but skewers. If you wanted to pick just one skewer, though, I'd go with this Balinese satay, made with fatty pork grilled until tender and charred. The heart of the dish is a vibrant spice paste flavored with turmeric, lemongrass, chilies, and more—we use it both to marinate the meat and as a base for a sweet soy glaze and a rich peanut dipping sauce.

Get the recipe for Balinese Pork Satay (Sate Babi) With Sweet Soy Glaze and Peanut Sauce »

Adobo-Marinated Grilled Pork Chops

Adobo-marinated grilled pork chops on a wooden cutting board

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

These pork chops get their Filipino flavor from adobo, an acidic marinade made with soy sauce, water, and cane vinegar. (It's worth searching out the brand Datu Puti for the most authentic taste.) We marinate the chops for between eight and 24 hours before grilling, which tenderizes the meat just enough.

Get the recipe for Adobo-Marinated Grilled Pork Chops »

Vegetarian

Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers

Homemade black bean burgers on buns with sauce and shredded lettuce

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Vegetarians shouldn't be an afterthought at your Labor Day cookout or any other, and luckily, these black bean burgers are so good that they might turn out to be popular among meat-eaters, too. Their complex flavor comes from a combination of partially dehydrated black beans (drying them out in the oven helps keep the burgers from becoming mushy), feta cheese, roasted cashews, chipotle and Poblano chilies, and a little mayonnaise. Be sure to grill these over moderate heat so that they cook all the way through.

Get the recipe for Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers »

Grilled Lemongrass- and Coriander-Marinated Tofu Vietnamese Sandwiches (Vegan Banh Mi)

Lemongrass- and coriander-marinated tofu banh mi sandwiches, topped with cucumber, carrot, cilantro, and jalapeño

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

If you're looking for a fully vegan grilled main dish that's utterly delicious, these banh mi are a perfect fit. For a bit of Thai-Vietnamese fusion, we fill the sandwiches with tofu flavored with the same cilantro-based marinade use to make gai yang, along with vegan mayo and traditional banh mi ingredients, like jalapeño, cucumber, and pickled daikon and carrot.

Get the recipe for Grilled Lemongrass- and Coriander-Marinated Tofu Vietnamese Sandwiches (Vegan Banh Mi) »

Grilled Spiced Cauliflower

Grilled spiced cauliflower sprinkled with chopped herbs, on a white serving platter

[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

The high heat of a grill is well suited to browning and crisping cauliflower, but florets are prone to falling through the grates. Our solution is to slice the cauliflower vertically into thick steaks, which we rub with a Pakistani-inspired spice mixture before grilling. Start the cauliflower on the hotter side of the grill; once the exterior is well charred, move it to the cooler side to finish cooking.

Get the recipe for Grilled Spiced Cauliflower »