Commentary: My Favorite Patriotic Recipes for Independence Day

by Cadence McManimon


Independence Day is just around the corner! I’m planning to celebrate with a feast. What better things to cook than classic American recipes?

Much of what we think of as “American food” actually comes from Western Europe where the majority of immigration to our country originated. Most of the immigrants were poor, simple, and hardy, and the dietary traditions they carried across the Atlantic reflected this nature.

But as they settled the New World, European colonists adapted their traditional dishes by using locally available ingredients, as well as learning from each other’s cultures. As a result, as the generations passed, America developed its own unique melting pot of cuisines. Though we can trace the tradition of many foods back to Europe, many of our most patriotic recipes wouldn’t be quite the same without having been developed on American soil. Here are some of my favorites:

9 Recipes for Independence Day

1. Boston Baked Beans: The classic bean dish we know today is descended from an English Puritan recipe from the 1700s, developed to prevent the need to cook on Sundays. Traditionally, it was cooked overnight in a Dutch oven or similar covered pot, either buried in hot ashes outside or in an oven.

Typically, a ham bone and molasses were the go-to flavorings. These days, there are several options to spice things up a bit—adding barbecue seasonings or an apple or a heftier tomato base have all been hits in my family. I make them in the Instant Pot because it cuts the cooking time from all day to just a couple of hours. Start with this recipe!

2. Homemade Bread: Bread of some form is usually a staple in any culture’s diet, and colonial American cuisine was no exception. Immigrants from across Europe brought with them various types of bread from their homelands and adapted them in the New World. Italian focaccia, Scottish bannock, German pretzel, or French pastry have all been made for centuries in the United States.

The key to making a bread that is truly patriotic is to do it in our own kitchen. America was built on a do-it-yourself attitude, after all. Fantastic bread can require five common pantry ingredients: oil, flour, water, yeast, salt, and sugar. I’d recommend choosing something simple for beginners, such as basic sandwich bread or French boules. More adventurous bakers might want to try bread braids or sourdough. Also, don’t be afraid to use a mixer to knead your dough, or break out an electric bread maker to do the whole process hands free!

3. Beef Stew: Originating in the royal kitchens of France prior to gaining popularity in America, beef stew is second only to pot roast as the hearty main dish of the Midwest. I like to first make stock out of beef soup bones and then add the carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, beef, and spices later on. This is wonderful to serve alongside pretty much any type of homemade bread—and don’t worry, the crustier the bread, the better it will taste dipped into the stew!

I rely on my trusty Instant Pot to shorten cooking time to an hour or two—and I really mean it. I can start with frozen soup bones and in two hours have a full-on pot of stew ready to eat. Start here for a basic recipe!

4. Barbecued Chicken: I can hear antebellum folk songs echoing in the background! The Southern method of slow-cooking meat and adding a savory sauce gives us the American barbecue picnic, complete with fireworks and sparklers.

I like to make my own barbecue sauce and give it slightly different twists depending on my mood. Maple, ginger, and apple flavors have gone well for me—lemon, cumin, and soy, not so much. In my household, we generally prefer pulled chicken versus pieces— and of course served with homemade bread. Check out this classic recipe!

5. Flapjacks: Ah, the breakfast staple of the pioneers! Pancakes, also known as flapjacks, gained widespread popularity due to their frugal ingredients and campfire-friendly cooking. Settlers heading out West to the prairies, on the Oregon Trail, or in the Wild West cowboy country relied heavily on serving them alongside eggs, sausage, or ham. I like to add oatmeal or bananas to mine to sneak extra nutrition into my toddler sons. For the most patriotic results, mount your skillet over a campfire outside to cook a batch! Check out this foolproof recipe from an actual “cowboy cook.”

6. Tomato Soup With Grilled Cheese: This classic combination is always a hit with kids. Though tomato soup has been in American kitchens since the early 1800s, its pairing with grilled cheese rose to popularity during the Great Depression and World War II, due to its high levels of vitamin C from the tomatoes and the concentration of carbs, protein, and fats in a cheese sandwich.

Today, it’s still simple and easy to make—even for a big crowd. My mom raised my siblings and me to make our own tomato soup from her giant garden harvests. It’s relatively simple to recreate like this. And nobody will judge us if we’d rather get some already made at Trader Joe’s—just add some extra basil, and it will still taste amazing.

7. Pumpkin Pie: Did you know that you can make pumpkin pie with pretty much any type of gourd or squash? It was invented by British colonists somewhere in middle America, who cooked a sweet filling inside a hollowed out pumpkin. From there, the recipe spread and was refined to a true pie somewhere in the New England area.

I would love to try making it in a real pumpkin someday! But right now, I take a major shortcut: I get the canned pumpkin pie mix from the grocery store and just add the eggs and milk in my own kitchen. It’s probably my own user error, but store-bought pureed pumpkin always turns out smoother and bakes more evenly than baking and mashing pumpkin from scratch. For a good pumpkin pie recipe, start here!

8. Chicken Noodle Soup: It’s said that George Washington often ate chicken soup during the Revolutionary War. Nowadays, it is perhaps most famous due to Campbell’s canned product that includes noodles. I personally think this is the best type of soup to have in the summer.

I haven’t yet ventured into making my own chicken stock, as some of the best cooks I know do; I still rely on broth and poultry from the local grocery store. And like all my soup favorites, I make this in my trusty Instant Pot for efficiency. Here’s a great recipe—I like to add couscous and curry powder to make more of a chicken stew sometimes, and someday I’d like to tackle dumplings, too!

9. Cinnamon Rolls: Having originated in Sweden, these classic sweet rolls first gained popularity in the American South. They are also easier to make than most people think. Just take a simple sandwich bread recipe, and instead of shaping it into a loaf, roll it out flat and shape cinnamon rolls instead. All it takes is some extra butter and spices! To make it truly patriotic, include some local fruits or nuts in the buttery filling. Raisins, pecans, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, even coffee! Check local gardens or farmers’ markets to find something in season. Start here.

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Cadence McManimon is a published author, former special education teacher, and now a wife and mother. She has too many houseplants, plenty of artsy projects, and not enough pens that work! (Doesn’t everyone?) Her novels Name Unspoken and The Lily Girl are available at her website Her favorite things include crayons, sarcasm, Sherlock Holmes, and hearing from readers!
Photo “Pancakes” by Ash


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