Top 17 Labor Day Food Traditions to Try in 2022



Last Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Labor Day is a U.S. holiday celebrating the achievements and contributions of the American working class. Commemorated as a Federal holiday in 1894, Labor Day marks the day in which unionized workers marched to end the 12-hour, 6-day workweek in 1882 during one of the most difficult periods of the American Labor Movement.

Today, this holiday also signifies the unofficial end of summer, the perfect time to throw one last barbecue over the long weekend before the fall weather rolls in. When it comes to Labor Day traditions, there are plenty to choose from. Below, you’ll find traditional labor day entrees, sides, and beverages the unique twists on them from around the States!

Labor Day Traditions from around the US

Labor Day traditions are rooted in workers’ rights and protections. While the first march was in 1883, the 72-hour workweek didn’t come to an end until the Adamson Act of 1912.

In honor of this 3 decade-long battle, many communities throughout the country celebrate with parades, picnics, and local comfort foods. Take your tastebuds on a trip around the US and celebrate with Nashville brisket, craft Portland beers, or even a classic Philly cheesesteak.

Traditional Labor Day food ideas

1. Pork ribs

A classic from the southern states, barbecue or oven-baked pork ribs is a Labor Day staple. Using a dry rub or barbecue sauce to marinate, this main dish is quick to prepare and easy to cook.

2. Grilled skewers

a night bbq party gathering with food preparation

Skewers of any sort are perfect for an end-of-summer bash. Grilled chicken, steak, or pork pair perfectly with grilled onions and peppers on a kebob style skewer, making for an easy-to-eat dish for guests. If you’re in the mood to try some different flavors, add some famous BBQ sauce from Tennessee, or sub Hawaiian pineapple for the veggies.

3. Hot dogs

Hot dogs are a U.S. tradition for many summer holidays. With toppings like chili, relish, onions, and condiments like ketchup or mustard, hot dogs are sure to be a crowd favorite. You can even switch it up and make Philly cheese dogs to try a Pennsylvanian staple.

4. Hamburgers

Hamburgers are another crowd-pleaser throughout the United States. Top with lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese, and sauces, and win your guests over with the taste of nostalgia.

5. Chicken wings

Barbecued Buffalo Chicken Wings On A Fiery Grill

Chicken wings are a versatile choice for summertime parties. Bone-in and boneless options are available to suit your guest’s tastes and can be served with various sauces and dry rubs, like barbecue, garlic parmesan, buffalo, or lemon pepper. For some extra oomph, and this is not for those who are spice-shy, check out Louisiana-style wing recipes. Don’t forget the ranch and blue cheese! You’ll need it.

Best Labor Day side dishes and snacks

6. Chips

Fresh Homemade Potato Chips

You can include several varieties of chips at your Labor Day buffet table. Pretzel, vegetable, and potato chips come in many flavors, like salt and vinegar, sour cream, nacho cheese, dill pickle, barbecue, and more. If you want to impress your guests with a flavorful, healthy snack, bake kale chips with olive oil and sea salt for a contemporary Californian staple.

7. Mixed vegetables

Pre-packaged vegetable mixes are perfect for snacking during an event. Variety packs can include carrots, broccoli, snap peas, cauliflower, and celery, among other options, and dipping sauces for guests to enjoy before the main course.

8. Watermelon

children's hands cooking salad on white table, flat lay

Watermelon slices are a refreshing snack to enjoy on this warm weekend. Guests will love having this fresh fruit on the last days of summer before it goes out of season. For those feeling brave, rumor has it that putting yellow mustard on watermelon is quite tasty!

9. Ice cream

Ice cream on a hot summer day is always a good idea. With so many flavors to choose from, satisfy your guests by offering some of the classic options. If you have the kit for it, use your favorite local flavors to have the kids make homemade ice cream for you!

10. Dips and sauces

bowls of various dip sauces, top view

With so many dips and sauces to choose from, it’s simple to buy your favorite flavors or make a recipe from scratch. Spinach artichoke, cheese dips, salsas, and buffalo chicken dips are some of our favorites and go wonderfully with wings, veggie platters, chips, and other snacks listed throughout!

11. Salad

Offering side salads at your event or making enough to serve as an entree will give guests a healthy and refreshing food option – especially good for balancing out the heaviness of BBQ. Laying out the salad toppings buffet style gives your guests more control over the type of salad that ends up on their plate.

12. Berry pies

Berry pies are a great summer dessert option for your long weekend shindig. A cultural staple in Oregon, marionberries make a tart yet sweet pie that’s sure to be the talk of the party this Labor Day.

Labor Day beverage ideas

13. Beer

Close-up shots of hands holding beer glasses and beer bubbles.

A cold, relaxing beer is a true Labor Day tradition. Local ales, lagers, shandies, and specialty beers will make your party a hit. Try out a variety pack for even more options!

14. Cocktails

A cold cocktail to close out the summer is another Labor day classic. These drinks can range from refreshing and sweet to savory and bitter. Make sure to gather up all the essential cocktail accessories you need to make drinks your guests will love.

15. Wine

Visit your local wineries for the perfect beverage options for celebrating the end of summer. You can offer any number of red or white wines, sangria, or bubbly varieties like rosé. And, if you need an especially chilly option, make frozés!

16. Soda

Row of sodas on display.

Not everyone is interested in drinking this long weekend. In addition to water and juices, soda is a great non-alcoholic alternative for guests. Pick up these refreshing beverages by the can or carton, and load your cooler up with ice!

13. Mocktails

Looking for a fun non-alcoholic beverage that isn’t soda? Try themed mocktails to take your party to the next level, while staying level-headed.

Tips on how to plan a Traditional Labor Day party

Preparation can go a long way in making sure your Labor Day weekend runs smoothly. Here are our favorite tips for addressing all those tiny details that make any party a hit:

  • Determine the foods you’ll be serving at your Labor Day party, stock up on the appropriate serving tools and food warmers to ensure that your dishes remain warm throughout the evening.
  • Consider your guests’ food restrictions and mark your dishes with labels accordingly. Displaying ingredients can help guests avoid dishes they may be allergic to. You can also include meat alternatives for guests with specific dietary restrictions.
  • Stock up on items in advance. This will help you manage your time and stress-levels on the day of the event. Dedicate a section of your fridge with frozen food and other non-perishables for no-stress prep.
  • Don’t forget the party supplies and ice! These two essentials are often overlooked but will go a long way in spicing up the party and keeping guests comfortable.

Related Labor Day Planning Resources

Looking for more Labor Day planning inspiration? Try our other related resources:

Revamping your Labor Day Traditions

Labor Day celebrations are a wonderful way to broaden your flavor profile and take yourself on a trip around the United States from the comfort of your backyard. If you want your groceries delivered this Labor Day season, you can easily shop for the items you need via Instacart.

After filling your cart with everything you need, select same-day delivery or schedule a time for pick-up that is most convenient for you. Keep your cortisol in check and spend more time enjoying the last rays of summer with those you love with Instacart.



Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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