Looking for Veterans Day dinner ideas? If you plan to celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th to honor the veterans in your life and community, serving a delicious dinner is one way to say “thank you.”
Here are some of our favorite Veterans Day food ideas with recipes to help you plan. Or, if you’d rather dine out, we’ve included a sampling of some restaurants that traditionally offer Veterans Day dinner freebies!
How Do You Celebrate Veterans Day?
Veterans Day is an opportunity to thank and support veterans and active-duty military members in our country. Here are some ways you can recognize and celebrate the day:
- Thank the veterans and active duty service members in your life in person or by phone, email, letter, or text
- Donate money to a reputable charity that supports veterans and/or active-duty military members
- Shop at veteran-owned businesses
- Fly an American flag outside your home
- Invite a veteran over for a delicious Veterans Day dinner
The Best Veterans Day Dinner Recipes
Veterans Day doesn’t have any strong food traditions the way holidays like Thanksgiving and July 4th do, which means you can serve anything you like to celebrate military service members and retired military members.
But what is a good meal for Veterans Day? If you’re looking for ideas, then consider serving something traditionally American. After all, military veterans have fought and served our country in part to preserve our traditions and culture, and that includes the foods we eat.
One option: tried-and-true recipes that are popular on Memorial Day and July 4th cookouts like hamburgers and hot dogs. Or check out the Veterans Day recipes below that feature comforting American classics for a warm and welcoming Veterans Day dinner with your family members on a crisp autumn day.
Heads-up! Military veterans, active duty military members, and retired military members can get a free meal or other perks at many restaurants nationwide on Veterans Day, usually just by presenting a valid military ID. Check out our list of free Veterans Day meals and discounts.
Main Dishes for Veterans Day Dinner
Yankee Pot Roast
When done right, Yankee pot roast delivers melt-in-your-mouth beef flavored with herbs and accompanied by tender carrots, onions, and other vegetables. It’s a delicious one-pot meal that’s perfect for a cold fall day. Yankee pot roast has been part of the American repertoire since at least the 19th century and is particularly associated with the cuisine of New England.
- Classic Yankee Pot Roast from NewEngland.com
Mac and Cheese
The boxed variety is tasty, no doubt, and a true American classic with a surprisingly interesting history. But homemade mac and cheese is a true treat, and it’s not difficult to make. This oven-baked version is vegetarian and features three kinds of cheese plus a delicious crispy panko topping. It’s the ultimate comfort food and a great choice for your Veterans Day dinner.
- One Skillet Three Cheese Baked Macaroni and Cheese from Jessica in the Kitchen
Delicious, comforting, versatile – traditional meatloaf is not a showy dish, but it is a reliable crowd-pleaser that military service members are sure to see as comfort food at its best. Use any ground meat or combo of ground meat you like; add in chopped leftover vegetables like onions, carrots, and peas; glaze with ketchup or serve with gravy instead. The options are endless! The recipe linked here uses ground turkey and is stuffed with mozzarella and topped with tomato sauce for a tasty twist on the homey classic. Serve with mashed potatoes and peas on the side.
- Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf from Tasty
Whether you’re dining with veterans or active duty military members or just serving up a little patriotism, what could be more American than fried chicken? While strongly associated with Southern cooking, this dish is popular from coast to coast. The recipe below uses buttermilk, which is said to make for extra tender, flavorful chicken. No buttermilk, no problem; just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let it sit to thicken for a few minutes. Serve with a delicious side for fried chicken like homemade biscuits or hush puppies.
- Buttermilk Fried Chicken from NYT Cooking
Yes, pizza is an Italian dish, but we Americans have made it our own with at least a dozen regional variations. Making your own pizza at home is fun and a fantastic way to accommodate different guests’ food preferences since you can use whatever sauces and toppings you want. This recipe focuses on how to get the dough right and offers suggestions on topping combos and cooking. Pro tip: Instead of making your own pizza dough, buy it from the grocery store or call around to see if your local bakery or pizza shop sells it.
- Pizza Dough Recipe from RecipeTin Eats
Desserts for Veterans Day Dinner
Veterans Day dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert. For the ultimate American dessert, nothing beats “American as apple pie” apple pie! This iconic dessert has been a staple of American cookbooks since the 1700s and is still a favorite. The apple pie linked here uses an all-butter crust for unbeatable flavor and flakiness.
- Apple Pie Recipe with the Best Filling from Natasha’s Kitchen
Another wonderful choice for fall, carrot cake is sweet, slightly spicy, and sure to be a hit with your guests! Carrot cake goes way back in American history, too, as one of America’s earliest military members, George Washington, reportedly served carrot cake to his guests. The three-layer carrot cake recipe below is frosted with cream cheese frosting, a popular choice since the 1960s. Before that, vanilla frosting was the frosting of choice.
- The Best Carrot Cake from Gimme Some Oven
Cheesecake has been popular in the U.S. for over 100 years and is particularly associated with New York City. This cheesecake recipe uses a sponge cake base, popular in NY-style cheesecakes, rather than a graham cracker base that’s more popular in other regions. (Not sure which to make? Ask the military members in your life if they have a preference!) Cheesecake has a tendency to crack in the oven for a variety of reasons, but don’t let that stop you – that’s what cheesecake toppings are for!
- Junior’s Original New York Cheesecake Recipe from The Spruce Eats
Red, White, and Blue Flag Cake
This is a true showstopper of a dessert! It looks like a simple white frosted cake from the outside, but inside it’s a celebration of the stars and stripes. This recipe was created for the 4th of July, but we think it’s also the perfect way to end a Veterans Day dinner.
- Red, White, and Blue Layered Flag Cake from Betty Crocker
Free Veterans Day Meals
Free Veterans Day meals are a time-honored tradition for veterans and active duty service members alike. We’ve offered some suggestions for preparing a great meal in honor of Veterans Day, but if you’d rather not cook, there are plenty of options to be found. Usually, all that’s required to get your discount or freebie is presenting your valid military ID at participating locations. Free breakfast combo? Free lunch? Free coffee? Free appetizer? Got ’em! Some restaurants even offer a special Veterans Day menu.
Here’s a sampling of Veterans Day meals that were offered last year. As you read this, we’re hard at work gathering intel on 2023’s offerings!
- Denny’s – Free Build Your Own Grand Slam® from 5 a.m. to noon for all active, inactive, and retired military personnel. Participating locations only.
- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – Free Pulled Pork Classic Sandwich at participating locations.
- Dunkin’ Donuts – Free donuts to veterans and active-duty military at participating restaurants nationwide.
- Einstein Bros. Bagels – Free hot or iced coffee of any size with purchase for veterans with military ID.
- Famous Dave’s – Free Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwich + Side for veterans and current military members with proof of service. Participating locations only. Dine-In, to-go, and online ordering.
- Golden Corral Military Appreciation Night – Open to veterans, active-duty service members, reservists, and National Guardsmen from 5 PM – close.
- Krispy Kreme – Free donut of choice and small brewed coffee for current and former military members.
- Olive Garden – Free entrée from a special menu for veterans and active-duty military with proof of service. Entrées are served with unlimited soup or house salad and garlic breadsticks.
- Red Lobster – Free Walt’s Favorite Shrimp, Fries, and Coleslaw.
- Red Robin – Veterans and active-duty military get a free Red’s Tavern Double. Dine-in only.
Deals and freebies start rolling in as November 11 approaches, so bookmark our free meals and discounts page and check back weekly for updates to help you plan your Veterans Day.
Restaurant participation may vary locally, so make sure you call ahead to verify that they’re available in your area.