Marine News from the Great Lakes

RECIPE: Firecracker Salad

Published: Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The 4th of July was always special when I was a kid. We’d have a big family get-together on the lake where we lived, with everyone bringing a special dish to share.

We’d all spend the day in and on the water, and one year my cousin even proposed to his girlfriend. The next year, married, his new wife brought Firecracker Salad. We had a new family favorite!

While the name “Firecracker” made it an obvious choice for a 4th of July party, it’s the cayenne pepper in the dressing that gives the salad its name. While not uncomfortably hot, it is definitely spicier than most salads. And that makes it a great accompaniment to hamburgers, hot dogs, or grilled chicken, whatever the date.

Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve come to appreciate this salad for three other qualities: it can be made up to a day ahead of time, it travels beautifully, and there’s no lettuce to wilt or mayonnaise to go bad as it sits out on a hot day. And everyone loves it!

Firecracker Salad

Total time: 1 hour, including time for dressing to cool
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6 - 8


  • 3/4 cup white vinegar OR other vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons mustard seed OR 2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (start with less and add to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water


  • 6 large tomatoes, cut into chunks OR 3 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, sliced and each slice cut in quarters

Combine all dressing ingredients in small pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool to room temperature (can be hurried by putting it in the refrigerator).

Mix salad ingredients in bowl, pour dressing over and toss.

Cover and refrigerate up to a day before serving, if desired.

Author bio: Carolyn Shearlock is the author (with Jan Irons) of The Boat Galley Cookbook with over 800 boat-friendly recipes, available on Amazon. Her new ebook, Storing Food without Refrigeration, is available on her web site,, which also has hundreds of galley and provisioning tips, insights and equipment recommendations.

tags: Recipes

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