25 Tailgate Food Ideas and Tailgating recipes

tailgating food ideas

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When throwing a tailgating party, you want tasty food that will please a sports-loving crowd. For your next tailgate, obviously, foods like buffalo wings and having an easy snack for everyone to eat while holding a cold beer in the other hand is a no-brainer.

You’ll want a variety of different foods, including simple sandwiches, to satisfy a hungry crowd. It’s not a time for super healthy eating, but rather indulging in foods that will tickle anyone’s taste buds while getting ready to watch the big game. Plus, all of these ideas can easily be taken to a parking lot for a crowd-pleasing snack.

Here are 25 tasty tailgate culinary ideas that are going to make your festivities on game day a big win during the football season. Keep in mind that the best tailgate food ideas don’t need a fork.  

Tailgating Recipes for Dips

Dips. Dips. And more dips. You can’t have too many dips on hand for a tailgate party. The tailgating menu needs to include at least three of these dips at the minimum, in our humble opinion. 

Come game day, everyone will be looking for at least cheese dip.

Onion Dip

Classic onion dip made with sour cream is a crowd-pleaser when served with crunchy chips and vegetables, like carrots, red peppers, and cucumbers, for those Keto following friends of yours that are watching their carbs. 

Cowboy Caviar 

Cowboy caviar or “Texas caviar,” as it’s sometimes called, is a combination of black-eyed peas and chopped-up veggies in a vinaigrette-style dressing that is used mainly as a dip. Make it yourself with this cowboy caviar recipe that is a tangy and spicy delight with pickled jalapenos. 

Beer Cheese Dip

Doesn’t the sound of beer cheese just make your mouth water? This is a great beer cheese dip recipeby the Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond, that uses a bread bowl as the serving vessel. Serve it with the extra bread cubs, carrots, and celery, and don’t be surprised if one of your party guests eats the bowl. One of the best tailgate foods ever! 

Spinach Dip With Pita Chips 

Spinach dip adds a little bit of green for a bright and yummy dip that everyone loves. There are many different ways to make a spinach dip, but this spinach dip recipe has some Mediterranean flare with the addition of artichokes and briny Kalamata olives. Serve it with crunchy pita chips. 

Buffalo Chicken Dip With Tortilla Chips 

A creamy dip made with shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken, and cream cheese, with buffalo sauce as the base of this recipe. This is a dip that you can also make in a slow cooker at home before you take it to the tailgating site. Use the Frank’s Red Hot recipe for buffalo chicken dip that will have zero leftovers. 

Some Tailgate Recipes Featuring Chicken

Chicken is a favorite simply because you can’t tailgate without wings. It’s practically illegal, but there are other amazing chicken recipes for tailgating that work just as well. Or at least close to it. 

Classic Wings

Some of the best football foods revolve around classics that are always going to be expected at this type of gathering, like classic wings with buffalo sauce. Or go crazy and make an unexpected sauce like teriyaki, parmesan garlic, spicy bbq sauce with signature sweet heat, or Jamaican jerk rubbed wings.

Just make sure you have enough wings to go around. This is also a crowd favorite, so that instead of making yourself, it’s probably just easier to order a bunch from your best local wing joint, as the ultimate game day snack. 

Chicken Nachos With Pico de Gallo

Have this chicken nachos recipe that is made on a sheet pan with desired toppings and already melted shredded cheese on hand for everyone to dig into. Don’t forget a side of hot sauce and guacamole with this perfect finger food. 

Fried Chicken Bites 

Popcorn fried chicken bites are easy food for a crowd to eat with their hands. Grab a bucket of these little chickies from your favorite fried chicken place, or make them yourself at home with this baked chicken bites recipe that is just a bit healthier, since it’s not actually fried. 

Recipes for Meat Lovers

Meat lovers rejoice! All of these handheld sandwich ideas are going to be platters of greatness in foods that are easy to eat while chatting about the stats of your favorite players. Who is the G.O.A.T? Tom Brady, of course! Go ahead and argue about that with your buddies. 

Sweet Heat Hot Dogs With Homemade Pimento Cheese Sauce

A hot dog is a classic game day food. Go with an Angus hot dog that has some sweet heat and add on a homemade pimento cheese sauce for a tasty pairing that everyone is going to love. 

Ham and Cheese With Apricot Preserves

Using thick-style country ham and soft Hawaiian buns for this recipe is a great idea. Then slather each sandwich with Rachel Ray’s apricot preserves recipe and add a nice gouda cheese slice on top. 

Mini Sliders With Crunchy Slaw 

Get juicy meat by adding Worcestershire sauce to your ground beef when making this mini slider recipe by chef Bobby Flay. His Crunch Burger Recipe is to die for! Serve it with some crunchy slaw right on top of each burger, so it’s a total finger food. 

Plant-Based Friends Need Tailgate Food Options Too

Okay, so you have some vegetarian and vegan friends. They deserve some tasty treats to eat on Sunday tailgating too. 

Crinkle Fries With Chili Powder

Any deep frying needs to be done at home and brought to the location. This crinkle fries recipe gets a boost of flavor with the addition of chili powder. Serve it with spicy ketchup, which will surely be a big hit. Have them in individual portions in small cups or paper cones that people can easily grab. 

Pretzel Bites With Cheesy Dip 

Serve this snack with cheese dip that has tangy blue cheese as the perfect accompaniment to pretzel bites. A big soft pretzels bite recipe is a great one delicious bite finger foods, and if you have any kids at your tailgating festivities, expect big smiles about this favorite.  

Mini Chocolate Chips Pancakes 

This is perfect for morning tailgate foods, when you are about to watch a 10 am football game on the west coast. Here is the ideal mini chocolate chip pancakes recipe that is so delicious, it doesn’t even need syrup because this food recipe makes breakfast fun. 

Decadent Dessert Bites 

Everyone wants a little sweet treat before the big game. Serve up these handheld favorites that will be gone before you know it.

Brown Sugar Roasted Pecans 

Roasted nuts are ideal and perfect for cold weather tailgating during the season. Have this brown sugar roasted pecan recipe on hand and warm it in a slow cooker to stay hot. 

Pretzel Marshmallow Bites

A s’mores recipe that’s inside of a square pretzel? Yes, please! This tasty pretzel marshmallow bites recipe is ooey-gooey fun, but less messy because it’s dipped in chocolate that dries to a hard candy-like finish. A tray of these isn’t going to last long!

Football Shaped Cookies 

Make some football-shaped decorated cookies in your favorite NFL team’s colors. These cutout cookies are frosted and fun to eat. Here is a basic sugar cookie recipe for football cookies that works and you’ll need to order a football cookie cutter. These are just too sporty and cute to pass up in this crowd pleasing snack. 

Other Tailgating Recipes ideas

Tostitos with cream cheese, sour cream, Mexican shredded cheese and ground beef

This dip is a deliciously easy snack to prepare even at a parking lot with a tailgating grill. Prepare some ground beef in a pot and serve it on a deep plate. Add a bit of cream cheese, chopped onions, and shredded cheese. Grab your favorite chips and dig in.

Shredded chicken, pico de Gallo with tortilla chips

You can even use leftover chicken or stop at your favorite local grocery store and grab a whole roasted chicken. Shredded using some bear claws and server it on a large plate. Throw some pico de Gallo on the top of the chicken and go all in.

You can also add cheese and other ingredients. Don’t be afraid to add some onions.

Italian Pinwheels

Ok, this is an easy recipe, stop at your favorite grocery store and grab a tray 🙂

Boneless buffalo wings dip tray

Ok, so this is one of the easiest finger foods to serve at a tailgate party. Buffalo chicken is one of the best tailgate food picks and popular. Grab some boneless chicken wings and dip them in your favorite hot sauce.

Server with ranch dressing, blue cheese dip, BBQ sauce, and sweet or honey sauce.

Baked Garlic Bacon Potatoes

This is a family trick and a simple plate to prepare on game day. Boil some potatoes until cooked. Then chop the potatoes in about half-inch chunks.

Place the potato chunks in a baking pan and add bacon, some garlic, and olive oil. Place in the oven for a few minutes and serve.

Pulled Pork Sliders

Pulled Pork sliders will require some work but they sure beat hot dogs and are an amazing tailgate food. But let’s say you smoked a pork butt the night before and have some leftover meat, well my friend, that means that you have meat for pork sliders on game day.

You can use a slow cooker to warm up the pork once shredded and keep it warm. This is an easy tailgate food to serve. Grap and a nice serving of pulled pork, pour some BBQ sauce on the pork, grab some bread and you are ready to go.

Home Made Beef Tacos

Keep it simple. Grab some ground beef, add some shredded cheese, cream cheese, or sour cream, and a soft tortilla, and serve. I like to add onion to everything, so yeah, add chopped onions too.

Smoked Mac and Cheese

This is one of my favorite tailgate good side dishes. Mac and Cheese is easy to prepare, yields good portions, and goes well with anything.

I like to throw the mac and cheese in the smoker and let it absorb that nice smokey flavor before serving it.

One last word

Whether you bring hot dogs or beer cheese dip to the party, tailgate food is all about convenience and fun. Every year we all look forward to football season and sure we all want our teams to win and enjoy the sport but is also about having fun and spending time with friends and family.

You definitely don’t want to spend too much time cooking and cleaning and miss out on all the fun. So keep things simple, sometimes ham and cheese sandwiches are good enough but the best tailgate food and tailgate recipes sure up the fun.

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