Most people don’t use food trucks as their primary source of transportation, yet many tailgating recipes require industrial-grade kitchens to create their “fun and delicious” masterpieces.
Let’s be honest, prior to a football game we just want to eat something salty… drink… eat more stuff that’s salty… drink… eat something sweet… drink—and not necessarily in that order.
We don’t need fancy food. After all, we’re in an asphalt parking lot, not the marbled lobby of some fancy hotel.
At the same time, we don’t want to be the person who brings a can of Spaghetti-O’s. The trick is to fall somewhere between Martha Stewart and Chef Boyardee.
What To Avoid When Tailgating
Avoid any dessert recipe that requires a torch.
Avoid any tailgating recipe using the word “sticky.” (Korean short ribs sound amazing until you wind up hosing off your friends before kick-off.)
Avoid recipes requiring days of prep. (Do you really want to miss a party because you’re dry-aging half a cow in your mini-fridge?)
Avoid a fancy cheese plate when it’s 95 degrees; avoid ice cream floats in December.
Avoid dying your food to match your team’s colors. (Nobody wants to eat your blue onion dip or your red egg salad.)
7 Easy-to-Make Tailgating Food Ideas
Keep it simple. There’s no need to get fancy when eating near a Porta-Potty.
In the snack wars, pretzels often lose out to potato and tortilla chips. But nothing goes better with beer than pretzels!
If you want to up your tailgating game, bring several different types of mustard for dipping: yellow, golden brown and horseradish.
Glutino makes a good gluten-free pretzel, which will bring a smile to the smug faces of your GF friends.
2. Mini Chicken Salad Sandwiches
For decent chicken salad, all you really need is a store-bought rotisserie chicken, mayo, salt and pepper. If you want to go crazy, you can toss in some tarragon.
Slider buns make the perfect tailgating size because you won’t need a plate. For a non-lettuce crunch, add thinly sliced red peppers and/or red onions. You may want to put the toppings on at the last minute or leave a few plain for your non-pepper- and non-onion-loving friends.
3. Bacon. Just Bacon.
Yes, just bacon.
At first, your friends will mock you but they’ll quickly acknowledge your genius. Even your vegan friends will drool but they’ll lie and say it’s a tear rolling down their faces.
Cut your bacon in half or thirds before cooking for more even pieces. As a bonus, the bacon can be used for toppings on burgers or the above-mentioned chicken salad sandwiches. But I’m guessing the bacon will be gone before you can say, “What happened to all the bacon?”
Your friends will love being served a PB&J sandwich even though they’re not common tailgating fare.
Cut the sandwich twice diagonally into four triangles to make it easier to eat in one bite. A PB&J could also double as a dessert.
5. Cream Cheese Salsa Dip
Salsa is great when you’re sitting at a table in a Mexican restaurant. But try eating it standing up while tailgating and you’ll end up dropping it on your brand new Skicks!
Mix one jar of salsa with one brick of softened cream cheese and you’ll have a dip that will stay on your chip until it reaches your mouth. It’s so easy to make, you can practically do it in your car. (Don’t Dip and Drive!)
6. Loaded Bloody Mary
If you mix your Bloody Mary at home, none of your tailgating friends will know that you’ve used the cheap vodkaJ Get some pre-made Bloody Mary mix or buy Clamato to make it more like a Canadian Caesar.
Put your time and money into the garnishes. Forget about plain old celery. Make skewers with cooked shrimp, pickles, olives, pepperoncini, pickled carrots and cherry tomatoes. Bring two different flavored salts and your nickname will probably become “Bloody Mary.”
A slice of cake requires a plate and a fork. With a cupcake, all you need is a place to throw out the wrapper.
There’s no reason to bake from scratch when there are so many good cake mixes available at the grocery store. Adding chocolate chips, espresso powder, lemon zest, sour cream or any number of ingredients will make your cupcakes a bit fancier.
If you are so baking-challenged even a mix seems daunting, Betty Crocker offers a step-by-step guide.
Of course, the best way to tailgate is to hang out with people who love to cook and will bring lots of food. Then all you need to do is eat.