Can you believe that tailgating—as quintessential to our food culture as apple pie and hot dogs—is in its 150th season this fall? Let's celebrate! Pack the cooler full of iced-down beverages, get the grill ready, and head over to a pre-game parking lot for a full day of food and fun.
Kick Off with Tailgate Appetizers
Tailgating, as we know it, is as steeped in American history as football itself, dating back to the inaugural Princeton vs. Rutgers game in 1869. To set an appetizing stage for this historic tailgating season, start off with these simple yet delectable appetizers, each with regional traditions.
First, every true tailgate requires a praise-worthy dip, so we have our top 3 dip recipes to get you started.
1. Onion Dip: There’s always room for a great onion dip, and there’s nothing better than a delicious creamy homemade dip. Enjoy our easy caramelized sweet onion dip recipe with some French bread slices and pita chips to kick off the tailgate festivities!
2. Guacamole: Love avocado? Love salsa? How about some easy guacamole salsa recipes for tailgating? Try our classic guacamole salsa recipe to get the best of both worlds. Serve with some chips on the side and be prepared to keep refilling the bowl.
3. Salsa Salad: Looking for a lighter dip option? Finish off your dip trio with a Caribbean corn and bean salsa that can be eaten on its own as a salad, or scooped up just like the guac and onion dip.
You will for sure have your appetizer requests covered with our favorite dip recipes!
Game Day Drinks & Cocktails
When it comes to libations, of course you can just have a whole bunch of your favorite beer and wine chilled and ready to go. But with a little bit of advance planning, you can be sipping on fresh homemade cocktails made for a crowd. Start with a perfectly summery Sangria, which takes advance prep but very little effort. Or, use your favorite brew to craft a cocktail both simple and sophisticated, like this lemon-ale beer cocktail. If you enjoy beer cocktails, check out our video that will teach you how to make almond ale shandy, a light and refreshing drink perfect for the busy tailgating day.
Both sangrias and beer cocktails are perfect for warmer fall weather.
When it gets chillier, fire up a soup pot on your grill with a spiced cider that's just begging for a splash of rum. It's important to keep yourself toasty while the main courses are cooking.
Championship Main Dishes
Main courses are as diverse as the regions of the country and the football stadiums themselves. For example, at gameday locales like Lambeau Field in Wisconsin, you'll find that German specialties dominate tailgate menus. It doesn't get much more German than beer & grilled bratwurst sausage. Make sure you buy the best bratwurst you can find and don’t skip the pre-grilling beer boil for maximum flavor when whipping up our grilled mesquite beer brats. If you’re more of a burger fan, go with a classic recipe like our signature burger that incorporates the zesty flavors of Lawry's seasoning salt. Later in the season, as the temperatures fall and snow is in the forecast, make sure you have a stomach-warming recipe on your tailgate menu. Cincinnati chili is perfect. Cook the chili ahead of time and warm up in a soup pot on your grill, or keep a warm cooktop handy to make it from scratch while you tailgate.
Winning Tailgate Side Dishes
That plate with your bratwurst and burger looks a little empty until you add some side-dish flair. Keep things fresh with a coleslaw that features basil and garlic, dressed not with mayo but rather a sweet-tart vinaigrette. It’s the perfect complement for hearty tailgating main dishes. Alongside your grilled meats, whether brats or burgers, serve up a German potato salad that is not only delicious but safe at room temperature (unlike those mayo-dressed salads). And finally, whip up a quick fruit salad. Our fruit salad recipe calls for pure vanilla extract for the added natural sweetness and flavor. It'll add vibrant color and sweetness to your meal, especially if there's no time to make dessert.
Over the years, as tailgating developed from simple necessity (must eat while waiting!) to cultural tradition, it has grown in importance to everyone who participates. Some fans travel from their home cities to those of rivals and set up “camps” to stake their turf and support their (visiting) home team. It’s not unusual to see the same folks year after year, trading stories of games gone bad and chili gone burnt, reminiscing and building lifelong friendships. Whatever the origins of tailgating, the pre-game party we know and love has evolved into a celebration that spans parking lots, cities, and states while building community along the way.
Check out some more of our best tailgating recipes here!
Find More Game Day Foods & Recipes
Want more game day food ideas? Score a touchdown at your tailgate party with these helpful game day recipes.
• Game Day Grub Has Never Been Easier
• Vegan Game Day Recipes
• 7 Avocado-Packed Super Bowl Snacks
• 2019 Game Day Team Themed Recipes
• 5 Savory Mix-Ins For Better Burgers
• 10 Wing-Inspired Buffalo Chicken Recipes
Need help planning your weekly meals and want to try new recipes? Save your favorite food, dessert, drink recipes and organize your ingredients with McCormick Meal Planner.