As we head into the fall, all we can think about is football. While we’re sad to realize summer is behind us, college football and the NFL keeps us going through the cooler temperatures and reality setting in. As a result, it’s time to talk tailgates, watch parties, and all things football.

There’s nothing better than getting a group of close friends and family together to watch your number one team play. Appetizers, snacks, and drinks can absolutely make or break a tailgate. Even if your team loses, one thing that is guaranteed to be a hit is some incredible plates of food. We’re here to bring you the best tailgating recipes we’ve found at Student Recipes, so you can learn to make them before your next tailgate.

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All ten recipes we round up below make for the best tailgating food because they’re easy to prepare, transport, and serve to a party. Plus, they are guaranteed to impress with looks and flavor.

Best Tailgating Recipes Everyone Will Love

10. Air Fryer Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Eliza Roth

Even though we all love buffalo wings, you might enjoy this trendy, healthy, and veggie-friendly option to serve on game day. With that same wing flavor we all love, these air fryer buffalo cauliflower bites get incredibly crispy on the outside with a soft, cauliflower center.

Our recipe is one of the best tailgating foods because you won’t have to worry about letting the food sit out for too long. As opposed to chicken, cauliflower can sit out during your tailgate for hours and it will not go bad. Plus, as long as you store in a dry place, they will hold their crispiness, which is key for this crunchy air fryer snack.

9. Guilt-Free Spicy Margarita Mocktail Recipe

Mareesa Ahmad

Tailgates should be filled with three things: snacks, cocktails, and mocktails. We feel strongly that a good tailgate offers a variety of drinks in addition to food so that your group stays hydrated as well as gets the party going for those who are 21+ in age.

It’s always best to add variety to your tailgate spread, so this margarita mocktail recipe brings out all the flavors of a margarita you love without the heaviness that tequila can bring. As a result, you get this spicy and yet surprisingly light and low calorie drink to sip on in between snacks. It adds a fun edge to hydration that your guests will appreciate. Plus, it pairs well with all of our best tailgating snacks on this list.

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8. Healthy Spinach Artichoke Dip

Another incredible football-watching snack is spinach and artichoke dip. While you can buy a pre-made version of this dip at the grocery store, we find fresh is always best and took it upon ourselves to make a simple and yet healthier version at-home.

This is great to whip up the day before your tailgate, so that it’s ready to pack up with your chairs and serve at the game. You’ll definitely be able to taste the cheese and veggie combination in this dish, which gives it a creamy, tart flavor. It’s easy to bring to a tailgate with crackers or crudités. Check out the full YouTube clip to learn how to make it and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more recipe inspiration.

7. Baked and Loaded S’mores Bars

loaded s'mores bars
Hope Pierotti

When you’re gathering with groups of family and friends, one of the best tailgating recipes is s’mores. We decided to recreate the traditional flavor of s’mores into this easy recipe that only requires an oven instead of an open fire. It makes for an easy clean up and also easy transportation to the big game.

The flavors in this dessert will immediately take you back to your childhood, which is perfect for the fun tailgating atmosphere. It’s a treat to curb your sweet tooth at the end of the day, but surprisingly light like a Rice Krispies Treat. Most importantly, this recipe is perfect for sports fans of all ages.

6. Cottage Cheese Queso Dip

Ditch your store-bought queso for this incredible homemade version. It’s healthier than any brand you can find in the grocery store because it’s made with low fat cottage cheese and therefore, packs a punch of protein that you don’t usually get from this snack. However, you won’t be sacrificing any flavor thanks to our affordable, Trader Joe’s ingredients.

This snack is easy to transport on game day if you put it in a Tupperware and pack some chips or veggies on the side. Since it’s a fan favorite at every football game or watch party, check out the full recipe on YouTube here.

5. Patriotic Tri-Colored Jell-O Shots

Patriotic tri-colored Jell-O shots
Hope Pierotti

What could go better with a football game than jell-o shots? Actually, patriotic tri-colored jell-o shots might be the answer. Your 21+ friends and family will love how fun and colorful these are. They don’t require much preparation or effort to make other than some time to sit and set in the fridge.

If you purchase the clear plastic cups with lids, they can be packed up individually and stuffed in a box for your game day tailgate party. This drink is guaranteed to bring the fun edge to your tailgate because not only do they look and taste good, but if you drink responsibly, they can pack a punch. The full recipe is available here.

4. Easy Caprese Puff Pastry Turnover

Hope Pierotti

One of the most impressive and surprisingly simple appetizers is a caprese puff pastry turnover. As you can see they turn out beautifully with each turnover being the perfect bite of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil, and balsamic. While this might seem like a fancy appetizer, the assembly is similar to that of pigs in a blanket because you buy pre-made puff pastry dough and then add the ingredients inside to bake. It really is that simple.

These are one of the best tailgating recipes because you can serve them on a platter and have each guest pick out their own single serving. Party food should always be easy to serve to large groups and it is a huge plus that these turnovers also look beautiful and creative.

3. Homemade Pickles: Ranch, Sour, and Sweet

Hope Pierotti

Another tailgate staple if you’re serving burgers, chili, or really anything savory is homemade pickles. Everyone has their own pickle preference as to whether you like it sour or sweet, so we decided to make them fresh using three different flavors. Ranch pickles are the latest trend on social media and we can confirm it’s worth the hype.

It’s best to prepare these homemade pickles about a month before you want to enjoy them. As a result, now is the perfect time to start canning your own so that they’re ready for football games later in the season. It only takes about 15 minutes to prepare in jars at home, so it just takes a little patience to watch them sit in your pantry until game day.

2. No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites

Allison Curley

If you’re looking for a sweet treat to make for dessert that doesn’t require baking or too much time on your hands, these no bake chocolate peanut butter bites are the perfect solution. Similar to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, these bites pack a heap of peanut butter and chocolate flavor.

Since it never hurts to make your homemade dishes a bit healthier, we’ve made the filling with dates, coconut flour, and peanut butter, so that is has extra fiber and no preservatives. The texture this filling creates is soft and smooth, but not sticky, so it makes the bites very easy to assemble. Try serving them at your next tailgate and see how much they taste like real candy.

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1. Best Tailgate Chili Recipe

Last, but not least, the ultimate crowd pleaser and best tailgate recipe is chili. With hearty ingredients, it’s best for a game day with a bit of chill in the air. However, it can be enjoyed at any time and will keep you full for hours. This is especially helpful given that tailgates can lead to long days outside and lots of drink options. Feeding your tailgate a healthy and hearty meal will keep everyone going until the last point.

This best tailgate chili recipe can be made the day before and then transported to the game in a large pot with a lid. It’s perfect if you have a small, portable burner so that you can keep the chili warm and ready to serve throughout the tailgate. This is a popular piece of tailgate equipment because keeping the food warm is key.

All ten of these tailgate recipes are perfect for large parties, game day gatherings, and of course, an official football tailgate. Pick out a few appetizers, a main meal, and a dessert to serve the most well-rounded tailgate food out there. All it takes is a couple of pre-made recipes and some equipment to transport it all. Be sure to subscribe to our Student Recipes YouTube channel for more tailgating content and recipes like this.