In the South, game day’s fanfare, importance, and fun derive from the tailgate. The pre-game eating, drinking, and socializing varies between the states and schools, ranging from intimate parking lot feasts to giant blowouts with tents, bands, and outfits that rival those seen at the Met Gala. Whether you’re prepping snacks in advance or taking a BYOG (bring your own grill) approach, these recipes collected throughout the South cover the tailgating essentials (the beer, though, is up to you).
If your mother raised you anything like our mothers, you won’t show up to the tailgate empty-handed. Chips and dip are essential, so bring the party with guacamole and tortilla chips. Quick to make and travels well, this guacamole gets dressed up for game day with pepitas and queso fresco.
Speaking of chips and dip, this charred onion dip scores major points over any store-bought container version. Onions get caramelized in the oven and then pureed for a completely creamy consistency. This recipe yields about six cups, so make it for the tailgate that draws a crowd.
Break out the Napkins
Nachos may seem risky for a tailgate, but Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer never lets risk stop him, and nor should you. This recipe tops tortillas with carne asada and jalapeño-forward tomatillo salsa. You can make the guacamole yourself, too, but store-bought will do the job.
Across the nation, chicken wings are emblematic of game day. These wings get tossed in a blend of spices and finished with a simple Texas Pete-and-butter sauce. The chunky blue cheese dressing, however, is what nails the field goal.
Spur-of-the-moment tailgate invite? Just forgot to cook something? Snack mix is your secret weapon. Understated but always appreciated, an assorted but zesty blend of nuts, sesame sticks, and pretzels gives people a way to take as much or as little as they want.
The Best Handhelds for the Tailgating
Mini food should be well represented at every tailgate and game day party. These sliders need prepping the weekend before you tailgate to give the kimchi enough time to ferment. But trust us, its yeasty tanginess is the perfect match for the rich brioche bun and beef patty.
Reimagine the standard cheese and crackers into something that beats out any competition. Handheld and portable, people can grab these empanadas and continue mingling about (ie. no one stations themselves at the table to bogart the pimento cheese spread).
These biscuits are perfect for a morning tailgate. You can even make the mini biscuits in advance and freeze them. Take them out to thaw overnight, and assemble the next morning. Now that’s strategy!
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