Tailgating Party Ideas and Recipes

bamboo trays with handkerchiefs
Whether you're rooting for the home or visiting team, this simple tailgating party guide is sure to help you score a big win with your friends. We've included easy-to-transport recipes along with tailgating tips to make this fun and casual get-together a success.

The No-Fuss Party Plan

Pack up the cooler and the grill, and set up potluck camp outside the stadium before the big game. We've got a few tips on how to easily organize a successful tailgating party, plus winning recipes that are sure to please a crowd.

Tailgating Tip: Set food out all at once so everyone can dig in when they please. Remember the cardinal rule of food saftey—don't leave prepared foods out more than two hours, and less than that in warmer weather.

Tailgating Cooler Strategy

If you pack efficiently, you might only need to bring one or two coolers to game day. To make sure everything fits, only use containers just big enough to hold each item. Pack the cooler(s) just before leaving home, with the meat items on the bottom in between ice packs. Wrap any breakable bowls and jars in towels, and put condiments and veggies in last.

Tailgating Tip: Keep perishable items, such as burger condiments, in the cooler until you're ready to use them.

Tailgating Game Plan

To save time at the tailgating site, give each person in the party a job for setting and cleaning up. Everything will go smoothly when everyone helps a little. Have one person in charge of the grill, one person in charge of drinks, and one in charge of unpacking the car (and packing it again at the game's end). Delegate duties before arrival so there aren't any mix-ups.

Tailgating Tip: Cut dessert bars, split buns, slice pickles, and do any other preparations ahead of time to avoid extra work at the game.

Use Your Tailgate

It's called tailgating for a reason! Make the most of every inch of space by using your tailgate to serve up your dishes. Make it a one-stop area—keep drinks, food, and serveware in one spot for easy party flow. 

On-Site Cooking Tips

Make one person in charge of manning the grill. Since there might not be a lot of space for food prep, it's best to leave one person to it.

Tailgating Tip: Make sure raw meat is cooked to the proper internal temperature—165 degrees F. To play it safe, pack a meat thermometer to check when grill items are done.

Go Disposible

Tailgating isn't the time for fancy china or serving dishes. Serve up your game day food in disposable aluminum containers. Toss them or recycle them once the party is over, and your cleanup is done. 

Grilled Burgers

These flavorful burgers are low-maintenance and perfect for toting to the big game. Make the patties at home and slice the tomatoes ahead of time, then package neatly in the cooler. Once they're off the grill, top with tomato slices on toasted buns for a main-course hit.

Tailgating Tip: Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods such as dips, veggies, and bread.

Football Cookie Dough Pops

This make-ahead dessert is totally worthy of your tailgate. A rich cookie dough filling is the secret to these decadent treats. Serving them on sticks makes them easy to grab and eat. 

Grilled Dogs

This easy tailgating recipe is all about the toppings. We're sharing eight fun ways to top your hot dog, including Chicago-style. Serve them up in disposable paper containers. 

Classic Tailgating Drinks

Pack lemonade and other drinks that are best served cold in a separate cooler filled with ice. When the drinks are placed out, keep the lid on drink jars to deter bugs.

Tailgating Tip: Lemonade and punch travel best when placed in large jars with tight-fitting lids or clean 1/2-gallon milk cartons.

Easy Veggie Packs

Toss this healthy tailgating dish on the grill and it's done! Prep them ahead of time and all the cooking is hands off. Customize this easy side dish with any veggies you like. 

7-Layer Southwestern Dip

This make-ahead dip boasts Mexican flavors with lime guacamole, refried beans, and cheese. Keep the toppings (tomatoes, olives, and green onions) separate from the dip when toting, and add once it's ready to eat.

Tailgating Tip: Seal perishable dishes (or dishes that need to remain chilled) tightly, then place them in an insulated bag, wooden box, or basket. Surround the chilled dish with clean, crumpled newspaper.

Buttermilk Dressing

This creamy dip stirs up in minutes, making pregame prep easy. In place of (or in addition to) chips, include veggie dippers for this versatile dip, which can also be used as a tasty burger topping.

Tailgating Tip: As an alternative to serving raw veggies, steam and chill them before the game, then transport in a cooler with the dip.

Tailgating Trays

Want to take your tailgate up a notch? Bamboo trays make dining outside even easier. Line each with a napkin and stack them next to your tailgate for easy access. 

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