No matter what side you’re on in the great beans-in-chili debate (Texans, we’re looking at you), there’s no question that a big pot of the red stuff is essential at any game day party. Equally important is a topping bar with as many fixins’ as you can fit in your cooler. We like a mix of unexpected add-ins (diced avocados tossed in lime juice, fried tortilla chips or strips, pickled jalapenos) plus the usuals (shredded cheese, sour cream).
Sure, Buffalo sauce is great, but the South has its own delicious way with chicken wings. Whether you grill, fry, or smoke your wings, try tossing them with one of these three finger-lickin’ Southern sauces: creamy Alabama White Sauce, buttery Nashville Hot Sauce, or sweet Vietnamese Peanut Sauce.
3. Walking Tacos
Another fun way to serve chili: the Walking Taco. Ladle hot chili into individual bags of Fritos or tortilla chips and pile on your favorite toppings. All you need is a fork! Plus, a pile of napkins.
4. Pulled Pork
Want to create the ultimate pulled pork sandwich? We’ve got you covered. We like to pile our buns high with tender, smoked pork butt that’s been topped with a sweet and tangy tomato-based barbecue sauce and fresh, bright chowchow relish. All three components take some time to make, but when you serve a sandwich this amazing, you need little else.
5. Boiled Peanuts
These soft, salty snacks are a must for tailgates. They need to be soaked at least eight hours in advance, so be sure to do that the night before the game. Keep them simple or try them Cajun-style, or flavored with a rich ham hock. Or get really creative and whirl them in your food processor to make creamy Boiled Peanut Hummus.
6. Pimiento Cheese
It’s a classic for a reason—it’s impossible to stop eating. Everyone has their go-to recipe for pimiento cheese (including us), and it’s amazing how such a simple dish can have so many variations. Find a new favorite, or try our best-ever recipe.
Burgers are flipped at football stadiums and backyards across the country, not just the South. But we have some delicious regional takes on this classic sandwich, including Carolina Chicken Burgers, Pimiento Cheese-Bacon Burger, and the Muffaletta Burger.
If your crowd gets fired up about ribs, try our foolproof method for grilled baby back ribs. Our Test Kitchen has a special way of stacking the ribs that ensures flavorful, fall-off-the-bone meat every time.
9. Bloody Mary
If kick-off is at noon, brunch might be in order—which means Bloody Marys might be in order. Instead of playing bartender for a big crowd, enjoy the game and let everyone serve themselves. We like this big-batch Bloody Mary Punch because it makes 1 ½ quarts and you can prepare it the night before. Serve in a large pitcher or drink dispenser with plenty of ice and celery sticks on the side.
10. Bar Cookies
No game day gathering is complete without a little something sweet. Bar cookies and brownies are the best choice for tailgates because they feed a crowd and are perfectly portable. Cut them into squares and serve straight from the pan or arrange on a fun, spirited platter.