Recipe Spotlight

THIS Is How You Tailgate

Don’t know what to cook at your next tailgate? We’ve got you covered. 

Published Oct. 18, 2023.

What do a Beyoncé stadium show, a Buffalo Bills home game, and the Portland Thorns NWSL pro soccer match have in common? The cooking, eating, drinking, and general merriment of tailgating that happen in the parking lot before the event. 

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For most of us, tailgating involves a portable grill, a big cooler, a few folding chairs, and some music fueling the vibe. Here are some food (and drink) suggestions to make your next tailgating experience the most memorable yet. 

Tailgating Drinks

A proper tailgate setup requires a large cooler and plenty of ice. Our ATK Reviews team has gone deep into the world of coolers, and if price is no barrier, they recommend the Yeti Tundra 45, a big, durable cooler that costs about $325 and will keep your drinks cold for five days. They also named a Best Buy model, the Coleman 50 QT Xtreme Wheeled Cooler, which costs about $65 and keeps drinks cold for a full three days. (One theory is that this cooler is so inexpensive because of the money Coleman was able to save by not using the first “e” in “extreme.”)

Equipment Review

The Best Large Coolers

Premium coolers have become aspirational accessories, but do you really need to spend almost $400 to get a product that works? 
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What you put in your cooler (besides ice) is up to you. Solid choices include beer, soda, juice boxes, fizzy water, or perhaps a batch of our festive Mixed Berry Rosé Sangria


Mixed Berry Rosé Sangria

Meet your new favorite patio drink.
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Tailgating Snacks

So you definitely need a few bags of chips and pretzels at a tailgate. But making some of the munchables is a pro move that shows your dedication to the cause at hand. I suggest these Sichuan Snack Peanuts, which leave your mouth happily tingling with Sichuan peppercorns and a pinch of chile. Trust me, if there are people drinking beer, they will eat these peanuts by the handful. 


Sichuan Snack Peanuts

This next-level spicy, crunchy snack is easy to make and hard to resist.
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Another hand-held favorite that is just perfect for a tailgate is our Sausage Balls, a Southern treat of buttermilk biscuits baked with loads of sausage and cheese inside. You can bake them the night before and either give them a quick reheat on the grill (wrapped in foil), or enjoy the biscuits at room temperature.


Sausage Balls

On many Southern tables, these meaty, cheesy snacks are a sign that the holidays have arrived. Our goal: to make the treats without the Bisquick—and without the grease.
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Tailgating Foods

Burgers are a no-brainer at a tailgate. But also, why be predictable? The perfect compromise is to mix up your burger game with these flavorful Grilled Pork Burgers. They are made with a panade to guard against dryness, but that panade is bolstered with Worcestershire sauce and fresh thyme for bold flavor. And the Horseradish Burger Sauce that goes with them? Chef’s kiss


Grilled Pork Burgers

Ground pork makes for tender, mild-yet-savory burgers— if you add the right ingredients.
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Chicken wings are also on the menu at every great tailgate. For these delectable Grilled Chicken Wings, you can brine and season them at home, so all you have to do in the parking lot is throw them on the grill. These wings are great on their own, but Buffalo and barbecue sauces are obviously welcome accompaniments. 

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The Outdoor Cook

Go way beyond burgers and basic proteins to become your best outdoor cooking self. Whether you use a gas or charcoal grill, flat-top griddle, open-fire setup, smoker, or pizza oven, you can revel in the outdoor cooking lifestyle. By learning to harness fire and smoke the ATK way, you’ll even be able to convert many of these recipes between different cooking methods.

The final savory dish you need at your next tailgate is this Easy Ground Beef Chili, which is best made at home the night before and reheated on the grill or portable burner on the parking lot asphalt. It’s a classic ground-meat affair with lots of flavor from coriander, cumin, chile powder, garlic, oregano, and potent chipotle chiles in adobo. It is the chili your tailgate needs. 


Easy Ground Beef Chili

Making chili doesn’t have to be an all-day affair: Our complex, savory ground-beef version is on the table in about an hour.
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Tailgate Dessert

Brownies are perfect for a tailgate: they’re simple, portable, don’t require utensils, and are always a big fan favorite. These Dark Chocolate–Cherry Brownies stay simple while reaching for the more “grown-up” flavors of dark chocolate and dried cherries. They will quite possibly become your new favorite brownie. 


Dark Chocolate-Cherry Brownies

Adding cherries to brownies seemed like a brilliant idea— until we sampled batch after batch of soggy brownies.
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Let’s goooo!

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