30 great recipes for game day

No matter where team loyalties lie, football fans unite every season for food-filled game days. These recipes will keep everyone coming back for more

Grilled Buttermilk Chicken

James Carrier

Main dishes: Grilled Buttermilk Chicken 

Soak chicken in a buttermilk brine for extra moist and tender results, then add subtle Indian-inspired spices for a go-anywhere feast that's miles from boring.

Recipe: Grilled Buttermilk Chicken 

Grass-fed Burgers with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Photo by Iain Bagwell

Grass-fed Burgers with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Top grass-fed burger with a sauce of smoked chiles, brown sugar, ketchup, molasses, orange juice concentrate, and garlic. The sauce is also excellent on grilled chicken and ribs.

Recipe: Grass-fed Burgers with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Green chile-chicken stew

Jim Henkens (Food Styling: Stacy Ducharme; Prop Styling: Molly Hurd)

Green Chile-Chicken Stew

This gently spicy "white chili" is best made up to two days ahead and reheated so it's perfect for a pre-planned tailgating menu.

Recipe: Green Chile-Chicken Stew

Grilled Beer-cooked Sausages

Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Grilled Beer-cooked Sausages

Simmering these sausages in beer first makes for quick grilling and helps feed tailgate guests fast.

We love these smeared with coarse-grain mustard on crusty rolls. The onions take on a lot of the ale's flavor, including its slight bitterness.

More: Grilled Beer-cooked Sausages

Smoky Beef-and-Bacon Chili

Leigh Beisch

Smoky Beef-and-Bacon Chili

Bacon, fire-roasted tomatoes, and spicy smoked paprika give this easy-to-make chili a deep, complex flavor. While it's great right after you make it, it's even better the next day.

Recipe: Smoky Beef-and-Bacon Chili

Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Photo by Annabelle Breakey

Pressed Italian Sandwiches

These hearty sandwiches pack beautifully for toting along on a tailgate in the fall, and perfect for a picnic or the beach in the summer.

Recipe: Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Devilish Chorizo Chili with Hominy

Leigh Beisch

Devilish Chorizo Chili with Hominy

Not only is this chili easy to make ahead, it actually improves with time. If you like your chili very spicy, add an extra teaspoon of chipotle powder.

Recipe:  Devilish Chorizo Chili with Hominy

easy picnic sandwiches

Photo by Thmoas J. Story

Radicchio, Roasted Pepper, and Provolone Ciabatta Sandwiches

The vegetables in these sandwiches don’t get soggy as they stand, and the flavors benefit from a little time together.

Recipe:  Radicchio, Roasted Pepper, and Provolone Ciabatta Sandwiches

California Nicoise Sandwich

Ngoc Minh Ngo

California Nicoise Sandwich

Inspired by the classic French salad, this fancy tuna sandwich takes a Western turn with sourdough and avocados.

Tailgate tip: Go ahead and make these ahead of time because they pack perfectly.

Recipe: California Nicoise Sandwich

Classic Potato Salad

Photo by Leo Gong

Salads and sides: Classic Potato Salad

When we think "potato salad," we think of this dish: chunks of tender potato and plenty of chopped hard-cooked eggs, lightly coated with a tangy mayonnaise dressing full of crunchy red onion, celery, and pickles.

Tailgate tip: This salad is at its best right after it's made, but it may be kept, covered and chilled, for up to 2 days.

Recipe: Classic Potato Salad

Potato salad with artichokes and Green bean, hazelnut, and mint salad

Photo by Ngog Minh Ngo

Potato Salad with Artichokes and Green bean, Hazelnut, and Mint salad

Give your guests options by serving both these sides. This zingy potato salad with artichokes is rich and creamy, while the green bean salad topped with a bright lemon dressing is light and fresh.

Recipe: Potato Salad with Artichokes and Asparagus

Recipe: Green Bean, Hazelnut, and Mint Salad with Lemon Dressing

The New Three-Bean Salad

The New Three-Bean Salad

No canned kidney beans here ― and the flavors get even better if you start the salad a day ahead.

Recipe:  The New Three-Bean Salad

Green Bean and Whole-grain Penne Salad

Photo by Leo Gong; Styling: Dan Becker

Green Bean and Whole-grain Penne Salad

Flavor and texture contrasts give this salad extra appeal: Nutty pasta mingles with crisp green beans, strewn with bits of crunchy bacon and creamy Roquefort.

Recipe:  Green Bean and Whole-grain Penne Salad

Spinach and Orzo Salad

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Spinach and Orzo Salad

This herb vinaigrette-dressed pasta salad keeps better than a mayo-based one from the deli—and tastes better too.

Recipe:  Spinach and Orzo Salad

Chicken, Corn, and Tomato Pasta Salad

Photo by Sunset

Chicken, Corn, and Tomato Pasta Salad

Toss together shredded chicken with orzo pasta, sweet corn, chopped red onion, and basil. Add a ricotta-lemon dressing. Dinner's ready.

Recipe:  Chicken, Corn, and Tomato Pasta Salad 

Cold Soba Salad with Crisp Vegetables

Photo by Leo Gong

Cold Soba Salad with Crisp Vegetables

The gentle, nutty flavor of soba noodles, which are made with buckwheat flour, complements the fresh crunch of vegetables in this cold salad.

Recipe: Cold Soba Salad with Crisp Vegetables

Tomato, Sweet Onion, and Parsley Salad

Photo by Jim Henkens

Tomato, Sweet Onion, and Parsley Salad

Soaking the onions in water smooths out all their rough edges.

Tailgate tip: You can make this salad up to 1 day ahead.

Recipe: Tomato, Sweet Onion, and Parsley Salad

Blue Cheese Cornbread

Photo by Iain Bagwell

Blue Cheese Cornbread

Add freshly cut corn kernels to your favorite cornbread batter along with blue cheese and chopped fresh chives.

Recipe: Cornbread

Gabriel's Guacamole

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Appetizers: Gabriel's Guacamole

This is the base recipe from Gabriel's in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is intended only as a jumping-off point: Add more seasonings to your taste. We preferred it with 1/2 teaspoon jalapeño, 4 teaspoons onion, and 4 teaspoons lime juice.

Recipe: Gabriel's Guacamole

Caramelized Maui Onion Dip

Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Caramelized Maui Onion Dip

Make this addictive dip at least an hour ahead of time to let the flavors develop ― and serve with enough potato chips to scoop up every last bit.

Recipe: Caramelized Maui Onion Dip

Buy Hawaiian Maui Onion ― Grown in rich volcanic soil on the island for which it’s named, the juicy, golden yellow Maui onion is sweeter and less pungent than a regular onion because of its lower sulfur content. However, Maui onions must be used quickly; they don’t keep as well as regular onions. Stores typically label Maui onions by name.

Greek Spinach Dip

Photo by James Baigrie

Greek Spinach Dip

This savory spinach dip takes its flavor cues from spanakopita. Serve it with warm pita bread or crisp crudités.

Recipe: Greek Spinach Dip

Roasted Tomato and Three-Chile Salsa

Photo by Iain Bagwell

Roasted Tomato and Three-Chile Salsa

The layers of deep flavor come from roasted vegetables and pan-toasted chiles.

Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Three-Chile Salsa

Chimichangas appetizer

Photo by Annabelle Breakey; styling by Karen Shinto

Poblano and nopales chimichangas

Who needs the deep fryer when you can bake a flaky crust?

Recipe: Poblano and nopales chimichangas

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Desserts: Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

Chewy, and big enough to share—though you may want every bite. For the richest flavor, use dark chocolate and cocoa such as Scharffen Berger.

Recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars

Photo by Jim Henkens

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars

These sinfully rich bars pack the benefits of whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and rolled oats.

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

David Tsay

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

The best accompaniment to these indulgent cookies is a cold glass of milk. The recipe was developed by Marlene Sorosky Gray, the award-winning author of The Dessert Lover's Cookbook.

Recipe:  Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

Buttery Semolina Currant Cookies

Photo by Lisa Romerein

Buttery Semolina Currant Cookies

The sandy texture of these shortbreadlike cookies comes from semolina, made from durum wheat and usually used for pasta. Orange zest and currants impart lots of flavor.

Recipe: Buttery Semolina Currant Cookies

Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownies

Photy by James Carrier

Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownies

Who said you can't have a fiesta-themed tailgate? Chocolatey Mexican brownies laced with cinnamon are a great change of pace from chocolate chip cookies.

Recipe: Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownies

Butternut Squash Spice Cake

Photo by Dan Goldberg

Butternut Squash Spice Cake

Remarkably moist and tender, this cake gets its fall warmth from spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a hint of black pepper. Whole-wheat pastry flour adds nutrients without compromising taste or texture.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Spice Cake

Coconut Cupcakes

Photo by Dan Goldberg

Coconut Cupcakes

Aspiring chef Amber Bonny Burhans tells us these buttery cupcakes are one of her signature dishes. We think they are a safe bet to sweeten your tailgate.

Recipe: Coconut Cupcakes

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