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37 Best Tailgate Food Ideas for the Ultimate Party in 2024

Last Updated on Jun 17th 2024
tailgate food ideas

These fun and easy tailgate food ideas will carry you through your game days every season of the year. Everyone knows that the better the tailgate food, the more likely your team will be victorious so don’t cut corners on your parking lot party. Putting together a tailgate menu in advance is almost as fun as setting up the spread on game day.

Are you looking for simple, no-cook tailgate food ideas? Or are you a tailgating gourmet? From chips and dip to pitmaster feasts, there are no limits to the possibilities. And when it comes to tailgating time, too much food is never enough. Check out our list of 37 different tailgate food ideas for the ultimate fan-fanatic celebration.

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Easy Tailgate Food Ideas With No Cooking

If you’re wondering, “What can I bring to a tailgate without a grill?”, there are plenty of crowd-pleasing ideas. 

One thing to keep in mind when planning tailgate food ideas is how you will transport and store food before it gets eaten. Proper planning is the key for food safety at tailgates and the temperature of the food is one of most important aspects. 

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, one out of every six Americans gets foodborne illness each year resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations. Make sure you have plenty of ice to keep cold foods cold and remember that cooked foods are only safe for a limited time at room temperature.

1. Seven-Layer Dip

If you’re looking for easy tailgate food ideas, dip is always a great choice. Seven-layer dip is one of the most classic party foods.

It typically contains refried beans, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, olives and other toppings layered in one casserole dish, but you can customize it for as few or as many layers as you like. Toss in a couple of bags of tortilla chips and you’re done.

seven layer dip tailgate food ideas
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2. Guacamole

One of the most popular cold tailgate food ideas is guacamole. Whether you make your own or buy premade, guacamole is always a crowd favorite plus it’s one of the healthier options for a tailgate menu. Guacamole is also a great choice for picnic food ideas whether it’s game day or not. 

3. Mini Muffalettas

This classic New Orleans sandwich is one of the top 10 tailgating foods on any Saturday at Tiger Stadium, but it’ll feed your team’s fanatics just as well. It’s a rich and filling combination of ham, salami, provolone cheese and olive salad dressed with a tangy olive oil dressing on a sesame seed bun. Just make sure you bring plenty of napkins.

4. Cream Cheese and Cucumber Sandwiches

If you are looking for easy tailgate ideas with no cooking, cold cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches might be just the thing. Even though this finger sandwich is more likely to be served at a high tea than a tailgate, it’s also the perfect refreshing addition to a barbeque tailgate menu.

5. Pimento Cheese Dip and Crackers

Another easy tailgate food idea with no cooking required is to serve cheese and crackers. Pimento cheese dips are widely available in grocery stores and pair perfectly with buttery crackers and cold beer. 

pimento cheese and crackers
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6. Cold Pasta

A big batch of cold pasta is one of the best cold tailgate food ideas because it can be made in advance but sustains you throughout the day. Look for recipes that use simple salad vinaigrettes as the dressing, or make a creamier cold pasta salad with a mayonnaise or sour cream base. 

7. Hummus and Crudités

Another easy tailgate food with no cooking is a hummus and crudités tray. Crudité is just a fancy word for raw vegetables that have been cut into bite-size pieces so that they can be used for dipping. Grab a package or two of your favorite store-bought hummus or make your own. 

8. Platter of Pinwheels

Grabbing a platter of pinwheel sandwiches from your local deli is one of the easiest tailgate food ideas when you don’t have much time to plan. A couple of bags of potato chips are the perfect partner.

9. Charcuterie Board

Everyone loves a meat and cheese tray, so a charcuterie board is one of the best football tailgate food ideas. Mix and match popular cheeses like cheddar, pepperjack and gouda with strips of salami, prosciutto and ham.

Throw on some grapes or figs if you want to get fancy. There are an unlimited number of charcuterie board ideas to explore.

charcuterie board tailgate food ideas
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Best Tailgate Food Ideas for a Crowd

If you’ve invited the whole team to your tailgate party, you’re going to need tailgate food ideas for a crowd. 

10. Footlong Submarine Sandwiches

If you need tailgate food ideas for a crowd, pick up a bunch of footlong subs from your local sandwich shop or deli. Slice them into one-inch segments to make them go the distance.

11. Jambalaya

What makes a fun tailgate? How about a jambalaya cookout! You’ll need the proper cookware and a propane stove for this idea, but you’ll be able to feed a crowd.

Do the prep work at home the night before so all you have to do is throw everything together on game day. Traditional jambalaya uses chicken, Andouille sausage and shrimp but you can adapt the recipe based on your crowd.

12. Bucket of Fried Chicken

“What can I take to a tailgate without a grill that will feed a crowd?” Drop by your local fried chicken joint and grab a few family-sized buckets. Don’t forget the coleslaw and biscuits.

If you don’t want the mess of bone-in chicken, get a couple of game day trays of boneless chicken bites from your favorite fast food brand.

13. Chili 

One of the top 10 tailgating foods is chili. As with jambalaya, you’ll need an outdoor stovetop setup to make chili on game day, but the process is part of the tailgate experience.

Up the fun and flavor with a chili topping bar that includes shredded cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapeños, tortilla strips and chopped avocado.

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14. Pizza

When you are thinking about tailgate food ideas for a crowd, why not go with the same options you have at home? Pizza. Tailgating doesn’t have to be complicated. And you might even be able to get it delivered right to your car. 

15. Sloppy Joe’s

What’s a football tailgate food idea that works in cold weather? Sloppy Joe’s. You can prep your sloppy Joe filling the night before and reheat it on a propane burner once you’ve claimed your tailgate spot. Throw in a bag or two of fresh slider buns and you’re done.

16. Barbeque Feast

Spending the afternoon preparing a feast is what makes a fun tailgate, so set up your portable grill and get barbequing. A tailgate barbeque is also one of the best potluck ideas because everyone can bring their choice of meat and a side dish. You’ll be sure to have leftovers for post-game victory celebrations.

17. Pitcher of Margaritas

If you’re going to bring guacamole, you’ll need something to wash it down. A proper pitcher of margaritas is always a crowd-pleaser on a hot day. Make your mix in advance but keep the liquors separate until it’s time to pour. 

pitcher of margaritas on the table
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18. Brownies

Somebody’s got to bring dessert, so why shouldn’t it be you? Brownies are one of the most popular Super Bowl foods because they are easy and can feed a crowd. No one will judge if you use a box mix.

Best Tailgate Food Ideas on the Grill

19. Hamburger Bar

There’s nothing like the smell of burgers sizzling on the grill to get you in the game-day spirit which is why hamburgers are one of the top 10 tailgating foods.

You’ll want the basic toppings like lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup and cheese but you can also go wild with bacon, mushrooms, blue cheese or even eggs to top those perfect patties.

20. Bacon-Wrapped Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeños

No matter what you choose to stuff them with, bacon-wrapped jalapeños are one of the best finger food ideas for a tailgate. While they’re usually best hot, you can make these in advance because they’ll still get devoured at room temperature.

21. Hot Dogs

What is a tailgating menu without hot dogs? They’re fast, they’re easy and they can feed a crowd on a budget. If you want to get fancy, prep some toppings for game-day customization. Don’t forget the buns!

hotdogs tailgate food ideas on the grill
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22. Baked Potato Bar

If you like tailgate food ideas that will feed a crowd, consider a baked potato bar. You can foil-wrap potatoes and roast them on a grill. Or, bake them in advance but leave them wrapped and just reheat.

For topping ideas, you’ll want butter (of course) but then it’s the dealer’s choice: cheese, sour cream, chives, bacon or chili.

23. Italian Sausage and Bratwurst

Sick of hot dogs and hamburgers? Tailgating food ideas on the grill could also include Italian sausages and brats. If you have a grill pan or propane cooktop, caramelize some onions and sauté up red and green bell peppers.

A spicy brown mustard and proper sausage buns are key to this tailgate food idea.

RELATED: 51 Easy Potluck Ideas to Suit Every Palate at the Party in 2024

24. Taco Bar

What makes a fun tailgate? Tacos. And a make-your-own taco bar is even better. You can make tacos with just about anything from rotisserie chicken to ground beef to pork to brisket.

Grab a package of corn or flour tortillas and plenty of shredded cheese. Check out these taco bar ideas for creative ways to use toppings. 

25. Shrimp or Tofu Kebabs

Need some tailgate food ideas that don’t involve meat? Thread up some kabobs with shrimp and vegetables. They grill up in no time and don’t require a fork. Got vegans? Marinate some firm tofu cubes and slide those on, too. 

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26. Grilled Pizza

Making pizza on the grill is a fun tailgate food idea. You can use store-bought dough or make your own. Just get those coals nice and hot and have your toppings ready.

27. Halloumi Sliders

If you’ve never tried halloumi, it’s time. This grillable cheese is salty yet sweet, and it delivers a nice amount of protein. You can marinate halloumi to give it more flavor, then dress it up with a chili paste or mango salsa and serve on Hawaiian slider buns.

Cold Tailgate Food Ideas to Make Ahead

What is a tailgating menu without cold side dishes to graze on? From salads to dips, your game-day cravings will be satisfied.

28. Smoked Fish Dip

Dips are always perfect when you need tailgate party food ideas. Smoked fish dips and crackers are quick and easy, and probably something no one else thought to bring.

This appetizer also pairs well with cold beer, which is another reason that it’s a solid choice for tailgate food ideas.

29. Potato Salad

One of the top 10 tailgating foods is potato salad. It goes with everything. Whether you prefer red skin or Idaho, mustard or sour cream-based, you can count on having an empty bowl to bring home.

potato salad tailgate food ideas
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30. Tossed Salad

Are there healthy tailgate foods? Not many. But if you want to temper your game-day calorie count, consider making a nice salad to bring to the party. You can always use it as a topping for a burger.

31. Sushi

This might be the only tailgate food idea list on the internet that includes sushi, but it’s actually a smart choice. Buy it or make it in advance and throw it in the cooler.

Sushi counts as finger food, so it’s a legitimate choice as a tailgate party food idea. Vegetarian sushi or spring rolls that don’t contain raw fish are the safest choices.

32. Deviled Eggs

The best tailgate food ideas are the ones that you can grab with two fingers and pop in your mouth whole. Deviled eggs are one of the most popular cold tailgate food ideas and they tend to go with just about any other tailgate food idea. 

33. Pulled Pork

What is the most popular tailgate food? Pulled pork sandwiches are close to the top of the list. Since it takes the better part of a day to get pulled pork perfectly, you can get all the work done before game day. Then all you need is a bottle of barbeque sauce, some coleslaw and buns.

pulled pork on cutting board
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34. Spiked Watermelon

This tailgate food idea is a food and beverage in one. Spike your watermelon the night before so that it can absorb the liquor and chill overnight. Don’t forget a good knife for slicing.

35. Marinated Chickpea Salad

Cold chickpea salads are a perfect tailgate food idea because they can be made in advance and also contain a lot of protein to keep you going. This is also a good option for vegetarian or vegan tailgate food ideas.

36. Chicken Wings

While you can certainly pick up this tailgate food idea from a restaurant, homemade chicken wings are always better. Mix and match your styles and then refrigerate overnight. Cold chicken wings are the perfect tailgate food idea for hot afternoons.

RELATED: 37 Best Super Bowl Foods for Your Game Day Party in 2024

37. Cupcakes

Most tailgate food ideas focus on the main event, but you still need something for a sweet finish. No matter what the occasion, a batch of cupcakes is never a bad idea.

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When it’s game time, no one wants to go hungry. Planning in advance for tailgate food ideas is not only fun, it’s a key part of getting in the spirit and supporting your team.

Whether you grab premade foods from the local grocery store or you are mincing and marinating days in advance, eating is a key part of the sporting experience. 

For even more fun party ideas, check out other experiences happening on Classpop!