Ultimate Guide to Tailgating Cuisine

A tailgate party refers to a social event that is held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle. Tailgating is popular in the United States and Canada. It is a type of party that often involves grilling food and drinking alcoholic beverages. This type of party occurs in parking lots at stadiums and arenas before and sometimes after games and concerts. This is why people who are attending these parties are said to be “tailgating.” 

In fact, many people participate even if their cars do not have tailgates. This type of party has spread to the pre-game festivities at sporting events besides American football, including soccer, hockey, baseball, and basketball. When tailgating, people bring their own beverages, barbecues, tailgating snacks, and other foods which are sampled and shared among fans attending the party or game. If you are planning to join a tailgating party soon and thinking of what foods to bring, you’re in the right place. Today, we are giving you the ultimate guide to tailgating cuisine.

Preparing Foods for Tailgating

To make the most of your tailgating experience, here are some tips that we can give when it comes to preparing foods:

  • Food Preparation and Packing

As much as possible, it is better to prepare the ingredients beforehand and keep them in labeled bags or containers. If you are bringing vegetables and meat, it’s a great idea to precut them. You can also measure any spices, dry goods, and liquids. This will have you save time and space and make sure that you do not forget anything on game day. 

  • The Right Cooking Equipment

The cooking equipment is as important as the ingredients. Therefore, keeping a tailgate box that will hold all the essentials, such as plates, disposable cups, and napkins. You also need to bring utensils for both serving and eating, and as well as can openers, trash bags, tablecloths, paper towels, wipes, gloves, and hand sanitizer. In addition to grills, you can also bring propane burners, slow cookers, camping ovens, or smokers. These can also help you grill, fry, boil, and smoke your dishes. Also, do not forget to pack matches, oven mitts or gloves, and utensils like spatulas and tongs. 

  • Food Safety

Of course, it is very important to always think of food safety, especially when you are away from your kitchen. Avoid reusing cutting boards and knives that hold raw meat. Always wash your hands before touching any food. Perishables should be kept at a proper temperature. It is also best to use a food thermometer to ensure that the food has reached a safe internal temperature. When you cook meat, make sure that you keep it hot until served. 

It is also best to keep a fire extinguisher with you if you plan to grill food. If you do not have one, keeping a bucket of sand next to the grill is a good idea. Do not use water to put out a grease fire. 

The Best Foods for Tailgating

people enjoying drinks outdoors

Here are some of the best foods for tailgating that we can recommend:

1. Bratwurst

grilled bratwurst

Grilling and serving bratwurst at a tailgate party is probably the most popular. Bratwurst is a type of German sausage that is made from veal, beef, or pork. It is also often shortened to “brat.” It has become popular as a mainstay of sports stadiums after it was introduced by Bill Sperling to Major League Baseball in Milwaukee County Stadium in 1954, during the time Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee. Therefore, if you are looking into bringing something to grill, then you can include some bratwurst to your list. 

2. Hamburger

hamburgers on a wooden surface

A hamburger is certainly among the most popular foods in the United States, and it should definitely be present at a tailgate party. These are also grilled and added with other ingredients such as mayonnaise, mustard, barbecue sauce, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, pickles, cucumber, onions, and more. 

3. Hotdogs with Pico De Gallo

Hotdogs are also very popular at tailgate parties. But if you want to up your game, you can put a twist on them by adding ingredients like fresh tomatoes, spicy jalapeños, and grilled buns. Ketchup and mustard are great on hotdogs, but these ingredients are a lot flavorful. It can also be adjusted if you do not have the ingredients. Instead of jalapeños, you can use serrano peppers. You can also add some pineapple or mango to make it a bit sweeter or some sriracha mayo for some spicy kick. 

4. Corn on the Cob

grilled corn

Corn on the cob is another perfect tailgating food. There are many ways to prepare grilled corn on the cob. One example is by making buffalo corn on the cob by mixing the punch of hot wings and the sweetness of summer corn, which is also a good vegetarian alternative. If you want something simpler, you can simply add some lemon and Old Bay seasoning to the corn, giving it some seafood flavor. You can also try adding song mayonnaise, cheese, lime, and chili on grilled corn for a more flavorful experience. 

5. Grilled Vegetable Skewers

grilled vegetable skewers

If you are looking for something healthy to serve and eat at a tailgate party, then you can include some grilled vegetable skewers on your menu. What’s great about this option is that you can include any vegetables that you have on hand. You can add some zucchini, eggplant, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and more. 

6. Caprese Salad

Caprese salad in a plate

You can also throw a simple Caprese salad to match the grilled meat and veggies that you will be serving. You can use multicolored tomatoes to make it look more enticing. You can also add in some basil and mozzarella for more flavor and aroma. For texture and salted flavor, mix in some prosciutto. 

7. Chicken Wings

freshly cooked chicken wings

You can’t watch a game without eating chicken wings. There are hundreds of chicken wings recipes out there. You can marinate some classic chicken wings overnight and finish them in a spicy, buttery sauce. You can serve the chicken wings with some mac and cheese as they pair so well. 

8. Hot Chili and Baked Potatoes

If it’s a bit cold on game day, then you can keep your tailgating friends warm by making a pot of hot chili and some baked potatoes. You can cook the chili the night before the game day and reheat it before serving. You can also serve it with some loaded chili potato skins, cornbread muffins, and pumpkin spice cupcakes. 

9. Tacos

delicious taco

If you are looking for a twist on the traditional tailgating fare, then you can create your own taco bar. Bring a slow cooker to the game and make a big batch of spicy meat. You just need to set out the tortillas, tomatoes, onions, avocados, cilantro, lime, and cotija cheese. Your friends are free to mix and match the toppings that they like to make the perfect tacos

10. Hotdogs for Kids

grilling hotdogs

If you are taking your little ones with you, then you also have to make sure that they have something to eat. You can never go wrong when you serve them some grilled or fried hotdogs. But you can also up your game by serving them hotdogs that are wrapped in pretzel dough. These can be baked ahead of time and serve either warm or cold. In fact, it’s not only kids who will enjoy these. 

Tailgating Drinks

a bowl of fruit punch

At tailgate parties, you have a lot of options when it comes to drinks. You can bring both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. You can pack some sodas and beer. If you want to be creative, you can also make some fruit punches in different flavors. 

One example of a good tailgating drink is the fizzy blueberry lemonade. This is delicious whether you choose the traditional or spiked one. All you need to do is make a simple blueberry syrup for the fruity taste, then mix it with five cups of water. If you want a spiked drink, then you can mix it in a cup of gin or vodka to make a homemade vodka lemonade or gin fizz. You can also mix it with ginger beer to create a fizzy lemonade. If you are bringing kids with you, make sure that you have non-alcoholic drinks for them like fruit juices, chocolate drinks, or soda. 


Tailgating is indeed a fun activity to do when watching a game. It is a way to bond with other fans and share experiences while watching the game. Also, during the party, you will be able to discover more unique recipes from other people that you can also try at your next tailgate party. We hope that this post helped you learn more about tailgating cuisine. 

If you are looking for more posts about tailgating and game day, you can check out the links below: