15 Great Foods For Tailgating and Watching Sports

 No matter who you root for or what sport you like, games are always better with good food.

This time of year is the best time of year for the sports fan. Football season is underway, MLB playoffs are starting, the NHL is should be underway and the NBA season is ready to start.

I don’t know about you but I find that sports are better with good food and an ice-cold beverage.  You don’t need to be a culinary expert to put on a feast for two or twenty. With a grill and/or oven, these tips and a little creativity you can be da man of the kitchen. Or da woman, depending on your gender.  If you follow some of these ideas your friends may start calling you Emeril.

For six years I had Raiders season tickets and my friends always asked me to do the tailgate cooking. The same holds true when we now watch sports on TV.

Below you will find fifteen foods to amaze your friends with. I suggest taking these tips and adding a little of your personal flair to blow your friend’s minds and fill up their pre-game stomachs.

Bon Appetit.


Stuffed Burgers


Take ground beef and mix it with a touch of sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and your favorite ingredients.

Typically I mix in diced jalapenos (remember to de-seed them), grated sharp cheddar and chopped up bacon. You can also make bacon cheeseburgers or mix them with Gouda and your favorite barbecue sauce. If you can get ground chicken or turkey try mixing it with bleu cheese and Franks Red Hot for a buffalo wing burger.

I prefer using 15% ground beef because it has enough fat to add flavor but not so much that it shrinks up to nothing.




This is a cold weather favorite and can be made a hundred different ways. I generally try and find pork tenderloin on sale and either dice it up or ask the meat department to grind it for me. Pork tenderloin is around forty calories per ounce making it a healthy alternative. I like black beans in mine and add tomatoes (canned or fresh), onion, roasted Anaheim chiles, ground chipotle and a can of beer.

If you make it the day before you serve it the chili the flavors will marry and the flavor will be even more off the hook.


Chicken Wings


I lived in Buffalo for two years and became spoiled when it comes to wings. My favorite wings came from Duffs and before I moved back to California I stocked up on their sauce. When I’m not using Duffs amazing sauce I take Frank’s red Hot and cut it with butter. The more butter the less bite the wing has.

For a healthier alternative grill the wings and then dip them in the sauce before putting them on the platter. Serve it with the obligatory bleu cheese, celery, carrots and a roll of paper towels so your guests can clean up.


Grilled Chicken


What cut of chicken you use is up to you but if you’re feeding a crowd I suggest legs or boneless breasts that can be used on your favorite roll for a tasty sandwich. There are hundreds of sauces and marinades you can use but I like marinating mine in balsamic vinegar, rosemary, thyme and fresh garlic. If you have the time marinate it overnight but anything over an hour will suffice. I suggest taking a fork and poking the chicken before marinating, as this will allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.



Pizza Rolls


Stay with me on this one because I thought my friend was high when he brought them to our first Raiders game. It turns out that pizza rolls on the grill are really tasty and if you use charcoal you get a slightly smoky flavor. After that first game we always brought pizza rolls and as soon as we hit the parking lot we fired up the grill and had the rolls as appetizers.




I have a serious guac addiction and generally have a couple avocadoes on hand. I make mine with sea salt, ground chipotle, cumin, garlic, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, onion and lime juice. Instead of chips try using tostada shells. Your guests can break them into whatever size they want and use it as a chip or spread the heavenly concoction on the shell. If you put the pit in the guac it will stay fresher longer.



Grilled Corn


This one doesn’t need a lot of explanation but you can make it your own by brushing the corn with garlic butter before serving. My personal favorite is cilantro lime butter. Take your butter and add chopped cilantro, lime juice and either cayenne pepper or ground chipotle. How much you use is up to you but ¼ cup of cilantro per stick is a good starting point.


Potato Salad


Like Frank Sinatra I tend to do things my way and when it comes to potato salad I prefer a warm salad with bacon dressing and sweet onions.

Take red potatoes, cut them into bite-size pieces and after cooking in a pot of boiling water drain and mix with a dressing of chopped bacon, white wine vinegar, sautéed garlic, sweet onion, thyme, rosemary, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. If this one doesn’t blow away your friends you may need to consider getting new friends.


Tri Tip


This is a cut of meat that is huge in California but when I lived in Buffalo I found it was almost non-existent. You can rub your meat with your favorite seasoning but I personally prefer Pappy’s. It’s a true Santa Maria tri tip rub and is absolutely amazing.

After seasoning I sear mine on the side without the fat cap and then wrap it in foil and either grill it or stick it in a 300-degree oven with the fat side up. Wrapping it in foil keeps it from becoming charred on the grill and has the added benefit of keeping the juices inside. As with any big cut of meat, allow it to rest for five or ten minutes before slicing.


Tomato Salad


Because man (or woman) can’t live on meat alone I serve a salad of diced roma tomatoes mixed with fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar, chopped basil, onions and grated asiago cheese. You can use Parmesan instead of asiago if you like. The beauty of this salad is that the balsamic is around five calories per tablespoon so it’s a party for your taste buds and great for your waist.



Crock Pot Pork Carnitas


This isn’t your typical carnitas recipe but is something my teenage daughter, who I lovingly refer to as Drama Queen, requests on a regular basis. Take either a pork shoulder or butt and rub it with cumin, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Put the fat side up and pour a large can of green enchilada sauce over the pork. To the crock pot add chopped pasilla peppers, Anaheim chiles, onion and tomatillos.

Set the crock pot on low before you go to bed and you will rise to a wonderful smell and you will be ready for tailgating. If you’re watching a late afternoon or evening game plug the pot in first thing in the morning and promise yourself to not open the lid no matter how amazing it smells. I serve mine with rice and my Cuban black beans.


Cuban Black Beans


This may be the simplest of all the recipes, as you only need a can(s) of black beans, lime juice, diced onion, diced jalapeno, a bay leaf or two and cumin. Drain the beans and put in a pot with the other ingredients. Set the burner on low and let the beans heat for twenty or thirty minutes. If using the grill set the black beans on indirect heat and let them do their thing.


Crab Dip


Your friends don’t like it when you’re crabby but serving this is a definite exception. This recipe comes to you via the state of Maryland and my Muse. Maryland is known for their crab and their crab recipes so you know it has to be good.

Take a pound of lump crab meat and mix it with a brick of cream cheese, a touch of Frank’s Red Hot, a couple tablespoons of mayo, a dollop or two of sour cream and some Old Bay seasoning. Mix it all up, put it in a baking dish, top with a little grated cheddar and pop it in a 350 degree oven for a half hour. Serve it with chips, your favorite crackers or maybe some chunks of grilled sourdough bread.


Peanut Butter Brownies


Use your favorite brownie mix and pour half the batter in the pan. Take a few spoonful’s (I prefer more than a few) of peanut butter and heat it in the microwave. Take the gooey peanut butter and pour over the batter and top with the remaining batter. You should probably make a double batch since the reality is you will eat half the first batch as soon as it comes out of the oven.


Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos


These are a Drama Queen favorite. Try to find large jalapenos, cut them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and veins. In a bowl mix softened cream cheese, grated cheddar and a touch of Frank’s Red Hot. Stuff the peppers with the cream cheese mixture, wrap with bacon and top with a drizzle of your favorite barbecue sauce. Put in the oven and cook for twenty five minutes in a 350 degree oven.



These are a few of my favorite tailgating recipes and I hope they become yours as well. What do you eat when you watch sports? Share your recipes with the rest of us.


Photo of Raiders fans courtesy J.R. Reed

Photo of stuffed burger courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of chili courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of chicken wings courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of grilled chicken courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of guacamole courtesy of J.R. Reed

Photo of grilled corn courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of potato salad courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of tri tip courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of tomato salad courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of crock pot carnitas courtesy of J.R. Reed

Photo of Cuban black beans courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of crab dip courtesy of Christina Pundt

Photo of peanut butter brownies courtesy of Flick’r

Photo of bacon wrapped jalapenos courtesy of J.R. Reed

About J.R. Reed

J.R is a full-time single dad attempting to raise a 14-year-old daughter without providing too many stories to relay to her future therapist. He is also the creator of the popular blog, Sex and the SIngle Dad. A former radio talk show host and color commentator, he’s also an off-the-hook cook, a bit of an argyle-loving dork and has a word in Urban Dictionary. J.R. has a serious guacamole addiction and a torta dealer named Danny.


  1. I’ll let you in on a secret… I watch football for the wings. I suspect I’m not the only one.

    Go Pats!

  2. Skipping the sports, going straight for the spread.

Speak Your Mind