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Time for Tailgate Parties: Savory Food, Sharing with Friends, Team Spirit

game-day food

Do you enjoy tailgate parties, where your friends and relatives get together prior to a sporting event to enjoy good food and good drink, along with some pre-game cheers? It used to be that these parties were only held before football games but that has changed dramatically. “Tailgate parties” have almost come to be expected before a variety of sporting events or prior to an outdoor concert or another form of entertainment.

But tailgating isn’t just a party, according to USA Today:

“It’s a complex community-building exercise that hearkens back to ancient harvest festivals. John Sherry, a University of Notre Dame cultural anthropologist, conducted a two-year study of college tailgating and found that the parking lot parties have ties to harvest celebrations in ancient Rome and Greece, picnics during Civil War battles and modern gatherings such as camp-outs at Jimmy Buffett concerts and Occupy Wall Street encampments.”

“The idea of getting out of your house and feasting and drinking somewhere else is a pretty old tradition,” Sherry says. “People eat and drink and build up community in the process. It’s one last blowout before we hunker down for winter.”

Very interesting indeed, leaving no question that having delicious food is pivotal to a successful tailgate party. Some of the top foods that are ‘must-haves’ at tailgate parties, according to The Food Network, include:

  • Wings
  • Chili
  • Salsa
  • Nachos
  • Cheese dips
  • Meatballs
  • Hoagies

To help get you started on your tailgate parties, here are several savory tailgating recipes your tailgaters will love. Each is bursting with that umami taste that always satisfies the most discerning party-goer!

Easy Baked Chicken Wings

Dip chicken wings in egg and flour, then pour on an easy sauce made with soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and MSG, and bake for an hour.  Serve cold or heated up on your hibachi to kick off the football season with your first tailgating celebration!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating
  • 3/4 cup oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup margarine


  • 6 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. MSG


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour egg (beaten) into a shallow dish or bowl; do the same with the flour. Heat oil and margarine in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Dip wings in egg, then flour, then fry until browned and crisp. Lay browned wings in an 11x14 inch baking dish.
  2. To make the sauce: In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, water, sugar, vinegar and MSG. Blend well and pour sauce over chicken. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of

Dad's Chili

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cloves garlic diced
  • 1 pound green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds onion chopped
  • 2 cans pinto beans 15 ounce, rinsed and drained
  • 5 cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons MSG (umami seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in the ground beef and ground pork. Cook and stir until the meat is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease. Set meat aside.
  2. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, bell pepper, and onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cooked meat, pinto beans, tomatoes, parsley, chili powder, pepper, monosodium glutamate, salt, and cumin. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of

Photo credit: By Carstor - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,


Monterey Jack Salsa

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8


  • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese shredded
  • 5 green onions chopped
  • 1 avocado peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
  • 1 6 oz. can chopped black olives
  • 1 cup zesty Italian dressing
  • 1 tsp MSG (umami seasoning)


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together cheese, onions, avocado, tomato, cilantro, chile peppers, olives, dressing, and MSG.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of


Creole Meatballs

Score big with these scrumptious meatballs on game day. Your family and friends will be asking for an instant replay! These delicious creole meatballs are perfect for an appetizer, or you can serve them as an entrée with a rice side dish or as main component of a hearty sandwich, using crusty rolls. Either way, touchdown!
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon MSG (umami seasoning)
  • flour for rolling
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup onion sliced
  • 3/4 cup green pepper chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 5 cups canned tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup wine sweet


  1. Mix first 10 ingredients together and form into 1 inch meatballs.
  2. Roll in flour and set aside.
  3. Using a large skillet, sauté onions, green pepper, celery and mushrooms in oil; transfer vegetables to large saucepan when nicely sautéed.
  4. Brown meatballs in same skillet; add to saucepan with the sautéed vegetables. Add the remaining 5 ingredients to make the sauce.
  5. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Serve hot as desired.
  6. Note: If desired, thicken sauce using 1-2 tablespoons of flour mixed with 1/4 cup water.

Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from

Photo credit: By Michael Stern - 10000000041678_000334, CC BY-SA 2.0,

About Kaye Taylor, MS

Kaye is an author and consulting nutritionist with more than 15 years’ experience representing clients in the food industry, providing strategic leadership and consulting on meal planning, recipe development, consumer-focused educational materials relating to food and nutrition, science-based communications, and media relations. Read more about her background on the About page.

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