Winning Recipes: A Tasty Tailgate Menu

Football season is upon us. And in my corner of Fort Worth, football is less about the action on the field and more about the action in the kitchen. The menu below is appropriate for the hard-core tailgater or for those of us who prefer the comfort of our couches to folding chairs.

Regardless of where you nosh, all of these recipes have several elements that you can make ahead of time so that you won’t miss a moment of fun.

Watermelon Slushies

watermelon slushiesHang on to summer with these refreshing little numbers that you can serve kiddie-style or as an adult beverage. Make these before you leave the house and pop them in the freezer in an insulated cup to freeze up. By the time you are in the folding chair, you will be happily sipping.

Ingredients for One Large Slushie:

  • 2 Cups seedless watermelon, diced
  • 1/2 Tsp agave syrup
  • 1 Cup ice
  • 1/4 Cup 7-Up or any lemon-lime soda
  • 2 Shots (about 3 oz) of vodka (optional)

The Action:

  • Combine watermelon, agave, and ice in the blender and process until smooth. Add the vodka here if you are making the adult version.
  • Pour into a glass and lace with 7-Up.
  • Serve immediately or store in the freezer until you are ready to tailgate.

Kettle Corn on the Cob

This corn is sweet and salty with a little kick to it as well. Make the icing ahead of time and store overnight in the refrigerator. Bring it along with you to garnish the corn as it comes off the grill.

Ingredients for Four Large Servings or Eight Small Servings:

  • 4 Ears of corn – husked and cleaned
  • 4 Tbsp butter – salted or unsalted to your preference, but use a stick if possible
  • Salt, black pepper, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)

For the Icing:

  • 1 Cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. milk

kettle cornThe Action:

  • Prepare the icing: Mix the vanilla with the milk and slowly add a little powdered sugar at a time. Stir until completely blended. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare the corn: Using your stick of butter, rub the butter generously over each ear of corn covering the whole ear.
  • Sprinkle the ears with salt, pepper, and seasoned salt to your preference.
  • If you want more kick, sprinkle cayenne pepper over the corn as well.
  • Wrap each ear individually in foil.
  • Grill the corn until its tender and bright yellow, usually 20 minutes or so over medium-high heat or around the perimeter of a hot charcoal grill. Turn occasionally.
  • When the corn is cooked, open the foil and drizzle the icing over the corn while it is still hot. (If you want to get really decadent, add a little more butter to the hot corn before the icing.)
  • Season again to your preference.
  • Bite in.
  • Be happy.

chicken waffle burgerChicken and Waffle Burgers

All hail whoever decided to put fried chicken and waffles together on a plate! You can make these as full-size burgers or sliders.

For tailgating, make the bacon and mayo ahead of time and make the patties the morning of the game. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator with waxed paper separating each patty.

Ingredients for Three Large Burgers or 6-8 Sliders:

  • 1 Lb. ground chicken
  • 6 slices of uncooked bacon
  • 3-6 slices of Monterey Jack or Munster Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup real maple syrup
  • 1 Cup mayonnaise
  • Salt, pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper
  • Hot sauce (Franks or Louisiana Hot Sauce)
  • 6 Waffles; I use Eggo Fluffy Waffles, but any waffle will do. For sliders, buy mini-waffles or cut a circular waffle in thirds
  • Butter
  • Greens to top (optional)

The Action:


  • Cook the bacon: Bake the bacon on a foil-lined baking sheeting in a 400 degree oven until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-covered plate to drain.
  • Mix up the mayo: Mix the mayo with the maple syrup until blended. Divide into two containers: you will use half of the mayo in the chicken patties and half as a topping.
  • Make the patties: In a large bowl, mix the ground chicken with 1/8 tsp each of salt, pepper, and white pepper. Add 2 tsp of maple mayo. Mix with your hands until blended. Form into patties of whatever size you prefer. Store until it’s time to grill.
  • Prepare the mayo topping: Take the other half of the maple mayo and add 1-2 tsp of hot sauce. Adjust the amount of hot sauce to your preference. The result should be sweet with a slight kick.
  • Defrost the waffles.

Ready to Grill:

  • Coat the grill with canola oil or a grilling spray to prevent burgers from sticking.
  • Sprinkle the patties with salt and pepper and place them on the grill. Grill until the internal temperature is 165. Check for doneness.
  • Right before the burgers are ready to come off the grill, top with bacon and cheese. Remove and cover with foil to help everything melt together.
  • Slather the waffles with a bit of butter and place on the grill to toast lightly.
  • Put the burgers together by slathering a bit of the hot maple mayo on the bottom waffle and placing the burger on top. Add greens to your preference.

Note: If you wish to use buns instead of waffles, you may certainly do so, but keep in mind that brioche buns or challah will work best to achieve the slightly sweet taste that the waffle provides.

What are your go-to, crowd-pleasin’ tailgate recipes?

Ali wasn’t born in Texas, but got here as fast as she could. A native Chicagoan, Ali arrived on the scene in Fort Worth in 2008 kicking and screaming, but settled right into her cowboy boots and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Ali is proud to be Mama to sweet Alexis (2003) and little diva Clara (2005) who make every day an adventure with their wisecracking ways and endless antics. Between dance parties with her little ladies and her career as an instructional designer for a major retailer, you’ll often find Ali running along the Trinity River, at the ballpark cheering on the Texas Rangers, or in her kitchen whipping up new creations and snarky observations for her blog, Kitchenpants!


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