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Game On: Essential Ingredients for the Perfect Backyard Tailgate

Backyard Tailgate Party

The first winds of autumn bring leaves painted in rich colors, the smell of sizzling meat in the air, and the sound of clashing helmets. Yep, it’s football weather, and if you can’t get yourself to live action, you can have as much (or more!) fun with a backyard tailgate party. Pulling off a game-ready gathering for your friends and family is simple with these tailgating essentials:

Setting the Scene

Set out plenty of chairs for your guests. Arrange them in small half-circles to encourage conversation. Hammocks swaying between trees, chaise lounges by the pool, and wooden porch swings will all come in handy for guests who need to rest during extended revelry. Picnic tables draped in tablecloths (in the colors of your team, of course!) and big metal tubs full of ice, soda, and bottled water create an atmosphere of casual hospitality and fun.

Watching the Game

While some guests like to tailgate simply for the pleasure of good grub and friends, others prioritize actually watching the game. A backyard tailgate can easily flow inside for guests to tune in to the action in your living room or media room. Even better, install a tv on your covered patio, where you’ll be able to keep one eye on the grill and the other on the gridiron.

For a unique tailgate spin, make a splash with dive-in game watching. Set up a projector to broadcast the game on an inflatable screen within view of your pool. A Bluetooth speaker, a floating cooler, and plenty of colorful floats for lounging are all you need to watch the game from the luxury of your pool.

Backyard Tailgate Watching | Backyard Parties

Playing Around: Tailgate Lawn Games

Whether you’re tailgating during a playoff game or a preseason scrimmage, watching sports tends to bring out the competitive spirit in many people. Take advantage of guests’ urge to play by setting up a few lawn and pool games. Try cornhole and volleyball for the yard and floating basketball and ring toss for the water. If you have a ping pong or foosball table, wheel those out for easy access. And make sure to inflate basketballs and footballs for pickup games—purchase a flag football set and a set of scrimmage jerseys to outfit your competition in style.

If your cornhole game is getting serious, learn some shots from the pros to dominate the competition:

Snacking Satisfaction: 4 of the Best Tailgate Recipes

Let your outdoor kitchen shine during a backyard tailgate with a barbecue. Even a simple charcoal grill can turn out stacks of mouthwatering burgers while a brick oven can crank out custom woodfired pizzas. Whatever your gameday menu, keep food simple and decadent. Sticking to small portions allows guests to sample a variety of snacks and keep coming back for more. To show extra courtesy to guests, provide snack options for dietary restrictions in the crowd (gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) even if most of your dishes are meat- and bread-centric. While hot dogs are time-tested, don’t be afraid to branch out a little bit with these game-day eats:

Mexican Street Corn Dip

A spin on the Mexican classic, this Mexican Street Corn Dip combines the crunch of corn with the gooey richness of cheese and sharp tang of lime. Set out plenty of tortilla chips and watch this dip dwindle.

  • 16oz. (3 ½ cup) frozen or fresh corn, roasted
  • ½ cup queso fresco
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ diced red onion
  • 1 diced poblano pepper
  • ½ cup mayonnaise or yogurt
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • ½ lime, zested and juiced
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Tailgate Recipes, Mexican Street Corn Dip

Whisk together yogurt, lime zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Toss roasted corn with chili powder, pepper, onion, and garlic in a medium bowl.

Stir in lime-yogurt mixture, queso fresco, half of the Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer to a serving dish and top with cilantro, remaining Parmesan, and a sprinkle of chili powder.

Ultimate Grilled Cheese Bar

Set out a variety of bread, shredded cheeses, and meat and vegetable toppings. Fire up the grill and let your guests build their own custom grilled cheese sandwiches. The tasty concoctions will prove once and for all that grilled cheese is perfectly suitable for grown-ups too.

  • Sourdough
  • Wheat
  • Rye
Shredded Cheese
  • Cheddar
  • Provolone
  • Swiss
  • Bacon
  • Chopped brisket
  • Chopped chicken
  • Caramelized onion
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Basil pesto
  • Raspberry jam
  • Dijon mustard
Ultimate Grilled Cheese Bar | Tailgate Grill Recipes

Quick and Easy Buffalo Chicken Dip

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup Buffalo wing sauce
  • 1/2 cup ranch or blue cheese salad dressing
  • 2 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips, baguettes, crackers, or celery
Quick and Easy Buffalo Chicken Dip | Tailgate Chicken Recipes

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread cream cheese into an ungreased shallow 1-qt. baking dish. Layer with chicken, wing sauce and salad dressing. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake, uncovered, 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with chips, baguettes, crackers, or celery.

Pro tip #1:

Use grilled or rotisserie chicken for the best flavor

Pro tip #2:

No wing sauce? No problem! Wisk together a 1/4 cup of melted butter, 1/4 cup of hot sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.

Dessert Bar

Display bite-sized desserts related to your tailgating theme. Decorate brownies or crispy rice treats to look like footballs or frost a cake in the colors of your team. Hand out homemade popsicles and ice cream cones for a quick way to cool down during a toasty tailgate.

And when the weather becomes crisp, think of spiced desserts like adorable apple hand pies.

  • 2 pie crusts
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 pounds baking apples
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the pie
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
Dessert Bar

Peel and dice the apples. Toss apples with lemon juice and sugar.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add apples and spices and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until it begins to simmer. Set mixture aside to cool.

Roll out the dough and cut into circles with a 3 inch cookie cutter or jar lid. Refrigerate cut circles until filling is cool.

Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Arrange half the dough circles, spaced apart, on baking sheets. Cut slits in the other circles (to vent). Scoop a few tablespoons of filling into the center of each dough circle. Place slit circle on top and crimp the edges.

Combine egg and milk with a fork. Brush pies with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake pies for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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