14 Easy, Budget-Friendly Recipes for a Tailgate

Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Fall has different meanings to everyone, and one of the things it means to me is football season. So much so that one of my favorite memories from growing up was watching my family's favorite team with my brothers and dad on the living room couch. Since going to college at Michigan State University (go green!), football has become synonymous with tailgates and hosting. And the one thing that really makes the tailgate is the food. Many dishes are great for sharing, but these are some of my favorite tailgating recipes for many reasons. First, these recipes rely on budget-friendly ingredients like legumes, frozen vegetables and condiments or spices I have on hand. Second, they're easy to make and feed a crowd, especially if you double the recipe. And lastly, this list includes comfort food all-stars like chili and nachos, but each recipe is packed with vegetables, legumes and whole grains for something that's equally as cozy as it's balanced. For me, a tailgate isn't a tailgate without buffalo wings or creamy dips, and our Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Dip is truly the best of both worlds. For something that's more fresh, our Chunky Black Bean Salsa with Corn & Bell Peppers takes just 20 minutes of active time and is super flavorful, nutritious and filling. Whether hosting or attending a game day potluck, try out some of these recipes for your next tailgate. For more budget- and beginner-friendly cooking tips, check out Thrifty.

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Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings

Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings
Jennifer Causey

These baked Buffalo chicken wings hit the oven, not the fryer, saving on fat and calories. Just like the original Buffalo wings, these baked Buffalo wings are coated in a tangy, spicy sauce and served with carrots, celery and your favorite creamy dipping sauce.

02 of 14

Baked Feta Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Baked Feta Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Greg DuPree

This take on classic warm artichoke dip features tangy feta cheese. If you can find frozen artichokes, swap them in for the canned version to cut back on sodium. Serve with tortilla chips and crudités for dipping.

03 of 14

Chunky Black Bean Salsa with Corn & Bell Pepper

chunky black bean salsa with corn & bell pepper
Fred Hardy

This TikTok-trending, veggie-packed salsa gets inspiration from Texas caviar (aka cowboy caviar), a dish created in 1940 to ring in the New Year by Helen Corbitt, who was a chef at Neiman Marcus. Scoop it up with tortilla chips or try it as a topping for grilled meat or fish, or as a filling for a quick quesadilla.

04 of 14

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
Photographer/Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist/Kay Clarke, Food Stylist/Emily Nabors Hall

Make a double batch of this quick vegetarian chili, full of black beans and sweet potatoes, and eat it for lunch the next day or freeze the extras for another night. We love the smoky heat from the ground chipotle, but omit it if you prefer a mild chili. Serve with tortilla chips or cornbread and coleslaw.

05 of 14

Sheet-Pan Caprese Pizza


This light and flavorful caprese pizza is ready when the tomatoes are just heated through and the mozzarella cheese is slightly melted. If you want a little more on this pizza, it'd be delicious with a few slices of prosciutto. Chef tip: let your dough come up to room temperature before you stretch it—it'll make it much easier to work with.

06 of 14

Loaded Black Bean Dip

loaded black bean dip in a white bowl served with tortilla chips

This is 7-layer black bean dip simplified: just heat and season refried beans, then top with fresh vegetables for a texturally exciting dip.

07 of 14

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Fresh Tomato Salsa
Jason Donnelly

This easy fresh tomato salsa recipe yields about 5 cups of salsa—plenty to serve a crowd. If you like spicy salsa, use the full amount of jalapeños and add more cayenne pepper. Serve with chips, tacos and more.

08 of 14

Loaded Sheet-Pan Nachos


This quick and easy Super Bowl recipe has been referred to as "the best nachos people have ever had." With easy-to-find ingredients, an optional pop of tang and spice from the pickled jalapeños, and the salsa verde and sour cream for serving, we think it's earned its title!

09 of 14

Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Dip

Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Dip

This healthy copycat recipe for classic Buffalo dip cooks in your slow cooker for an easy, hands-off appetizer you can keep warm for the whole game, party or any casual gathering. Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks and tortilla chips for dipping.

10 of 14

Spinach-Feta Dip with Dill


Try this spinach dip, spiked with fresh dill and briny feta cheese, as a sandwich spread—or serve alongside crackers or crudité.

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Mom's Chili

Mom's Chili

This healthy basic beef chili recipe is well worth doubling so you can throw a batch in the freezer. Serve topped with diced red onion, sliced scallions, shredded cheese and your favorite hot sauce.

12 of 14

Cheesy Jalapeño Corn Dip


Creamy melted cheese brings sweet corn and spicy jalapeño together with a nice pop of brightness from lime juice and cilantro in this tasty dip inspired by Mexican elote and esquites. This creamy and satisfying dish can be served with tortilla chips and veggies for dipping.

13 of 14

Almost Chipotle's Guacamole

Almost Chipotle's Guacamole

Make guacamole at home that tastes just like it came from Chipotle—but don't worry, our version won't be extra! This deliciously fresh guac is perfect for topping burrito bowls or tacos, or serve as an appetizer or healthy snack with tortilla chips and veggies.

14 of 14

Spicy Cabbage Slaw


Sliced radishes add a peppery kick to this 10-minute slaw, which can serve as both a side and a topping for sandwiches.

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