Better Tailgate Recipes for Football Season

Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or don’t know your first down from your field goal, chances are you still enjoy a good tailgate party. While traditional tailgating fare may be less than healthy (seven-layer dip, anyone?), we looked to some of our favorite food bloggers for a few better-for-you alternatives. From a buffalo-wings-inspired chili to a delicious slider substitute, keep reading for five recipes that will score major points at your next pre-game celebration.

Recipe by Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen

Made with quinoa, mushrooms, and zucchini, these meat-free yet flavorful patties will wow vegetarians and carnivores alike. Top with avocados and your choice of cheese to make them even more satisfying.

SERVES 6 (regular-size patties) or 12 (slider-size)
¾ cup quinoa
1 ⅓ cups broth or water
1 small zucchini
2 large portobello mushrooms (stems removed), finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 large shallot or ½ yellow onion, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 cup coarse ground oats or breadcrumbs
3 tablespoon flax meal
⅔ cup mashed cooked sweet potato
Sea salt and pepper
Buns for serving

Optional Toppings
Choice of cheese

1. Rinse quinoa in a mesh strainer. Bring the quinoa and broth or water to a boil in a pot. Turn it to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked—about 13 minutes. Stir, leave the lid ajar, and set aside to cool.
2. While the quinoa cooks, grate the zucchini. Spread it on a kitchen towel and ring out the extra moisture.
3. In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot or onion, and sauté for three minutes, until softened. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, and generous pinches of salt and pepper, and sauté another five minutes, until much of the liquid has been cooked out. Stir in the oregano, cayenne, and soy sauce (or similar) and turn off the heat to cool.
4. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl. Add the nutritional yeast, oats (or breadcrumbs), and flax meal. Once the vegetables are cool, add them to the bowl as well and stir everything to mix. Mash in the cooked sweet potato and another pinch of salt and pepper and stir everything to mix. Note: If it looks too dry, add another drizzle of oil or more mashed yam; however, if it is too wet, the patties won’t stay together.
5. Heat a layer of oil in a large skillet. Make patties about 1 ½ inch thick, and cook until golden brown on each side, about four minutes per side. Alternatively, you may form your patties, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle a little oil on top and bake them at 375°F for 20 minutes. Put your cheese on one side after you flip the patty. Prepare your buns with mashed avocado, spread, greens, or whatever you wish, and serve warm.

Recipe by Les Alfred of The Balanced Berry

Combine two game-day favorites—buffalo wings and dip—with this easy-to-make vegan-friendly recipe. Serve it with sliced celery and carrots for the perfect bit of crunch.

SERVES 12-15
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cashews, soaked in warm water for an hour
¾ cup buffalo sauce
1 tablespoons ranch seasoning
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Juice of 1 lemon (approximately 4 tablespoons)

Optional Toppings
Blue cheese crumbles (for a non-vegan option)
Green onion
Chopped celery

1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or high-powered blender, and blend until smooth. Note: You may need to stop the food processor and periodically scrape down the sides.
2. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

Recipe by Renée Kemp

Who needs chips when you have these delicious sweet potato bites to snack on? Added bonus: The classic fall tuber is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber.

1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
3 small sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup grated Parmesan
Fresh ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 392°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Peel and slice the sweet potato into discs, and then place them along with cornstarch in a big bowl and toss with olive oil. Add the sage, Parmesan, salt, and pepper and continue to toss until coated.
3. Place them on the baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping them halfway.
4. Serve with dressing or dip of choice.

Recipe by Kare Raye of Kitchen Treaty

For a healthier game-day dessert, try this gluten- and dairy-free take on traditional chocolate chip cookies.

2 tablespoons solid coconut oil
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups almond flour (also known as almond meal)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus more for topping if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
2. Add the coconut oil to a large bowl. If the oil is very hard, microwave for a few seconds, until it is soft but not melted. Add the pure maple syrup and stir briskly with a whisk until the syrup and oil is mixed together; this may take a minute or two. Add the egg and vanilla, and whisk together until combined.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and stir together with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in ½ cup chocolate chips.
4. Scoop mounded tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet, spacing them about two inches apart. Press down gently with your fingers to flatten slightly. Top each with a few additional chocolate chips, if desired.
5. Bake until set and the edges are golden brown, eight to nine minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for four to five days.

Recipe by Shira McDermott of In Pursuit of More

Fans of potato salad will appreciate this hearty swap, which includes a tasty mix of red peppers, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, and cauliflower.

2 cups (14-oz. can) cooked chickpeas
1 red pepper, diced
1 head cauliflower
1 bunch green onions, chopped (greens only)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, quartered

Basil Vinaigrette
1 bunch basil
1 cup good olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons sugar (brown or white)
1 tablespoon salt
1 clove garlic
½ cup water

1. Start by cleaning and chopping the cauliflower into medium florets. Put up to steam in a little water, and cook three to four minutes, until just soft. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water or in an ice water bath to cool. Set aside to drain in a colander until ready to use.
2. Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a blender (or in a large bowl with a hand blender) and blend until very well combined. Transfer to a clean jar.
3. Combine chickpeas, chopped red pepper, green onions, and minced garlic in a bowl. Add the cauliflower by hand, breaking into small pieces as you go with your hands.
4. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette into the bowl and mix gently with a large spoon to combine; if you are too vigorous with the mixing, you can break the cauliflower pieces. Add more dressing as desired, and save the remainder for later as this recipe makes a generous amount.
5. Serve in a bowl, and garnish with quartered artichoke hearts.