Don’t be basic: A tailgate food guide


Nadiya Greaser | Staff Writer

While beer and chips are no-preparation-required staples, you can spice up old classics or show your school spirit with these improved tailgate recipes, such as these blue and gold Rice Krispies Treats.

By Nadiya Greaser, Staff Writer

With homecoming around the corner and football season in full swing, the tailgate — that venerated pregame tradition and flimsy excuse to drink before noon — is back. Pitt students are piling into parking lots with grills, coolers and too much school spirit.

Although the football game is ostensibly the point, the tailgate beforehand has a life entirely of its own. The traditional foods and drinks of the tailgate are so well established that the prospect of burgers and beers every other Saturday feels a little basic. While beer and chips are no-preparation-required staples, you can spice up old classics or show your school spirit with these improved tailgate recipes.


Hot Dogs with Pico De Gallo — Tanya Sickynsky

The fresh tomatoes, spicy jalapeños and grilled buns give these classic hotdogs a more adult twist. Not that ketchup and mustard aren’t great, but if we had to rank them, pico de gallo is the sexier topping.

This recipe is endlessly adjustable — if you don’t have jalapeños, you can substitute serrano peppers, add cubed mango or pineapple for a bit of sweetness or sriracha mayo for a little bit of a kick.

Corn on the Cob, 3 ways Emily Fleischaker, Melissa Clark

Make the most of summer vegetables with these three variations of grilled corn on the cob. Emily Fleischaker’s buffalo corn on the cob combines the punch of hot wings and the sugary sweetness of summer corn, giving a vegetarian alternative to wings while still making use of a grill.

For something even simpler, try Fleischaker’s Old Bay and lemon corn, which leans into the seaside flavor of loaded fries or crab legs without any seafood at all.

Or try Melissa Clark’s variation on elotes, which takes grilled corn and loads it with mayonnaise, lime, chile and cheese.

Grilled Vegetable Skewers — Melissa Clark

Another easy vegetarian option for those lucky tailgaters with a grill is grilled vegetable skewers. While this recipe calls for zucchini and eggplant, you can experiment with whatever vegetables you have on hand.

Adding crisp red onions or meaty portobello mushrooms is an easy way to enhance these already excellent skewers, whose appeal lies in the easy prep and quick marinade. If you use wood skewers instead of metal, make sure to soak them in water for at least a half-hour before you put them on the grill.

Caprese Salad — Melissa Clark

For the taste of bright summer vegetables and fresh herbs without a grill, throw together a simple Caprese salad. Use multicolored heirloom tomatoes, basil and whole milk mozzarella for the most vibrant-looking and best tasting salad. And if you have it, add some ribbons of prosciutto for a salted flavor and more texture.

If you want a salad that’s easier to serve out of a large bowl — use rainbow cherry tomatoes and ciliengine balls — and hold off on the balsamic until you’re ready to serve.

Grilled Watermelon and Feta Salad — Martha Rose Shulman

This watermelon salad can make use of a grill, but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have one the sweet watermelon, bright red onion and creamy feta stand on their own. Don’t be afraid to go heavier with the mint and feta, or put your own spin on it by adding pineapple or heirloom tomatoes.

The recipe calls for sherry vinegar and Aleppo pepper, but it’s just as good with salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar, and it’s best if you wait to dress it until just before serving — otherwise the watermelon and feta get melty and soggy.

Blue and Gold Rice Krispy Treats — Jennifer Segal

Although the recipe calls for a stove, these rice krispy treats can be made in a microwave, as long as you have a large microwave-safe bowl. If you do have a stove, use it — the browned butter gives the rice krispy treats a more complex, nuttier flavor. 

Leave one to two cups of marshmallows unmelted and mix them in afterward to create gooey, mallowey pockets. To add some texture and a darker flavor, melt down chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bar and drizzle the rice krispies to add another level of flavor. If you have colorful sprinkles or nonpareils, cover the tops — obviously blue and gold sprinkles are best. After all, it’s game day. 

Fizzy Blueberry Lemonade, Traditional or Spiked — Chungah Rhee

This is another recipe that calls for a stove, but can be made in a dorm microwave if needed. The blueberry simple syrup makes this lemonade darker and fruitier. While the brightly colored syrup is on theme, you can use the same simple syrup recipe and substitute strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.

While the recipe uses five cups of water, you can substitute seltzer or ginger beer to make a fizzy lemonade. And if you want to make an alcoholic pitcher drink, add a cup of gin or vodka to create a homemade gin fizz or vodka lemonade.