Ultimate Tailgate Menu! (Football or Pre-Keeneland)

When football season rolls around, and Keeneland’s fall meet is only days away, I can’t help but to start thinking about my Ultimate fall tailgating menu.  All those yummy dishes that keep you warm when the air is cool and crisp. Tailgating is all about the food!  I don’t care what you say, the best tailgate has the best food. (of course, that is going to be my opinion, I’m a chef.) Check out these recipes and try them out for your next tailgate and you will not be disappointed.  This year I focused on tex mex flavors!  (Adobo spices, chilis, jalapeno, black beans, avocados, and red peppers.)

Here’s the Line-Up:

  1. Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip (served with fresh pita chips)
  2. Sadies’ Slammin Salsa (served with tortilla chips)
  3. Chipotle Pepper Jack Sliders with spicy mayonnaise
  4. The Ultimate Cole Slaw
  5. Game Day White Chicken Chili
  6. Cajun Cashews
  7. Pecan Toffee

 Paired with Off the Chart’s Bloody Mary’s! 

Roasted Red Pepper Spinach & Artichoke Dip (Great Vegetarian option)

  • 1 jar of Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
  • 2 packages of frozen spinach
  • 1 can of unmarinated artichoke hearts
  • 2 TBSP of basil pesto (for time and convenience, purchase premade pesto)
  • 1/4 of a red onion, small diced
  • 1/4 cup of Mayonnaise
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Squeeze half of a fresh lemon
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of celery seed

Mix all ingredients together in an aluminum pan or bowl and cover with aluminum foil, place on the grill and turn occasionally for about 10-15 minutes until dip is nice and hot, remove and serve with pita/tortilla chips. 

Chipotle Pepper Jack Sliders   (These mini tex mex chipotle cheeseburgers will score a touchdown!)

Yield- 8-10 mini burgers

Picture of Fiery Tex-Mex Chipotle Cheeseburgers Recipe 

  • Ground Beef (1 1/2-2 lbs) 90/10 or 80/20 you can also substitute with ground turkey
  • 2 Adobo chilis in can, remove seeds, and chop
  • 2 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce (eyeball it)
  • 2 TBSP grill seasoning (i.e.  McCormicks Montreal Steak or Canadian Steak Seasoning)
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup of bottled beer
  • 1-2 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • a handful of fresh cilantro chopped (again just eyeball it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Pepper jack  and mozzarella Cheese Slices
  • Lettuce, Tomatoes, & Onions sliced
  • avocados, quartered and cut in strips
  • Toasted Mini Hamburger Buns

Spicy Mayo-  Add about 1 1/2 tbsp adobo chili sauce and 1 tsp of chopped adobo chilis to about 1 cup of  mayonnaise, and season with a little salt and pepper. 

Directions for Burgers:

Before you mix up all the ingredients in a medium size bowl season your meat on both sides with a little salt and pepper and just a drizzle of olive oil. In a medium size bowl mix ground meat, onions, cilantro, adobo chili, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, grill seasoning, onion powder, and bottled beer.  Patty out your burgers just a little larger than the size of the buns because they will shrink once they hit the grill. Season once again with just a pinch of salt and pepper and place on a hot oiled grill.  Cook about 5 minutes on each side or to desired doneness.  Place cheese slices about 2 minutes before the burgers are ready. Serve on hot toasted mini burger buns with lettuce, tomato, onions, sliced avocados, and a dollop of the chipotle mayo!  Get your napkins ready, but it is sooo worth it!

The Ultimate Cole Slaw

8-10 servings 

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP sugar or pinch
  • 1/2 TBSP celery seed  
  • 1 store-bought bag shredded slaw mix (containing red and green cabbage and carrots)

In a large bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients. Add the shredded slaw mix and toss until combined.

Sadie’s Slammin Salsa

It is with great hesitation that I share this; however, the Ultimate Tailgate would not be complete with out it. A friend of mine along the way whose nickname still remains Sadie gave me this top-secret recipe for a slammin black bean and corn salsa. I have tweaked it over the years, but still give her the credit. I expect comments of thanks from my friends who have had the pleasure of this salsa and are always asking me for the recipe. 

  • 2 cans black beans (frijoles negros)
  • 2 small cans of white corn (preferably shoe peg corn, but sometimes it’s hard to find)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilis (Hunts brand prefered)
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper seeded and small diced
  • 1 small can of salsa verde (found in the Spanish food section)
  • 1/4 of red onion finely chopped
  • 1 lime – just the juice
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2-3 TBSP of cumin
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1-2 dash of hot sauce (Franks)
  • Season with Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 jar of piquante sauce ( Personal preference depending on if you like your salsa thinner or chunkier)
  • Diced avocado (Optional)  The salsa will not keep as long when you add the avocados.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.  It is much better after the ingredients have had a chance to sit, so I always make this a day in advance.

Game Day White Chicken Chili

You may be wondering, and yes I have posted this recipe before; however, it compliments this tailgating menu because of its tex mex flavors and is a perfect tailgating item for the fall being that it is a chili, is excellent with some fresh melted Mexican cheese, and will warm you up on a cold day!  Guaranteed!

  • 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup (1/2 of a yellow onion)  chopped
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 3 Cloves of minced garlic
  • 2-3 Celery stalks finely chopped
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 4 oz can of green chilis
  • 1 lime
  • 1 package of McCormick’s White Chicken Chili Seasoning Mix
  • 2 or 3 cans of white Northern Beans
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast cut in 1 inch cubes (or for a time saver use the rotisserie chicken from your grocery store and just pull off the bone)
  • 1 box of chicken stock (32 oz)
  • 1/2-1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro

Toppings (optional)

  • 1 package of shredded mexican three cheese blend
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Avocados
  • Cilantro


In a medium or large size stock pot heat olive oil on medium high heat until nice and hot.  Add in the onions and let cook for at least 1 minute before adding the garlic, then add the celery, allow these ingredients to cook until the celery and onions start to become translucent (clear).  Add the peppers and green onions and continue to stir. Cook for about 2 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  At this point I would add the chicken and brown the skin; however if you decided to go with the rotisserie chicken pulled off the bone (my preference) wait and for now just add the green chilis and navy beans and stir all the ingredients together. You should also turn the heat down now that you have cooked the vegetables to a medium to low temperature. The bottom of the pan maybe starting to brown and stick so take your lime and squeeze the juice to “deglaze” the bottom of the pan, it will steam up but will help remove some of the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and add flavor to your chili.  Your chicken is nice and brown now so if you went with the boneless chicken breast vs. the rotisserie you can add the green chilis and navy beans now and vice versa (add in the pulled chicken).  Now add the McCormicks spice mix, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, and then add your chicken broth. (Note:  You may not need to add all of the chicken broth, add as much as you want to get the constitency you like.  Some people prefer a very thick and chunk chili, some like it “soupy”… it’s a personal preference)  At this point you will want to let the chili just simmer on a low to medium heat for about 30-45 min with occasional stirring so that it doesn’t settle on the bottom and scorch.   After about 35 min or so you will notice that some of the liquid has reduced,  at this point I like to add between 1/2 cup to a cup of heavy cream.  It really gives the chili a nice creamy consistency.  If time permits, continue to simmer, the longer the better.  For tailgating, just take it in a crock pot.  Just before you are ready to serve, add in the fresh cilantro.  Pull the leaves from the stem & just add in whole, there is really no need in chopping this herb. Don’t forget the cilantro!  It will add so much flavor and a pop of color to your chili.  Sit the toppings out for your guests and enjoy all the compliments you will receive on this amazingly satisfying game day chili. 


Cajun Cashews

  • 1 large container of salted cashews (4 cups )
  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted
  • 4 TBSP Chili powder
  • 5 dashes of Franks Hot Sauce
  • 2 TBSP Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 TBSP Old bay seasoning
  • 2 TBSP Black pepper
  • 2 TBSP Garlic Powder

 Mix the melted butter, cider vinegar, and all spices together. Add the cashews and toss together in a bowl.  Lay flat on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 6-10 minutes until the cashews are slightly browned. Let cool and enjoy. These can be made a week in advance. 

Pecan Toffee

Pecan Toffee

This recipe can be made days in advance. Pecans also make a great fall dessert especially when combined with chocolate.  I picked this one up from Southern Living but it has been a keeper!

  • 1 1/2  cups  chopped pecans, divided
  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 1  cup  butter, softened
  • 1/3  cup  water
  • 5  (1.55-ounce) milk chocolate bars, broken into small pieces

Line a 15-x 10-inch jellyroll pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil; lightly grease foil. Sprinkle with 1 cup pecans to within 1 inch of edges.

Bring sugar, butter, and 1/3 cup water to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 12 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 310° (hard crack stage). Pour over pecans; sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Let stand 30 seconds.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup pecans. Chill 30 minutes. Break up toffee using a mallet or rolling-pin. Store in an airtight container.


There you have it!  My 2010 Fall Ultimate Tailgating Menu, perfect before a true blue fan outfitter feast, or a pre-keeneland meet and greet.  A little spicy and sweet with all the flavors of the southwest in between. Your covered from appetizer to sides to entrees, chilis to Cajun cashews, and of course throw in some pecan toffee for dessert. I would find it hard to believe that anyone would want to leave!  Bon Appetit!

Stay tuned for “Off the Charts” Bloody Mary’s!  A perfect compliment to your next tailgate.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. genb7 says:

    Hi! I am definitely VERY keen to try your Green Beans Amandine as well as your Wild Rice & Squash Pilaf. I myself am new to cooking — started cooking just over a year ago at the end of ’09. I am new to WordPress but saw your blog and loved it! WELL DONE new2cooking! Maybe you could see if my blog would interest you? I’ve only just done my first blog post. Well anyway, thank you very much for sharing the recipes 🙂
    Visit mine here http://eatplayclove.wordpress.com

    1. new2cooking says:

      Let me know how it turns out. I consider myself a great cook, but I am always open to suggestions and ways a dish can be improved. Happy Cooking!

  2. genb7 says:

    new2cooking, the Green Beans Amandine was delicious! Thoroughly enjoyed them and the almonds were a nice touch! I’m trying your Wild Rice & Squash Pilaf tomorrow night 🙂 I too consider myself a great cook, but I am always keen to try a new recipe and tweak it here and there. I always court a challenge and love cooking and perfecting new recipes. Thanks again, and yummy yum!

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