Tailgate season is just about here, and I, for one, cannot wait. I love the entire game day experience. And while yes, of course, I enjoy the actual football part, I’ll be the first to admit that the communal experience and traditions surrounding it hold a bit more significance for me than the game itself. To me, the aspect of bringing people together to enjoy fellowship, fun, fanfare, and (mostly) food is what football season is all about.
Whether you’re prepping to host your own tailgate for the first time or you’re already a tailgating pro, there are two key rules you need to understand about hosting a good tailgate:
#1. Portable finger foods are everything.
#2. There must be desserts. Lots of ’em.
Honoring both of these fundamental football feasting parameters, here are our favorite portable desserts to fuel your tailgate comrades (and ease their aches should you suffer a defeat) all season long:
If you love classic salted caramels, this brownie is for you. With rich, balanced salty-sweet-bitter-toasty flavors, these layered brownies are an exceptional crowd-pleaser.
We never get burnt out on the simple, yet satisfying, combo of chocolate + peanut butter and assume most folks with functioning taste buds (and no peanut allergies) stand with us. The best part about these Chewy Peanut Bars is that no baking is required whatsoever. The microwave is gonna be your best bud for creating these delicious bar cookies.
We don’t call them magic for nothing. These 5-star cookie bars are a consistent favorite. Graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter make for a soft and sweet crust while coconut, chocolate chips, malt-ball pieces, and sweetened condensed milk create an irresistible filling. These babies will disappear in seconds, guaranteed.
If you’ve never heard of this indulgent treat, prepare yourself. Milks’s favorite chocolate cookie (I’m talking about you, Oreos) is sandwiched between layers of rich and fudgy chocolate brownie and classic chocolate chip cookie dough. Simply bake the delightful concoction for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool before cutting into bars.
You can’t go wrong in sticking with the tried and true cookie jar classics. These fudge-walnut brownies taste so decadent, you’d never guess that they’re actually lower in fat than traditional brownie recipes. To ensure the perfect fudgy texture, take care not to over-bake. Large chocolate chunks create big, luscious pockets of melty molten chocolate in the brownies, but you can always substitute regular semi-sweet chocolate chips if that’s what you have on hand.
Even if you’re not from Mississippi or anywhere near it, you’ll marshmallow and pecan-studded frosted brownies. I feel confident in saying that given the 5-star user ratings they’ve racked up. This recipe makes 4 dozen bars, so you’ll have plenty to share.
These are also known as seven-layer or Hello Dolly bars. They take 30 minutes of hands-on prep and call for just eight ingredients, which–if you’re a frequent baker–you probably already have in your pantry. They’re and easy and so-addictive dessert to throw together ahead of time.
Zesty lemon squares are a popular choice for casual get-togethers like a tailgate because they’re a slightly less heavy dessert option to pair with the spread of other decadent bites. Bright citrus makes for a refreshing flavor choice and a welcome alternative to the rich and heavier chocolate-laden, peanut butter-infused desserts you’re sure to have on game day. As an added bonus, you can definitely make them ahead so that they’re ready to go as soon as you are. Just cover tightly and freeze for up to one month.
These s’mores-style cookie bars are perfect for a fall tailgate when the weather starts to cool down. Graham cracker crumbs, marshmallow topping, and milk chocolate chips baked into a toasty bar is a delicious (and less messy) twist on this iconic graham cracker stack.
This simple recipe for nutty chocolate-chip bars makes 32 servings. Pastry flour is the key to extra-soft and tender bars here. Feel free to swap walnuts or almonds for the pecans, or use half nuts and half dried cranberries for tart, chewier bars.
An oldie but a goodie, these cream cheese bars are extremely rich, creamy, and delicately nutty. Coconut is a flavorful surprise here, but you can omit it if that’s not your thing. These treats aren’t quite as sturdy as your average cookie bar, so take extra care when packaging if your transporting these.