Healthy tailgate foods may sound like an oxymoron. But when you’re trying to feed a hungry crowd around football season, you’ll likely find one or two (and possibly more) people who politely decline because they’re trying to make healthier choices.
That person may even be you! If so, here are some healthy tailgating recipes you can try that will leave you feeling energized and full so that you can cheer on your favorite team!
Healthy Tailgate Foods: Main Dishes
Hamburgers and hot dogs are usually the main attraction at a tailgate. But with these healthier ideas for tailgate fare, you’ll forget all about those game-day staples.
Easy Green Chili Chicken Tacos
This may be a hot take, but I will always choose a chicken taco over a beef taco. These are no exceptions. In a medium saucepan, add 1 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 fresh jalapeno, and 1 cup of low-sodium broth. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Remove chicken and shred using two forks. Discard garlic and jalapeno, reserving cooking liquid. Add 1 can of diced green chiles and shredded chicken to a skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring until warmed through and the sauce thickened. Add reserved cooking liquid as needed to keep the chicken moist. Serve chicken in warmed corn tortillas topped with diced avocado, 1 cup of red cabbage, and fresh cilantro.
Avocado Chicken Salad
Chicken salad is perfect for when you want something light and not too dense. It’s great by itself, or you can pop it onto a bun with lettuce and tomato. In a large bowl, add 1 shredded rotisserie chicken, 2 ripe avocados (diced), 1/4 cup diced red onion, 1/2 cup of corn, and 2 tbsp cilantro. Drizzle with fresh lime juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently until all the ingredients are combined. Yum!
Chili is one of the staples of any tailgating spread. When the weather is a little cooler, it’s the perfect solution for keeping everyone feeling nice and toasty. Turkey is a much healthier alternative to ground beef, too!
Place 2 tsp of olive oil in a large pot and place over medium-high heat. Add in 1 chopped yellow onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, and 1 medium red bell pepper (chopped) and saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in 1 lb lean ground turkey and break up the meat; cook until no longer pink. Next, add in 4 tablespoons of chili powder, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt; stir for about 20 seconds. Next, add in 1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, 1 1/4 cup of chicken broth, 2 cans of red kidney beans (rinsed and drained), and 1 can of sweet corn (rinsed and drained).
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until chili thickens and flavors come together. Taste and adjust seasonings and salt as necessary. Garnish with anything you’d like. It makes 6 servings, so double it if you’re feeding a crowd!
BBQ Black Bean Tacos
If people at your tailgate party don’t eat meat, it’s great to have an alternative with some protein. These BBQ black bean tacos are the perfect solution! Heat a large pan over medium heat and add 1 tsp olive oil and 1/2 a diced onion. Cook until softened, 2-3 minutes, and then add 2 small cloves of minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Next, add in 1 cup of tomato sauce, 1 tbsp ketchup, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp soy sauce, 3/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper. Mix the sauce and cook for a minute or two. Add in 3 (15 oz) cans of black beans (rinsed and drained), stir until they’re all coated, and cook together for about 10 minutes until heated through and flavors have developed. For each taco, use about 1/3 cup black beans and top with desired toppings.
Cilantro Lime Grilled Shrimp With Avocado Cilantro Dip
Although seafood season may be on the way out, you can still get some tasty shrimp and make these easy-to-share skewers. In a small bowl, whisk together the juice from one lime, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Pour into a resealable bag and add 1 lb peeled de-veined shrimp. Toss to coat and marinate for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Put the shrimp on skewers and place them on the grill. Grill on each side for about two minutes or until no longer pink.
To make the creamy avocado cilantro sauce, add 1 avocado, 1/2 cup low-fat greek yogurt, 1 clove of minced garlic, juice from one lime, and 2 tsp chopped cilantro. Pulse in a food processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with shrimp.
Grilled Chicken Kabobs
My favorite thing about chicken kabobs: 1. You don’t need a plate to eat them. 2. Stick them in a foil pan, and they’re easy to transport. For extra tender chicken, brine 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in saltwater for at least 15 minutes (up to 6 hours in the fridge). Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before using. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Add them to a large mixing bowl and drizzle evenly with olive oil. Toss to combine.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp smoked paprika until combined. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture evenly over the chicken. Then toss for 1 minute until the chicken is evenly coated with the seasoning. Thread the chicken evenly onto the skewers. Once the grill is hot, place the chicken kabobs evenly on the grill. Cook for 10-14 minutes, turning once halfway through until the chicken is golden brown and cooked.
Transfer the kabobs to a clean plate and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes. Then serve warm while the chicken is hot, drizzled with freshly-squeezed lemon juice if desired.
Healthy Tailgate Foods: Sides
One of the best parts of a tailgate spread is the sides. With all these healthier alternatives to tailgate sides, you’ll be debating whether you even want that burger!
Jalepeno Cheddar Sweet Potato Bites
- muffin tin
- 1½ cups cooked,mashed sweet potato
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese
- 3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- 2-3 strips bacon cooked and chopped
- 1-2 jalapeños minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.
- Scoop the batter into greased mini muffin tins, about halfway full.
- Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.
Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
Buffalo chicken dip and buffalo wings are tasty, but they’re not winning any awards as health food. Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will enjoy this healthier alternative.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Mix 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of water, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp cumin, a dash of cayenne, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper together in a bowl using a whisk until batter is smooth. Add 5-6 cups of chopped, raw cauliflower. Batter and mix until cauliflower is coated; spread onto the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes, flipping over halfway through.
In another small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of hot sauce, 2 tbsp melted butter, and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice until well blended. Brush the buffalo sauce mixture on the cauliflower. Return to the oven and bake until they start to brown, about 15 minutes. Serve hot with ranch dressing, celery, and carrots, if desired
Watermelon Feta Mint Salad
Just because summer is coming to an end–it doesn’t have to be the end of watermelon recipes. Trust me; we’ll be riding this watermelon wave until we can’t anymore. In a large bowl, whisk 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 3 tbsp lemon juice, salt, 1 tsp Tabasco, and 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper. Add 10 cups of cubed watermelon, 2 cups feta, 1 1/4 cups pitted kalamata olives, and 1 small, chopped, sweet onion, and gently toss. Garnish with 1 cup of freshly chopped mint and serve. It’s sweet, spicy, refreshing, and tasty!
Parmesan-Crusted Zucchini Spears
Zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables out there, and its mild flavor makes it great for soaking up other flavors! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a cooling rack with nonstick spray and place on a baking sheet; set aside. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, salt, and pepper, to taste.
Place zucchini spears onto a prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan mixture. Place into oven and bake until tender, about 15 minutes. Then broil for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley! You can also make these in the air fryer!
Roasted Garlic Kale Hummus
Kale has lots of great vitamins and minerals! And hummus is one of the simplest, healthy, low-carb tailgate foods you can make from scratch! Everyone will be asking where you got it!
In a blender or food processor, combine 7 cloves of roasted garlic, 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), 1 cup of tightly-packed kale leaves (finely chopped), 1/4 cup of tahini, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 3 tbsp water, 1/2 tsp of kosher salt. Pulse until smooth, then drizzle with olive oil before serving. Serve with fresh veggie sticks or pita chips!
Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges
Sweet potatoes should make an appearance before their debut on the Thanksgiving table. Cut the ends off of 3 medium sweet potatoes and then cut the sweet potatoes in half. Next, cut each half into four equal-sized wedges. You should have 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle the sweet potato wedges with 1 tsp Stone House Seasoning (kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder) and 1/2 tsp chili powder.
Toss the wedges to coat well with the oil and the seasonings. Preheat the oven to 450º F. Place the baking sheet with the seasoned sweet potato wedges into the preheated oven. Roast until the potatoes are browned, crispy on the outside, and fork-tender on the inside, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, pack ’em up, and serve!
More Ideas for Healthy Tailgate Foods
If you’re still looking for ideas, these simple dishes have plenty of potential:
- 3-4 different hummus flavors (use the same base with different add-ins)
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Deviled eggs
- Turkey meatballs
- Zucchini pizza bites
Let the Party Begin With Healthy Tailgate Foods!
Whether you’re a first-time tailgater or a seasoned pro (pun intended), having a healthier alternative can be refreshing. Which of these are you most excited to try? No matter what team you’re rooting for, I think we can all agree that tailgating food is the real winner. Or at least the runner-up.