Best Tailgate Recipes on the BBQ

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Good BBQ is a must-have when tailgating. Nothing gets me more pumped to cheer on my favorite sports team than by chowing down on some delicious tailgate recipes straight off the grill. Today I’ve rounded up 3 of my most popular main courses and tailgating appetizers, snacks, and dips to keep you and your friends going at your next tailgate party.

smoked pulled pork, teriyaki beef jerky, smoked meatballs, and buffalo chicken dip.

Best Tailgate Food

When prepping a tailgating menu, I like to start with the main course. When I’m planning on spending hours hanging out with friends outside a sport’s stadium, I want good BBQ that is filling and packed with flavor.

These three tailgate recipes are perfect for your next tailgate. They’re big hunks of meat with big flavor that will fill you and your guests, and have everyone begging for more. They can be prepped ahead of time so when you’re ready to go, so is your food! No packing charcoal or propane, just bring the finished food and feast with family!

Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket

Smoked Beef Brisket is more than a simple recipe, it’s a process for melt in your mouth smoked brisket. All you need is salt, pepper, smoke, and time, and you’re on your way to eating the best beef brisket of your life. It’s a big slice of meat that is perfect smoked in advanced and served at a tailgate.

I’ve detailed the 8-step process in my comprehensive blog post for Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket. Simply follow my step-by-step process, and you too can smoke up a mouth-watering, juicy beef brisket!

  1. Select your brisket. Plan on purchasing a whole packer brisket with both the point and flat muscle included. The grade of your meat matters, and I suggest purchasing prime grade beef.
  2. Trim the brisket. This step is so important for how the final product will turn out. Spend the 20-30 minutes you need to trim it properly.
  3. Season your brisket. Texas style is seasoned with only coarse salt and coarse black pepper. My only addition (and this is personal preference, you can skip it if you’re a purist) is to add garlic powder as well.
  4. Get smoking! Use a nice hardwood in your smoker. I used oak as the base wood with a little bit of cherry mixed in.
  5. Wrap the brisket. This is one of the most crucial steps, in my opinion, to achieving that super juicy tender brisket with that killer dark caramelized bark. Opinions differ between using foil and peach butcher paper, but for this recipe I am fully converted to the butcher paper after years of using foil.
  6. Rest your smoked brisket. DO. NOT. SKIP. THIS. STEP. Resting your brisket allows so many of those hot and bubbly juices to settle down a little and redistribute to the meat.
  7. Slice your brisket. You want to slice your smoked brisket against the grain for maximum tenderness.
  8. Serve your gorgeously smoked brisket. For an even more traditional experience, serve on a platter with butcher paper, lots of pickles, white bread, picked red onions, and pickled jalapenos. Sauce on the side. Always.

texas style beef brisket on peach butcher paper

Simple Smoked Pulled Pork Butt

My Simple Smoked Pulled Pork Butt (AKA Smoked Pork Shoulder) is a go-to any time I am looking to feed a hungry crowd and don’t want too much fuss. It’s the perfect tailgate entree served with some good sauce and sandwiched between a hamburger bun.

The reason I call this Smoked Pulled Pork Butt “simple” is because of how little effort it really takes. This recipe doesn’t require any fancy injections, tools, spritzing concoctions, or wrapping to have it come out absolutely perfect every. single. time. All you really need is a good pork shoulder, my famous homemade sweet BBQ rub, good smoke, and plenty of time. Once the meat is on the smoker, all you need to do is grab a cool drink and kick up your feet.

shredded smoked pulled pork butt on butcher paper

3 2 1 Ribs

3 2 1 Ribs are a fool proof way to get fall off the bone tender ribs. The 3 2 1 rib method is based on smoking ribs at a certain temperature for 3 hours, wrapping with liquid for 2 hours, and saucing for the final 1 hour. These ribs are winners at every tailgate I bring them to.

I firmly believe that you should cook food the way you like it, and ribs are no different! You like your ribs saucy? Put some extra sauce on them (I like using my Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce)! You like your ribs falling off the bone? Follow this method for smoking 3 2 1 ribs, and you’ll have amazingly tender rib meat that is perfect every time.

Here’s how to cook your ribs using the 3 2 1 method:

  1. Smoke for 3 hours. Start with exposing the seasoned ribs to 3 hours of heavy smoke over low heat. I prefer fruit woods (apple or cherry) when smoking pork, but other hardwoods (hickory and alder) also work really well with ribs.
  2. Wrap for 2 hours. After the initial 3-hour smoke, foil the ribs with a liquid of your choosing (I used apple cider, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, and 2-3 Tablespoons of butter) and cook at 225-250 degrees for 2 more hours. (Make sure you have a good meat thermometer on hand to monitor internal temp!) After the braising period I look for great retraction of the meat from the bones. I want the bones to be exposed on the end at least 1/4 to 1/2 an inch.
  3. Sauce and smoke for 1 hour. Lastly, baste the ribs basted in your favorite BBQ sauce and return them to the grill for a final hour to hour and a half to finish the ribs and set the sauce.

3 2 1 Ribs covered in BBQ sauce on a cutting board

Tailgate Appetizers

Once you have a delicious and meaty main course ready for your sports outing, you’ve gotta have some appetizers on hand to keep your friends happy while waiting for the entree. Check out these three tailgate appetizer recipes that are big on flavor and highly satisfying:

Loaded Sweet Potato Nachos
Cheesy Jalapeno Bacon Meatballs
Asian BBQ Pork Kabobs

Tailgate Snacks

Next up, let’s talk snacks. Tailgating for my family can often be a daylong event. If you’re planning on spending the day partying with good friends before the big game, you’ve gotta have snacks on hand to pick at while you’re playing a game of cornhole. These are my favorite snacks to smoke and bring along to a tailgate:

Teriyaki Beef Jerky
Smoked Candied Bacon
Smoked Cinnamon Almonds

Tailgate Dips

Dips are one of my favorite sides to bring to a tailgate. They’re perfect served as an appetizer or side dish, and can be enjoyed all day long. Check out the links below to head to my favorite tailgate dips:

Smoked Salmon Dip
Smoked Buffalo Chicken Dip
Skillet Bacon Queso Dip

Love these Tailgate Recipes?

Watch the video below and I’ll show you step-by-step how I make these three main tailgate recipes at home. I’m all about helping you make delicious food for family and friends, so check out more of my smoking and grilling recipe videos on YouTubeInstagram, or our Facebook Page.



Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she is hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

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Reader Reviews

3 Reviews

  1. Dennis Dorsi says:

    I just got a dehydrator and was looking at some recipes on the internet. I was looking for beef jerkey (of course) and I came across one that I thought was great and then I lost it (of course).
    I think it was for hot and sweet . I know it was your site but maybe I am wrong and it was just “peppered”. Please let me know if that was the correct recipe. I especially like hot but friends of mine like just a little heat.

  2. Jenny Bhatia says:

    Delicious. We had a pork butt this weekend at our tailgate. I love a great BBQ. I recently upgraded a tailgate like a boss blog post and added a link to your post. I hope you don’t mind me sharing the love.