On any given weekend between August and December, nearly every football stadium in Texas fills with fans who convert the drab concrete parking lots into a raucous watch party. Mill around and you’ll see setups ranging from the simple (a few friends sitting on a tailgate with a cooler of beer while tuning in to the game on an antenna radio) to the elaborate (lounging in leather La-Z-Boys watching a rigged-up fifty-inch plasma screen). No matter which way you roll, no celebration is complete without a few easy-to-make, portable, and affordable snacks to share. Here are 10 food-tested and football-fan- approved recipes:

(And click here for more tips on perfecting the art of tailgating.)

German Potato Salad

Meat would be so lonely without it.

Serves 8

6 large red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
6 slices of bacon
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
coarse ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider or white-wine vinegar
chopped chives, for garnish (optional)
In enough boiling salted water to cover them, cook potatoes until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain, peel, and slice (or cut into chunks, if you’re a tuber cuber) and set aside. 

Meanwhile, fry bacon until crisp, then remove from pan (reserve bacon grease) and crumble. Add bacon to
the potatoes. 

Sauté onion in bacon grease until golden, then add flour, sugar, salt, celery seed, and pepper to the pan. Combine water and vinegar and add slowly to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until liquid boils. Boil for one minute, then pour over potatoes. Mix gently and garnish with chives. Serve warm.

Adapted from Cuisine, Texas: A Multiethnic Feast, by Joanne Smith and Mary Faulk Koock (Copyright © 1995 by The University of Texas Press). Used with permission.


Fried Chicken


1/2 cup white vinegar
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 jalapeños, halved lengthwise
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
8 cups cold water
1 3-to-4-pound chicken, cut into parts

In a large, nonreactive container, mix the first six ingredients, then stir in the water. Add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours.  


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic  
Lard, vegetable shortening, or vegetable oil, for frying

Stir together the dry ingredients, then taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove the chicken from the brine, dredge each piece in the flour until well coated, and place the pieces on a baking sheet. Allow to sit out for 1 hour. 

Add lard to a large cast-iron skillet (enough to come to about 1/2 inch when melted) and heat over medium-high till it reaches 350 degrees. Working in batches, place a single layer of chicken in the oil, skin side down, turn the heat to medium, cover the skillet, and cook for
10 minutes. 

Remove the cover, gently turn over the chicken, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 10 more minutes. Stick an instant-read thermometer in the largest piece and check that it reads 165 degrees. If so, place the fried chicken on brown paper bags or a rack to drain. If not, continue to cook for a couple more minutes. Repeat for the remaining pieces, using the same oil. Allow to cool, then serve.

Adapted with permission from The Homesick Texan’s Family Table by Lisa Fain. Copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House, LLC. 

Hugo’s Salsa Mexicana

½ small white onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 serrano peppers, roasted, peeled, stemmed 
½ small bunch cilantro, divided in half 
6 medium tomatoes, roasted, peeled 
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Place onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add peppers and half the cilantro and pulse 4 times. Add tomatoes and salt and pulse 4 times. Transfer to a bowl. Coarsely chop remaining cilantro and fold into the salsa.

Chile con Queso

Matt Martinez’s Chile con Queso

(Serves 6 to 8)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup finely chopped 
jalapeño (you can use canned green chiles if you prefer; just add them with the tomatoes)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup chicken broth
8 ounces American cheese (I like the white American; if all you can find are the singles, stack them up and cut into little blocks)
1 cup chopped tomatoes

Using a heavy pot, heat the oil on medium-high and sauté the onion, jalapeño, and dry ingredients for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the broth and heat 3 to 4 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken, then add the cheese and tomatoes. Carefully simmer the queso on low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, adjusting its thickness to suit your taste by adding broth or cheese. Serve hot and keep warm, stirring every so often to avoid the dreaded “cheese skin.”

Adapted from Matt Martinez’s Culinary Frontier: A Real Texas Cookbook, by Matt Martinez Jr. and Steve Pate. Published by Doubleday.


Serves 1

To a chilled glass rimmed with lime juice and salt, add:

2 or more teaspoons of bottled hot sauce, like Valentina or Cholula
juice of 2 Mexican limes
a generous dash of Worcestershire
a generous dash of Maggi Seasoning
a pinch of salt (kosher, celery, seasoned with ground chiles—whatever sounds good to you)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix together and add ice. Slowly pour in beer (preferably Negra Modelo, Pacífico, or Bohemia) until the glass is full, and stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge or wheel and serve.

Adapted from ¡Viva Tequila!: Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures, by Lucinda Hutson (Copyright © 1995 and 2013 by Lucinda Hutson). used by permission of the University of Texas Press.

Frito Pie

Serves 1

1 two-ounce bag of original Fritos
Pot of chili, homemade or canned (I am loath to endorse any sort of canned meat product, but Texans swear by Wolf Brand.)
Grated cheddar cheese

Diced white onion

Take a knife or some scissors and split the bag down the front. Ladle in a scoop of chili. Top with a mound of cheese and a heap of onion. Festoon your creation to your heart’s content (sour cream, jalapeños, avocado, and so on), though expect to be chastised by purists.

Eat it straight out of the bag, preferably atop a thick pile of paper napkins.

Pecan Pralines

Makes about 20 pralines

2 cups white sugar 
2 cups light-brown sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 cups pecans 
1 generous tablespoon unsalted butter 
2/3 cup whole milk

Mix all ingredients very well in a large saucepan. Turn stove on medium-high heat and bring mixture to a boil; continue to cook, stirring frequently, until  a candy thermometer registers 234 degrees (candy will be at soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until mixture is not so glossy. Quickly spoon pralines onto trays lined with parchment paper. Let cool for about 20 minutes.

Mexican Martini


3 ounces añejo tequila
1 1/2 ounces Cointreau
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce green-olive brine from the jar
a splash of fresh orange juice
lime wedges and olives

Agitate everything in an ice-filled shaker, then strain into a small, chilled coupe or martini glass rimmed with salt. Add a couple of olives and a lime wedge. Proceed to drink slowly, preferably with a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa, and clear your calendar for the rest of the day.


Christine Knight’s Big Kahuna Chili, the Princess Edition

2 pounds coarsely ground chuck (chili grind)
1 eight-ounce can tomato sauce (such as Contadina)
1 sixteen-ounce can beef broth (such as Swanson’s)
1–3 fresh jalapeños, scored vertically (optional)
3 tablespoons dark chili powder, divided (such as Mild Bill’s, sold online, or McCormick)
3 tablespoons mild or regular chili powder, divided (such as San Antonio Original, sold online, or Gebhardt)
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 beef bouillon cube
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons paprika (such as Pacific Beauty)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 package cilantro-tomato Sazón Goya seasoning

In a chili pot over medium heat, sear meat till gray, taking care not to brown it (browning changes texture). Remove grease using a turkey baster or by draining meat in a colander in the sink. Add tomato sauce, beef broth, and about half a cup of water. Tie the jalapeños in cheesecloth and add to pot. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, adding water as needed, then remove jalapeños.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons dark chili powder, 1 1/2 tablespoons mild chili powder, granulated onion, cayenne, beef bouillon, and chicken bouillon. Stir, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, adding water if mixture gets too thick. Add remaining chili powders, granulated garlic, cumin, paprika, pepper, Sazón Goya, and more water if necessary. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Serves 8.

Smoked Brisket

Why do we love brisket above all other barbecued meats? Is it because of its resonant beefy flavor, its exterior as shiny as black patent leather, its rivulets of fat moistening every mouthful and staining the eater’s shirt? Yes. The very nature of brisket is to be delicious. Yet there’s more to it than that. We love brisket because cooking it is a spiritual path, a quest that, as a wise man once said, begins with a single log. The steps toward enlightenment are threefold. The seeker of Brisket Truth must first embrace mental discipline, immersing himself in the craft of tending the fire and minding the meat. Second, the seeker must practice physical discipline, to be capable of wielding and slicing a twelve-pound brisket after having consumed a six-pack of Shiner Bock. Finally, the seeker must exhibit spiritual discipline, neither napping beside the smoker, nor wandering inside to catch the game on TV, nor sneaking off to update his Facebook page. The person who does these things is granted true knowledge of the brisket’s essence. He who honors this ritual is prepared for life.

How to Make It

You’ve driven to Lockhart for back-to-back meals at Smitty’s and Kreuz. You’ve talked your co-workers into two-hour meat-only lunches. You’ve written exasperated letters to a certain magazine about its barbecue coverage. It’s time now to put your passion into real practice. And who better to teach you how to smoke a brisket than Aaron Franklin? The 33-year-old Austin pitmaster started learning his chops as a kid—his parents briefly owned a place in Bryan—and later honed his technique by throwing many backyard barbecue parties, working for a year at the highly regarded Austin spot run by John Mueller (eventually buying his pit), and visiting the legendary joints of Central Texas. His sixteen-month-old Franklin Barbecue is the current sensation of the Texas barbecue world, inspiring road trips, feverish blog posts, and a blurb in Food & Wine magazine.

To cook a worthy brisket at home, Franklin says, “You want an offset smoker—that’s the style with a firebox off to one end.” (If you’re buying your first one, Pitts & Spits, Oklahoma Joe’s, and New Braunfels Smokers are all good manufacturers; count on paying at least $300.) His preferred woods are oak or hickory because “they taste best and burn clean.” Purchase a ten- to twelve-pound brisket—it will feed about a dozen people—that is well-marbled on the interior. Trim the exterior fat to between a fourth and a half an inch and rub the outside generously with kosher salt and coarse black pepper. While the meat is coming to room temperature, put some kindling and paper sprinkled with vegetable oil in the firebox. Once they’re burning steadily, add logs and let the temperature rise to between 225 and 250 degrees (an oven thermometer placed at grate level—very important—works fine). Hoist the brisket onto the grill, with the thicker end toward the fire and the fat cap facing up. Fill a foil loaf pan with water and put it as close as possible to the firebox. Then find a comfortable chair and read War and Peace. During the eight or more hours it will take the meat to cook—allowing 45 to 60 minutes a pound—watch the fire closely. Check the temperature every 20 minutes and adjust the vent, flap, and door to keep the heat even. Replenish the water as needed, do not poke the brisket with a fork, and, Franklin admonishes, “Do not turn it.” When an instant-read thermometer registers 195 to 203 degrees, the brisket is done. It’s best to take it off the heat a little sooner, though, because it will continue to cook. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Then slice it—fat side up, against the grain—and serve to people who deserve it.