24 Slow Cooker Classics for Your Next Tailgate
Whether it is the final big game of the season, or just a small gathering of devoted fans at your home, sports require a certain commitment to tailgating food. Tailgating is more of a style, really. It doesn’t require you commit to actually entertaining in a parking lot. In fact, most "tailgating" happens in the comfort of people’s homes, gathered around a television instead of an open hatchback. And no single tool is more of a game-changer for tailgate-style cooking than the slow cooker.
Whether you are using it to prepare dishes ahead, keep them warm on the buffet, or even transporting them to the game attached to a small generator, these recipes are all just what you want for any big game. With these 24 slow cooker tailgating recipes, you’ll be prepared to serve up only the best food for any game.
Slow-Cooker Barbecue Ribs
These finger-lickin' ribs get a brief bake before they go in the crock pot to cook off a lot of the fat.
Winning Play: "The genius of this recipe is the first step - roasting ribs in the oven. This removes fat and liquid that would otherwise cause soupy results in the crockpot. For this, it deserves 5 stars!!" — PEACHESNCREAM2
Buffalo Chicken Dip
With 3000+ reviews, this all-time classic football party dip has earned its hall-of-fame status.
Winning Play: Many reviewers said they use blue cheese dressing instead of ranch to give it an authentic Buffalo chicken vibe, and shredded up cooked chicken breasts instead of canned chicken.
Easy Slow Cooker French Dip
A quick 10-minute prep and four ingredients is all it takes to get this juicy pot of beef ready for your game day party.
Winning Play: "Slice your beef about 1/2 hr before you want to serve it and return it to juice. Wow!" — EUROMOM98
Cocktail Meatballs I
No one can resist these saucy balls. Whether alone or in a wrap or sub, these meatballs are as versatile as your team's defense.
Winning Play: For easier prep, bake the meatballs at 350° F for about 30 minutes instead of cooking them in a skillet, then just pop them into the crock pot. To make it easier still, go with frozen meatballs for a seriously low-prep appetizer.
Bacon Wrapped Smokies
The recipe is ridiculously easy — cocktail weiners get wrapped in bacon and baked with a dusting of brown sugar, then you pop them into your slow cooker to serve warm at party time — but all that simplicity still earns this fan favorite a solid 5-star rating.
Winning Plays: Crystal S uses maple-flavored bacon to amp up the flavor; MEOWSIES29 softens the bacon in the microwave to make for easier wrapping; Kaye Lynn recommends using cocktail smokies instead of cocktail weiners; Sarah Jo serves them with a dipping sauce of BBQ sauce and grape jelly.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Four ingredients is all it takes to make this 5-star recipe.
Winning Play: Use a boneless pork shoulder instead of pork tenderloin. It's much cheaper and has tons of flavor. A scoop of crisp and tangy coleslaw over the top adds texture and helps balance out the richness of the sauce.
Outrageous Warm Chicken Nacho Dip
Here's what recipe submitter brightlightz says about this wildly popular dip: "This is my jazzed up version of classic queso dip taken to a heartier level, perfect for football games, tailgating or for taking along to pot lucks in a slow cooker! This is a serious crowd-pleaser that is served hot as a dip, spooned over crisp tortilla chips nacho-style, or rolled up in a warm flour tortilla! The heat can be turned up or down with the addition of jalapenos to taste."
Winning Play: "I usually do half Velveeta, half sharp Cheddar. I will serve it with homemade lime-chili tortilla chips and the bottle of Frank's Hot Sauce. NOTE: Use homemade taco seasoning if you can. It's better than the pre-packaged stuff by a mile. I found Bill Echols is the best from this site." — Sarah Jo
Slow Cooker Carnitas
Winning Play: Reviewer LucyDelRey suggests you spread out the pork on a rimmed baking sheet with some of the juice from the pot, and bake at 400° F for 15 to 20 minutes to give the carnitas a crisp edge that usually comes from frying.
Tangy pickled pepperoncini peppers give this classic sandwich a real kick without being too hot to handle.
Winning Play: Heap the sandwich with grilled onions and a slice of provolone cheese. Stick it under the broiler for a minute or two until it gets all melty.
Emily's Chipotle Chili
Cowboy Mexican Dip
It's unconventional, but this dip is bound to win over every person at your tailgate, even the rival fans. With just four ingredients, you can bring this dip together at the drop of a hat, if a sudden stop-by visit turns into an impromptu game-watching night.
Winning Play: Spice things up with a few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce, chili powder, and cumin.
Slow Cooker Bar-B-Q Party Mix
Any football gathering needs some good snacks. And there is nothing more classic than a great homemade spiced snack mix. For this one, you don't even need to turn on your oven, the slow cooker does all the work.
Winning Play: Bacon salt ($6.50; amazon.com) really makes the difference in this snack mix. The hickory flavor isn't easily replicated by any other ingredient, but you can use seasoning salt in a pinch.
Big Game Dip
No tailgating party would be complete without a cheesy hot dip, and this version ups the ante with sausage. All you need are a bowl of tortilla chips, and your guests can dive on into the melty goodness.
Winning Play: If you want a milder dip, opt for mild sausage and milk salsa. If you think the hotter the better, go deep with hot sausage and hot salsa.
Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Wings
Wings go with tailgating like milk goes with cookies, but they can be a bit fussy to make and keep warm. No one wants to have to be pulling pans out of the oven all day. These wings cook right in your slow cooker, and then you can keep them warm on the buffet for all the pleasure and none of the panic.
Winning Play: To help get a crispy skin on the wings, broil them for a few minutes on high in the oven. Then put them right into the warming slow cooker so they can finish.
Is it even a tailgating party without some sort of sausage? These little cocktail weenies only need some toothpicks to deliver them into the happy mouths of your lucky guests.
Winning Play: Where most cooks just empty a bottle of barbeque sauce into a slow cooker with the little weenies, this recipe goes a step further for a big gain — and you likely already have all the ingredients on hand.
Slow Cooker Jalapeno Popper Taquitos
If jalapeño poppers and taquitos had a baby, this recipe is it. The filling cooks right in your slow cooker, which eliminates a lot of the steps in your taquito prep, making it a much more achievable dish for the party.
Winning Play: Most reviewers used chicken breasts. They'll both work great, so use whichever is cheapest or already in your fridge.
Rachael's Superheated Cajun Boiled Peanuts
Want something a little unexpected on your buffet for your next tailgating gathering? These boiled peanuts are salty and spicy and addictive.
Winning Play:Be sure to put out some bowls to capture the shells, and watch your guests embrace a traditional Southern snack that is always a hit.
Hearty Vegan Slow-Cooker Chili
Chili is nearly synonymous with tailgating, but these days, so many people have dietary restrictions it can feel a little overwhelming. A lot of vegetarians and vegans get relegated to making meals out of crudités and hummus or chips. This vegan chili might be meatless, but it is still hearty and delicious, your meat-eating guest will still be satisfied, and your vegan and vegetarian pals will love your thoughtfulness.
Winning Play: Serve with vegan cornbread muffins.
Easy, Two-Ingredient Pulled Pork
Sandwiches are a perfect choice for a tailgating party, and this pulled pork is as easy as two ingredients and your slow cooker. Add some buns, and you have everything you need to keep your guests happy.
Winning Play: A few reviewers recommend a dry rub to help flavor the meat. This BBQ Spice Rub would work well with any flavor of barbeque sauce.
Spicy Hot Chicken Legs
Nothing is more tailgate-friendly than a one-handed snack; you don’t even have to put down your beer! Chicken legs are a great choice, but most recipes have you cooking them in the oven, which is the last thing a busy host needs to add to their list. This version uses the slow cooker to eliminate the hassle.
Winning Play: To get crispy skin, several reviewers recommend moving the legs to a baking sheet and broiling them or baking on high for a few minutes before serving.
Warm Mexican Corn Dip
Don't worry about putting away leftovers after the game. This dip will be cleaned out before halftime arrives.
Winning Play: With only four ingredients, you can start making this dip about an hour before the game starts, and it'll be ready for dipping at kick-off.
Need a great side dish for all of your tailgating foods? These classic sweet-and-savory baked beans with bacon will be your new favorite recipe. Especially if you are grilling for your gathering, the smokiness of the bacon will be a perfect match for your burgers and dogs.
Winning Play: Several reviewers suggest cooking the bacon about half-way before adding it to the slow cooker so you can prevent a lot of excess grease that needs to be spooned off the beans before serving.
Slow Cooker Candy
Think your slow cooker is only for savory tailgate recipes? Try again! These slow cooker chocolate nut clusters are just what you want for a party, a sweet homemade treat that is easy to make and even easier to eat.
Winning Play: Make these the day before, when you're prepping everything else, so that you're slow cooker is free for other foods on game day.
Slow Cooker Fruit Cobbler
When it comes to dessert, what would be more satisfying for a crowd than a slow cooker cobbler full of warm fruity goodness?
Winning Play:Serve some vanilla ice cream on the side, or just put out a can of aerosol whipped cream, and let everyone self-serve.