The most epic Super Bowl party food ideas

We all know the drill. When the Super Bowl rolls around, only a few of us in the crowd actually love football. The rest of us are just there to watch the feel-good Budweiser commercials and eat yummy snacks. The key to great Super Bowl party fare is making sure it's easy to eat, appeals to a variety of tastes, and leaves a great impression. These Super Bowl party foods people will be talking about long after the game ends.

Snackadium

If you build a snackadium (an edible model of a football stadium), they will definitely come — and probably stay for a while. Whether you plan to build a structure that take up an entire table or a something smaller, making an edible stadium requires advance planning. Plan out the design, gather the building materials, and do a food-free test run to avoid any disasters the day of the game. Savvy in the Kitchen created this stadium using cardboard magazine holders, poster board, spice racks, and more. Its an elaborate but fun approach. As an alternative, you can follow this video guide using cardboard to build a meat-centric stadium for a sandwich party. For a simpler (and smaller) approach try the snack stadium in the video above. You won't even need to dust off your architect license. Whichever stadium you put together, you guests will give up a cheer.

Killer wings

Chicken wings are the one of the first things that come to mind for game day snacks. In fact, for the past two years Super Bowl revelers ate more than 1 billion chicken wings. That's about four wings for every person in the entire country. Buffalo chicken wings, with their fiery hot sauce juxtaposed against cool ranch or blue cheese dip are a particular favorite among chicken wing lovers. The challenge for exceptional buffalo wings is getting the skin crisp enough to stand up to a liberal application of that buttery sauce and creamy dip. Most buffalo wing recipes call for frying, a pretty messy operation. If you're having a big party or if you just want to dodge a little grease, try baking instead. Check out this buffalo chicken recipe from RecipeTin Eats, the wings get a coating of baking powder that helps to dry the skin so it crisps up as it bakes.

Want to offer a milder alternative? This recipe leans on Coca-Cola and bourbon for a spiked sweet glaze. Or fire up the grill for these wings, and good luck choosing between the three delicious sauces (a cream sauce, a hot sauce, and a peanut sauce).

Sliders

There are plenty of arguments out there about the true definition of a slider. Some people feel that only super-thin, oniony, griddled patties qualify. If you are one of those people, then this slider recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats is for you. The concept of diminutive burgers first grabbed the attention (and hearts) of New Jersey diners in the 1920s, and their popularity hasn't faded much since. The little bun-and-burger bites make perfect game-watching party food: guests can easily eat them with one hand while holding a drink in the other. This version of one-pan sliders makes cleanup and active cooking time disappear. Or go Italian with these decadent meatball sliders.

Jalapeno poppers

Jalapeno poppers, are a go-to sports bar appetizer, so they should be on your party food roster. At restaurants, they're often stuffed with cheese, then breaded and deep-fried. Each bite reveals a warm, gooey cheese interior and a spicy-crunchy shell. Whenever you're throwing a party, you're looking to make things simpler any way possible. These baked jalapeno poppers fit the bill. By halving and seeding the jalapenos and then filling them with cheese, you can prep this dish ahead of time and then add the breading and bake the poppers right before guests arrive. As a bread-free version, these bacon-wrapped poppers bring smoky flavor and added richness to this appetizer and will also delight jalapeno lovers chasing their next spicy high.

Fully loaded nachos

The best thing about serving nachos for the game is that they don't need special know-how. You can also play around with the type of chip (blue corn, multigrain, white corn, or yellow) you use to hold up all that delicious topping. The key is to choose a chip that's thick and sturdy enough to carry the toppings from the plate to your mouth. This isn't the time for those thin, delicate, restaurant-style chips. Save them for the salsa. It's also important to have toppings that are great — not just good. For example, opt for olives from the deli counter or at the self-serve bar and slice them yourself rather than using pre-sliced ones from a can. (Those just taste like salt; they don't have much flavor.) Taking the time to chop up tomatoes and onions for a fresh pico de gallo will give a lift to your nacho platter, but there are plenty of fresh salsas to choose from in the produce department. If you want to build your own nachos, check out a handy nacho chart for ideas that are all over the board. If you prefer to follow a recipe, try these carne asada nachos for a meaty option or these chicken and lime nachos for one that feels a little fresher.

Chili

A whiff of the aromas from a big simmering pot of chili might be just what you need to entice guests away from the halftime show and recharge them for the second half. Start with the Pioneer Woman's chili recipe and set up a chili bar that include a bowl of pasta, hot dogs with buns, and individual bags of Fritos so everyone can serve themselves and create personalized dishes. If you're catering to a crowd that includes vegetarians, this butternut squash and black bean chili will hit the mark. The one-pot dish relies on cocoa and coffee for deep flavor and bold spices like cumin chili powder and smoked paprika for chili-centric flavor. A pot of this will work just as nicely for a chili bar as the meaty version above.

Potato skins

Scrape out the meat of a baking potato and toast up the shell. Then fill those skins with some cheese and broil for the win — you've got crispy baked potato skins. Potato skins are just the kind of comfort food the losing team might crave, and they're a pretty budget-friendly option as party food goes. You can serve potato skins with a dip (like this herby green goddess dip) or top them with savory ingredients like cooked crumbled bacon, sour cream, or a simple sprinkle of chopped chives. To switch things up, use an alternative to classic cheddar cheese and melt fontina or Gruyere cheese instead. Or skip melting and sprinkle crumbled blue cheese onto potato skins for a sharp, pungent edge. If your Super Bowl crowd is the fancier sort, elevate these pedestrian snacks with smoked salmon and a dollop of creme fraiche. Or swap out Russet potatoes for sweet potatoes to make this sweet potato and bacon take on potato skins.

Snack mix

Snack mix is popular and a good munchie for offsetting nervous energy (tie game) and boredom (all those timeouts). Plus the saltiness contrasts nicely with beer, a popular game day drink of choice. This spicy snack mix includes wheat and corn Chex cereal, pretzels, peanuts, and a hit of soy and sriracha sauces for a robust spicy flavor. Or add smoky bacon flavor using bacon fat and include fun ingredients like wasabi peas, cashews, and pepitas like this recipe does.

Muffaletta

The beauty of serving the famous Muffaletta sandwiches of New Orleans at your Super Bowl party is that one sandwich will serve 4-6 people. Built on a large round loaf of Italian bread, the sandwich contains layers of cured meats and sliced cheese and is dressed with an olive salad. You can order this sandwich from the shop that first created this iconic dish or make it yourself. If you want to serve the sandwich in smaller pieces (think 2-3 bites per piece), use a long Italian loaf instead of the round loaf and cut the sandwich into 1-inch pieces.

Themed desserts

Yes, serving up overtly football-themed sweets is a little kitschy, but this is the biggest single game all year. Serve your treats with pride. The strawberry footballs in the video above are fun and refreshing. A few tips: make sure the berries are completely dried before dipping them in the chocolate. Otherwise the chocolate won't stick as well and the moisture could cause the chocolate to seize and be ruined. (And chocolate burns very easily, so watch carefully when microwaving, make sure to use the correct power setting, and stir every 10 to 15 seconds to prevent overheating.) As an alternative to the strawberries, make these football cupcakes. They are less labor-intensive, and there's no shame in substituting a cake mix and frosting if you're short on time. These sugar cookies that resemble a stadium are almost too cute to eat, but you and your guests will probably manage. Start with ready-to-bake dough for a shortcut and make a batch of this royal icing while they bake and cool. Plan to make the cookies a day ahead so the icing has time to fully dry.

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