The Southern Tailgating Cookbook A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South

Mathis traveled across twelve states to document the favorite foods and game-day traditions embraced by thousands of fans at colleges and universities throughout the football-crazy South. Featuring 110 vibrant recipes inspired by Mathis’s tailgating tours.

According to tailgating enthusiast Taylor Mathis, “You’ll understand why a game day in the South is unlike any other” when you read this cookbook. Mathis traveled across twelve states to document the favorite foods and game-day traditions embraced by thousands of fans at colleges and universities throughout the football-crazy South. Featuring 110 vibrant recipes inspired by Mathis’s tailgating tours, The Southern Tailgating Cookbook is chock-full of southern football culture, colorful photographs of irresistible dishes from simple to extravagant, and essential preparation instructions.


Recipes cover a full day of dishes, with meals for every taste. From Chicken-Sweet Potato Kabobs to Zesty Arugula and Kale Salad to Deep-Fried Cookie Dough, there is something for every fan. Mathis also serves up day-before checklists, advice on packing for a tailgate, food safety information, and much more. His entertaining rundowns on unique southern football traditions–from fans’ game-day attire and hand signals to the music of the marching bands–are sure to lift both seasoned and novice tailgaters to greater heights of tailgate pleasure.

Taylor Mathis is a food and lifestyle photographer, a blogger at Taylor Takes a Taste, and a passionate fan of all college athletics. He lives in Charlotte, N.C.


“Recommended for regional collections.”
–Library Journal


“Mathis is passionate, enthusiastic, and sincere about the art of tailgating in the South. A colorful read–including college football lore and traditions–with recipes carefully selected for the avid (or novice) tailgater.”
–Elizabeth Sims, co-author of Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen


“Football is a religion in the South and tailgating is its tasty secular communion. Taylor Mathis has written the perfect sermon to accompany this honored tradition. The Southern Tailgating Cookbook is packed with incredible recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and plenty of drinks, of course. And, if you’re not a sports fan you’ll still find lots of great ideas for easy indoor and outdoor entertaining all year round. It’s enough to make you want to stand up and shout amen! Go Dawgs! Sic ’em!”
–Chef Virginia Willis, food writer and University of Georgia alumna


Grill-Spiced Pecans | Granny Smith Apple Salsa

Sandwich Chili | Deep-Fried Cookie Dough


 Grill-Spiced Pecans

My tailgating version of spiced pecans adds an element of fun to this party snack staple. Why make them at home when you can easily make them on your grill? While the grill is heating up for your main dish, you can provide guests with freshly roasted spiced pecans and an experience they won’t soon forget.


Makes about 3 cups


  • 3 cups pecan halves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper


At home, measure out the pecans and store in a sealable container. Pack the butter in a small sealable container and refrigerate overnight. Add the rest of the ingredients to a small sealable container and mix together.


At your tailgate, place a 9 × 13-inch baking pan over a medium-high grill. Add the butter and let it melt. Once the butter is melted, add the pecans and stir, making sure all the nuts are covered in melted butter.


Add about half of the spice mix to the pan and stir. Cook the pecans over a medium-high grill, stirring frequently for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining spice mix. Stir to evenly coat. Transfer to a serving bowl or place the pan on a trivet and serve.


Granny Smith Apple Salsa

When you think of salsa, is pico de gallo the first kind that comes to mind? This combination of tomatoes, onions, and peppers works as an appetizer with chips or as a condiment for tacos and burgers. If you’re looking for a salsa that’s a little different from what you’re used to, try this one. It’s more tart than what you’ll find at most tailgates because of the Granny Smith apples in it.


Makes about 7 cups


  • 1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 1⁄2 cups diced Granny Smith apples
  • 5 cups seeded and chopped Roma tomatoes, drained on paper towels
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 3⁄4 cup seeded and diced poblano peppers
  • 1⁄4 cup seeded and finely diced jalapeño peppers
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon McCormick Coarse Ground Black Pepper


As soon as you’ve diced the apples, place them with the lime juice in a medium-sized bowl and stir.


In a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients. Stir in the apples and lime juice until all ingredients are evenly mixed together. Store in a sealable container and refrigerate overnight. On game day, keep in a cooler until ready to serve. Stir again before serving.


Sandwich Chili

A smooth, beanless chili is a versatile topping. You can add it, along with slaw, to a “Carolina-style” burger. Add it to a hot dog, and you have a chili dog. In parts of Kentucky, you’ll find a sandwich of just chili and a bun, which is known as a “chili bun.” When serving chili buns as a main dish, offer grated sharp cheddar, onions, and Creamy Coleslaw as garnishes. This recipe can be measured out the night before and cooked at your tailgate, or it can be made a day earlier and warmed up at your tailgate.


Makes about 7 cups


  • 1 tablespoon bacon drippings
  • 2 1⁄2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 1 (4-ounce) jar of chopped pimentos, drained
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (6-ounce) can of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses (like Grandma’s Original)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, warm the bacon drippings. Add the ground sirloin and cook. While the sirloin is cooking, break it into small pieces. Once the meat has browned, add the onions, garlic, and pimentos. Continue to cook the ground sirloin until all liquid evaporates. To help, push all the contents of the pot up against the sides, creating a ring with an empty center. The liquid will flow into the middle. Cook the mixture until the liquid has evaporated, taking care not to burn the meat.


Once the liquid has evaporated, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, coriander, mustard, salt, and paprika. Stir together and cook for a minute. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, molasses, lemon juice, and Worcestershire. Bring the contents of the pot to a simmer. Let simmer uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally.


If you’re making the chili ahead of time, let it cool before refrigerating in a sealable container. Transport it in a cooler to the tailgate. At the tailgate, the chili can be reheated in a pot over a burner or in a slow cooker. Serve with a ladle so your guests can add it to hot dogs, burgers, or anything they like.



Deep-Fried Cookie Dough

From bacon to butter, if it can be battered, it will be deep-fried and served at the state fair. Texas and Oklahoma fans might disagree about which team to cheer for, but I saw both sides enjoying fried desserts before kickoff of the Red River Rivalry. Of all the fried foods, my favorite is fried cookie dough. This eggless cookie dough is ideal for eating unbaked. Making the dough and rolling it into balls ahead of time will allow you to quickly fry it up on-site. There’s a bit of technique you’ll need to develop to coat the dough fully in the wash and dredge, so I recommend trying this recipe out at home before taking it to your tailgate.


Makes 8 servings


  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1⁄4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1⁄4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar and chocolate syrup for garnish


Make the dough the night before the tailgate. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and salt. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. While mixing, add the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Continue mixing the dough while slowly adding the flour mixture. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Mix in the chocolate chips. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into 8 evenly sized balls. Store in a sealable container and refrigerate overnight. In a separate sealable container, add the milk and egg and refrigerate overnight. In an additional sealable container, add the flour and confectioners’ sugar. Transport the refrigerated containers in a cooler to your tailgate.


When you’re ready to fry the cookie dough, stir the milk mixture, then dip the cookie dough in it. Roll it in the flour mixture, dip it back into the milk mixture, and then roll it in the flour mixture again. Repeat this process a total of 3 times, until a thick coating has formed around the dough. Make sure the dough is entirely coated.

Fill a Dutch oven 2∕3 of the way full with oil and heat over a propane burner to 365°. Fry the battered balls of cookie dough for 1 1∕2–2 minutes until golden brown on the outside. Remove from the oil and drain on paper bags. Serve the Deep-Fried Cookie Dough with confectioners’ sugar and your favorite chocolate syrup.


From THE SOUTHERN TAILGATING COOKBOOK: A GAME-DAY GUIDE FOR LOVERS OF FOOD, FOOTBALL, AND THE SOUTH by Taylor Mathis.  Text and photographs copyright © 2013 by Jeffrey Taylor Mathis.  Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.



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