Labor Day is just one week away. You know what that means—the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of fall tailgating season! With both college and pro football starting up, and the weather still comfortably warm, it’s the perfect time for an outdoor grilling party with friends (and rivals) to cheer on your favorite sports teams.
Due to limitations in equipment and resources (i.e., cooking on a small portable grill in the middle of a parking lot), tailgating fare typically consists of the easy-to-cook burgers and hot dogs, along with a few cold side dishes and snacks.
But consider spicing things up this year with the help your slow cooker. Not only is this appliance a convenient preparation method when cooking for a large group of people, it is also especially great for recipes that take more time to cook or to develop complex flavors.
Two such meals are meatballs and chili—both of which happen to be favorite game day recipes!
So add a crock pot to your tailgating checklist and try out these ten delicious game day meatball and chili recipes that will go perfectly with your signature burgers and dogs.
Meatball Slow-Cooker Recipes
Meatballs are a great meal to make using your slow cooker; as they simmer for a long period of time, they get infused with the flavors of the sauce and other ingredients. Plus, you can make them as simple or complex as you want by using either frozen meatballs or your own homemade recipe.
You can easily customize meatballs for your tailgate party by trying different flavor varieties and serving options, from subs or sliders to simple toothpick appetizers. (Hint: check out slow cooker tip #2 below for a way to make two varieties at once).
Try these yummy meatball ideas:
1) Southern-Style Meatball Subs (AKA Grape Jelly Meatballs)
These simple yet delicious meatballs are a favorite at pot-lucks and family gatherings, which makes them perfect for your tailgating celebration. The sweet and savory sauce has an amazingly complex flavor (despite only using five ingredients), thanks mostly to the secret ingredient: grape jelly! The combination of the jelly with chili sauce, Dijon mustard, garlic, and cayenne makes these southern-style meatballs a true #winner.
2) Mini meatball sliders
Keep these classic meatballs simmering in marinara sauce in your crock until ready to eat; then top with mozzarella or a dollop of pesto and serve on sliced, grill-toasted Martin’s Party Rolls.
3) Sweet & Sour Meatballs
These seasoned pork meatballs are made extra tasty from a flavorful sauce made with pineapple juice, sugar, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Serve on mini Potato Rolls for a bite-sized snack!
4) Spicy Pork & Beef Meatball Sandwich
A blend of sweet Italian sausage and ground beef, these meatballs are also packed with diced hot cherry peppers, cubed bread, eggs, and seasoning. Bake on high for 4-5 hours in the crockpot, then serve on Martin’s Potato Rolls topped with fresh mozzarella, basil and your favorite red sauce (like a mild marinara, or spicy arrabbiata for extra heat).
5) Classic Meatball Sub
Traditional Italian-seasoned homemade meatballs cooked in marinara sauce, then served with provolone cheese and a garnish of parsley on Martin’s Hoagie Rolls.
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Chili Tailgating Recipes
Chili is one of those dishes that often tastes better the longer it cooks, as the spices and flavors have time to meld together and transform. Slow cookers are the ideal vehicle for your favorite chili recipe, whether that’s a bowl of spicy beef and bean chili or a saucier all-beef chili piled onto hot dogs.
Try out all of these delicious tailgate-worthy chili recipes to truly “win” game day!
6) Chili Pulled Beef Sandwiches
The ultimate game day meal: tender dry-rubbed barbecue pulled beef, topped with mildly spicy beef and bean chili. Sound too good to be true? It’s not; simply add the ingredients to your slow cooker and cook through (7-8 hours on low). Come tailgating time, all you have to do is keep it warm until ready to eat, then pile some on your Martin’s Sandwich Potato Rolls topped with shredded cheese.
7) Chili Half Smokes
This spiced ground beef mixture makes a great topping for half-smoke sausages or bratwurst, served on Martin’s Long Potato Rolls with some shredded cheddar cheese.
8) Chili Joe Sliders
A combo of two classics, this sloppy joe/chili mixture makes delicious game day sliders on Martin’s Party Potato Rolls. In a disposable aluminum tray, pile the mixture between two halved sheets of toasted rolls, topped with cheese, then “bake” under your covered grill until melty, warm, and toasted.
9) Loaded Chili Dog
Spoon this prepared chili onto char-grilled hot dogs along with shredded cheese, diced red onion, tomato, and a squirt of sour cream, atop some Martin’s Long Potato Rolls
Tip: you can also bring extra fixin’s to set up a Hot Dog Toppings Bar so everyone can customize their own dog.
10) Chili Bread Bowls
This beef and bean chili with canned tomatoes, peppers, and creole seasoning can be easily prepared in a large Dutch oven or crock pot. Keep it covered and warm during transport and set up, then steam up your Martin’s Dinner Potato Rolls, hollow out the tops and spoon in some chili when ready to serve!
Slow Cooker Tips:
- Worried about your food getting cold once you leave home? Use your car’s accessory socket with an adapter or power inverter to keep your slow cooker plugged in during transport and setup. Note: many newer cars have standard AC power outlets as well, making this even more convenient. Find this and other ideas at southernliving.com.
- How about some multitasking? Use a folded piece of aluminum foil along with a slow-cooker liner to divide your slow cooker into two compartments. This way you can simultaneously cook two recipes at the same time. Try this tip with various combinations of the above meatball and chili recipes! Get more slow cooker hacks here: https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/slow-cooker-hacks.
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