Our Best Easy Tailgating Desserts
Football season is fast approaching, and that means there’s not much time left to get your tailgate offerings planned out. Don’t worry, we’ve got you. We’ve rounded up our best easy tailgating desserts—cookies, cheesecake bars, brownies, and even a few cakes—that everyone will eat right up, no matter who they’re cheering for. The only thing sweeter than these easy treats is a win from your team.
Hello Dolly Bars
Chocolate Peanut Butter-Fudge Bars
Your favorite candy can also be your favorite bar. These Chocolate Peanut Butter-Fudge Bars are perfect for bake sales, Valentine's Day, and a regular Tuesday night. Allow enough time for the top layer of melted chocolate to firm up before slicing these triple-decker bars. Leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator up to three days, perfect for drop-in guests or last-minute dinner parties.
Miso-Caramel-Tamari Popcorn Mix
A slightly thicker caramel and the addition of whole roasted almonds turn traditional caramel popcorn into gift-worthy popcorn mix. We use less sugar in the glaze and cut the sweetness with mild white miso (fermented soybean paste) and tamari (a richer, wheat-free soy sauce) for a salty-savory note that makes the snack incredibly addictive.
All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
When it comes to making cookies from scratch, these crispy-chewy chocolate chip cookies represent the best of the best. Simple ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions make this a recipe you'll come back to again and again. Whip up a batch of these all-time favorite cookies and they won't last long. Pro tip: Bake 10 minutes for a softer cookie or up to 14 minutes for a crispier cookie.
After you've made these craveworthy cookies, don't forget to try our fun variations. All sorts of goodies—from crushed white-chocolate pretzels to toffee candy—can be added to the batter to create other signature cookies.
Rum and Coke Pound Cake With Lime Glaze
Pound cake is easy to make and infinitely variable. When plain, you can almost defend it as a breakfast or afternoon snack. But dressed up with any manner of fruit or cream or ice cream or other garnish, it can hang at everything from a backyard barbecue to an elegant dinner party. So, it occurred to me that perhaps I might mash-up one of my go-to summer desserts with one of my go-to summer drinks!
This rum and Coke pound cake benefits from the same attention to detail as my version of the cocktail. European-style butter (I like Kerrygold or Plugra for this), light brown sugar to pick up the caramel notes in the cola and the rum, and vanilla paste which has all those lovely vanilla seeds in it and is closer to using fresh vanilla pod than extract.
Copycat Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies
Is this recipe an exact replica of Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies? No. These are better. Rather than thin cakes, we went for oatmeal cookies that pack an almost peanut-butter-like flavor without any nuts. The crème filling completely nails what we love about the prepackaged pies, but takes things further with an almost airy, marshmallow-based consistency. If that doesn’t convince you, preparing these at home is just as quick (if not faster) than a grocery run.
Chai Swirl Cheesecake Bars
These eye-catching dessert bars taste like your favorite chai latte, reimagined in cheesecake form. Featuring flavorful swirls of chai-infused cream cheese filling, each bite offers richly aromatic, spiced flavor set against a cool and creamy vanilla cheesecake backdrop. They’re a simple dessert to make, but undeniably impressive.
Junk Food Cookie Bars
The next time you're at the end of an exceptionally rough week, we'd definitely recommend whipping up a batch of these kitchen sink cookie bars. The perfect decadent balance of salty and sweet, these chewy treats are here to satisfy all junk food cravings. We loaded them up with peanut butter, chocolate chips, pretzels, Oreos, potato chips, and M&M’s, but feel free to experiment with swapping in some of your favorite snacks and flavors.
Hamburger Bun Glazed Donuts
Ever notice how after every cookout, you seem to find yourself with a handful of leftover hamburger buns, but not so many leftover burgers to fill them? Don’t toss the strays, turn them into breakfast with this brilliant recipe for burger bun donuts.
Pumpkin-Orange Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
If you're a fan of pumpkin desserts, look no further than these festive cookies. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and orange zest give these naturally colored pumpkin cookies a bright and crisp edge to compliment the deep fall flavors found in pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The milled flaxseed in this recipe provides a binder in place of using eggs and also provides some healthy omega-3's. These cookies are gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, and can easily be made vegan by using vegan chocolate chips, and just as well can also be made nut-free by subbing the almond milk for water or regular milk.
Easy Key Lime Pie
Dessert doesn’t get easier, or more delicious, than a no-bake key lime pie. Requiring just a handful of ingredients, this easy pie is a great recipe for less experienced bakers—especially considering what a crowd-pleaser it is. Perfect for the hot summer months when you’d rather reduce your oven use, the luscious key lime filling sets up to creamy perfection with the help of Cool Whip. Though we provide instructions for a homemade graham cracker crust, you can make this key lime pie recipe all the easier (and skip the oven altogether) by opting for a pre-made, store-bought pie crust instead.
German Chocolate Brownies
This recipe is a combination of my nana’s greatest hits—brownies and German chocolate cake. The fudgy brownies allow the frosting’s coconut flavor to shine and are decadent without overwhelming the palate. We used a 9x13” baking pan, which yielded thinner brownies and a more even distribution of both the brownies and the frosting’s flavor. It’s definitely possible in an 8” or 9” square pan, which will give you thicker brownies and globs of frosting. In that case, you’ll need to use a fork.
A toasty twist on the traditional Millionaire’s Shortbread, these decadent layered cookie bars feature toasted sesame seeds in the shortbread, a luscious tahini caramel, and more sesame seeds sprinkled over top for good measure.
Chocolate-and-Peanut Butter Banana Pudding
Rocky Road Popcorn Balls
Guess what? This is a whole-grain dessert. To keep the stickiness at bay, wear latex gloves coated with cooking spray as you shape the popcorn balls.
The Ultimate Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookie
Everybody needs a go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, and this is the one that you can rely on, time after time. Topped with flaky sea salt and bursting with bittersweet chocolate chunks, this sweet treat is not for the faint of heart. By baking them at a high temperature for a short burst of time, the exterior boasts a crisp texture and golden-brown color, while the inside remains melty, chewy and warm as ever. For the ultimate sweet deal, top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or drink it alongside a tall glass of milk.
Sheet Pan Oatmeal Toffee-Orange Cream Bars
These toasty-sweet, sheet pan sandwich cookies are fantastic for potlucks or tailgates—heck, whip a batch up on the weekend and enjoy for after-school snacks or dessert throughout the week. Toffee bits and cinnamon kick up the flavor of a traditional oatmeal cookie, while adding fresh orange zest to the filling adds a special touch or bright flavor to these tasty bars. Be sure the cookie is completely cool (out of the pan) before cutting it, or it will crumble. And to ensure a smooth cut, you’ll want to chill the filled cookie really well before slicing into bars.
Best Fudgy Brownies
Meet your new go-to recipe for homemade brownies. These decadent treats are extra rich and fudgy, thanks to a double hit of baking chocolate and bittersweet chocolate morsels. They’re incredibly easy to make, plus you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. And while we’re definitely not above boxed brownie mixes, these homemade brownies would certainly steal the show at any party or get-together.
Kahlúa Cookie Dough Bites
If you're only going to have "a bite" of dessert, this is the bite to have.
Peach Cobbler Dump Cake
Pair the crowd-pleasing appeal of peach cobbler with the convenience factor of a boxed cake mix and you have this ridiculously easy dump cake. Requiring only five ingredients, this is the perfect recipe for when you need to whip up dessert in a hurry. We love the combination of peaches and almonds, but you could easily swap the sliced almonds called for with your favorite nut (pecan halves would be excellent) or eliminate the nuts altogether. Either way, one thing’s for certain—this peach cobbler dump cake will be a hit for any occasion.
No-Bake Fudgy Toffee Bars
These gooey bars will be your new favorite no-bake cookie. Serve chilled for less mess.
Classic Banana Bread
This healthier take on banana bread uses yogurt instead of butter, but it's just as moist and indulgent as classic recipes. This banana bread recipe isn't just easy. It's also highly customizable and can adapt to a number of flavors and substitute ingredients. Banana bread should form a crack down the center as it bakes--a sign the baking soda is doing its job. Serve toasted with a smear of cream cheese, Greek yogurt, or peanut and top with mixed nuts, if desired. You can even customize your bread with a crunchy streusal topping that the kids will love.
Texas Sheet Cake
Cappuccino Swirl Bars
Skillet PB&J Monkey Bread
Ooey gooey peanut butter and jelly goodness! Kids and adults alike will go nuts for this sweet and decadent treat, which gets its chewy, light-as-air feeling from store-bought pizza dough.
Tangy Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Classic lemon squares can contain 36g sugar per piece. We put a puckery cheesecake spin on ours--cutting sugar to just 6g per bar--which allows the bright citrus to shine.
Glazed Condensed Milk Cookies
Need to throw together a last minute treat? Make a batch of fluffy and buttery, cream cheese-glazed cookies using 1 whole (14-ounce) can of sweetened and just a handful of other staple ingredients you probably already have in the fridge and pantry. You will use 2/3 cup of the condensed milk in these melt-in-your-mouth cookies (which eliminates the need for additional sugar or eggs), then simply combine the rest of the can with softened cream cheese to create a tangy-sweet glaze. After you glaze the cookies and add sprinkles (if desired), leave them on the wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes so that the glaze can set so that you don't end up with a mess.
Fair warning: Our editors and test kitchen staff LOVED these gluten-free brownies. Words like "decadent" and "divine" were thrown around liberally.
Spiced Pecan Pie Bars
Two pantry staples—ground cinnamon and ginger—give the traditional pecan pie filling an unexpected and flavorful twist. For an impressive dessert, serve each bar on a plate with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Or just enjoy them right out of the pan!
The Ultimate S’mores Cookie
These cookies taste just like a s'more, no campfire required. The graham crackers really come through in the cookie, while the melty chocolate melds with toasted marshmallow during the baking process.
You know how some cocktails are so good they're basically dessert? This mudslide cake takes that even further, making the classic dessert cocktail into an actual dessert. The inclusion of both Irish and coffee liqueurs give the cake depth of flavor, and the chocolate glaze and cherries give a nod to the traditional mudslide garnishes. Eat it with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. No straw required.
Peanut Butter and Pretzel Brownies
Irresistibly nutty and salty, these peanut butter pretzel brownies are for the die-hard chocolate lover in everyone's lives. Incorporating Reese's candies, crushed pretzel bits, and a heaping spoonful of creamy peanut butter, these rich, decadent squares are perfect for you next potluck dessert party, special occasion, or late night craving. For an added bonus, go ahead and eat them warm out of the oven with a scoop of ice cream.
Almond Joy Cookies
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bugle Bars
Creamy, crunchy, rich, salty, and sweet all at the same time—these no-bake, chocolate-peanut butter bars are everything. Crisp crushed Bugles (one of our staffs’ junk food favorites) make for an fun and amazingly delicious twist on a typical crumb crust. They lend the perfect hit of salty, crispy, buttery goodness in the base of this cookie bar, and topping the assembled bars with a another handful of the the whole chips is a playful touch that lets folks know what’s in store when they bite into this salty-sweet situation. These decadent cookie bars were a huge hit in the test kitchen, and recipe developer Ivy Odom notes that they would be “perfect for tailgates, school parties, or for eating in front of the TV, with wine and the rest of the bag of Bugles, after a long day at work.”