If you're preparing for a tailgate and don't have a way to reheat your food, try making one of these dishes.
Credit: Photo: Greg DuPree

I was recently tasked with preparing food for an outdoor tailgate, but was faced with a major dilemma: The space had no grill, no outlets for plugged-in appliances, and obviously no refrigerator. So, everything I made would have to meet two requirements: It had to be prepared ahead of time and needed to be delicious without being reheated.

I scoured Pinterest for inspiration, but everything that came up required a slow cooker, grill, or stove. If you're like me and all you're working with is your imagination and a cooler, we've got you covered:

Tart Apple-Hazelnut Chicken Salad

Credit: Photo: Gregg Dupree

Rotisserie chicken makes preparation a breeze, but feel free to use any leftover cooked chicken you have on hand. Keep it in your cooler and serve over a bed of greens or with a side of multigrain crackers for a satisfying meal. 

Chili-Lime Roasted Chickpeas

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Crunchy roasted chickpeas are a cinch to make and take only about 40 minutes from start to finish. They make for a satisfying salty snack that’s high in protein and fiber. To ensure the crunchiest texture, pat the chickpeas dry before tossing with oil. You can play around with other spices for different flavor combinations—try smoked paprika and cumin, Madras curry powder, or even cinnamon and powdered sugar. Store your chickpeas in Tupperware to keep 'em crunchy.

Savory Potato Salad

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Simpler and tastier than many old-fashioned potato salads, this version features a fresh lemon-and-oil-based dressing instead of a mayo-laden dressing. The anchovy paste lends a deep umami hit that’s not fishy, just savory. 

Cheesy Sausage Balls

Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

To make ahead, cover and refrigerate unbaked balls up to 24 hours; bake before the game and seal them in Tupperware until you're ready to serve.

White Chocolate Cherry Popcorn Balls

Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Oxmoor House

Individual desserts like these popcorn balls are absolutely perfect for tailgates. Who wants to cut and plate cake or scoop ice cream when you're trying to prep for the big game? Not us.

Cobb Pizza

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

The classic Cobb salad is transformed brilliantly here, thanks to a dressing-inspired sauce of tangy yogurt, canola mayo, and buttermilk—bake your pizza the morning of the game and store in Tupperware until ready to serve. If you don't like cold or room-temperature pizza, are you even human?

Spicy, Barely Sweet Supercrunch Granola

Credit: Photo: Greg DuPree

We set about creating a supremely crunchy, irresistible granola that feels almost more like party mix than granola but still contains all those great whole grains. Here’s the result: a lightly sweetened crunchfest with a nice hit of spicy heat. The granola stores well at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

Barbados Rum Punch

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Use your favorite gold or amber rum, and make sure to purchase a good-quality, low-sugar ginger ale, such as Fever-Tree, because the kick of spice works in concert with lime to balance the sweetness.

Zesty Green Goddess Dip

Credit: Photo: John Autry

Because fresh herbs are increasingly available, you can make this tangy, peppery dip year-round. Keep your dip and sliced veggies in tupperware in your cooler until you're ready to serve.

Sesame-Soy Nut and Pretzel Mix

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Our healthier version of traditional party snack mix gives you all the salt, crunch, and bold spices of the original with the addition of whole-grain popcorn, toasty whole-wheat cereal, and spicy wasabi peas. The peas inspired an Asian track with toasty sesame oil and reduced-sodium soy sauce, cashews, and pungent ground ginger.

Spiced Whiskey Sour

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Five-spice powder turns the classic whiskey sour into something special. You can double, triple, or quadruple the spiced sugar syrup and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Creamy Black Pepper Coleslaw

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Cutting the cabbage coarsely gives the dish a different look from shredded-cabbage slaws. A full teaspoon of black pepper lends pleasant warm heat without overpowering. Make the dish up to one day ahead if you like—the veggies will stay crisp and the flavors will meld as the slaw chills.