Whether you're a serious sports fan who likes to party at the game or you'll just be firing up the grill at home, nothing beats tailgate kabobs to fuel your fandom. Burgers and dogs are fine, but kabobs are extra festive—and endlessly customizable.
Take these 10 top-rated kabob recipes—complete with cooking tips—as your starting point. Then we'll coach you on how to mix and match ingredients to create kabobs in team colors for tailgate party food that's sure to make you a football party MVP.
Color Coded Kabobs
To create the ultimate tailgate kabobs, try using veggies and meats that represent your team's colors. If you're a Jets fan, maybe alternate chicken and green pepper or zucchini to evoke the team's white and green colors. For the Cleveland Browns, use steak, orange bell pepper, and white mushrooms to rock their brown, orange, and white.
If your team colors aren't easily represented by meats and vegetables, try fruit kabobs. Use grapes and pineapple for Vikings purple and gold, or blueberries and strawberries for the New England Patriots, for example. The Denver Broncos would use blueberries (blue), cantaloupe (orange) and marshmallows (white). Seattle Seahawks would use blueberries and green grapes. You get the picture.
Top Tips for Tailgate Kabobs
- Skewers matter. When it comes to tailgate kabobs, it's crucial to not only get quality ingredients, but also quality skewers. There's been a ton of debate about whether or not you need to soak wood skewers before grilling (though conventional wisdom says to soak, newer thinking points out they'll char either way so it might not be worth the effort). Avoid the debate entirely by investing in a set of sturdy, flat, metal skewers. No char, no fuss—and because most skewers are flat, not round, the ingredients stay put rather than spinning around when you turn them on the grill.
- Slice and dice wisely. Cut all ingredients into uniform pieces so they cook evenly.
- Choose the right kind of meat. Since kabobs cook quickly, select tender cuts of meat like sirloin, tenderloin, or chicken breast. Don't use pre-cut stew meat, because it really needs to be cooked low and slow. Stick to more tender cuts that take well to quick cooking over high heat.
- Don't crowd the skewers! Leave a bit of room in between each ingredient so they fully cook.
- Make ahead. You really don't want to be cutting and threading ingredients at the tailgate, right? Good thing you can skewer kabobs the night before and store them in glass pans or plastic resealable bags. Beef kabobs can easily take an overnight marinade, chicken breasts only need about two hours, and seafood kabobs should be marinated for no more than an hour.
Top 10 Tailgate Kabobs
Is there anything better than a tried-and-true family recipe? Here, mnmike generously shares his mom's recipe for beef kabobs, which she's been making for as long as he can remember. A mix of marinated beef and colorful veggies, these are sure to be a tailgating hit, and the recipe gets rave reviews.
jennyb says, "this marinade is awesome!! The ingredients are not overpowering yet they just enhance the excellent flavor of the kabobs." A few users recommend swapping the vegetable oil with heart-healthy olive oil and opting for low-sodium soy sauce. Many also note that the recipe is perfect without added salt.
Reviewers love this sweet and savory recipe for Hawaiian chicken and pineapple kabobs. Jillian says, "Oh my! These are absolutely delicious! I've made these twice now with excellent results and it's now become one of my husband's favorites. To "health" this up just a little I used low-sodium soy sauce, fresh garlic, brown-sugar Splenda and replaced the sherry with rice wine vinegar...I love when so few simple ingredients combine to create something really special."
Many home cooks recommend marinating the chicken and pineapple separately, as well as making extra since it's so tasty! Reviewers often added extra veggies as well, so keep your team colors in mind when customizing.
If you want something a little different than your typical beef kabobs, then give these Cuban-flavored beef and zucchini kabobs a go. SZYQ1 raves, "Excellent recipe and very easy to make! We loved our dinner tonight! The flavors are perfectly balanced and really makes zucchini delicious as you dip it in the sauce (my husband does not care for zucchini and loved this)."
Though these are great thrown right on a the grill, some reviewers recommend marinating the meat for a few hours or overnight to make it even more tender and flavorful.
Who says kabobs are just for carnivores? Vegetarians can enjoy the party too with these grilled tofu skewers with Sriracha sauce (in fact, they're so good they may need to fend off the meat eaters).
Qofcheez proclaims, "Wow! This one should convert people to tofu! Very cheap to make, and a lot more filling than they look. And gorge all you like - they are really healthy! Use chicken for anyone not too keen on the tofu." Use any combination of veggies you like here to show your support for the team colors!
If you want tailgating kabobs that will wow, then give these simple marinated grilled shrimp a go—this recipe has some serious fans. "OMG, this is hands-down the best shrimp i have ever tasted in my whole entire life. This marinade is soooooo good," says RALWATTAR.
Recipe creator BLONDIEPEREZ says not to let the cayenne scare you, as it doesn't make it too spicy, adding, "My 2 and 4 year-olds love it and eat more shrimp than their parents!" Feel free to add colorful veggies or pineapple to make it even more festive looking.
Is there anything that bacon doesn't improve? To amp up these kabobs, marinated chunks of chicken are wrapped in bacon before skewering and grilling. You won't regret it.
AEDGEL comments, "I never knew shish kabobs could taste this good! My whole family loved it!" Many users recommend throwing in extra veggies along with the mushrooms when marinating to make these kebobs even more colorful.
Sausage and peppers are a classic combo, but turning them into kabobs is a relatively novel idea (WHY haven't we thought of this before?!). "OMG..This recipe is the best," raves TINYANT1.
Recipe creator ROOKIE_WOOKIE marinades sausage, onion, pepper, and jalapeno in beer before skewering and grilling. But the final over-the-top touch? Melting provolone cheese over the whole thing right at the end. Now that's a touchdown!
Ranch dressing might as well be the patron saint of tailgate parties, so it's logical to pair it with chicken kabobs. But Theresa Spencer classes it up by adding fresh rosemary to the mix. Some 3,000 reviewers have given this recipe a mega thumbs up, praising it for its sensational flavor and tenderness.
Though some users say you can use dried rosemary in a pinch, the consensus is that fresh really elevates the whole dish. This recipe is the epitome of a crowd-pleaser, and can easily be scaled up. Becky Fleming See boasts, "I made this for 100 people last weekend, for 80 people the weekend before and for 70 the weekend before that. I can't tell you how many asked for the recipe and how many said it was the best meal they'd ever had."
Chicken and beef are great, but don't forget about tender, flavorful pork when planning your shish kabob tailgate! As recipe creator Abby Benner explains, "Souvlaki is a Greek specialty made with tender cuts of meat. In this pork kabob recipe, the meat is marinated in a lemony olive oil mixture."
Many reviewers point out that this recipe calls for soy sauce, which is not a typical souvlaki ingredient, but that authentic or not it just works. Plus it's an adaptable recipe so switch it up for your preferences and team colors. KELSEYSMOMMY raves, "EXCELLENT!! This is so flavorful, and leaves the pork so tender! I can't believe how easy it is! And this is a very versatile recipe - I have made it with pork, chicken, and beef, and all are great."
In these tasty, slightly sweet tailgate kabobs, chicken breast and veggies are marinated in a mixture of honey, soy sauce, and garlic for an easy and mouthwatering dish. Some folks recommend doubling the marinade, and others prefer to grill the veggies and chicken on separate skewers to have greater control over cooking times.
It's also super adaptable, as reviewers noted marinating for as little as 20 minutes or as long as 36 hours, all with great results. Jessica Mariscal says, "This recipe was a huge hit with my family. At family BBQ's everyone always looks for it. The marinade is so versatile and I have used it successfully with beef and shrimp. This is already a family favorite."