While I wouldn't exactly describe myself as a "sports person" per se, I'm a sucker for the pageantry surrounding Game Day. I'm sure my dad would sigh and roll his eyes at such a statement, but I really do mean it! It's easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm of the crowd that surrounds you — all dressed in a variation of the same outfit, cheering the same cheers — even if you don't really care about what's happening on the field.
Then, of course, there's the food.
My main motivation for going to hockey games is as an excuse to drink coffee too late, while baseball games are for hot dogs and too-expensive beers. In my eyes, the Super Bowl is honestly more of a food holiday akin to Thanksgiving. Much like Turkey Day, there are unspoken rules and expectations surrounding what should appear in a Game Day spread.
One thing's for sure: It's no time for a sit-down dinner or fussy foods. Whatever you serve has to be portable enough to survive being jostled from table to couch but hearty enough to feed a (small, pandemic-safe) crowd. In my house growing up, that usually meant one of two options: an appetizer potluck or a DIY chili bar. Both felt "festive," I suppose, and enabled guests to build their own plates or bowls according to their tastes or dietary preferences without too much extra effort. Also, as is key when entertaining bigger groups, both were pretty affordable.
If you know me, you know I love a good budget (take a look back at our Salon Food $40 Thanksgiving for four if you don't believe me!). So, in honor of the 56th Super Bowl, here's a game day menu for 6 to 8 people that costs exactly $56.
Deriving inspiration from my parent's Super Bowl parties, the MVP of our menu is a DIY skillet nacho bar. It's easy to make vegetarian or vegan-friendly — just use a plant-based shreddable cheese on a separate half-sheet pan and add a dollop or two of imitation sour cream. From there, we have single-serving buffalo chicken or chickpea tostadas, chipotle queso, Southwest eggrolls, and of course, a pitcher or two of sparkling non-alcoholic blood orange punch.
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Buffalo chicken (or chickpea!) tostadas
These little tostadas are a lunch stand-by for me, but they're also great for a crowd! Simply mix a couple tablespoons of hot sauce with a few tablespoons of melted butter. Use this sauce to coat either cooked and drained ground chicken or cooked and drained chickpeas. Place the mixture on store-bought tostadas (which are so much better if you warm them up in the oven first!). Then garnish with blue cheese crumbles and slivered radishes.
- Pack of 22 tostadas: $2.50
- Hot sauce: $0.70
- Butter: $0.80
- Ground chicken: $3.99 OR 3 cans of chickpeas: $3
- Blue cheese crumbles: $3.69
- Slivered radishes: $0.60
Total: Approximately $11.79 (if you split the difference between the chicken and chickpeas)
It's not a Super Bowl party at my house without queso dip! This version steps it up just a bit from the melted Velveeta and RO-TEL dips of my youth, but it's still simple and delicious. Whisk a few tablespoons of melted butter with flour until a thick paste — also called a roux — forms. Slowly add about 2 cups of milk until it becomes a velvety liquid. Take 1/4 to 1/2 a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, depending on your preferred spice-level. Slice the peppers finely and fold them into the sauce.
Add 8 ounces of grated sharp white cheddar and stir until the cheese is totally melted and the mixture is cohesive. Garnish with chopped scallions for added freshness.
- Butter: $0.80
- Flour: $0.12
- Milk: $2.00
- Sharp white cheddar: $2.79
- Chipotles in adobo sauce: $1.75
- Scallions: $0.60
Southwest eggrolls with avocado ranch
I worked at Chili's in high school and college and still have an unrepentant love for the "southwest eggrolls." As the name suggests, this appetizer features egg roll wrappers stuffed with ingredients like black beans, cilantro and corn. Here, we do the same, using canned ingredients for ease. In a large bowl, mix black beans, corn, store-bought pico de gallo and a few tablespoons of cream cheese for binding.
Spread the mixture on the store-bought egg roll wrappers and roll them up. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden-brown. Serve with a simple avocado-buttermilk ranch for dipping, which you can make by blending 1 avocado with 2 ounces of buttermilk and a ranch dressing packet.
- Egg roll wrappers: $2.98
- Black beans: $2.20
- Corn: $2.00
- Pico de gallo: $1.49
- Cream cheese: $.0.50
- Avocado: $0.99
- Buttermilk: $0.64
- Ranch dressing packet: $1.89
Sheet pan nacho bar
The MVP of this menu is a sheet pan nacho bar. Sometimes, I'll use either one full-size sheet pan or two half-sheet pans to make different variations (like vegan and non-vegan). This time around, we're keeping things simple. Spread tortilla chips over the pan and cover them with cheese and pico de gallo. There will be leftover chips, which can be served with the queso.
Broil until the cheese is melted and a little brown and set out. In separate bowls or on a large platter, plate the sour cream, shaved radishes, scallions, sliced avocado, refried beans and pickled jalapeños. (If the budget was a little higher, I'd suggest adding some cubed chicken, soyrizo, steak or even barbecue pork to the line-up.)
- Jumbo bag of tortilla chips: $4.50
- Shredded pepper jack cheese: $3.00
- Pico de gallo: $1.00
- Sour cream: $1.69
- Shaved radishes: $0.60
- Scallions: $0.30
- Avocado: $2.00
- Refried beans: $1.75
- Pickled jalapenos: $1.49
Blood orange mocktails
I love a good non-alcoholic drink that doesn't veer too sweet, so this blood orange mocktail for a crowd is a winner. It's simple, too. Take the juice of four blood oranges and combine it with one of those jumbo bottles of Topo Chico (or any sparkling water) in a punch bowl over ice. Add 24 drops of bitters and give it a stir. Encourage folks to coat the rims of their glasses with Tajin.
If someone asks what they can bring to the party, perhaps suggest a good bottle of tequila? This punch would also taste great spiked.
- 4 blood oranges: $2.04
- Large Topo Chico: $2.49
- 24 drops of bitters: $0.24
- Tajin: 2.49
Grand Total: $56.12
This brings our grand total to just over $56. I suppose I could have cut costs by reigning in my love of sliced radishes, but such is life. No matter whom you're rooting for, I hope you enjoy Game Day! And if you're hungry for more special menus and recipes, consider subscribing to Salon Food's weekly newsletter, The Bite.
More Super Bowl recipes from our library: