Time to get crazy, people—March Madness is here! Scream at your players, cry at the lost chances, laugh at the calls, and shout at the ref. It’s all part of the game of watching college basketball (incidentally, here’s how to watch all the 2019 March Madness games). You need to balance this insanity with an array of tasty treats. You gotta keep your energy up. After all, they can’t do it without you. For the most delicious ways to get your grub and your game on at the same time, check out these March Madness food ideas.
We stuck to themed treats here because they’re extra-fun, but don’t forget about the serious business of picking your bracket (and if you’re completely lost, here’s everything you need to know about the NCAA tournament). Even if you’ll never know a pick and roll from an alley-oop, you’ll immediately understand the appeal of these basketball-themed snacks. And even if your bracket’s busted, your menu is totally on-point.
First Half: Savory Slam Dunks
These little sandwiches from Hungry Happenings are all-stars, for the eaters and for the cook. The recipe calls for frozen dinner rolls, orange food coloring spray, and liquid black food coloring for the easy but impressive basketball effect—and if you’re not down with the suggested filling of blackened turkey, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, spicy spread, and melty cheese, swap in whatever sandwich stuffings you do want. Unlike in the actual game, you’re calling the shots here. Get the Turkey and Cheese Basketball Sliders recipe.
Because refried beans, sour cream, and tomatoes shouldn’t just be delicious, but adorable, too—and snack stadiums are not just for the Super Bowl. Have fun playing with your food, deconstructing traditional seven-layer nachos to arrange it like a basketball court a la She Knows, using olives for the three-point line, sour cream for the key, and tomatoes, green onions, and cheese along the sidelines. The chips? Those stand in for the noisy crowd, of course. Get the Basketball Court Seven Layer Dip recipe.
Hungry Happenings has done it again: A little black food coloring and a tiny food-safe paint brush turn a round of cheddar cheese into a basketball—the perfect topping for these juicy sliders (but the same trick works for veggie or turkey burgers if you prefer). You can use a cookie or biscuit cutter to make the round cheese shape perfectly neat if your free-hand skills are rusty. Also, the bottom bun isn’t a bun at all, but a potato round. Gotta keep the surprises coming. Get the Basketball Mini Cheeseburgers recipe.
Juicy, round, and orange-hued—these tasty tidbits from Well Plated couldn’t be more appropriate if they tried! And they taste so good and moist, you wouldn’t know they’re healthy. These buffalo meatballs are made with lean ground chicken blended with eggs and panko, then cooked in the Crock-Pot. A lot of buffalo sauce and just a bit of blue cheese for pungent creaminess does the trick. Get the Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs recipe.
Sure, you could just buy (or make) a regular round pizza and say it’s basketball-shaped (bonus points if you use black olives to add curved lines to the surface), but these are almost just as easy, thanks to refrigerated pizza crust and a cake pop pan. She Knows instructs you to stuff the dough balls with pizza sauce, mozzarella, and any other toppings you usually like, then brush them with a little orange gel food coloring for an authentic hue before you draw on a few lines with a black edible marker. Get the Basketball Calzones recipe.
Vegetarians need love too, and nothing says love like deviled eggs. To stay on-theme, choose an orange-hued filling (which you achieve by adding things like pumpkin puree or roasted red peppers to the yolk mixture), and to really sell it, use a cookie scoop to make perfect spheres to nestle back in the hard-boiled egg halves. It’s up to you if you want to add some sort of decoration for the lines on the ball, but for these spicy kimchi eggs from I Will Not Eat Oysters, you could carefully arrange strips of nori on top, or even place individual black sesame seeds into the proper pattern with tweezers. We think the orange tint and delicious taste of the filling is more than enough, though! Get the Miso Kimchi Deviled Eggs recipe.
Who doesn’t like quesadillas? Use tiny tortillas for appetizer-size snacks, and pipe on a little black-tinted sour cream for those finishing-touch lines to make ’em look like basketballs (a totally brilliant idea from Worth Pinning). You should definitely not skip the guacamole accompaniment, but no one’s going to be disappointed if you forgo the basketball net dipping cups. It’s what’s inside that counts. Get the Basketball Mini Quesadillas recipe.
Halftime: Stay Hydrated
Whether you’re drinking soda neat or spiked (or any other drink that calls for ice), there’s no better way to keep it cold than these basketball ice spheres from We’re Calling Shenanigans. A couple drops of food coloring and a spherical ice mold—and freezing time, of course—is all it takes to make sure your drinks are championship-worthy. (For more ideas on what to pour, check out these upgraded versions of your favorite college drinks.) Get the Basketball Ice recipe.
Basketball Paper Cups, 20 for $17.33 on Amazon
Be delightfully extra and use these cups for the full effect.
Second Half: Sweet Victory
Sugar cookies never looked so athletic. You’ll need Reese’s peanut butter cups (the white miniature variety) and Candiquik frosting to turn your sugar cookies into a slam dunk. It’ll also help to have piping tools and food coloring. These are so cute, you almost won’t want to mess them up by eating them. Almost. Get the Slam Dunk Cookies recipe.
Orange icing turns these Reese’s peanut butter cups into edible basketballs! Granted, the colors are inverted, but they’re still cute. And so easy. All you need is icing, food coloring, and a piping tool. Your friends and family will love noshing on these treats from Dukes and Duchesses while watching the ball onscreen. (Use them as cupcake garnishes for extra points—and if peanut butter is a no-go, try making basketball Oreos instead.) Get the Peanut Butter Cup Basketballs recipe.
Chocolate peanut butter truffles take a dip in orange candy melts and get a little chocolate piping to transform into fully edible little basketballs from A Treats Affair. You could make cake pops in the same manner if you prefer baked goods. Either way, you’ll sweep the competition when you bring these to a party. (And if you can’t find candy melts or aren’t happy with the quality, try tinting white chocolate to dip these in.) Get the Basketball Truffles recipe.
Dessert dips are easy and delicious—everything you want in a recipe, right? This one from Julie’s Eats and Treats is peanut butter flavored and decorated with a simple but effective layout of orange and black Reese’s Pieces. You can dip pretty much anything you want in it, but pretzels pack a nice salty punch to complement the sweet flavors. Get our Pick and Roll Peanut Butter Dip recipe.
13. Referee Cookies
Departing from the basketball theme for just a moment, here’s a dish from The Girl Who Ate Everything that will drag people’s eyes from the game to the platter: Nutter Butters dressed up to look like referees. It may seem like a lot of work, but hey, you’re not baking anything, so you have extra time for dipping, piping, and gluing on edible googly eyes (clearly one of the greatest inventions of all time). Get the Referee Cookies recipe.
Whether you make all the components from scratch or use store-bought shortcuts, these easy basketball cupcakes via Worth Pinning will have people posting up by the dessert table so they don’t miss their shot at nabbing one. The orange sanding sugar is a fantastic finishing touch. Get the Basketball Cupcakes recipe.
You’ve heard of pull-apart sliders (which happen to make a great savory snack for March Madness!), but what about pull-apart cake? Really, it’s just a bunch of cupcakes frosted and decorated as one, but put this out and the speed with which people grab a serving will give new meaning to the term fast break. Props to Glue Sticks for this genius idea. Get the Basketball Pull-Apart Cake recipe.
This recipe from Scrappy Geek calls for making cookies from cake mix, but you can bake your basketballs from scratch if you prefer—and make them smaller for sandwich cookies if you want (hell, you could get really fancy and make orange basketball macarons). Whichever way you go, once your orange-tinted cookies are done, stick two together with ice cream or the frosting of your choice, and you’ll have everyone smiling, no matter which team wins! Get the Basketball Ice Cream Sandwiches recipe.
Don’t forget to vote for your top treat in our interactive Sweet 16 Dessert Bracket!
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An earlier version of this article was published by Sarah Spigelman Richter in 2015; it was updated by Amy Sowder on March 17, 2017 and by Jen Wheeler on March 19, 2019.