Sweet 16 March Madness party recipes and food ideas
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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

1. Turkey and Cheese Basketball Sliders

Turkey and Cheese Basketball Sliders recipe

Hungry Happenings

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.

2. Basketball Court Seven Layer Dip

Basketball Court Seven Layer Dip recipe

She Knows

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.

3. Basketball Mini Cheeseburgers

Basketball Mini Cheeseburger recipe

Hungry Happenings

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.

4. Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs recipe

Well Plated

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.

5. Basketball Calzones

Basketball Calzones recipe

She Knows

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.

6. Miso Kimchi Deviled Eggs

Miso Kimchi Deviled Eggs recipe

I Will Not Eat Oysters

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.

7. Basketball Mini Quesadillas

Basketball Mini Quesadillas recipe

Worth Pinning

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

8. Basketball Ice

Basketball Ice recipe

We’re Calling Shenanigans

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.

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Second Half: Sweet Victory

9. Slam Dunk Cookies

Slam Dunk Cookies recipe basketball cookies for March Madness

Candiquik

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.

10. Peanut Butter Cup Basketballs

Peanut Butter Cup Basketball recipe

Dukes and Duchesses

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.

11. Basketball Truffles

Basketball Truffles recipe

A Treats Affair

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.

12. Pick and Roll Peanut Butter Dip

basketball dessert dip recipe

Julie’s Eats and Treats

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

Nutter Butter Referee Cookie recipe

The Girl Who Ate Everything

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.

14. Basketball Cupcakes

Basketball Cupcakes recipe

Worth Pinning

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.

15. Basketball Pull-Apart Cake

Basketball Pull-Apart Cake recipe

Glue Sticks

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.

16. Basketball Ice Cream Sandwiches

Basketball Ice Cream Sandwich recipe

Scrappy Geek

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; updated by Amy Sowder and Jen Wheeler.

Sarah Spigelman Richter is a New York City–based writer, blogger, and social media manager. She has developed recipes for Tabasco, blogs about her favorite restaurants and recipes at Fritos and Foie Gras, and can be found, most Friday nights, watching “Arrested Development” reruns.
Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
Jen is an editor at Chowhound. Raised on scrapple and blue crabs, she hails from Baltimore, Maryland, but has lived in Portland (Oregon) for so long it feels like home. She enjoys the rain, reads, writes, eats, and cooks voraciously, and stops to pet every stray cat she sees. Continually working on building her Gourmet magazine collection, she will never get over its cancellation. Read more of her work.
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