Ah, the sensations of the coming of fall: trees ablaze with a sunset-colored palette, the lively crackle of fallen leaves under toe-containing footwear, the briskness of the air with so much electricity you can almost taste it. That bucolic scene will do for some, I’m sure, but there are those among us for whom the joyous heralding of fall comes with an entirely different set of sensations, especially those that generally emanate from the parking lot of football stadiums. I’ll take my fall color in the form of jerseys and pennants. Give me the sound of a hundred hibachis singing in unison alongside a decidedly dissonant chorus of rival fight songs. When the air be crisp, let it also be perfumed with the sweet sting of grilled meats and spilled beers.
But here’s what’s up. If you are a fervent follower of the Church of the Almighty Tailgate, but are also still kind of feeling the vibe of from summer’s vegetable bounty, not yet wanting to give up the feeling of goodness that comes from a day where cucumbers and eggplants outnumber carbohydrates and empty calories, then kindly dig this: All your favorite tailgate go-tos can be transformed into veggie-forward or even vegetarian options. For the winningest of seasons, bookend this year with vegetables from your inaugural tailgate to the Super Bowl. With the tastiest of options hitting all the critical categories, if the beer is spilling freely enough, even the most carnivorous among you are hardly bound to mind.
From hamburgers to hot dogs to hoagies, you can have it all AND be a vegetable hero.
This is not your average freezer-aisle veggie patty. This is a down-and-dirty, taking-it-seriously kind of veggie burger that packs in so much goodness you might feel like you could actually take to the field and deliver a TD or two. Get our Veggie Burger recipe.
Whether you are going full-veg, or just trying to find ways to incorporate additional veg into the mix, a savory Vietnamese slaw with carrots, daikon, and cucumber atop a veggie or conventional dog will give you all the coverage. Get our Banh Mi Spiral Cut Hot Dog recipe.
You can’t not have a hoagie at a tailgate. Just, no. So do it this way—load up on zesty peppers, meaty eggplant, and tangy goat cheese, then maybe have a few of your friends hold up one of those celebratory paper banners for you to burst through, because, yes. You earned it. Get our Pressed Eggplant and Pepper Sandwich recipe.
For dipping and popping and otherwise absent-minded eating designed to not destroy you.
Synonymous with sportsy festivities, with this dip your crowd might even think for a moment that you’d dropped your vegetable agenda. Except that, loaded with beans, avocados, and peppers, this crowd-pleaser is basically a superfood. Try this 7-Layer Mexican Dip recipe.
For those moments (that is, the entirety of the tailgate,) when you must have a portable snack within arms’ reach, you can easily graze through trays of these with nary a penalty. Try this Cherry Tomato Poppers recipe.
A nod to your brethren who couldn’t get tickets to the game and are bravely toughing it out on the sidelines (i.e. sports bars). You stand with them in solidarity, except that while they go to town on gut-busting wings, you keep it fresh, and yet still addictive, with cucumbers. This, my friend, is why you are first-string. Try this Buffalo Cucumbers recipe.
Because if you didn’t grill anything, does it even count as a tailgate?
Shishito peppers are like nature’s french fries; they are just that good simply dressed with salt. Tom Brady be damned, I’m going shishitos for G.O.A.T. Get our Grilled Shishito Peppers recipe.
While everyone is still freaking out about having discovered elote (and why not, it’s delicious), you’re over here with the next coming of corn—subtle and savory and OH MY GOD IS THAT GOOD. Maybe round up a few stray marching band members, because you deserve some fanfare. Get our Grilled Corned with Soy Sauce and Mirin recipe.
Related Video: How to Make a Simple Vegetarian Soup