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T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Game Day Party Foods: 7 Plant-Based Party Ideas for Feeding a Crowd

When football and basketball seasons roll around, it’s a fun time of year to gather your friends for a game day party. Party foods — especially game day party foods — usually aren’t the healthiest options. They typically focus on oil-laden fried foods, fattening cheese dips, and sugary sweets. It can feel challenging for vegans to find delicious recipes that also satisfy their omnivore friends. But you can still cheer on your team with some healthy, plant-based foods that will impress any crowd. Here are 8 helpful tips on how to throw the ultimate game day party.

1. Build a Bar

If you’re feeding a crowd of hungry guests, it’s best to keep it simple. Rather than prepare elaborate dishes from complicated recipes, create a table with small, easy dishes that can be mixed and matched. Guests can help themselves by assembling their own plates to their preferences. Besides making it easier on you, this also helps guests with special diets navigate the table.

One idea is to create a taco bar. Keep corn and wheat tortillas warm in the oven while a couple of fillings hang out on the stove. Roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, sautéed mushrooms, and grilled poblano peppers all make delicious fillings. Then offer a few choices of toppings: red and green salsa, guacamole, and cashew sour cream would all be delicious.

Another fun build-a-bar is a chili bowl. You can simmer a big pot of plant-based chili on the stove. Then have fun sides and toppings for your guests to choose from. Homemade cornbread, grilled onions, diced tomatoes, baked tortilla strips, and avocado would all work. Leave the bowls out and guests can help themselves throughout the game.

2. Create a Competition

Keep the competition on the field rolling right into your party! This is a fun way to bring some team spirit into the menu. Guests can get involved, voting for their favorite plant-based dishes. As an added bonus, this is a good way to spark interaction, especially if guests don’t know each other. It also works great if there’s already a long-standing friendly rivalry among your friends.

One way to have some fun competition is a chili throwdown. Prepare two versions of chili: traditional red and poblano white. Let guests vote for and choose their favorite. The winner gets a prize or bragging rights for the year.

Another fun competition would be a “Show Off Your Salsa” theme. You can make a big batch of roasted potato wedges, baked tortilla chips, stewed black beans, and cooked brown rice. Have your guests bring their favorite salsa. Everyone gets to assemble their own bowl and vote on their favorite flavors.

You can play with other food ideas, such as a “Finger Food Face-off,” “Mocktail Matchup,” or “Flatbread Fight.” Pick a simple theme that appeals to everyone. This motivates your guests to help and have some fun!

3. Easy Finger Foods

Finger foods are always a hit at game parties! They can serve as easy appetizers, the main meal or simply complement other dishes served. But skipping the chicken wings doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste or tradition. These delicious buffalo cauliflower wings are spicy and full of flavor. For a milder variety, try substituting BBQ sauce for the hot sauce. How about some crispy baked onion rings to kickoff the party? Veggie roll-ups and pinwheels are another crowd favorite. You can use different spreads to complement vegetables such as: flavored hummus, bean dip, guacamole, and plant-based cheese spreads.

4. Ask for Help

Speaking of help, even if you’re not creating a competition at your game day party, it’s nice to involve your guests while getting a helping hand. After all, part of the fun of coming to a party is sharing with other people. Even if your guests are culinarily challenged, they can still help. Ask them to bring some healthy pre-cut veggies and hummus from the store. Or get some help the day before, setting up tables and pulling out serving plates.

If you love to entertain but dread cleanup, ask a couple of friends to stay and help. It’s a good idea to ask ahead of time so that they can plan on spending the extra time and energy after the party winds down. Conversely, if you’re attending a party, ask the host if you can help with either setup or cleanup. Rather than just bringing something to drink, for example, this extra time can really go a long way in showing your appreciation for the party, not to mention making your friend want to return the favor in the future.

5. Prep Ahead

With a big crowd coming over, it’s always nice to have most of the food prepared ahead of time. Soups, stews, chili, and casseroles are all great dishes for making ahead of time. Plus, these hearty dishes are usually easy to stretch for a crowd. The days before your party, prepare most of the recipes you want to serve. That way, on the day of the party, you won’t have to spend a bunch of time in the kitchen and can enjoy your guests and watch the game.

6. Use the Store to Cut Corners

Let’s face it, not all of us are classically trained chefs able to whip up huge meals in a short amount of time. It’s okay to take some help from the store and save some time in the kitchen. Grab a veggie tray and a couple varieties of hummus for an easy appetizer. Pick up some nut-based cheese and rice crackers for easy finger foods. Roasted nuts, dried fruits, baba ganoush, seeded crackers, roasted peppers, and assorted olives all make fun items for a party platter. Just be sure to double-check the ingredient labels. Avoid oil and also try to avoid as much sugar and refined flour as possible.

7. Use Your Slow Cooker or Crockpot

Rather than dirtying up a bunch of pots and pans, use your slow cooker or crockpot to cook your party foods. This will also help keep foods hot so that guests can serve themselves at any time. You can make a batch of crockpot chili or cook some slow-cooker curry stew. A smaller crockpot can be used to keep cashew queso warm. Serve with an assortment of crudité, toasted bread, or baked tortilla chips. Let guests have fun playing with the cashew fondue!

8. Not Drinking Alcohol? Make Some Citrus Soda Water

Alcohol can be a big component of many game day parties, making it challenging for those choosing to abstain. You can offer a healthy drink option by making a batch of citrus soda water. Slice up a few pieces of citrus fruit: limes, lemons, oranges, and grapefruit. Place fruit in a large pitcher with a good amount of ice. Then add your favorite club soda. For an extra-fancy presentation, decorate with pomegranate arils or edible flowers. You’ll have a beautiful drink that will no doubt appeal to all your guests.

Entertaining a crowd can be a fun way to bring your friends together. While it may seem daunting to stay healthy when hosting a large group of people, using a few simple tips can help make things easier. Try out a few of these ideas. You’ll feel great throwing the ultimate game day party. Plus, you’ll feel great knowing you were able to keep it plant-based.

Try some of these delicious recipes for your ultimate game day party:

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