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10 Super Bowl Appetizers Guaranteed To Win The Challenge

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– Walter Payton, Chicago Bears

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Super Bowl Sunday is a special day—mostly because it provides an excuse to eat lots of cheese, nurse an ice-cold beer, and (of course) watch some football. There’s nothing better than settling in on the couch to watch the game with good friends and great food.

As a tradition around our Super Bowl Party we do a cook off challenge. We challenge each couple to bring an appetizer that will wow the judges and make their mouths water with delight. This challenge is a great way to bring all kinds of high caliber food together for the party. Anyone can grab chips, dogs, burgers, meatballs etc… But these recipes are guaranteed to win the challenge. These are the best of the best over the 20 years we’ve been doing this. 

The rules are simple. It has to be an appetizer not a entree, it has to be made by you not a chef (Unless you are a chef, which has happened. We actually had a 1 star Michelin chef show up last year and of course blew us all out of the challenge. ) That being said I would keep it to the amateurs. You are allowed to accompany the appetizer with a beverage of choice to complement the app. And things like adding wings, onion rings, for wow effect is perfectly acceptable.  

Judging is done by three to five judges (Not participating and not a relative of someone who is). The judges give a score of 1 to 10 in three different categories. Taste, Presentation and difficulty in preparation. The three scores are totaled and if there is a tie the challenge ends in a tie.  A foody trophy is awarded and we all watch and eat good food for the Super Bowl

The Ultimate Bloody Mary

This amazing cocktail has come a long way from simply wowing people with a strip of bacon. Now we get these made every year and they always compete for top honors. We’ve seen everything from burgers, hotdogs, giant pretzels, grilled cheese, lobster tails, sausage, pizza and or a combination of them all. 

The secret to making these mind blowers is the Vodka. use Grey Goose, or belvedere do not use Titos or some other cheap vodka. The better the Vodka the better the Bloody Mary.

→ Get the The Ultimate Bloody Mary Recipe

Dirty Tots

First off, I love Tator Tots and when we visited the Tank House in Sacramento we were blown away by their “Dirty Tots” Never before had we had such delightful tots. Smothered in nacho cheese, shredded cheese, pulled pork, BBQ sauce, onions and jalapeños and BAM!

Now the key to creating award winning Tots for the challenge is to hand make your Tots. That’s right hand make them. Boil the potatoes, shred them, liberally mix in the seasonings, then shape them and deep-fry them — no dehydrating needed. Top them with pulled pork, chorizo, a spicy cheese sauce, and a refreshing pickle slaw to cool everything down and help balance the heavy flavors.

→Get the Dirty Tots Recipe

Lobster Mac & Cheese

Lobster mac and cheese is one of those uber-fancy once-in-a-while entrees you find on a restaurant menu. Which is one of the big reasons a sure shot winner in a food challenge. Full disclosure the appetizer can cost upwards of $100 to make for 6 to 8 peeps so budget accordingly. 

The trick to this ultra creamy recipe is to flash fry the lobster bits prior to mixing them in the mac and cheese. Chop the lobster into bite size chunky pieces, season with salt, pepper, garlic and Tony Chachere’s, Cajun Seasoning. Melt your butter add a bit of olive oil, bacon grease and flash fry the lobster just for a quick minute. You only want to crips the edges not cook the lobster all the way through. This ensure the lobster stays soft, melts in your mouth with just the right crunch!

Blue Cheese Potato Chips

Having spent the last 25 years living about 20 minutes from world famous Napa I have eaten at Rutherford Grill numerous times as a local favorite. While this amazing combination of food is no longer on their menu when it was everyone had to have it.

Aside from the obvious blue cheese and potato chips the recipe has a lot of room for varying the ingredients. Try a few different ways to put this together to find your favorite. 

Hands down the best way to do this is make your own chips. First get a Mandoline to slice the potatoes to the perfect size. use Russet potatoes they are the best for chips. Soak them in a ice water bath, drain and pat dry. Let sit for 30 minutes. Cook in hot oil 350 to 360 degrees. use a open spoon to stir and retrieve. This extra step of creating your own chips will guarantee the win everytime. 

Shrimp Tacos with Margarita

Ok, now things are starting to get exciting. We all love tacos and shrimp. Put them together and BAM! These are always a crowd pleaser and with the added colorful slaw for presentation, and the mixed margarita with sliced lime and salted edge you are sure to bring home the trophy with this dish.

Here’s my secret ingredient to making these a winner. Parmesan cheese and bacon. Yes sir… while heating the tortilla (Make them small) sprinkle the cheese and bacon bits on the final inside as a foundation for flavor. This ingredient will be hidden from guests but when they take a bite the flavors just explode in your mouth. I actually used the below recipe and added my special ingredients and changed the color of the slaw. This was a big winner. 

CheeseBuger Pizza

Pizza is and has been a favorite for all Super Bowl parties. Throw in a Cheeseburger  and oh, my!  This is especially fun presentation if you can throw in a few french fries in a tiny cup so the fries are sticking straight out and a small craft beer. Make sure there is a foamy top on the beer. 

The pizza is pretty straight forward with the these two exceptions

Brush the edges with a little egg wash and sprinkled with sesame seeds to achieve that toasted sesame seed bun. 

The fry sauce is a must. It’s actually just ketchup, mayo and a touch of hot sauce mixed together. If you haven’t tried it yet, do it. It’s amazing.

Cajun Sausage Puffs With Bourbon Mustard

Not going to lie these actually won when we had New Orleans in the Super Bowl. The secret here is to buy high quality sausage links. Try your local cured meat shop and ask about them. Getting really tasty sausage links will make all the difference in the world. Next step grab some puff pastries, wrap the sausage and bake. Use small batch homemade ground mustard and to top off the presentation get some recycled paper food serving trays. 


What super Bowl food challenge and or party for that matter, would not be complete without Sliders. There are dozens of ways to do them but our winning sliders are simple and non messy. It’s my philosophy that a slider should be carefully crafted with minimal toppings to maximize ease-of-eating pleasure. Bun. Sauce. Cheese. Maybe ONE veg. This leads me to the point that every component must blow-your-mind.

Buns… Make your own. In fact here is the partner post


Showing you how you can make your own. Trust us it will make the difference. 

Caramelized Thai-Style Hot Wings

Everyone loves hot wings or Buffalo Wings but now days it seems you can get wings in hundreds of flavors. We had guests bring these a few years back they made a big splash. Pay attention to the sesame seeds they really bring the asian flavor and smell to the dish. 

The secret in making this a winning dish is using local honey from a backyard farm. Serving them on a bed of basil leaves brightens the presentation and hightens the aroma which waters the mouth just before biting in.

Mini Strawberry Football Cheesecakes

Wow! Wow! Wow! Love me some cheesecake. Talk about a Super Bowl stopper. Appetizers should always include desserts. In fact when this item showed up everyone was quick to gather around, ask questions and could not wait to try one. The recipe is super simple Just make sure to set aside a couple of hours which is mostly waiting for the chocolate to harden and the cheesecakes to bake

To make the football chocolate covered strawberries you just use a dipping chocolate and some candy melts.  I like to use dipping chocolate for the ease of use and candy coating for the bright white football laces.  I also used super cute football themed cupcake liners 

There really is no secret ingredient just a powerful fun way to make a great impression. Who doesn’t love cheesecake?

aEvery year we get new ideas from new participants and we all try different things. There are hundreds of appetizer ideas. Just Google away, find some inspiration, invite a few friends over and have fun. that’s the most important thing. Have fun!

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