21 Basketball-Inspired Recipes for Munch Madness
Invite your crew over and hear the swish as these NCAA tournament-themed recipes — from clever pizza toppings to fried sweet potato balls — get cheers from all your hungry fans
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Sweet Potato Balls from Rasa Malaysia
College basketball teams from all over the country will compete this March to be one of the remaining four, and while you could order a pizza and open a bag of chips, why not play to win with this collection of game day recipes? Each savory snack, cheesy starter, and hearty bite takes its inspiration from an NCAA team that has made it to a coveted bracket slot, whether it’s piquant Texas Caviar, juicy Idaho-Style Finger Steaks, or the Original San Francisco Traveling Sandwich (made in a bread bowl, naturally). You’ll find your favorite team — or its region — represented below with local recipes you can make for each game you watch with grocery store ingredients. Take your crew on an edible tour of the best teams as you cheer them on, and sweep your NCAA basketball tournament menu at the end with one of the baller desserts: Butterscotch Basketball Cookies, Pinched Orange Macaroons, Sweet Potato Balls, or a few more on the bubble. Either way, it’s a delicious slam dunk.
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Jump ball starters
Begin the game with these tasty snacks; some are even shaped like a basketball!
Channel your inner University of Wisconsin (or Marquette!) basketball player with these crispy balls: Sauerkraut, crumbled sausage, Swiss cheese, onion, and mustard (try whole grain) are mixed together before being breaded and fried until golden brown. They can be shaped and breaded a day in advance, so it’s easy to fry them up before the game starts.
You won’t regret watching the Hurricanes blow another team away when you’re munching on this fresh and bright Florida twist on avocado toast. Sweet lump crabmeat gets a bump from fresh lime juice and a little kick from sliced radish, with a Cuban wink from the cilantro; cut it into rounds and you’ve got a great basketball-themed food for a party.
As the tale goes (and they do like to spin a tale in Texas), a Yankee transplant who found herself in the greatest state of the Republic (just ask a Texan), tasked with serving only locally grown foods for a fancy dinner, elevated the humble black eyed pea in this bold and sassy dish best served with tortilla chips. Whether you’re cheering for Texas Tech, Baylor, the Longhorns, the Bobcats, the Cougars, the Horned Frogs, or North Texas — whew! — the good news is, this recipe will be a winner on any NCAA basketball tournament menu.
Most people think of corn when Iowa comes to mind, but the state is a big pork producer too! Celebrate every basket Iowa State scores with these luscious ham balls, made with ham loaf, ground beef (or pork if you want to go all in), crushed Ritz crackers, and a piquant glaze that’s sour and sweetened with brown sugar. Feel free to keep them warm in a slow cooker for serving!
New Mexico red chiles and green Hatch chiles are a point of pride for any New Mexico State Aggies fan, and are easy to add to the zesty spicing that makes this popcorn hard to stop munching. This variation on a popular NCAA basketball tournament food also offers a bonus recipe for green chile seasoning, should you want to spice things up.
Basketball fans from across New England and the Mid-Atlantic states will be pleased by the spicy, celery-laced kick of Old Bay seasoning (it’s not just for seafood, as locals know) when it’s tempered by the creamy bite of extra sharp Vermont cheddar in the cheese sauce that’s enhanced by a bit of beer.
In Idaho, fans don’t dabble in chicken fingers but go straight for the good stuff: They take strips of steak, marinate them in a spiced buttermilk mixture, dredge them in seasoned flour, and fry them up until they’re crisp and golden, then serve with BBQ or cocktail sauce. That’s a fun basketball tournament party food, even if you’re not rooting for the spud state.
You can taste the Amish influence in this hearty and delicious dip from Ohio. The gentle sect originally immigrated from Germany and brought their love for all things bacon and fermented cabbage upon arrival. Dip some pretzel rods for the most authentic flavor — it’s bound to help Ohio State score another basket, right?
Hearty slam dunks
Below are some popular NCAA basketball tournament party food ideas for heartier fare that are so good they’ll make everyone stand up and cheer
Any true Arkansan knows how to call the hogs, and with these delicious homemade buttermilk biscuit sandwiches your guests will be happy to cheer the Razorbacks to victory. Be sure to use the best Southern ham you can find to fill them. Feel free to offer some Frank’s hot sauce on the side. Soooie!
Calling all Kansas Jayhawks fans, it’s chili time! Leave your ground beef in the fridge and get ready for some Kansas City-style chili from the city that loves its BBQ the most. This chili uses oven-roasted pork butt in a sauce that has echoes of a smoky BBQ, with sweet onions and a touch of heat. Serve it with cornbread, crumbled on top or as a square on the side.
A cheesesteak, at its core, is the simple working man’s food. Invented to feed Italian dock workers, true Philadelphians know it doesn’t need outlandish bells and whistles to be delicious. Thinly shaved steak, some grilled onions, and your choice of provolone, American, or Cheez Whiz (seriously) are all that’s needed to make a tasty and legit “samwich.” These sliders preserve the spirit of the City of Brotherly Love, and will touch the heart of any Villanova fan.
The sweet shrimp caught in Louisiana waters will make any LSU grad wax poetic. And Cajun fried shrimp are a great basketball tournament food idea: The flexible recipe only requires a quick marinating time — in a milk-based marinade, no less — a quick toss in some fish fry mix, cornmeal or self-rising flour, and fries up fast to feed a crowd of growling Tigers fans.
Buffalo chicken is a favorite across the state of New York, but here it gets the basketball tournament party food treatment with a cornmeal pizza crust, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese crumbled across the top. Black olives make this basketball-themed food truly festive; fortunately, you can serve the celery on the side.
Anyone can serve soup in a bread bowl, but it takes a truly creative thinker (as many San Franciscans are known to be) to design an entire sandwich for a loaf of sourdough bread. This delicious and elegant sandwich has spinach, leeks, a pound of oysters, and a drift of Parmesan cheese tucked inside. After a brief turn in the oven it makes a dramatic presentation and then is shared by all, in the true spirit of the Bay Area.
This craggy, crispy fried chicken gets its crunch in part from the cornstarch in the batter, which helps prevent sogginess, and is balanced by the spicy, sweet and just-a-touch-sour sauce. Feel free to use three pounds of chicken wings if you prefer to nibble all game long.
Three pointer sweets
No matter who wins, these NCAA basketball tournament recipes will sweeten the fourth quarter for every fan
Whether you’re biting the head off the player who just missed a free throw or tasting sweet victory, these super cute ballers don’t even require a special cookie cutter; now your gingerbread man shape can play an extra season with these winning cookies.
Two ingredients and a basketball-shaped candy mold (or other round, domed mold) are all you need to make these baller fudge treats. Melted butterscotch chips get stirred into Biscoff cookie spread for an easy treat. If you want them to look like newer basketballs, a little orange food coloring helps. A black food coloring marker makes quick work of drawing lines on the ball.
Sweet potatoes lend a natural orange hue to these sweet, gently fried dessert balls that get a gentle crunch from sesame seeds and a delicate dusting of powdered sugar right before serving. Feel free to use an air fryer for a healthier version of this basketball-themed food.
A springform pan makes it an easy layup to get this chocolate chip cookie cake out of its baking dish and onto a plate. After a quick 20 minutes in the oven, you’ll find the orange and brown M&Ms have already done most of the decorating for you; the only icing needed is a quick piping around the circumference of the cookie cake. Feel free to use Reese’s Pieces for a peanut butter punch.
You can shape these edible crunchy basketballs a little bigger or a little smaller, depending on how many you’d like to make. The Skittles inside make a fun surprise; you can also swap in another candy you love, or ones with your team colors.
These gluten-free, almond- and orange-scented macaroons look like basketballs that’ve been lightly dusted with a sweet coating of snow in a winter blizzard. Almond paste and orange zest make these gently pinched cookies fun for popping as the game ends.
More ideas for your sports-themed party
When you've got your crew over to watch a game, consider these additional food and drink ideas.