Basketball Party Food Ideas for March Madness & Beyond

Eric Ginsburg

March Madness is upon us once again, and the NBA playoffs are just around the corner. To celebrate the best sport in the world (fight me) with friends and family, here's a roundup of basketball party food ideas to avoid a ridiculously long wait for DoorDash or Domino's.

I always feel like the best way to celebrate is to choose something that represents your team. There are two main routes we suggest — food or drinks that somehow display your team spirit, or dishes that symbolize where your team is from.

Rep Your Team's Town (or State)

For example, much of my family attended Ohio State, and I was raised a Buckeyes fan by proxy. So in addition to the classic buckeye balls, a tray of these mouthwatering buckeye bars is a must. (The Buckeyes women's basketball team is ranked #4, and despite Caitlin Clark's dominance for the Iowa Hawkeyes and South Carolina's undefeated season, I'm feeling good about their chances.)

But most teams don't have an easy way to represent their mascot via food. My main team, the UNC Tar Heels, are a great example. If I show up at your March Madness or ACC Tournament watch party and you have anything "heel" based in your food (except maybe an illustration atop a cake), I'm leaving.

Same goes for fans of the Purdue Boilermakers and most other teams. So unless you're going the cake decoration route like this Kentucky cake, another great option is representing the region. Sticking with the Kentucky example, you could try these fantastic Bourbon peach galettes.

In North Carolina, where I live, it's all about barbecue — which here only means pulled pork. That won't always differentiate who you're rooting for, like when Carolina plays Duke, but it's perfect if you're cheering on the #8-ranked women's LSU team and want to make beignets!

Basketball Party Food Ideas: By Color

Another route that's easier for some fanbases than others — pick a dish (or whole spread) that aligns with your team's colors. Purple cow milkshakes for LSU fans? Green jello salad for the Baylor Bears or South Florida Bulls faithful? Why not!

This is admittedly much harder for some teams than others — not a whole lot of blue options out there — but works great a lot of the time. No. 1-ranked men's Houston Cougars and 10-spot women's NC State basketball fans can both serve up a tray of these red velvet cupcakes, to the delight of guests!

And you could make these Champagne jello shots with just about any color you need in them.

Keep It Classic?

There's also always the more generic route. Make some classic sugar cookies, whip up some orange frosting, and draw some black lines on it to create a basketball. This list isn't focused on options like that because honestly, are they going to be that much better than the cheap box of premade and generic hoops cookies at your local grocery store? I doubt it's worth the effort.

Instead, these 21 recipes below are the kind of straightforward yet classic and delicious things your guests will devour at your basketball watch party. Because we can't exactly make a list curated for every team or region, so just search our site if you need something specific that represents your team spirit!

Save any that look appealing but you don't have time for right now, because before you know it the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets will be tearing through the NBA playoffs, and the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty will likely be lighting up the WNBA season starting in May.

But for now, go Heels!

1. Avocado Reuben Bites Recipe

Avocado Reuben Bites make any get together more memorable, whether you are celebrating some special or it’s just a random Saturday! Layers of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut are enhanced by creamy avocado, then piled high on waffle fries and topped off with traditional Thousand Island dressing. It’s the simplest way to make the classic Reuben bite sized (and even more delish!).

2. Toaster Oven Chex Mix Recipe

Toaster Oven Chex Mix has all of the delicious flavor of your favorite snack mix in a small batch recipe! Perfect for small gatherings, gifting, or just eating by the handful, it's the kind of thing you want already on the table when your first guest arrives.

3. Mexican Street Corn Nachos Recipe

Mexican Street Corn Nachos are great for summertime parties, tailgating, and just about every other occasion. Festive and so delicious! Sure, you could make more traditional nachos, but that's not really going to impress your guests, is it?

4. Sweet Black Pepper Bratwursts Recipe

Sweet Black Pepper Brats are simple grilling perfection. More interesting than your classic hot dog, and tastier too, while still being an approachable crowd pleaser!

5. Air Fryer Potato Chips Recipe

Air Fryer potato chips are made for snacking! Healthier than your standard chip, these crisp bites are easy to make at home.

6. Easy Cranberry Jalapeño Dip Recipe

This easy, crowd pleasing La Terra Fina cranberry jalapeño dip copycat recipe is made with just a few simple ingredients and makes a great party appetizer.

7. Hawaiian Ham and Cheese Sliders Recipe

These Hawaiian ham and cheese sliders are out of this world! Maybe you’ve had ham and Swiss buns before, but never like this.

8. Chipotle Bacon Deviled Eggs Recipe

Chipotle Bacon Deviled Eggs are a savory, spicy start to your party. The bacon puts them over the top! If you live in the South like me, these are a must, and the same is true if you're pulling for a Southern basketball team. But really, does anybody need an excuse to enjoy this finger food?

9. Buffalo Chicken Empanadas Recipe

Easy buffalo chicken empanadas with a spicy chicken empanada filling! They're a fantastic app for your next basketball party.

10. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe

Okay, I know I said I wasn't going to try and cover food for specific teams, but you don't have to be a UNC, Duke, NC State or other North Carolina-based school fan (and we certainly don't anticipate any Charlotte Hornets fans reading this) to enjoy some classic pulled pork barbecue!

11. Pretzel Dogs Recipe

These pretzel dogs are easy to make and wrapped in buttery, soft pretzel dough and sprinkled with coarse salt! If you've got that dog in you, these are a must. Just don't forget the ketchup and mustard.

12. Oven Fried Pickles Recipe

Oven Fried Pickles just made game day all the more spicy. Don't forget the sriracha ketchup!

13. Mexican Sweet Potato Fries Recipe

You only need three ingredients to make amazing Mexican sweet potato fries! The dip is super easy to whip up in your food processor, too.

14. Buffalo Chicken Pizza Recipe

Why go out for buffalo chicken wings and pizza when you can have both in one? Buffalo Chicken Pizza with Blue Cheese Avocado Dressing is the blockbuster mash up of two of your favorite snack foods in one. With fried buffalo chicken bites with homemade buffalo sauce and a creamy flavorful blue cheese avocado dressing, this pizza is perfect for your basketball party. We also have a BBQ chicken pizza recipe on our site you can find if that's more your speed, and keep scrolling for an insanely popular taco pizza recipe.

15. Easy Air Fryer Broccoli Recipe

Look, we all need to eat more vegetables! And just buying a veggie tray is not only predictable, but unlikely to get finished most of the time. Instead, this easy air fryer broccoli recipe makes a flavorful vegetable side dish most people will love — in 10 minutes or less. Even better if your team wears green jerseys, but honestly, this will give your spread some necessary balance regardless.

16. Teriyaki Meatballs Recipe

These are easy, straightforward, and perfect to pick up with a toothpick. My money says if you put these out, there won't be any left by halftime.

17. Popeye's Chicken Recipe

Popeye's Chicken is everyone's favorite fried chicken. Only now you can make it at home with this copycat Popeye's chicken recipe! Fried chicken is an absolute banger at any watch party and your friends will be impressed by just how crispy it tastes — they'll swear you ordered Uber Eats.

18. Sandwich de Mezcla Recipe

Sandwich de Mezcla is the perfect party food! Filled with a tangy spread made with ham, cheese and pimiento. These Puerto Rican sandwiches are a tasty snack!

19. Jalapeño Avocado Cream Cheese Wontons Recipe

Jalapeño Avocado Cream Cheese Wontons are essentially a fried, amped up version of your favorite jalapeño cream cheese poppers appetizer! The creamy and spicy filling wrapped in a fried wonton wrapper makes these poppers a fantastic party appetizer or even an afternoon snack.

20. Taco Pizza Recipe

This pizza has the best of several worlds. It offers some of the toppings of nachos but will be easier to divide up and the ingredients will stay warmer longer. It's pizza, which is always a safe bet, too. And this is one of our most popular recipes of all time, so trust in the masses and make this before tip off.

21. Twix Brownies Recipe

We could've easily compiled an entire list of dessert ideas, and you can still find those elsewhere on our site if that's what you need! But here's a sweet teaser to wrap up the list that you probably haven't tried before but will definitely love. These Twix Brownies are filled with gooey, sweet layers that are sure to impress.

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