Game Day Grub: 7 Recipes for Fried Restaurant-Style Appetizers

Few things in life are as wonderful as kicking back to watch your favorite NFL teams on Sundays, but the experience loses a little of its luster when you find yourself eating mediocre takeout. That’s where our Game Day Grub series comes in. Each week, we’ll bring you seven recipes for some of your favorite football foods. It’s going to be a delicious season.

We all do our best to eat stick to nutrient-dense foods and minimize junk. Sadly, sticking to such a strict diet is a huge downer when you find yourself surrounded by friends when watching Sunday’s NFL lineup. You don’t have to stick to salmon and greens, though. Many nutritionists recommend giving yourself some wiggle room in the form of a cheat day, which may help boost your metabolism.

You can dig into whatever foods you crave when you’re guilt-free eating day rolls around, but we have a few suggestions. If you’re going to cheat, these seven fried snacks are the way to do it.

1. Broccoli Tempura

tempura vegetables, fried broccoli

Source: iStock

True tempura is made by coating seafood and veggies in an airy batter, then frying the food until it’s crisp. This broccoli version from Todd Porter and Diane Cu, featured of Food & Wine, changes things a bit by adding a layer of panko breadcrumbs. Both the batter and the jagged panko edges crisp for tons of crunch. If you like your fried chicken extra crispy, this is the tempura recipe for you.


  • 1¼ pounds broccoli florets, stems peeled, and heads halved
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Frying oil
  • Tempura or soy sauce

Directions: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and water until smooth. Place panko in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit over medium-high heat.

Working in batches, dip broccoli in the batter, and shake to remove excess. Roll in panko to coat, then fry until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined rack to drain. Serve warm with tempura sauce or soy sauce for dipping.

2. Mozzarella Sticks

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

Source: iStock

Mozzarella and tomato sauce both hail from Italy, so it would make sense for mozzarella sticks to share the same origins. Oddly, that’s not the case. Though the exact history is a little bit hazy, Thrillist reported the first recorded method of breading and frying cheese belongs to late 14th century France. Somewhere along the line, marinara sauce became the dip of choice, and now it’s a favorite appetizer.

Try your hand at this restaurant favorite with Saveur’s ooey, gooey recipe. You’ll use a basic breading method starting with flour, then egg, and ending with breadcrumbs. Once all the mozzarella is coated, simmer a quick sauce, and fry the the cheese sticks. They’ll be the hit of your get together.


  • 1 (1-pound) block mozzarella cheese, cut into 3-by½-inch sticks
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chile flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil

Directions: Place flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs each in separate, shallow dishes. Working with one piece of cheese at a time, dredge in flour, dip into egg, then coat with breadcrumbs. Repeat with remaining pieces, transferring each to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat olive oil and butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 2 minutes longer, then stir in tomatoes, sugar, and chile flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until thickened, about 15 to 18 minutes. Keep warm.

Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a 6-quart saucepan to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Working in batches, fry mozzarella sticks until golden and crisp, about 1½ minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray. Serve mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce.

3. Coconut Shrimp

Fried Coconut Shrimp

Source: iStock

Even folks who are a bit squeamish about seafood won’t be able to resist these crispy, coconut-coated shrimp from Damn Delicious. Though the recipe sounds fancy, it’s incredibly simple. Just make sure to buy unsweetened coconut, or you’ll end up with something that tastes more like candy.


  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, and deveined
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Sweet chili sauce

Directions: In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, toss panko and coconut in a large bowl. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Working with one shrimp at a time, dredge in flour, coat with egg, then roll in coconut and breadcrumb mixture, pressing to help coating adhere. Repeat until all shrimp are coated.

Working in batches, fry shrimp in hot oil until golden and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Allow oil to return to 350 degrees Fahrenheit between batches. Transfer cooked shrimp to a paper towel-lined sheet tray. Serve with sweet chili sauce on the side.

4. Mini Corn Dogs with Cranberry Mustard

cranberry mustard, sauce

Source: iStock

Bring the feel of a summer fair to your football party with Sunset’s tiny corn dogs. Shrinking the recipe into bite-size snacks cuts down on the cook time and also eliminates the need to individually skewer each corn dog. Just serve the bites with some toothpicks and let your guests dig in.

The cranberry mustard is pretty simple, but you can skip it if you don’t want to complicate things too much. You can easily jazz up mustard by mixing in some honey or maple syrup. For something with a bit more kick, try adding horseradish.


 Cranberry mustard

  • 1 cup  unsweetened cranberry juice
  • ¾ cup Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Corn dogs

  • ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • Vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces thin hot dogs, cut into 1½-inch lengths
  • Cornstarch

Directions: In a small saucepan, bring cranberry juice to a boil. Cook until reduced to ¼ cup. Remove from heat. Stir reduced juice into mustard and brown sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk, melted butter, and egg. Stir just to combine.

Pour 1½ inches of oil into a deep skillet and heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dust hot dog pieces with cornstarch to fully coat, shaking to remove excess. Use a fork to dip each hot dog piece into the batter then drop into hot oil. Fry hot dogs in batches, turning, until golden all over, about 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined pan and keep warm in the oven.

Serve mini corn dogs with cranberry mustard.

5. Ricotta and Sage Fried Meatballs

fried meatballs

Source: iStock

You may have mastered the art of baked, simmered, and sautéed meatballs, but what about fried? Graduate to the next level with Bon Appétit’s addictive recipe. These meatballs boast tons of flavor thanks to sage and fennel seed while a bit of ricotta keeps them really moist. Best of all, a panko exterior adds a great crunch. You can serve these with marinara sauce, but they’re great on their own.


  • ⅓ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted, and lightly crushed
  • 1¼ teaspoons dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 24 fresh sage leaves
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Marinara sauce, warmed

Directions: Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir ricotta and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in garlic, fennel seed, dried sage, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Add pork and fold gently just to combine.

Scoop out scant tablespoon portions of meat mixture. Using damp hands, roll each into a 1-inch ball, then transfer to prepared baking sheet. Wrap 1 sage leaf around each meatball, pressing to adhere.

Place flour, egg, and panko each in separate, medium bowls. Working one at a time, dredge meatballs in flour, rolling to remove excess. Dip into egg, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl, then roll in panko, pressing gently to adhere. Return to prepared sheet and repeat until all meatballs are coated.

Attach a deep-fry thermometer to a large heavy pot. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line another baking sheet with parchment and top with a wire rack.

Working in batches, fry meatballs, turning often, until golden and crisp, about 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack. Bake meatballs until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve with marinara for dipping.

6. Loaded Sweet Potato Tots

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

If you feel like basic tots aren’t quite impressive enough for company, we’ve found the perfect upgrade for your spread. Food Republic’s sweet potato version features cured chorizo, almonds, olives, and a little bit of smoked paprika for a decidedly Spanish spin. If you really want to guild the lily, try adding a bit of grated Manchego cheese to the potato mixture. Just don’t go crazy, or they won’t hold together when frying.


  • 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed, and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large russet potato, scrubbed, and cut into large chunks
  • 2 precooked or cured chorizo links, cut into a small dice
  • ¼ cup pitted olive, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Canola or vegetable oil

Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add potato pieces, reduce to a simmer, and cook until still firm, but beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes, and let cool.

Using a grater attachment on a food processor or a box grater, shred potatoes. Transfer to a large bowl and mix with chorizo, olives, almonds, and paprika. Season with salt.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a wide skillet or pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 340 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, shape potato mixture into small rounds or logs using your hands.

Working in batches, fry tots, turning every so often, until crispy and golden, about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet tray and season with salt. Repeat until all tots are cooked. Serve.

7. Southern-Fried Sweet Onion Rings

onion rings

Source: iStock

Onion rings either feature a thick, almost cakey batter or a bare coating that cooks up extremely crisp. While some go for the heavier batter, most of the folks we know like them as crispy as possible. To make them yourself, try The New York Times’s recipe. It calls for Vidalia onions, but you can use more widely available Spanish onions as well.


  • 1 to 2 quarts peanut or other frying oil
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely ground cornmeal
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large Vidalia or other sweet onions, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • Kosher salt

Directions: Heat at least 3 inches of oil in a large heavy pot to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, and cayenne. In a second bowl, beat egg and buttermilk. Using your fingers, separate onion slices into individual rings.

Working in batches, lightly toss onions in flour mixture, then dip into buttermilk mixture, allowing liquid to drip off. Toss in the flour mixture once more, shaking to remove excess.

Working in batches, fry onion rings 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring to prevent sticking.

Transfer onion rings to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Repeat with remaining onion rings. Serve.

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