A Definitive Ranking of Super Bowl Appetizers (2024)

There are few people on this planet who know less about sports than I do. Football in particular is a blind spot; perhaps the sport was too intertwined with my religious trauma growing up in the South. You might understandably think that means I don’t engage in Super Bowl festivities, but you’d be wrong. At its core, the Super Bowl isn’t really about football at all—food is at the center of the annual gathering. After all, what is a Super Bowl party without wings or chips and dip? Just a bunch of people dressed in garish polyester screaming at a TV.

Super Bowl food is its own genre. It’s bar food adapted to a home atmosphere, where dips and appetizers play a starring role, beating out the grilled fare you’d expect at a tailgate. Some dishes are deeply flavorful and indulgent, oozing with cheese or creamy sauces. Others tend toward bland, really only becoming appetizing after you finish off the dregs of your third beer. All of them, though, are rich and, for many of us, reminiscent of family fun in the midst of an otherwise depressing month. But which are worth the time to prepare, and which are better left off the menu entirely? This is a definitive ranking of Super Bowl appetizers.

10. Raw Vegetables with Ranch

We’ve all seen it before: that flimsy plastic tray piled with baby carrots, celery sticks, whole cherry tomatoes and raw broccoli. If you’re lucky, you may get some snap peas or radishes. At the center of the tray rests a shallow plastic cup of ranch dressing, destined to adulterate all the fresh ingredients that surround it. It’s the saddest of the Super Bowl appetizers, a last-minute attempt to put something green on a table that’s otherwise loaded with fried and cheese-stuffed foods.

But the ranch completely negates the purpose of serving fresh veggies in the first place—the last thing I want to do is dip the only fresh ingredient on my plate into a pool of processed dairy. Should you have a vegetable dish at your Super Bowl party? Of course. But maybe make a salad instead of subjecting your guests to this abomination of an appetizer.

9. Pigs in a Blanket

Pigs in a blanket are one of the cutest, most visually appealing Super Bowl appetizers you could have at your party, with the miniature wieners dressed in jackets of flaky pastry. But ultimately, pigs in a blanket are deeply bland at their core. There’s really nothing interesting going on with this dish; the result is a soft texture and fatty flavor profile that just doesn’t deliver. My suggestion? Serve your pigs in a blanket with some ultra-spicy Dijon mustard to give it the pop of acidity and flavor it needs.

8. Nachos

I don’t mean to hate on nachos here. I love them; they’re just not ideal for Super Bowl snacking. They’re messy, and they’re not what you want to eat when you’re precariously balancing a paper plate on your lap on someone’s nice leather couch. Plus, it’s hard to scoop the perfect bite onto your plate. You’re likely to miss out on the glob of cheese and salsa you would’ve snagged if the bowl had been right in front of you. Save the nachos for when you’re enjoying a game alone.

7. Spinach Artichoke Dip

In theory, spinach artichoke dip should be one of the most delicious Super Bowl appetizers. In reality, though, it’s usually not. It can often be thin and runny, or it’s so creamy that you can’t really even taste the flavor of the vegetables. This dish’s saving grace is the soft but slightly chewy texture of the artichokes, which should be left in decent-sized chunks. The chips or crackers you serve with this dip can really make or break the dish—make sure you don’t use super salty chips if you’re already putting a lot of salt in the dip.

6. Buffalo Chicken Dip

Is buffalo chicken dip objectively delicious? Yes. But it doesn’t rank higher on this list because it has a distinctly white, suburban, low-grade conservative vibe to it. Buffalo chicken dip doesn’t openly support Trump but definitely voted for him in 2016 and 2020. Buffalo chicken dip thinks women should be able to work as long as they’re home in time to make their husbands a home-cooked meal and do all the chores without complaint. Buffalo chicken dip believes in climate change but doubts human activities are responsible. It’s not about the flavor, it’s about the energy.

5. Chips and Queso

Chips and queso may not be the absolute most groundbreaking Super Bowl appetizer, but it’s 100% essential. A Super Bowl party without chips and queso is like the Super Bowl without a football. The queso doesn’t have to be homemade (but it’s definitely better if it is). Tortilla chips are obviously the only way to go here, and salsa and guacamole are encouraged but not required.

4. Seven-Layer Dip

If you’re not setting out bowls of salsa and guacamole to enjoy with the tortilla chips, then you may want to serve a seven-layer dip instead. It usually contains layers of refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and salsa. Enjoying all of those flavors together in one bowl is one of the best parts of watching the Super Bowl. Honestly, seven-layer dip could be a meal all by itself.

3. Sliders

They’re burgers, but tiny. What’s not to love? Whether you make your own sliders from scratch or you just decide to heat up some frozen ones, nobody is going to complain about getting the opportunity to eat three burgers in a single meal. You get bonus points if you decide to stack your tiny burgers not just with cheese but a variety of fresh ingredients, like sliced onions, tomatoes and lettuce. Don’t forget to add some yellow mustard to finish it off.

2. Wings

Do we even have to say it? You need wings at your Super Bowl party. I personally like standard buffalo wings, but you can opt for different sauces or dry rubs if you prefer a wider range of flavors. If you don’t eat chicken, cauliflower wings are an appropriate alternative, especially if they’re slathered in homemade buffalo sauce.

1. Jalapeño Poppers

You can’t find a Super Bowl appetizer more appealing than jalapeño poppers. They’re spicy—but not too spicy—and they’re stuffed with enough cream cheese to necessitate popping a Lactaid before going in on them. Some people include bacon in the recipe, whether it’s mixed into the cream cheese filling or wrapped around the outside of the pepper, and some versions are even coated in a crispy panko crust. The specifics are up to you, but for spicy food lovers, jalapeño poppers in all their forms are glorious.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

A Definitive Ranking of Super Bowl Appetizers (2024)
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