15 Classic Kentucky Derby Recipes

Even if you can't make it to Churchill Downs, you can still enjoy the foodie traditions of the Kentucky Derby!

By: Kaitlin Weiler, Editor, FaveSouthernRecipes.com
15 Classic Kentucky Derby Recipes

The first Saturday in May means celebrating the Kentucky Derby, and watching the Run for the Roses would not be complete without some delicious snacks, drinks, and treats in hand.

Our collection of 15 Classic Kentucky Derby Recipes includes plenty of recipes that will make watching the most exciting two minutes in sports even more thrilling.

Below you will find savory and traditional Kentucky Derby food, Derby dessert recipes, and refreshing recipes for Derby Day drinks. All of these Kentucky Derby menu ideas are sure to make your Derby Day celebration even more festive.

If you have ever wondered about the origin of Kentucky Derby recipes and how they became a part of this Southern tradition, check out The History Behind Kentucky Derby Recipes.

15 Classic Kentucky Derby Recipes

Savory Kentucky Derby Recipes

Skillet Kentucky Hot Brown
  • Kentucky Beer CheeseLooking for fun and flavorful Kentucky Derby party food? Try this recipe for Kentucky Beer Cheese. This easy dip recipe is made from sharp Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and beer.
  • Kentucky Hot BrownsA Kentucky Hot Brown is a classic Kentucky dish that is a must-make on the first Saturday of May. This recipe is made by layering bread with turkey, an easy cheese sauce, tomato, and bacon.
  • These Kentucky Derby appetizers are the perfect thing to make to feed a crowd on Derby Day. These miniature versions of the Kentucky favorite are sure to please.
  • Skillet Kentucky Hot Brown(pictured) This is the open-faced sandwich of your dreams! Celebrate the Kentucky Derby by making this classic recipe in your trusty cast iron skillet. Even if you can't make it to Churchill Downs, sample some Kentucky cuisine with this recipe.

Kentucky Derby Dessert Recipes

Kentucky Butter Cake
  • If you are looking to make an impressive layer cake, try this Brown Sugar Bourbon Cake. This gorgeous cake is flavored with plenty of brown sugar and bourbon.
  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan PieThis Southern dessert recipe is great for a Kentucky Derby party because it features a Kentucky staple: bourbon!
  • Foolproof Derby PieEven the most inexperienced bakers will be able to whip up this Foolproof Derby Pie. This Kentucky Derby pie is similar to pecan pie, but with the addition of chocolate, coconut, and bourbon.
  • Kentucky Holiday Bourbon BallsKentucky Bourbon Balls are a traditional Christmas candy, but they also make a great sweet treat while taking in the Kentucky Derby.
  • Kentucky Butter Cake(pictured) If you love pound cake, then you are sure to love this classic Kentucky cake recipe. The finished cake is topped with a glaze made from sugar, butter, and vanilla.
  • Kentucky Derby BarsThese Kentucky Derby Bars are similar to Derby Pie, but in the form of a dessert bar. An easy graham cracker crust perfectly complements the sweet filling made from bourbon, sugar, butter, pecans, and chocolate.
  • Mint Julep Poke CakeFor a dessert that is truly special, try this mint poke cake topped with a bourbon-flavored frosting. It's the official Kentucky Derby drink, but in the form of a cake!

Derby Day Drink Recipes

Cherry-Mint Julep
  • Blushing Apple JulepsThis Kentucky Derby recipe for Blushing Apple Juleps offers a fun twist on the traditional mint julep. It's perfect for a Derby Day party because it is non-alcoholic, so friends and family of all ages will be able to enjoy it.
  • Cherry-Mint Julep(pictured) Put a fun twist on the typical mint julep with this Cherry-Mint Julep. This refreshing cocktail is made with a combination of cherry-flavored bourbon and mint simple syrup.
  • Classic Kentucky Mint JulepThis Classic Kentucky Mint Julep is made from a traditional combination of mint simple syrup, bourbon, crushed ice, and fresh mint leaves.
  • Derby Day Mint JulepNothing beats a classic mint julep recipe on Derby Day. This Derby Day Mint Julep recipe combines bourbon, mint syrup, ice, and mint leaves to create the traditional Kentucky cocktail.

The History Behind Kentucky Derby Recipes

The Kentucky Derby is an annual event that celebrates the flair and traditions of the old South. Taking place at Churchill Downs, the legendary racetrack in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky, the event has transformed into a cultural tradition. It wouldn’t be the Kentucky Derby without the big hats, the gambling, and of course, the signature food and drinks. Learn more about the history of classic Derby recipes below!

  • The Mint Julep

    In 1938, the mint julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. And since Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon whiskey, it is no surprise that the signature drink features bourbon. While a traditional mint julep is made with crushed ice, mint leaves, bourbon, water, and powdered sugar, there are also many variations of the signature cocktail. The mint julep, including the glass, became so popular at the Derby that patrons began stealing the glasses. In response to this, Churchill Downs began selling collectible glasses for their mint juleps in 1939. To this day, nearly 120,000 mint juleps are served during the Kentucky Derby
  • "Derby Pie"

    "Derby Pie" was first created by George Kern and his parents for the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky. This pie is known for its signature blend of chocolate and walnuts, and became so popular that it was trademarked in 1968 Because of its name, this pie recipe is commonly associated with the Kentucky Derby.
  • Kentucky Hot Brown

    The Kentucky Hot Brown is a Southern, open-faced sandwich that is topped with turkey, tomatoes, bacon, and the creamy and cheesy Mornay sauce. The famed sandwich was created in 1926 by chef Fred K. Schmidt of Louisville’s Brown Hotel. It was originally invented as a late night meal for the many guests who came to the hotel for a night of dancing. This Southern recipe has since become very popular during the Kentucky Derby In fact, the Brown Hotel usually sells over 1,000 Kentucky Hot Browns during the Derby.

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I'm going to a Kentucky Derby party this weekend, so I'm for sure going to be trying out some of these recipes. Also, Kentucky Hot Brown is one of my favorite foods of all time

Even though I don't live near Kentucky anymore, I will still be celebrating Kentucky Derby season with as many mint juleps and butter cakes as possible!

I had no idea that the mint julep was the official drink of the Kentucky Derby! I can't wait to sample some of these recipes.


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