33 Winning Recipes for Your Derby Day Party

published May 5, 2023
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Slice of pecan pie on green plate with gold fork. Pie has a dollop of creme fraiche on top
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

The Kentucky Derby is famous for its thrilling horse races, unique fashion (the hats!), and, of course, the delicious food and drinks. When you plan for your own Derby Day party, it’s great to make and serve classic Southern fare that mirrors the event’s rich heritage and cultural practices (think: bourbon-glazed ham, fried chicken, hot browns, tall and flaky biscuits, and bottomless mint juleps). That being said, we’re also fans of serving a few newfangled twists that nod to traditional dishes, like a fudgy and nutty babka and a gooey pimiento cheese grilled cheese. Whatever ends up on your own spread, this menu of 33 recipes will help you create an unforgettable and original Kentucky Derby party experience for you and your guests.


You can always rely on tasty bites like deviled eggs and boudin balls to start the party. 

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Southern Deviled Eggs
A boiled egg base with a creamy filling made of egg yolk, mayonnaise, mustard, and spiked with sweet pickle relish.
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2 / 4
Beer Cheese
This velvety cheese dip pairs perfectly with soft pretzel bites.
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3 / 4
Boudin Balls

Boudin balls are the perfect Southern style of snacking sausage. Each fried ball is stuffed with boiled pork, liver, rice, veggies, and Cajun aromatics.

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4 / 4
Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

This crisp, Parmesan-sprinkled appetizer is a satisfying two-ingredient snack.

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Main Dishes

Main dishes dressed in their glossy, crispy, creamy, cheesy best.

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Bourbon-Glazed Ham
Brushed with bourbon, brown sugar, and orange, then roasted until juicy and crispy, this ham is the centerpiece you want on your table while entertaining at the holidays or anytime that you want to serve a crowd.
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2 / 8
Creamy Parmesan Garlic Mushroom Chicken
This creamy Parmesan garlic mushroom chicken skillet is inspired by cream of mushroom soup, and comes together in 30 minutes.
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3 / 8
Fried Chicken Wings
For the tender, juicy wings with the crispiest skin, opt for frying rather than baking.
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4 / 8
Hot Brown Sandwich
This open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Mornay sauce is Kentucky's original hangover cure.
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5 / 8
Pulled Pork Nachos
These sheet pan nachos are the perfect weeknight meal when you've got some pulled pork on hand.
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6 / 8
This humble Southern stew represents the marriage of cultures, subtleties of tradition, local ingredients, and, above all, community.
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7 / 8
Pimento Cheese Grilled Cheese
An ultra-gooey grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with pimento cheese spread.
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8 / 8
Classic Southern Shrimp and Grits
How to make classic Southern shrimp and grits at home in just 30 minutes.
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Side Dishes

If you think a Kentucky Derby feast isn’t complete without many side dishes, you’re in excellent company. You can never go wrong with creamy grits cooked to perfection or crispy baked macaroni and cheese.

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Southern-Style Grits
Made from stone-ground grits and slow cooked to perfection, Southern grits are some of the creamiest, dreamiest grits on the planet.
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2 / 5
Southern Baked Mac and Cheese
An authentic Southern-style, cast-iron skillet mac and cheese recipe that delivers that perfect cheesy, crispy crust that you can't get enough of.
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3 / 5
Accordion Biscuits

These biscuits from Vallery Lomas are stunningly flaky and super tall — just like your favorite racehorse!

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4 / 5
Hot-Water Cornbread

This stovetop style of cornbread also pairs well with Southern beans, greens, and cabbage. Feel free to serve some sweet tea to go with your meal!

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5 / 5
Lobster Bisque

Lobster bisque is definitely not something that most folks make at home on a regular basis, but there's no better day to shell out on it than Derby Day.

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No matter which competitor everyone is rooting for, the whole party can all come together to eat great Kentucky Derby desserts.

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How To Make Caramel Cake

The recipe developer for this cake has been perfecting it for seven years. It has a frosting technique that you might call life-changing, and it can be made in an afternoon.

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Bourbon Balls

These bourbon balls are an easy and deliciously boozy no-bake treat.

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Chocolate Pecan Pie Babka

This fun twist on babka and Derby pie boasts a chocolate-y fudge-like filling speckled with pecans.

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Bourbon Pecan Pie
A splash of bourbon is the star of this indulgent pecan pie from legendary chef Alexander Smalls.
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5 / 9
Butter Pecan Pound Cake
Strewn with hunks of nutty, toasted pecans, and graced with added warmth from brown salted butter and a hint of bourbon, this pound cake gives off butter pecan ice cream vibes.
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6 / 9
Red Velvet Ice Cream Cake

By frosting red velvet with big swoops of ice cream, the classic American layer cake suddenly transforms into the most refreshing ice cream cake.

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7 / 9
Banana Pudding
A classic Southern banana pudding made with a custard-based vanilla pudding, sliced bananas, Nilla wafers, and a whipped cream or meringue topping.
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8 / 9
Green Tomato Pie
It's about time to think of ripe green tomatoes as dessert fruit. They are tart and firm and take on flavors really well.
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Brown Sugar Cornmeal Waffles
Homemade waffles get an upgrade with light brown sugar and yellow cornmeal.
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Serve some mint juleps, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and offer some non-alcoholic options like lemonade and sweet tea.

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Mint Julep

A combination of spirit, mint, sugar, and copious amounts of ice, the mint julep is perfect for sipping on as you watch the race.

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Bloody Mary

Made from a base of tangy tomato juice, seasoned with lemon juice and spices, and finished with a pour of vodka, Bloody Marys provide a savory respite from sweet drinks and can be easily made by the glass or by the pitcher.

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3 / 6
Sweet Tea

Here's how to make a batch of sweet tea everyone will enjoy.

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4 / 6
Watermelon Lemonade

Watermelon lemonade is a Derby Day win! Each sip is cool and sweet with just enough punchy lemon flavor to keep it balanced.

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5 / 6
Ginger-Mint Juleps with Fresh Pineapple

This fresh take on the Kentucky Derby classic, with pineapple chunks, spicy ginger syrup, and a sprinkle of black peppercorns, will be your go-to from now until summer meets its final days.

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6 / 6
Bare Minimum

Ginger and basil give this gin-based (and Kentucky-born!) drink a hint of spice, lemon juice adds acid and brightness, and fresh raspberries lend just the right amount of sweetness. To finish, club soda makes it a refreshing sipper.

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