4 Essential Food and Drink Recipes for Any Kentucky Derby Party

Some of us enjoy the Kentucky Derby for the thrill of the race, some of us enjoy the fashion — and the rest of us are just in it for the food and drinks, y’all. Sure it’s fun to put on a huge hat and bet on some ponies, but how can you even concentrate on all of that other stuff when southern cuisine is involved?

If you’re fixin’ to have some friends over for the 2017 derby, these four traditional food and drink items are totally in order.

1. Mint juleps

Mint julep
Image: Adam Jaime/Unsplash

This classic Southern drink is made with mint, bourbon, sugar and water. Some people lightly bruise the mint, while others muddle it, but both methods accomplish the goal at hand — releasing the essential oil from the mint. A traditional way to serve mint juleps is in a silver julep cup. If you can’t break out the fine drink-ware, a tall glass works well too.

We’ve got 22 mint julep recipes for you right here — so take your pick, because it ain’t the Kentucky Derby without one.

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2. Bourbon pecan pie

Pecan pie
Image: BRETT STEVENS/Getty Images

The main ingredients of what is known as Derby pie — a dessert associated with the Kentucky Derby — include pecans, chocolate and bourbon. Kern’s Kitchen holds the trademark for Derby pie, so what we’ve got for you below is another luscious pie that your guests will devour.

Bourbon pecan pie recipe

Serves 8


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 cup pecan pieces


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add the sugar and corn syrup to a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has melted.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To the corn syrup mixture, add the butter and allow it to melt. Stir it slowly so the mixture doesn’t froth.
  5. Carefully stir in the bourbon, vanilla and salt.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. To the eggs, slowly and gradually add the corn syrup mixture, whisking until all is incorporated.
  7. Lightly coat the pie pan with the nonstick cooking spray.
  8. Unfold the pie dough and press it into pan. Crimp the edges with your fingers.
  9. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet.
  10. Add the pecans to the pie shell and pour the filling on top.
  11. Bake the pie until it turns a golden-brown color and becomes firm, about 45 minutes.
  12. Cool completely on a rack.

3. Bourbon balls

Bourbon balls
Image: Call Me PMC

Are you noticing a pattern yet? Derby parties are all about the bourbon!

Bourbon balls may be little, but they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Not only that, they are easy to make, pretty to serve and fabulous to munch on before, during or after the two minutes of race time. Call Me PMC’s blog has the recipe for seven different varieties of authentic Kentucky bourbon balls for you to give a whirl.

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4. Pork tenderloin sliders

Pork sliders
Image: My Recipes

For a little main dish deliciousness, try serving a traditional Derby-time dish with a twist. Pork and barbecues are quite popular in the South and at Derby parties everywhere. Instead of something you see all the time, like roasts or sandwiches, try some yummy pork tenderloin sliders. This is a great (and convenient) dish to serve at just about any party.

What are your favorite dishes to serve during the Kentucky Derby?

Originally published April 2012. Updated May 2017.