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Kentucky Derby party menu

I need to put together a dinner menu for a derby party and I have no idea's what are traditional. I live in Texas and have never even been to Kentucky any help would be great.

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  1. not sure about traditional, but i've done derby parties with:

    mint juleps (of course)
    sweet spiced pecans
    baked brie with mango chutney
    bourbon brownie balls (anything with bourbon!)
    key lime coconut rum balls
    macademia coconut tart
    tea sandwiches (basil mayo & tomato, etc.)

    would love to hear what others have done.

    5 Replies
    1. re: iamsam

      Those sound great, I would like to know more about main course items as I am planning an alday into the eveing dinner.

      1. re: iamsam

        Oh, those bourbon brownie balls sound great - I'd love the recipe if you are still following this thread! Thanks.

        1. re: Rubee

          Oops! Hadn't been following the thread, but since these are good year-round, why not?

          They're super easy, and from an old recipe of Cooking Light (c. 2005). I up the amount of bourbon.


          1. re: iamsam

            I just recommended them to someone else who is trying to combine Derby with CInco de Mayo - I suggested adding some chipotle powder. Even if you just follow this recipe, they're embarrassingly good. You don't want to give away your secret!

        2. re: iamsam

          I was fortunate to be able to go to the Kentucky Derby one year, what fun and love the hats and dresses, the excitement truly gallops through the air.

          I don't really have any suggestions but I'd love to come to your next party, those tasty treats sound wonderful.
          good job.

        3. Mint Juleps (even if they are the nastiest things on earth)
          Tea sandwiches with Benedictine, Pimento cheese
          Hot Browns (main if it's a sit down)
          Southern style Potato salad (or mashed potatoes)
          Mac Salad
          Derby pie (Kern's Kitchen)
          If it's an outside party... grilled anything... that fits...

          3 Replies
          1. re: Lightsuprooms

            we do baby hot browns at parties.you have to do corn pudding...I have never ever been to a derby party without country ham and beaten biscuits.

            1. re: LaLa

              I was just coming to add country ham and biscuits are a requirement!!

            2. re: Lightsuprooms

              If you think mint juleps are "the nastiest things on earth", you're not making them right! Be sure to crush the mint with a pestal to release the flavor, mix with simple syrup (a must - don't just mix with sugar - simple syrup insn't hard to make and can be made ahead of time). Fill a pticher with CRUSHED ice, pour mixture over the crushed ice, then pour some really good bourbon over the ice (don't cheap out on the bourbon.) Stir. Let sit until mixture is ice cold. Fill derby glass with crushed ice, pour drink from pitcher, garnish with a sprig of mint. DELICIOUS! Peggy

            3. Isn't there a stew called burgoo that's very traditional?

              5 Replies
              1. re: nemo

                Burgoo is traditional, but an acquired taste. It is squirel, chicken, and I think ham. You then cook it all until it it mush. Not my favorite.

                I am originally from KY and have done many Derby parties and attended many. Lots of food are traditional for Derby.

                Mint Juleps, a waste of good Bourbon.
                Black eye peas dip
                Country Ham Puffs
                Beef Burganday
                Party Peas
                spoon bread
                Henry Bain Sauce on Ky Bibb lettuce, sauce can be served on any meat, or cream cheese
                Derby pie
                Cream Puffs stuffed with Benedictine or Pimento cheese
                Country Ham www.broadbenthams.com
                Beef tenderloin
                deviled eggs
                green beans with a ham hock
                potatoe salad
                tomato aspic
                corn pudding

                As you can see, most Southern food will work.

                1. re: Janet

                  I just had a thought. Google Kentucky Derby , there are sites to get info from and also sites that will sell you plates, cups, napkins, pix, all kinds of stuff to decorate for a party. In March or April the official Ky Derby print/poster should come out.

                  1. re: Janet

                    I like the items at: http://www.atasteofkentucky.com
                    I've ordered derby paraphernalia from them for years and have never been unhappy with the quality. Check out the "Talk derby to me" line.

                    As to menu items, at my annual derby party (not a sit down), derby pie is always a hit. Another good Kentuck-esque item are thrown biscuits with country ham (though they're a pain to make -- you have to make them small). If a sit-down party is what you're after, I agree that Hot Browns are a natural choice. Anything with a bourbon accent would work (like things with bourbon bbq sauce).

                    Of course the most important aspect is the julep. I recommend making a mint-steeped simple syrup a few days in advance of the shindig -- use that plus fresh mint to make the drinks.

                    Woohoo Derby!

                    1. re: litchick

                      I am from Ky and I have never heard of thrown biscuits....we make beaten biscuits with our country ham in our house...what is a thrown biscuit?

                2. I grew up in Lexington, which isn't really the heart of traditional KY cuisine. (Lexington has 2 universities, a P&G plant, and had the IBM Selectric factory, guaranteeing lots of residents from all over the country.) But if you go to the horse track in Lexington, the burgoo will make a convert out of any non-vegetarian.

                  Mint juleps need not be nasty--just be sure to use decent bourbon! Old Grandad is an excellent value in that regard; it is smoother than Maker's Mark (which is all marketing hype, not particularly good IMO) and has a decent depth of flavor.

                  I make decidedly non-traditional juleps by steeping fresh mint in my hot sugar syrup and turning the whole affair into a frozen blender drink. That's what comes from growing up in Lexington--we value taste over tradition, sometimes.

                  Spoonbread really is good. You may also want to make cheese grits as a side.

                  Traditional KY vegetable preparation involves cooking for 4 hours or more with some fat-back until they're grey. This is not something we ever did in my Lexington household. You could probably go with the All-American green bean/mushroom soup/French's onions. There is an asparagus industry in Kentucky, so if you can find some early asparagus, that would be appropriate.

                  I have never attended a pot-luck in KY without encountering Ambrosia, which is a jello-salad concoction. Any church cookbook from the South ought to have a recipe for that.

                  Hot Browns would indeed be a classic, as would burgoo. The Joy of Cooking has a recipe for burgoo, and you need not include road kill. You could also go up north just a little bit and serve Cincinnati style chili, which has some cinnamon in it and is served over noodles.

                  Chess pie would be a traditional dessert, including chocolate bourbon variants.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PollyG

                    I see others have already covered it... but the first things that sprang to mind when I saw your title were hot browns and mint juleps.

                  2. I also have thrown many derby parties. All the suggestions above are good...I always serve:

                    mint juleps
                    tea sandwiches with benedictine
                    derby pie (extremely simple and extremely delicious)
                    cheese grits
                    steamed asparagus

                    I also have served KFC(!) for the past few years...just pop it in the oven to reheat, and in fact guests will think you made it yourself! It is actually surprisingly tasty in the context of a derby party, although fried chicken is not necessarily traditional for derby...

                    1. Camelot Bakery buns with beef tenderloin and Henry Bains sauce

                      Hmmm. . . buns might be hard to find:


                      You can make your own Henry Bains or buy it.


                      Benedictine--Make your own!! Here's a link to a good, basic recipe, only I've never, ever used mayo in Benedictine (and neither has my mayo-loving, Louisville-born Mother-in-Law). In order to avoid the dreaded alien-green spread, use only one drop of green food color per 8-oz cream cheese. It should be celery-colored.


                      Oh yeah. Kern's Bakery holds the copyright on the name everyone uses, but you can find recipes for "Kentucky chocolate nut pie" that come close to the original:


                      1. I have an annual Derby party so I try not to repeat the menu. Beyond the burgo, country ham, KY hot browns, I focus on on southern food classics

                        tomatoe cheese pie
                        cheese straws
                        cheesy grits
                        This year's fare is BBQ.

                        I have used this website for Derby "stuff" with fast, reliable service. Good selection: www.equinegifts.com/

                        Whatever food you have just be sure to have fun. It's a fun way to get your friends together and watch on the big screen. Don't forget your hat!

                        1. Hi , My whole family is from a little town in Ky. My mother has my grandmothers old KY home cook book from the early 50' s in it, it list the traditional Derby menu . If you like a list get in touch and i'll be happy to give it to you . Have a great Derby day !!!!

                          1. I've been making this for years. The benefit is that you don't have to make juleps one at a time for your guests....they're all ready to go when folks arrive. (NB: I use less sugar in this):

                            10 DAY MINT JULEP

                            Take a large glass jar (like a sun tea jar) and
                            pack 1/2 cup sugar into the bottom
                            2) fill full with mint leaves
                            3)Add 1/4 cup brandy
                            4)Fill with 1 fifth bourbon

                            DO NOT STIR!!!!!

                            Place jar in refrigerator tightly capped. Every 24 hours for ten days, turn the jar over 180 degrees. No shaking or stirring. In other words, for ten days, it alternates standing on its base and head.

                            After 10 days, discard the mint and strain. Two oz of this elixir over crushed ice,with a fresh sprig of mint, will change your life.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: SSqwerty

                              Sounds delicious!! Just in time. . .

                              -Have a great Derby-

                              1. re: SSqwerty

                                Oh wow! Thanks so much for the recipe. I can't wait to share this with my Mom.

                              2. Our traditional menu is: mulled mint juleps, pulled pork. baked southern fried chicken, southern style baby back ribs, collard greens with pork, blackeyed peas, sweet potato mash with pecans, jalapeno and cheese cornbread, derby pie, and bourbon balls. Lulu's mom

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: manalapanfoodie

                                  I've heard of baked "fried chicken" but not baked "Southern fried chicken." What is that? Also where do you get collards in May? Aw, hell, as long as I'm asking...what's a "mulled" mint julep? :)

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I have no trouble finding collards in May but I am south carolina. They are better in cooler months but they are sold year around on the side of the road around here.

                                2. I have lived in KY my whole life, and mint juleps arejust about the best thing in the whole world, if ya know how to make em. Add a little water and Make 'em mild, not good if too strong. A little KY bourbon goes a long way..the best is Rock Hill. This drink is for sippin. Also make a wilted salad, barbecue, cheese grits, derby pie, and sweet tea...everybody will love it. Yall have fun!

                                  1. This thread has revived my interest in tradtional central-southern foods. Thanks!