It’s all about the Run for the Roses here in Kentucky these days! I learned this week that over 160,000 decked out gents and ladies with hats beyond your wildest imagination, show up for the big event. And it’s not just the hats, horses and spectators that are part of the tradition, but some very specific Derby food dishes too. Between the Kentucky Oaks and the Derby itself, there are 127,000 mint juleps served at Churchill Downs! And don’t worry if you can’t make it to the Derby, there are plenty of parties going on all over the state. If you’ve never hosted a Kentucky Derby party, then maybe this is your year. Even if it’s just a special menu for the family and a few friends, I’ve got you covered today with a few favorites for your own Kentucky Derby Party. But know that once you try some of these Kentucky-inspired favorites, you may just want to serve them all year long!
The Southern Living Derby Day Party is a guide to all things Derby party, along with a few fashion tips too!
Appetizers and Main Dishes
- Sliders are always a great party option because they’re easy to hold, can feed a crowd and there are so many flavor options. I love Chicken Cordon Bleu sliders, though they aren’t a traditional Derby food!
- Kentucky Beer Cheese is pretty much exactly what its name implies and is another staple that you’ll hear about frequently here in the Commonwealth.
- “Fried” Chicken is always a nice idea, especially when it’s a Chick-fil-a copycat chicken tender, and don’t forget your favorite dipping sauces too!
- The Kentucky Hot Brown Bake is a new twist on one of the first sandwiches you’ll be introduced to here in the bluegrass. It doesn’t take but a few bites to see why the combination of turkey, bacon, tomato and cheesy goodness is such a popular request!
- Country Ham & Biscuits are a classic and this recipe from myrecipes.com suggests offering mustard blends and flavored butter to make them even tastier.
- And what’s a derby without a spectacular hat? This Derby Cheese Hat from myrecipes.com uses cheese rounds and is sure to be crowned the favorite hat of the entire Derby when served with an assortment of crackers and maybe even some special jams and jellies.
- Scooped and chilled Watermelon always seems to be a favorite for any meal, or snack for that matter, as the weather gets warmer. It’s just as refreshing as a glass of water, but has much more flavor! If you feel adventurous, kick it up a notch with a bit of chili powder!
- My Layered Coleslaw uses coleslaw instead of lettuce and makes for a crispier version of the traditional seven-layer salad.
- These Goat Cheese Biscuits were inspired by those served at Table Fifty-Two in Chicago and are such a delightful combination of herbs and goat cheese inside and buttery Parmesan topping.
- These Sweet Tea popsicles have all the refreshing flavor of an Arnold Palmer, but in a popsicle. Perfect for a warm race day!
- You obviously can’t have a Derby party without a Hat shaped Cake, and with its fresh flowers and ribbon embellishments, you don’t even have to be an expert cake decorator.
- To round out the dessert section how about some Red Velvet “Run for the Roses” cupcakes? This recipe was originally created for one of Kentucky’s other great loves, the UK Wildcats. Simply switch out the blue food coloring for red and voila, you have “Run for the Roses” cupcakes!
- Individual pies make in mini pie pans or even hand pies are great for large gatherings when you don’t want to be too fussy about place settings and all that formality.
- Did you know that the name “Derby Pie” is actually copyrighted? It’s true! When a friend gave me her Kentucky Nut Pie version I just had to try it. It was definitely a winner in our house and disappeared in no time!
- There are lots of recipes for Bourbon balls and those are a big deal here in Kentucky. I’ve heard of several people who include a Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour while they are here for the derby. One of the favorite places for such treats in town is Old Kentucky Chocolates. It’s a good idea to include a few pre-made menu items sometimes when you’re throwing a party, so why not some of these!
- Mint Juleps are another Derby tradition, and if bourbon is your thing, Southern Living has this Mint Julep Sweet Tea recipe. If, on the other hand, bourbon isn’t your thing then you can leave that out and enjoy a sweet mint tea.
- Kids of all ages are sure to enjoy these Frozen Pink Lemonades Of course if pink lemonade isn’t their favorite flavor or color, then just replace it with their favorite tea, juice or soft drink.
In case you haven’t marked your calendar yet, post time for the Derby is scheduled for 6:34 pm, Eastern time. Be sure to fill your plate with goodies before that, because if you step out for 2 minutes you’ll likely miss the entire thing!
Hi, Tiffany. I love your recipes and tips! Thrilled to see this post in particular because and we are hosting a Kentucky Derby party this year. I wonder if you have any ideas about whether the Kentucky Brown bake would be freezable or do ahead and reheat? Or do part ahead? Also, want to adjust to make two 13×9″ pans. I am trying to not have to do everything Saturday and be a crazy person. Thanks for any help!
Cathy, I’m not sure how this would do if you freeze it. You could probably assemble it earlier in the day and bake it later though. Hope you have a great party!