17 Recipes to Make for the Kentucky Derby

KY Hot Brown Mac and Cheese
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

The Kentucky Derby race itself might famously take just two minutes, but the occasion, on the first Saturday in May, warrants an afternoon-long celebration of food and drink. Kick things off with a Mint Julep (which boasts a more complex history than what you might expect) or a Vodka Rose Punch that's garnished perfectly for the Run for the Roses while you snack on Maple Pecans and Deviled Eggs with Country Ham. And don't forget about Pimiento Cheese—we have a classic recipe, plus one accented with sweet onions, and even a Vegan Pimiento Cheese for you to serve. And your Derby party won't be complete without some Southern Fried Chicken, or Kentucky Hot Brown Mac and Cheese (pictured). Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon is the traditional dessert for the day, but a Red Velvet Cake will have its own fans. Read on for even more of our favorite recipes to enjoy on Derby Day.

01 of 17

Mint Julep

Mint Julep
© Wendell T. Webber

To make this Derby Day favorite, you'll need mint, simple syrup, bourbon, and finally, crushed ice. Equipment-wise, make sure to have a chilled julep cup or fizz glass on hand, as well as a muddler and a swizzle stick or bar spoon for mixing the drink.

02 of 17

Vodka-Rose Punch

Vodka-Rose Punch
© John Kernick

Cookbook author and TV host Padma Lakshmi uses rose syrup in this lovely pink-hued punch—"I love the floral accent and the frilly pink tinge it gives mixed drinks," she says. The punch comes together in just 10 minutes, so it's a perfect low-lift option for entertaining.

03 of 17

Blackberry-Mint Julep

Blackberry-Mint Julep
© Peden + Munk

Adding blackberries to a mint julep adds fruity flavor to the classic warm-weather cocktail. As you shake the blackberries in a cocktail shaker along with the other ingredients, they'll also impart their vibrant color to the drink.

04 of 17

Deviled Eggs with Country Ham

Deviled Eggs with Country Ham
© Wendell T. Webber

Chef Ford Fry's deviled eggs get their terrific flavor from goat cheese, Dijon mustard, and cornichons, plus a topping of country ham. Finish the hors d'oeuvre off with a sprinkle of fresh chives.

05 of 17

Pimiento Cheese Muffins

Pimento Cheese Muffins
© Con Poulos

Chef Lincoln Carson mixes pimiento cheese into the batter for these savory muffins, so you get cheesy, peppery flavors in every bite. Serve them with butter, or double down on the pimiento flavor and serve with more pimiento cheese on the side.

06 of 17

Maple Pecans

Maple Pecans
Recipes and images excerpted with permission from

These nuts are an endlessly delightful combination of sweet, spicy, sticky, and crunchy. If you'd like to make them in advance, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

07 of 17

Sweet Onion Pimiento Cheese

Pimento Cheese
© Robert Rausch

Pimiento cheese—the simple combination of grated cheddar cheese with mayonnaise and pimiento peppers—is a Southern staple often served on crackers or vegetables. The key to making the best pimiento cheese is top-quality sharp cheddar. But photographer and writer Angie Mosier says her personal secret is using sweet onions like Vidalia or Walla Walla.

08 of 17

Pimiento Cheese with Salt-and-Pepper Butter Crackers

Pimento Cheese with Salt-and-Pepper Butter Crackers
© CON POULOS

Chef Carla Hall makes her own crunchy crackers to serve with her cheese spread, a riff on a Southern classic. The cheese can be refrigerated for up to one week in an airtight container, while the crackers can be stored in an airtight container overnight.

09 of 17

Vegan Pimiento Cheese

Vegan pimento cheese, served with fried saltine crackers and pickles green tomatoes
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Pimiento cheese is an iconic snack in the South, and beloved all over. For this vegan version, sweet pimientos stud a creamy and savory base made with extra-firm tofu. The pickle brine and apple cider vinegar lend an acidic brightness to the mixture, while nutritional yeast and miso provide deep umami notes that keep you coming back for more. Be sure to chill this spread for at least two hours to let the flavors meld and achieve the right consistency. Serve it with fried saltines, pickled green tomatoes, and fresh celery.

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The Best Biscuits

Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy and The Best Biscuits
Greg DuPree

Chef Scott Peacock got this delectable biscuit recipe from Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook and his mentor. The biscuits use buttermilk and cold lard (or vegetable shortening) in the dough—the results are so good that we named them as one of our 40 Best Recipes in 2018.

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Hogs in a Blanket

Hogs in a Blanket
© Chris Court

This fun take on pigs in a blanket swaps spicy andouille sausage for the hot dogs, with sweet mustard chutney as a condiment. You only need a few ingredients to make them—all-butter puff pastry, an egg yolk mixed with some water (for brushing), andouille sausage, Major Grey's chutney, and whole-grain mustard. They'll be done in under an hour.

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Kentucky Hot Brown Macaroni and Cheese

KY Hot Brown Mac and Cheese
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

The Kentucky Hot Brown is a classic open-faced sandwich beloved in Kentucky. It was created by Fred Schmidt in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville and features thick Texas toast topped with slices of roast turkey, tomato, and bacon, and doused with Mornay sauce. Here, we took the essential components of a Hot Brown and combined them for an untraditional macaroni and cheese with the soul of the original. The halved cherry tomatoes add pops of brightness to each bite of pasta coated in the rich, creamy sauce, while a crunchy bacon and bread topping nod to the dish's origins. Be careful while cooking the Mornay sauce; keep the whisk in contact with the bottom of the pot while whisking to ensure that the sauce doesn't get lumpy or scorched.

13 of 17

Macaroni and Cheese with Buttery Crumbs

Macaroni and Cheese with Buttery Crumbs
© Matthew Armendariz

Distributing small chunks of cheddar and Colby cheeses throughout this macaroni and cheese gives it a perfect hit of flavor and fabulous gooey texture. The end result is a bubbling, golden dish of cheesy pasta that you'll want to make again and again.

14 of 17

Kentucky Hot Brown

Kentucky Hot Brown
© BARNARD & MEYER

Star chef Bobby Flay smothers an open-face turkey sandwich with cheese sauce and bacon for his version of the beloved Louisville classic. If you'd like to get a head-start on the recipe, you can make the sauce one day in advance, refrigerate it overnight, and then re-warm it before serving.

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The Ultimate Southern Fried Chicken

The Ultimate Southern Fried Chicken
© Con Poulos

This fried chicken from chef Shaun Doty of Bantam + Biddy in Atlanta is a no-fail, no-fuss version of classic fried chicken with a perfectly crunchy seasoned crust (the trick is the cornstarch) and juicy meat. If you want to serve wine with the dish, try pairing the chicken with Champagne, Lambrusco, or Pinot Noir.

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Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon

Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon
© LUCY SCHAEFFER

Cookbook author and pastry chef David Leibovitz's Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon is everything you want in a dessert. The all-butter pie crust is a cinch to throw together thanks to your food processor, and the dough can be made weeks or months in advance and frozen, if you'd like to get ahead. A nip of sweet, caramel-scented bourbon adds depth to the traditional super-sweet filling; chocolate levels it up with its rich texture and just a hint of balancing bitterness. Leave some of the pecans whole to give this classic a slightly more refined look.

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Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake
Abby Hocking / Food & Wine

This towering dessert is made with deep red cake layers and plenty of cream cheese frosting. Unsweetened cocoa powder and red food coloring give the cake its signature hue.

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