25 Party-Perfect Kentucky Derby Recipes
Grab your eccentric hats and seersucker suits, because we have everything you need to make your Derby Day party a success. From pimiento cheese to tea sandwiches, these Kentucky Derby recipes will easily get you from cocktails to dessert.
Prosciutto-Asiago Pimiento Cheese
This recipe gives some Italian flavor to Basic Pimiento Cheese. With crispy prosciutto and Asiago cheese, you’re definitely stepping up your dip game. Friends and family will think it is oh-so-fancy but you will know it was super simple. From backyard cookouts to a porch party, this recipe can work for any occasion. It also makes the perfect snack for those long summer days. Hand shred your cheese for a better texture and flavor. We also prefer diced pimientos over sliced.
Basic Pimiento Cheese
There are countless views on pimiento cheese perfection. It can be a smooth and spreadable version sandwiched between two slices of white bread. It can be chunky, spiked with hot sauce and cayenne pepper, and stuffed into celery sticks. It can be made with extra mayonnaise for a creamy cracker topper. The list goes on and on. We found that, apart from the fundamental ingredients (cheese, pimientos, and mayo), the best pimiento cheese is the one you grew up eating. However you enjoy it, two things are essential: First, hand shred the cheese—some finely, some coarsely—for the best texture (a food processor will get the job done, but don’t cheat with the pre-grated stuff). Second, pick jarred pimientos that are diced, not sliced. This classic recipe works as a dip, spread, or all by itself.
Spicy Pimiento Cheese Sausage Balls
If you thought you had your perfect, go-to sausage ball recipe—wait until you’ve tried these. Using prepared pimiento cheese in this party food favorite eliminates the need to shred cheese when it comes time to prep your sausage balls, and keeps them from drying out in the oven—as sausage balls are prone to do. In other words, this ultimate appetizer recipe is as genius as it is delicious.
Mini Tomato Sandwiches With Bacon Mayonnaise
One of the season’s simplest and most iconic pleasures, the beloved BLT, can also double as an effortless appetizer. The quality of your tomatoes will make or break this simple sandwich. We like the color contrast of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, but choose whichever large tomato is ripest. These little sandwiches are perfect for outdoor picnics or brunch with the ladies.
Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
A new take on a familiar favorite pairs grilled cheese with a BLT for a luscious veggie-packed sandwich that feels like an indulgence. Serve with zesty dill pickle spears. If you have extra room in your budget, pair with a sweet-tart hard cider.
Grilled Margherita Sandwiches
This quick five-ingredient entrée transforms a favorite pizza combo into a melty grilled sandwich. To thinly slice fresh mozzarella with ease, freeze the cheese for about 30 minutes before cutting.
Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole
We turned the classic Hot Brown sandwich from Louisville into a tasty casserole. The creamy, crunchy mixture of fresh tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, toasted bread, and crispy bacon make this dish high on our list comfort food favorites. The turkey for this recipe starts in a slow cooker so it can develop rich flavors.
Kentucky Fried Chicken Biscuits
These light, buttery, and flaky biscuits are Colonel Sanders-approved.
Slow Roasted Pulled Pork
When I make this recipe at home, I slow cook the pork in the oven. It's such a treat to have leftovers of this for enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, or sandwiches. To make a delicious quesadilla, combine about 1/3 cup of this pork with a little coleslaw and grated sharp Cheddar cheese.
Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
There’s more than one way to enjoy the classic sweet flavor of fresh watermelon besides eating it right off the rind. This watermelon feta salad is a light and refreshing complement to any summer meal, no matter if it’s for a cookout, potluck, or regular weeknight dinner. Combine sweet, salty, bright, and peppery flavors in this simple, 1-bowl side dish. Pick up a watermelon while they’re in season and make the salad ahead of time so the watermelon can fully soak up the dressing. There’s nothing better than a plate of this chilled salad on a hot summer day, so keep it in the fridge until it’s ready to serve. It’s safe to say this easy salad will become a summertime staple in your house.
Shrimp Kebabs with Mint and Melon Salad
The shrimp is balanced with slight sweetness, bitter char, and tangy lime—a combination that complements the refreshing melon. Pick the ripest melons you can find; they should be firm but slightly soft and fragrant, especially near the stem end. Round out this dinner with your favorite grain or the Herb-Scented Rice Salad. Gina Homolka is the founder of skinnytaste.com and @skinnytaste.
Mint Oreo Icebox Cake
This decadent Oreo icebox cake is incredibly easy to make and requires only six ingredients. It’s a perfect dessert for kids birthday parties that doesn’t require heating up the kitchen. As is, this cooling cake offers a delightful mint-chocolate flavor profile, but feel free to switch things up by using your favorite Oreo cookie flavor (and leaving out the fresh mint).
Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken
You can marinate the chicken in the buttermilk mixture up to 24 hours so the seasoning penetrates the meat more deeply, though even a two-hour soak will help if you’re time-pressed. Two teaspoons of hot sauce in the marinade gives the chicken zesty flavor without seeming spicy. Depending on your heat preference, you can double or triple the amount of hot sauce. For best results, shop for air-chilled (not water-chilled) chicken so it’s easier for the brine to penetrate. Grate the cheese with a Microplane or other very fine grater so it spreads evenly into the coating.
Oven “Fried” Chicken Drumsticks with Peach Barbecue Sauce
Cutting down on the fat doesn’t mean cutting out any flavor with this oven “fried” chicken, featuring a savory spice rub and a sweet, tangy peach barbecue sauce. Cooking your chicken at a high temperature in the oven means you won’t need additional oil in order to get super-crispy skin. Alternatively, you could also do this with an air fryer. With high, dry heat, the chicken crisps and browns with just the fat naturally present in the skin, just as it would if you were to sear it in a pan of hot oil on the stove. The combination of bold ancho chili pepper and paprika spices adds a peppery heat and aids in developing a dark caramel color as the chicken cooks. The sweet peach barbecue sauce starts with ketchup as the base and makes a great match for the chicken as it sweet tanginess cuts dry rub’s the spice. The use of a fresh peach and peach preserves gives the sauce intense peachy flavor and a substantial thickness once all the ingredients are blended together. We call for Mirin here, but if you have trouble finding it, you can use rice wine vinegar instead. The soy sauce provides the perfect kick of salinity, while the Worcestershire sauce adds another layer of acidic and umami flavors. And finally, the brown sugar rounds out the sauce for a well-balanced mix of sweet, savory, bright and bitter
Open-Faced Pimiento Cheese BLTs
Pimiento cheese is a Southern tradition. We add a little Parmesan to the standard cheddar-mayo mixture for extra savory depth.
Shortcut Southern Tomato Pie
When you’re working with juicy, ripe summer tomatoes, there’s really no need for fuss. We keep it simple in this no-frills tomato pie recipe by utilizing store-bought pie crust and pimiento cheese. We found that a thick pimiento cheese, such as Palmetto brand, works best for this recipe.
Mint Sorbet with Bourbon
Happy hour meets dessert with this delightfully refreshing summer treat. Inspired by Bill Smith’s book Taking It on the Road, this tasty riff on a classic mint julep cocktail is incredibly easy to prepare, and makes for a fun boozy sweet to serve for summer parties and cookouts. And you wanted to skip the bourbon altogether, the mint sorbet alone is a perfect, cooling summer dessert.
White Chocolate and Bourbon Pecan Slab Pie with Caramel Sauce
It doesn't get much better than this decadent version of a Southern classic. White chocolate, bourbon, and caramel give this pecan pie a flavor much more dynamic than the original.
Try this recipe for a maple-flavored twist on the classic old-fashioned cocktail.
Sweet Tea-Vodka Slushee
Say hello to the ultimate summer sipper. For this cooling, boozy concoction, we took the idea of a sweet tea and vodka on-the-rocks to the next level by blending it into a delightful adult slushee. The recipe here serves 2, but is easily multiplied to produce more cocktails for friends (you can’t sip on one of these beauties and not share). You can use store-bought sweet tea, or make your own so that you can better control the level of of sweetness.
Think of these tasty little tassies as your own personal pecan pie. They're both salty and sweet, with a hit of oaky bourbon. Whole-grain rye flour adds the perfect touch of sour to the shortbread-like crust, while toasted pecans do double duty in the crust and in the maple-splashed filling. As if that weren't enough to jingle your bell, we drizzle warm bittersweet chocolate over each bite to ensure maximum satisfaction.
Make the best of ripe bananas with this recipe for Hummingbird Cake. You'll receive rave reviews and requests for more when Hummingbird Cake is on your dessert menu.
Slow-Cooker Ginger, Sweet Tea, and Whiskey Short Ribs
Short ribs are often considered a cold weather dish, but we gave them a makeover for summer with a bright, tangy sauce (inspired by spiked sweet tea) and a fresh, herbal topping of parsley, scallions, and lemon zest. Serve these easy-to-prepare slow cooker ribs atop grits, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles or alongside potato salad with a tangy, vinegar-based (not mayonnaise-based) dressing.
Kentucky Benedictine Tea Sandwiches
Kentucky Benedictines pair with anything and everything thanks to their flavor—a wonderful mix of fresh crunch and smooth creaminess.