Few American sporting events exist with the history and southern charm of the Kentucky Derby. If you love southern cooking, horses and the Derby, you’ll adore these delicious recipes to celebrate with on the first Saturday in May. Polish the mint julep cups, find that fancy hat, and pull out your finest silver, crystal, china and linens. It’s time to host a party!

The Kentucky Derby’s history began in 1872, when Meriwether Lewis Clark, grandson of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, traveled to Europe. Inspired by his travels, Clark was determined to create a horse racing event in the United States. After receiving land from his uncles John and Henry Churchill, the beginnings of the Kentucky Derby was born.

It’s well established that food is a central component of the Kentucky Derby. Every year, the concession stands at the Kentucky Derby sell about 142,000 hot dogs, 18,000 barbecue sandwiches, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 13,800 pounds of beef, and 300,000 strawberries for traditional strawberries and cream. Mint juleps are made over 120,000 times during the event.

With the Kentucky Derby right around the corner, here are some of my new favorite Derby recipes.


Serve Benedictine with carrot sticks, celery sticks, sliced bell peppers and crostini. Or, spread on sandwich rounds to create delicious cucumber tea sandwiches.

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 (4 to 5-inch piece of English cucumber, peeled, halved, seeds removed and roughly chopped

1/3 cup fresh dill, plus additional for garnish

2 green onions, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place cream cheese, cucumber, dill, green onions, mayonnaise and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until combined. Garnish with fresh dill. Makes 1 cup.

Kentucky Hot Browns

I’m always changing my Hot Brown recipe as I discover new ways to prepare and serve them. This new version is a Kentucky Derby Party champion!

For the mornay sauce:

4 tablespoons salted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups heavy cream

½ cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the hot browns:

6 thick slices of bread (I used Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White Bread)

½ pound sliced roasted turkey breast

3 campari tomatoes, sliced

12 slices of cooked bacon


Fresh chopped Italian parsley

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Whisk in flour and stir until the mixture turns into a roux (thick paste). Cook roux for 1 minute over medium heat, stirring frequently. Slowly whisk heavy cream into the roux and continue cooking over medium heat until the cream begins to thicken, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and stir in cheese until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an oven-safe dish with cooking spray. Place bread evenly in dish. Top each slice of bread with sliced turkey and a couple of sliced tomatoes. Top each hot brown with the mornay sauce. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven until sauce is bubbly and the dish is warmed through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Cross two pieces of cooked bacon on each hot brown and return to oven for 5 minutes. Garnish with paprika and freshly chopped Italian parsley before serving. Serves 6.

Bourbon-Pecan Truffles

These yummy chocolate truffles are easy to make but fancy enough for your Derby Day table.

For the roasted pecans:

2½ cups pecan halves

1 tablespoon melted salted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

For the truffles:

2 (8.8-ounce) packages bittersweet chocolate morsels (3 cups)

2 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into small pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup bourbon

10 tablespoons heavy cream

1 (7.25-ounce) package butter cookies, crushed (I used Pepperidge Farm Butter Chessman)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans in a bowl. Toss with melted butter and salt until all pecans are coated. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes in preheated oven. Stir pecans and return to oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until pecans are toasted. Do not overcook. Cool completely. Chop finely and set aside. Place chocolate morsels, butter, vanilla and bourbon in a mixing bowl. Heat heavy cream until hot but not boiling. Pour cream over chocolate mixture and let sit for 30 seconds. Stir until mixture is melted and smooth. If mixture doesn’t melt completely, microwave at high heat for 30 seconds. Stir in crushed cookies and mix until well combined. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls (about 2 teaspoons per ball) and roll in chopped pecans. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Chill for 1 hour before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 45.

The writer owns Catering by Debbi Covington and is the author of three cookbooks, Celebrate Beaufort, Celebrate Everything! and Dining Under the Carolina Moon. For more great recipes and to view her cooking demonstrations, visit and subscribe to Debbi’s YouTube channel. Debbi’s website address is www.cateringbydebbicovington.com. She may be reached at 843-525-0350 or by email at dbc@cateringbydebbicovington.com.