Famous Food From Kentucky

Derby Pie with nuts sprinkled on side.

Kentucky was the first US state west of the Appalachian mountains. Over the next 150 years, explorers and natives would build what has become a very rich culture in Kentucky. From bourbon to bluegrass, Kentucky has given many gifts to our nation. Our dinner of famous food from Kentucky was a lot of fun!

Hot Brown

The Hot Brown was invented by Fred K. Schmidt, of the Brown Hotel. Hungry hotel guests would often seek out comfort food after a night of dancing. Schmidt wanted to give them options other than their typical choice of ham and eggs, so he created the Hot Brown in 1926. This open-faced sandwich has thick slices of turkey breast, a smothering of mornay sauce, and crispy bacon.

Side shot of a hot brown sandwich. Flowers in a vase in background..

Chocolate Walnut Pecan (Derby) Pie

It seems hotel owners in Kentucky were quite the food inventors! Walter and Leaudra Kern, of Melrose Inn, created the Derby Pie. This decadent pie combines chocolate, nuts, and bourbon. After struggling to decide on a name for this pie, they asked all of their family members to write down ideas on slips of paper. They put all of the ideas into a hat, and drew out the slip that said, “Derby Pie.”

It may have been by chance that this pie got its name, but it has gone on to be a very important name for the family. In 1964 they patented the name “Derby-pie,” and just a few years later received an official trademark. The Kerns now have the reputation of being the most litigious food prospector, as they have fought to maintain the rights to this pie’s name.

Slilce of chocolate walnut pecan pie on a plate with a scoop of ice cream on top. Whole pie in the background.

Mint Juleps

It certainly wouldn’t be a Kentucky dinner without mint juleps! Muddled mint and bourbon were originally an elixir to settle upset stomachs. People fell in love with the flavor of these mint juleps and in 1938 the Kentucky Derby, held at Churchill Downs, declared the mint julep the official derby drink. Churchill Downs reportedly serves over 110,000 mint juleps over the two days of festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby!

For our Kentucky dinner we made a variety of berry mint juleps, including a blackberry mint julep, because blackberry is the official state fruit of Kentucky.

3 berry mint juleps on a tray with whiskey in background.

Famous Food from Kentucky Menu

Kentucky State Facts

  • Kentucky is the 15th state in the US
  • The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country
  • The song “Happy birthday to you” was written in 1893 by two Louisville sisters
  • There are almost twice as many bourbon barrels in Kentucky as there are people
  • Kentucky is home to Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave system
  • Famous people from Kentucky include: Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, and Rosemary Clooney

If this is the first state dinner you have enjoyed with us, check out our journey from the beginning, starting here.


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