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Kentucky Derby food 2021: Recipes for traditional desserts, snacks, pies

Master distiller Chris Morris shows Carolyn Manno, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski how Woodford Reserve Distillery makes their $1,000 Mint Julep that is served at the Kentucky Derby.

As with any major sporting event, food is a vital aspect of the Kentucky Derby. With 147 years of history and centuries of Southern traditions, there is no shortage of decadent and unique Bluegrass foods and desserts to whip up for the perfect at-home Kentucky Derby viewing party.

The 2021 Kentucky Derby will air on May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on and on the NBC Sports app. Post time for the 2021 Kentucky Derby is set for approximately 6:57 p.m. ET.

Related: How to watch the 2021 Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky hot brown is a product of the historic Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. In the 1920s, Chef Fred Schmidt was looking for a late-night delicacy for partying night owls and found it in this open-faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and Mornay sauce.

Fried chicken is perhaps the most widespread, globally known export out of the Bluegrass, thanks to Colonel Sanders and his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Ky.

  • Keep it traditional with a classic and simple fried chicken like racing owner and celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s recipe. Throw in some waffles and syrup for some added Southern flare.
  • Make it unique with a more flavorful, yet still themed, spin on fried chicken like Food Network’s bourbon brined fried chicken.

Related: Recipes for traditional Mint Julep and other Kentucky Derby drinks

Journey deep into Kentucky cuisine with Burgoo, a meat and vegetable stew that was traditionally made with whatever items were available, like rabbit, squirrel and possum.

  • Keep it traditional yet accessible with the Kentucky Derby’s official burgoo recipe that uses store-bought meats, including steak, pork and turkey.
  • Make it unique by dressing it up with a variety of breads to dip in your stew.

Get your Kentucky Derby party started early with a hearty serving of biscuits and gravy, a mainstay in Southern cuisine.

Related: Enter to win a #DerbyAtHome Mint Julep kit

You can’t have a Derby party without a Derby pie, a chocolate and nut (pecans or walnuts—dealer’s choice) pie that originated in the 1950s at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Ky.

  • Keep it traditional with my personal, ridiculously simple Derby pie recipe, which uses pecans:

    • 9" unbaked pie shell (homemade or store-bought)
    • 1/4 cup of butter (melted and cooled)
    • 1 cup of granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup of flour
    • 2 eggs (beaten)
    • 1 tsp of vanilla
    • 1 cup of chocolate chips
    • 1 cup of chopped pecans
    • 2 tbsp of bourbon

      • Combine all ingredients, pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until a knife comes out of the pie with only chocolate sticking to it.
  • Make it unique by adding a tablespoon of honey to your batter before you bake it, which adds to both the texture and taste. You can also leave the bourbon out (though the alcohol cooks out) for a younger crowd. Then it basically becomes a giant cookie pie.

Related: What to know about the 147th Kentucky Derby

If you really have a sweet tooth, satisfy it with rich bourbon balls, a chocolate-coated bourbon and nut delicacy that was invented by Ruth Booe of Rebecca Ruth Chocolates in 1938.

  • Keep it traditional with a straightforward recipe like this one, which requires soaking the pecans in bourbon overnight.
  • Make it unique by mixing up your mix-ins and using a bourbon liqueur instead, adding sea salt or dipping the bourbon balls in different types of chocolate.

Transparent pie is a custard-ey pie that originated in Maysville, which sits on the Kentucky-Ohio border. This simple yet sweet dessert dates back to the 1800s and is entirely made out of everyday kitchen staples.

Watch the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Full coverage is also available on and the NBC Sports app.