How to Throw a Simple Southern Kentucky Derby Party

Growing up in central Kentucky, owning horses my entire life, AND making a career in the horse industry means that the Kentucky Derby has always been a holiday in my family.

I can’t remember one Derby that I haven’t seen in my lifetime. When I was a little girl and visiting my grandparents on Derby Day, my grandmother would make little Southern sandwiches, and we would sit in front of the TV and cheer for our favorite horses. As I got older, I attended Derby parties, and as my career blossomed in the horse industry, it would be my job to entertain clients at Churchill Downs on Derby weekend. 

One thing that has always been consistent in my life has been fast horses and great food. So, if you want to host a fabulous derby party for friends and family or just bring a little tradition to your home on the first Saturday in May, I’m going to share a few of my tips and recipes.

Southern Sandwiches for the Derby

Making little sandwiches for a Derby party is my favorite. First off, they are so EASY! Not just for the hostess but for the guests.  I really like to serve finger food because there is less clean up and I feel like my guests appreciate it as well. Anytime you can serve food that doesn’t require silverware, you’re winning. After all, we aren’t planning a sit-down meal; we’re planning great conversation, fun food, and watching fast horses. 

Plus, I think an assortment of little sandwiches looks great on a serving table or three-tiered serving platters.

Mini Cucumber Delights

Every year, my grandmother would make these little treats, which couldn’t be easier. They consist of three ingredients: a cucumber, garlic, herb cream cheese, and bread. Peel and slice the cucumber into about 1/4-inch thick slices. Then, take a piece of bread (I use both wheat and white because I think they look prettier on a platter) and a small biscuit cutter or cookie cutter (you can use the top of a small drinking glass)  and cut out round circles. Then spread a bit of cream cheese on one piece, top with a slice of cucumber, and then another piece of cut bread to make cute mini sandwiches. These are so easy, cheap to make, and look great when served.

You know what else is a MUST at a Kentucky Derby party? This Kentucky Benedictine Spread. It’s tradition to serve it at derby time. Even the Kentucky Derby Chef ensures it shows up every year at Churchill Down. He even recommends our recipe! Serve it as a dip or spread it on bread for mini sandwiches.

How to Hose a Simple Southern Kentucky Derby Party

Pimento Cheese Triangles

This is so easy and, honestly, a crowd favorite. I like to make little mini pimento cheese sandwiches with white bread cut into triangles. Pimento cheese is a must at your Derby party.

I like to make my own pimento cheese but you can certainly use the store-bought to make things easier. Wanna change it up a bit? Try this one!

Recipe for a Simple Southern Kentucky Derby Party

Ham and Cranberry Sandwiches

These are so simple. Just take some rolls and sliced country ham (you can make a ham or buy any ham that you like) and rolls and spread cranberry sauce on them. Cranberry goes fabulously with pork, and it really brightens up these little sandwiches. You can always serve the cranberry sauce on the side as well.

However, if you want to stick to tradition, you can serve country ham and biscuits. Put your biscuits in the oven about 15 minutes before your guests arrive. When serving, I like to place the biscuits around the edge of the platter, with the sliced ham in the middle. I let my guests assemble them themselves. Plus, it just looks pretty. You can go fancy and add this delicious cranberry butter!

I also recommend these fantastic cheese garlic ham biscuits. Serve with cranberry sauce or pimento cheese; they are delicious!

The Famous Kentucky Hot Brown

A Kentucky Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich that is out of this world good. However, it can be a bit messy. So, I highly recommend making our Hot Brown Sliders. They are easy to serve, easy to eat, and DELICIOUS! For a cute way to display them, after you bake them, stack them in a cast iron skillet and tie a festive scarf or dishtowel around the handle.

Olive Nut Sandwiches

This spread takes me right back to my grandmother. She made this olive nut spread all the time. Sometimes, she served it as a dip, and other times, she served it on little sandwiches. If you serve as mini sandwiches, spread it on a piece of crustless bread, top with another piece of crustless bread, and then cut horizontally and vertically to make four square sandwiches. Suggestion: double the recipe and keep half for yourself. When all your guests have left, cozy up on the couch with your own bowl and eat it as a dip with wheat thins, you deserve it!  Don’t tell me I’m the only one who does this. 😉

French Quarter Cheese Spread

This classic spread will have your guests begging for the recipe. It’s very simple to prepare and could easily be doubled!

Kentucky Derby Party Desserts

Of course, you can’t forget your desserts. Your guests are most definitely going to be looking for some sweet treats. Your classic desserts will be your Kentucky Derby Pie and some bourbon balls. You’ll definitely want to include these delicious pecan pie muffins. They taste exactly like a pecan pie, but they are in muffin form. This makes them so easy to serve, and I can’t stress how good they are!

Pecan Pie Muffins, Kentucky Derby Party

Another great dessert option are these mini cheesecake tarts. They are perfect to serve and mess-free!

Remember, the Kentucky Derby is a celebration of long-standing traditions and fast horses. No stress allowed! You want to really enjoy your gathering with your guests. This means you don’t need to spend much time in the kitchen.  Nothing is worse than a hostess stuck in the kitchen while her guests enjoy the party. Your guests want to see you and enjoy your company. So, for me, I want everything done before they arrive. This way, I can sit back and enjoy some southern flare with my favorite people. Your guests will appreciate it. 


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