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The Best Kentucky Derby Appetizers

Whether you're in it for the hats, the race or the food, the Kentucky Derby is an exciting event! Served with a mint julep, these appetizers are perfect for the classy yet laid-back festivities.

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Gentleman’s Whiskey Bacon Jam

You can slather this smoky bacon jam on pretty much anything. It lasts only a week in the fridge, so I freeze small amounts for a quick snack with crackers. —Colleen Delawder, Herndon, Virginia

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Mini Hot Browns

Here's my take on the famous Hot Brown sandwich. Guests quickly saddle up for juicy turkey slices and crispy bacon piled on toasted rye bread and then topped with a rich cheese sauce. —Annette Grahl, Midway, Kentucky
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Baked Oysters with Tasso Cream

I love nothing more than a cold beer and a shucked oyster, so when my partners and I opened Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham, Alabama, we wanted to add them to the menu. We love making them, we love serving them and our guests love eating them. —Taylor Hicks, Las Vegas, Nevada
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Bourbon Meatballs

Kick-start your meatballs with a splash of bourbon and vinegar for punchy sweet-and-sour flavor. These Kentucky Derby bourbon meatballs are perfect to snack on while you watch the race. —Kimla Carsten, Grand Junction, Colorado
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Pickled Green Beans with Smoked Salmon Dip

I came up with this appetizer for my son, who's big on delicious but healthy food. The lighter beans-and-dip combo has won over even finicky eaters. —Dinah Halterman, Harmony, North Carolina
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Watermelon Cups

This lovely appetizer is almost too pretty to eat! Sweet watermelon cubes hold a refreshing topping that showcases cucumber, red onion and fresh herbs. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Sweet Onion Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs

For my mother's 92nd birthday, we had pimiento cheese deviled eggs as part of the spread. They’re timeless and always in good taste. —Linda Foreman, Locust Grove, Oklahoma
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Ham 'n' Cheese Biscuit Stacks

These finger sandwiches are filling enough to satisfy hearty appetites. I've served the fun little stacks at every event, including holiday gatherings, showers and tailgate parties. —Kelly Williams, Forked River, New Jersey
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Tzatziki Shrimp Cucumber Rounds

I created this recipe with what I had on hand one night, and now it’s one of my husband’s favorites! The bacon-wrapped shrimp, garlicky sauce and burst of cool cuke flavor make this a crowd pleaser. —Shannon Rose Trelease, East Hampton, New York
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Quick Jalapeno Hush Puppies

The crunchy exterior of these southern-style snacks is a nice contrast to the moist cornbread. Jalapeno peppers and hot sauce add a hint of heat. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Quentin’s Air-Fryer Peach-Bourbon Wings

My father and husband love bourbon flavor, so I add it to tangy wings air-fried in peach preserves. Stand back and watch these wings fly. —Christine Winston, Richmond, Virginia
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Smoked Pimiento Cheese Crostini

Pimiento cheese has long been a favorite in our family, so these bite-sized appetizers are a treat! I add Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to give them a little kick. Caramelized onions create another layer of flavor. You can make the cheese and onions three to five days in advance; they store well. If you need to save time, you can use premade jalapeno pimiento cheese. —Caitlyn Bunch, Trenton, Georgia
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Ham Pickle Pinwheels

My mom introduced me to this ham pickle pinwheels appetizer a number of years ago, and I've been making them for parties ever since. They are easy to make and are always well received by guests. —Gloria Jarrett, Loveland, Ohio
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Honey-Mint Lamb Skewers

My hearty lamb bites are delicious and convenient. Assemble them the day before, then pop them under the broiler when the party starts. —Trisha Kruse, Eagle, Idaho
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Shrimp in Phyllo Cups

I almost didn’t make these appetizers for last year’s Christmas party because I was running out of time, but I knew they’d be a tasty hit. Simple to make, the cups have few ingredients and look beautiful on the plate—very gourmet! This turned out to be one of the night’s favorites, and they just flew off the plate. —Terri Edmunds, Naperville, Illinois
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Benedictine Dip

Benedictine is a creamy spread studded with chopped cucumbers. It was named in honor of Jennie Carter Benedict, a chef and restaurateur from Louisville, Kentucky, who created the condiment at the turn of the 20th century. Originally used for cucumber sandwiches, Benedictine is now commonly enjoyed as a cold dip for chips or spread on crackers. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Strawberry Corn Salsa

This recipe makes art in a bowl! All the colors of summer are captured in this salsa with a fresh, light flavor perfect for snacking between swims or to kick off a backyard barbecue. This can be served with chips or alone as a side dish. —Catherine Goza, Charlotte, North Carolina
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Mini Corn Muffins with Spicy Cheddar Filling

I’m an Iowa gardener and I like to feature sweet corn in my recipes. These cute, easy-to-eat bites are a fun change from the usual appetizers. —Margaret Blair, Lorimor, Iowa
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Oyster Cheese Appetizer Log

When you say "holiday tradition" around our house, this appetizer comes to mind immediately. Every winter, I make lots of cheese logs and freeze them for when I'm expecting company or need to take food to someone's home. The blend of smoked oysters, chili powder, nuts and cream cheese tastes good-even people who don't like oysters may enjoy this interesting appetizer. —William Tracy, Jerseyville, Illinois
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Pickled Peaches

Fresh peach quarters soaked in vinegar, sugar and warm spices is a classic southern treat. Serve with ice cream, pound cake, roasted meat and veggies, or mix into your favorite salad greens.—Nick Iverson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Slow-Cooker Cheddar Bacon Beer Dip

My tangy, smoky dip won the top prize in our office party recipe contest. Other beers can work for this, but be sure to steer clear of dark varieties. —Ashley Lecker, Green Bay, Wisconsin
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Hearty Rye Melts

When we moved from the Midwest to Kentucky, we were invited to a neighborhood gathering, where this appetizer was served. Hanky panky—as it’s often called around here—is traditionally served at Derby Day parties, but at our home it’s become a year-round favorite.
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Bourbon Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs

At our house, it doesn’t get any better than deviled eggs with bacon—bourbon candied bacon, that is. See if you can resist them. We can’t. —Colleen Delawder, Herndon, Virginia
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Shrimp Salad Cocktails

This appetizer looks elegant and beautiful in a stemmed glass...and it tastes even better. For a special touch, garnish each glass with an extra shrimp. —Sue Sonnenberg, Napoleon, Ohio
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Chocolate Pecan Pie Snack Mix

My crowd-pleasing party mix is buttery, chocolaty and nutty. The recipe yields a party-sized portion, but I recommend keeping it covered so it doesn’t disappear before the event. —Annette Niemiec, Scottsdale, Arizona
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Ham & Brie Pastries

Growing up, I loved pocket pastries. Now, with a busy family, I need quick bites. My spin on the classic ham and cheese delivers as a snack or for supper. —Jennifer Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
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Tomato Fritters

I got the basic recipe for these fritters from a friend, then I tweaked it for my family's tastes. It's one of our very favorite things in the summer. We love them right after they've been fried, when they're still hot and crispy. —Pam Halter, Bridgeton, New Jersey
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Ham-Spinach Crepe Cups

Using ingredients you likely already have on hand, these savory crepes will add fun to your celebration for mere pennies. Plus, by changing the filling to something sweet, such as berries and whipped cream you can create a great dessert. —Kathi Grenier, Auburn, Maine
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Rustic Tuscan Pepper Bruschetta

If you love sweet red, yellow and orange peppers, pair them with fresh mint for a cold kitchen appetizer. Marinate for up to one hour before assembling. —Noelle Myers, Grand Forks, North Dakota
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Southern Pimiento Cheese Spread

A classic southern comfort food, this spread is used as an appetizer with crackers, corn chips or celery. It is also smeared between two slices of white bread for sandwiches and as a topping for hamburgers and hot dogs. —Eileen Balmer, South Bend, Indiana.
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Bacon-Wrapped Blue Cheese Shrimp

Blue cheese, bacon and basil pack big flavor into a couple of bites. To save time, you can assemble the skewers the night before and then serve them hot from the broiler on the day. —Vivi Taylor, Middleburg, Florida
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Mini Mac & Cheese Bites

Young relatives were coming for a Christmas party, so I wanted something fun for them to eat. Instead, the adults devoured my mini mac and cheese. —Kate Mainiero, Elizaville, New York
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Fried Chicken and Pulled Pork Cornbread Poppers

These fun little apps are an instant conversation starter wherever they're served. We love them on game day, but they'd be a hit at brunch, too. —Crystal Schlueter, Babbitt, Minnesota
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Brie Appetizers with Bacon-Plum Jam

Among my friends, I'm known as the Pork Master because I love to cook just about every cut there is. These appetizers combine soft, mild Brie cheese with a sweet-sour bacon jam that has a touch of Sriracha sauce. —Rick Pascocello, New York, New York
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Shrimp Appetizer Spread

There's no secret to this creamy seafood appetizer—it's simply delicious! I originally tasted it at a friend's house, and I liked it so much that I requested the recipe. It's since become a family favorite. —Brenda Buhler, Abbotsford, British Columbia

Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.

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