9 Quirky Food Facts About the Kentucky Derby

Updated: May 18, 2024

When it comes to food and the Kentucky Derby, they're not horsing around. (Pun intended!)

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crowd at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby

The Spectators Like to Eat…

Every year, the concession stands at the Kentucky Derby sell over 5.5 tons of food. That breaks down to 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.

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Bartender preparing delicious mint julep cocktail at table
New Africa/Shutterstock

…and They Like to Drink Mint Juleps

The official beverage of the Kentucky Derby is a mint julep. The iconic drink is made over 120,000 times on Derby day! For that many drinks, you need 1,000 pounds of fresh mint, 60,000 pounds of ice and 10,000 bottles of bourbon whiskey.

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You Can Buy a $1,000 Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby sells a special mint julep—if you have $1,000 to spare. The ingredients are all sourced from Kentucky, including Kentucky sorghum simple syrup and Woodford Reserve bourbon. The drink is garnished with mint, three roses and a single petal from the Garland of Roses, and served in a beautiful sterling silver “Bluegrass Cup.”

For $2,500, you can purchase the “Commonwealth Cup,” plated in 18K gold. The proceeds go to a different charity each year.

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Taste of Home

There’s Competition Over the Name “Derby Pie”

The Kern family first created the Derby Pie in 1950, and trademarked the name in 1968. It’s usually referred to as a whole host of other names in cookbooks, including “Not Derby Pie” and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie, but the true name and original recipe belong only to Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville.

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Homemade Baked Kentucky Hot Brown with Bacon Chicken and Cream Sauce
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

The Kentucky Hot Brown Is Worth Knowing About

Chef Fred Schmidt at the historic Brown Hotel in Louisville was faced with a midnight crowd of over a thousand hungry party-goers. He served up an open-faced sandwich layered with turkey, bacon, pimento and cheesy Mornay sauce, and called it the Kentucky Hot Brown. The guests devoured it—creating an instant Louisville and Kentucky Derby classic.

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Kentucky Burgoo Stew. slow-cooked mishmash of meats and vegetables stew

Kentucky Burgoo Has Some Unusual Ingredients

Burgoo is a rich meat stew dating back to the Civil War. It’s the official dish of Kentucky, and a staple at Kentucky Derby parties. The stew has had many variations over the years, but the most unique is an iteration during the 1800s. It used “local” ingredients, including squirrel, possum and rabbit.

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Slow Cooker Cheddar Bacon Beer Dip
Taste of Home

People in Kentucky Love Beer Cheese Dip

This dip, made with cheddar, Worcestershire, mustard, hot sauce and, of course, beer, is everywhere in Kentucky. That’s why Kentucky residents would be astounded to hear that not many people outside of the state know how popular it is! The dip originated in the 1930s, and is traditionally served with warm, fluffy pretzels.

P.S. Wisconsin has been in on the combo of beer and cheese for quite some time.

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Benedictine - spread made with cucumbers and cream cheese.

This Dip Has Secret Ingredient Everyone Is Dyeing to Know

You can thank the Kentucky Derby for another famous dip, the Benedictine Spread. It’s made with cream cheese, cucumbers and onions, and served on sandwiches and crackers as a spread. The first version, created in the early 1900s by caterer Jennie Benedict, had a little extra help to achieve its verdant color—two drops of green food coloring.

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Taste of Home

Bourbon Balls Aren’t That Boozy

Surprising, right? This bite-sized treat of bourbon, chocolate and pecans will usually make an appearance during the Kentucky Derby. In most cases, a batch of four dozen bourbon balls doesn’t have more than 3/4 cup of bourbon.

Cook up your own Kentucky Derby desserts with these recipes.