A Slice of Derby Pie™ Is Always a Winning Ticket

by | May 1, 2023 | Blog

Slice of Derby PieThe sun shines bright on my Kentucky home the first Saturday in May (regardless of the weather) as the Kentucky Derby takes center stage. While many of us in Kentucky don’t attend the Derby annually, the day is always celebrated with traditional foods and yes, a little betting and Kentucky bourbon. While ham and biscuits, cheese grits and Mint Juleps may be typical fare, a sweet ending is always the pie! When you combine chocolate and bourbon along with nuts, it’s always a winning ticket.

The Origin of the Derby Pie

The very first Derby Pie™ was created in 1954, in the kitchen of the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, by Leaudra and Walter Kern and their son George. From its humble beginnings, the bakery has grown and continues under the Kern’s name. Now over 100,000 pies are baked annually bearing that famous name. And if you wonder why the pie bears the name of the famous horse race? One may think it was a good marketing strategy, but actually, it was a lucky draw from a list of names submitted by family members.

While the original recipe has remained a secret over the years, the ingredients are essentially the same regardless of the source. There is always corn syrup, eggs, chocolate, nuts, and of course, bourbon. Since the original name of the pie is trademarked, you’ll find pie recipes listed as “Dent the Diet,” Special Walnut Pie, or my favorite, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie from Beyond the Fence, A Culinary View of Historic Lexington.

The Recipe


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup (some recipes use dark)
  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz (1 cup) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (walnuts used in the original recipe)1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, combine eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt.
  • Slowly, pour sugar mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  • Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
  • Pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
  • Bake 50 to 55 minutes until set and golden. Serves 8 or more.
  • Enjoy slightly warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Derby PieTips:

A small slice goes a long way so refrigerate to savor for a few days if leftovers remain. And a hint from my husband (the warm-up king) — microwave on level three for 15-20 seconds, depending on slice size.

It is said “cooking with bourbon is a Bluegrass tradition,” a tradition that you may acquire after tasting your first bite. By the way, if baking pies is not in your future, you can always order the original version from Kern’s Kitchens.