10 Famous Kentucky Food To Try: Dishes Kentucky Is Known For

Please note that some posts may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission should you choose to purchase using these links but at absolutely no extra cost to you.

The Kentucky food scene is heavily influenced by Southern cuisine, which is known for its comfort foods and bold flavors. Dishes are often rich and hearty, with ingredients like fried chicken, barbecue, and biscuits featuring prominently. Nonetheless, the famous foods in Kentucky reflect the state’s history, culture, and natural resources.

What’s Special About Food In Kentucky

Beyond its Southern cuisine influence, Kentucky has a strong connection to bourbon, which is often used in cooking and baking to add a unique flavor to dishes like bourbon balls and Kentucky Derby-Pie®.

Kentucky also has a rich agricultural history, and the state’s cuisine often features locally-sourced ingredients like corn, tomatoes, and sorghum. Kentucky is known for its bourbon and wine industries as well as being the origin of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

To learn more about the culinary delights the state has to offer, here are some of the foods Kentucky is known for and why they are so popular among both locals and visitors.

Most Famous Kentucky Food

Hot Brown

The Hot Brown is an iconic food of Kentucky area. The open-faced sandwich is stacked with turkey, bacon, tomatoes on texas toast, and covered in a cheesy Mornay sauce. It is then baked until it’s all bubbly and delicious.

But what really makes it unique is its historical origin. The Hot Brown was first created in the 1920s by the chef at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. The hotel was known for its late-night dance parties, and the chef wanted to create a dish that would satisfy the partygoers’ appetites.

It has since become a staple of Kentucky cuisine. You can sometimes even find it in restaurants outside the state that serve up southern specialties. But the best place to try it is of course from the origin – The Brown Hotel!

Hot Brown is often seen as a comfort food in Kentucky, especially during the cold winter months. It’s a must-try for anyone who loves a creamy, hearty dish. This fulfilling sandwich is a great way to get your fill of Kentucky flavors! 

Popular Foods In Kentucky


Burgoo is another traditional Kentucky food and dish that has been around for many generations. It’s a thick stew that combines a mix of meats, such as beef, pork, and chicken, with vegetables like corn, lima beans, and okra in a tomato-based broth.

Burgoo is usually served over rice or mashed potatoes to soak up all the delicious flavors. This hearty stew was once popular among hunters who would slow-cook it over an open fire for hours on end. 

Today it remains one of Kentucky’s most beloved dishes and it’s often associated with communal gatherings. So you can typically see it during special occasions like the Kentucky Derby. 

In fact, many towns and counties in Kentucky have their own special recipe for Burgoo. There are even annual Burgoo festivals where people come together to enjoy this delicious Kentucky food.

Burgoo is a local favorite and can be found at many restaurants throughout the state. It’s an interesting dish that brings people together in its own unique Kentucky style. 

Benedictine Sandwich

Benedictine sandwiches are one of the iconic Kentucky foods and snacks you can find all over the state. 

Originally created by Jennie Carter Benedict, a prominent caterer in Louisville for special events, these unique sandwiches feature a creamy spread made of cucumbers, cream cheese, and seasonings served on white bread.

The Benedictine sandwich is still popular today, especially during parties or any type of gathering. It delivers Southern flavor with a distinctive Kentucky twist that’s sure to make your taste buds dance! 

They’re a great way to enjoy the flavors of Kentucky cuisine in a portable and easy-to-eat format. The light and refreshing sandwich is just one version of enjoying this classic. Many create Benedictine as a dip or spread as well to go with other dishes like rackers or veggies.

You can make your own Benedictine spread at home using things like cucumber, onion, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. The key is to experiment until you get it right – as this dish has many different variations according to individual tastes.

Mutton Barbecue

Mutton Barbecue is an essential Kentucky food to try for any barbecue lover. It is made with slow-cooked, smoked mutton meat, which is typically served with a tangy and slightly sweet vinegar-based sauce.

Mutton barbecue has been a tradition in Kentucky for over 200 years, and it’s often associated with the state’s early European settlers and farming communities. 

Mutton was a popular meat choice because it was plentiful and affordable. In addition, smoking and slow cooking allowed it to be preserved for longer periods of time.

The tasty meat is usually served on its own or as part of a sandwich. It comes smothered in Kentucky-style barbecue sauce and topped off with some slaw or cornbread – making it truly mouthwatering! 

You can find this food from Kentucky being cooked up at local restaurants and annual festivals across the state. Mutton Barbecue is said to be best enjoyed when there’s cool beer involved, so don’t forget to pick up some of your favorite brews.

Snack Foods In Kentucky

Beer Cheese

Beer Cheese is one of the traditional foods from Kentucky that goes all the way back to the 1940s. It’s a creamy and tangy cheese dip made with a mix of sharp cheddar and other cheeses, beer, and a variety of seasonings like Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and spices. 

The dip is served chilled or at room temperature as an appetizer or snack. Beer cheese is usually enjoyed with bread pretzels or crackers but can also be used to top off burgers for an extra kick of flavor. Some even use it on pizza!

Beer Cheese was very popular during Kentucky Derby parties, and it is still widely consumed throughout the state today. This Kentucky food adds a delicious zing to any gathering – so don’t miss out on this classic! 

You can find Beer Cheese served at many restaurants across Kentucky, including some local pubs and taverns. You can also make your own Beer Cheese at home with ingredients like cheddar cheese, cream cheese, beer, garlic powder, and other seasonings. 

Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are a pretty special appetizer food in Kentucky and a staple of Southern cuisine.

These are hard-boiled eggs that have been sliced in half, and the mashed yolks are mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, and other seasonings like paprika or hot sauce. 

Southern-style deviled eggs can also include ingredients like jalapeños or pickle relish – which add an extra twist and layer of deliciousness to this dish! 

They are commonly served as appetizers or snacks at any gathering, especially during parties or holiday celebrations. In fact, Deviled eggs are one of the most popular Kentucky foods to bring along to picnics and potlucks since they’re easy to make and carry.


Spoonbread is a Kentucky favorite that has been served for generations. This traditional side dish is made from cornmeal and milk, which are combined to create a thick batter before being baked in the oven. 

The result is a soft, fluffy cake-like texture that melts in your mouth, similar to souffle or pudding. 

Spoonbread is a traditional dish of the American South, and it has roots in Native American cuisine. It is a special part of the region’s culinary history! There is even an annual spoonbread festival held in Berea, Kentucky.

Spoonbread goes great with any number of Kentucky dishes like fried chicken, chili or barbecue pork. It’s also often served alongside vegetables like collard greens or black-eyed peas – making it an essential part of many Southern meals. 

You can find Spoonbread at most restaurants throughout Kentucky, and some even offer variations like jalapeño cheddar spoonbread or sweet potato spoonbread! 

Desserts And Sweet Foods From Kentucky

Bourbon Balls

One of the foods Kentucky is known for is certainly its infamous Bourbon Balls. These small treats are made with bourbon whiskey, chocolate, and other ingredients like nuts, butter, and powdered sugar – making them the perfect after-dinner snack or digestif. 

Bourbon Balls are said to have been invented in Kentucky during the early 1900s, and they quickly became a classic treat of the state. The combination of Kentucky’s beloved spirit and delicious chocolate makes these treats irresistible! 

Bourbon balls are a sweet and boozy food from Kentucky that’s perfect for anyone who loves the taste of this famous whiskey.

They can be found packaged at most stores throughout the state, as well as restaurants and specialty shops that sell homemade varieties. These are also popular gift items and souvenirs for visitors.

So if you’re ever visiting Kentucky make sure to pick up some Bourbon Balls to enjoy while taking in all the amazing sights! 

Kentucky Derby-pie® 

Kentucky Derby-pie® is another one of the special foods from Kentucky that you must experience when visiting the state. This beloved dessert was created in the 1950s by the Kern Family running the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky. It has since become a classic food Kentucky is known for!

The Kentucky Derby-Pie® is a chocolate and nut pie that’s made with a secret recipe that’s been passed down for generations. So only a few licensed bakeries are allowed to make and sell the pie using the official name. 

It is believed to consist of walnuts, chocolate chips, and Kentucky bourbon all mixed together inside a flaky pie crust. Not only does it taste delicious, but it also includes two ingredients that are very important to Kentucky: bourbon whiskey and walnuts. 

With its popularity, you can find variations of this rich and decadent dessert in bakeries and restaurants throughout Kentucky. But definitely try the original ones as well for comparison!

Iconic Drink In Kentucky

The Mint Julep

Kentucky is also known for its famous Mint Julep Cocktail. This refreshing beverage has been served in the state since the 18th century and it is still a popular choice at Kentucky Derby events each year!

In fact, The Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. It’s often associated with the glamour and excitement of the famous horse race.

The traditional Kentucky Mint Julep consists of Kentucky bourbon whiskey, mint leaves, sugar syrup, and lots of crushed ice. The drink is then garnished with a sprig of fresh mint and served in a silver or pewter cup, which is believed to enhance the flavor of the drink.

It may sound simple but when these ingredients are combined together correctly it results in an incredibly delicious concoction that’s perfect for sipping on a hot summer day. 

It’s no wonder why this classic Kentucky beverage has become so popular around the world! You can find them served all over Kentucky from bars to restaurants – or even make one at home using the original recipe.


Discovering Delicious Foods Kentucky Is Known For

Kentucky has a wide variety of delicious foods that are unique to the state. From classic Bourbon Balls and Kentucky Derby-pie® to their iconic Mint Julep Cocktail, Kentucky certainly knows how to tantalize taste buds with its scrumptious treats!

With its diverse selection of food, Kentucky is sure to delight visitors from all over the world and give them an unforgettable culinary experience. So as you are wandering around the famous landmarks in Kentucky, don’t forget about trying these amazing local dishes – after all, they are part of what makes Kentucky such a special place!



Book Your Flight

I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following search engines to find cheap flights: Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights

Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

More Adventures


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


other stories