1. Hot Brown
While it may not have the most appetizing name, Hot Browns are absolutely delicious. This open-faced sandwich was created Fred K. Schmidt of the Brown Hotel in Louisville in 1926. It is probably Louisville’s most famous dish, and is comprised of turkey, bacon and sometimes a tomato slice, slathered in Mornay sauce over Texas Toast.
2. Benedictine Spread
Most people outside of Louisville have no idea what benedictine is, and they’re seriously missing out. This popular spread was invented by Louisvillian Jennie Carter Benedict in the early 1900s. Benedictine is made with cream cheese, cucumber juice, onion juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. It’s great on crackers and with pretzels, but can also make an awesome addition to a sandwich. The Cafe in Louisville serves a popular sandwich called the Queen Anne, which is benedictine, sliced cucumbers, bacon, and lettuce served on walnut wheat bread.
3. Beer Cheese
Continuing with famous spreads from Kentucky, beer cheese is a culinary delight that originated in Clark County. It was first served in the 1940s at a restaurant called Johnny Allman’s. The city of Winchester holds an annual beer cheese festival where you can sample the creamy spread from a multitude of vendors. There’s even an amateur recipe contest, but don’t try too hard to get people to give up their recipes… a lot of times they are closely guarded secrets. Winchester also has a beer cheese trail, where you can win a prize if you eat beer cheese at participating restaurants in Clark County, such as Hall’s on the River. Check out
on the beer cheese trail for more information!
4. Bourbon Balls
Bourbon and Kentucky are synonymous with one another. In fact, 95% of the world’s bourbon is manufactured in Kentucky, so it makes sense that we would figure out how to put our native spirit into a dessert. Bourbon balls were invented by Ruth Booe of Rebecca Ruth Candies in Frankfort. The story goes that back in 1936, a Frankfort dignitary said the two best tastes in the world were Kentucky bourbon and Ruth Booe’s candy. For two years, Mrs. Booe perfected the recipe for this bite-sized chocolate candy that is still secret today.
Burgoo has become a staple at most Kentucky barbecue joints. This slow-cooked, thick, and spicy stew typically uses meats such as pork, mutton, or beef with vegetables like tomatoes, okra, corn, lima beans, and potatoes. Old Hickory Bar-B-Que in Owensboro won the Message-Inquirer’s Readers’ Choice Award for best burgoo in Owensboro.
6. Derby Pie
This delicious dessert was created in 1950 in Prospect by George Kern and his parents, Walter and Leaudra Kern. The pie is now exclusively baked at Kern’s Kitchen, which has even trademarked the pie. Their recipe is a secret, but this favorite dessert of Kentucky consists of chocolate, chocolate chips, pecans and walnuts.
7. Henry Bain Sauce
Henry Bain was an employee and eventually a head waiter at the Pendennis Club, which is a private club in Louisville that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The sauce partners perfectly with steaks and other types of meat. The Pendennis Club began bottling and selling the original recipe in 2009.
8. Modjeska Candy
This candy goes by a few different names, including Modjeska candy or majestic candy. It involves a marshmallow being covered in buttery caramel, and is most closely associated with Muth’s Candies in Louisville. The candy is named after Polish actress Helena Modjeska, who came to Louisville to perform quite frequently in the late 1800s. A man named Anton Busath opened a candy store in Louisville near the theatre where Helena performed. He perfected his marshmallow candy, and received permission from Helena herself to name the candy after her. Unfortunately Busath’s candy store burned down in 1947, and his son, Edgar Busath, asked his friend Rudy Muth if he could make the candies in his confectionary kitchen. Rudy said yes, and as a thank you, Edgar gave him the modjeska recipe.
9. Ale-8-One Soda
Okay, this isn’t technically a “food,” but this Kentucky-made soda sure does go well with other Kentucky culinary wonders. This ginger-flavored soft drink was launched in 1926 by its inventor, G.L. Wainscott. It has been bottled in Winchester ever since, and is Kentucky’s favorite soft drink.
10. Spoon Bread
The origins of spoon bread are a bit unclear, but it is considered a traditional Kentucky dish. It is widely believed to have originated from Native Americans, but many southern states adopted it as a comforting side dish. This cornmeal-based recipe has a consistency more like a pudding rather than a bread, and makes a nice pairing with savory dishes. The town of Berea is famous for their spoon bread. The restaurant inside the Boone Tavern Hotel has a spoon bread recipe so good, locals call it “Boone Tavern Spoon Bread.” The town also hosts an annual Spoon Bread Festival.
11. Western Kentucky-Style Barbecue
Most people have heard of Carolina barbecue and Kansas City barbecue, but many regions have developed their own signature style, including western Kentucky. While often made with chicken or pork, mutton is extremely popular in western Kentucky. The sauce is vinegar-based and often called a “dip,” and is thinner and tangier than the usual tomato-based sauce. These “dips” usually have a kick to them as well thanks to the added Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and other spices. However, sometimes this pit-style barbecue is so good that is doesn’t even need sauce. Towns like Owensboro and Henderson are the most well-known for this style of barbecue. Owensboro even hosts an International Bar-B-Q Festival every May. Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro is an award-winning barbecue joint famous for their mutton.
These 11 foods are culinary wonders of Kentucky, so be sure to try them if you haven’t yet!