Derby Day Appetizer Tray

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Do you need an excuse to throw a party?  I know I sure don’t, but if there ever was a good excuse the Kentucky Derby would be it!  Dressing up to the nines in seersucker, cocktail dresses and AWESOME hats in the middle of the day?  Yes, please.  Mint Juleps and Bourbon cocktails?  Definitely.  This Derby Day Appetizer Tray is the perfect way to feed a crowd for the most exciting two minutes in sports, and a great excuse to invite a crowd.



These recipes are pretty straight forward.  They are classics that never go out of style.  The brined pecans are a snack we often keep around in our house, be careful they’re addictive!  The recipe comes from Southern Living and is a real winner.  They are super easy, done in less than 15 minutes.  Just soak the nuts in some sugary water and roast them up with a bunch of kosher salt.  The sweet and salty combination is to die for!



For the pimento cheese I really like to roast my own red peppers rather than using the more traditional canned pimentos.  Maybe I shouldn’t be calling it pimento cheese, but hey, I’m a yank after all!  The freshly roasted red pepper adds a real sweetness to the cheese spread and the roasty char gives it a depth of flavor you can’t compare to the canned variety.



When it comes to putting the Appetizer Tray together, use your imagination.  The sky is the limit to what goes well with the brined pecans and pimento cheese.

Some ideas for your Derby Day Appetizer Tray…

  • Fresh Garden Veggies
  • Apples, Pears and Grapes
  • Slices of Country Ham
  • Chips, Crackers or Pretzels
  • Olives and Pickles



While going to the Kentucky Derby is a definite bucket list item for alot of people (I know we had a BLAST when we went!),  this derby day appetizer tray, a good bourbon cocktail like the Minty Bourbon Mule and a few good friends are just as fun.

Rick and Kelly Liken in an orange dress and floppy hat at the Kentucky Derby

Derby Day Appetizer Tray
4.29 from 7 votes

Derby Day Appetizer Tray

This southern inspired appetizer tray is the perfect thing to kick off your Kentucky Derby party.  The pimento cheese and brined pecans are the stars, serve them along side your favorite fresh garden veggis and some chips or crackers.  And of course, a Dreby Day appetizer tray wouldn't be complete without a few slices of country ham

Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine American, entertaining, southern
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 12 people
Calories 382 kcal
Author KellyLiken


Pimento Cheese

  • 8 oz Cream Cheese softened
  • 1/2 C Mayonaise
  • 2 C Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper roasted, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 t Dry Mustard
  • 1/4 t Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 t 6 Chili Powder
  • 1/4 t Paprika
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Brined Pecans

  • 2.5 C Raw Pecan Halves
  • 2 C Warm Water
  • 1/2 C Sugar
  • 3 T Kosher Salt


Pimento Cheese

  1. Roast the Red Pepper over a gas burner on your stove, your grill outside or under the broiler in your oven.  Turn the pepper often and allow the skin to char completely.

  2. When the skin is completely caharred and blistered, put the pepper in a bowl or container and cover tightly with a lid or plasic wrap.  Allow the pepper to steam and cool for at least 10 minutes.  This will really help with ease of peeling the pepper.

  3. When the pepper is cool enough to handle, scrape away the charred skin and discard the stem and seeds.  finely chop the pepper to ready it for the pimento cheese.

  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, mayonaise and spices.  Cream them together with the paddle attachment until they are light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.

  5. Slowly fold in the cheddar cheese and the roasted red pepper.  Season to taste with salt and freshly groound black pepper.

Brined Pecans

  1. Preheat your oven to 350º.  Disolve the sugar in the warm water and soak the pecans in the solution for 10 minutes.

  2. Sprinkle half of the salt on a sheet tray, strain the pecans and place them in a single layer on top of the salt.  Sprinkle the remaining salt on top of the pecans.

  3. Roast in the oven until golden brown and delicious, about 5-7 minutes.

Recipe Notes

To create a Derby Day Appetizer Tray, serve the pimento cheese with an assortment of springtime vegetables, crackers, chips and whatever else you're loving at the moment.  A few slices of country ham is a great compliment as are pretzels and apples.  Be creative, use your imagination!

Nutrition Facts
Derby Day Appetizer Tray
Amount Per Serving
Calories 382 Calories from Fat 306
% Daily Value*
Fat 34g52%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 44mg15%
Sodium 1981mg86%
Potassium 150mg4%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 810IU16%
Vitamin C 12.9mg16%
Calcium 170mg17%
Iron 0.8mg4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Kelly Liken, one of Colorado’s most promising and influential young chefs, was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her mother was an outstanding cook, constantly exploring new recipes and seeking out fresh products at the local farmers market, which led Kelly to develop her love for cooking in high school. Read More