Kentucky Bourbon Pie

(7)

Fashioned after George Kern's Derby Pie recipe, this recipe's combination of chocolate, bourbon, and pecans has earned it a spot as one of the South's most beloved desserts.

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 5 mins
Servings:
8 slices

You don’t have to wait for Derby Day to bake up this delicious, crowd-pleasing pie studded with chocolate chips and pecans, and laced with Kentucky bourbon.

What Is Kentucky Bourbon Pie?

Think of this popular dessert, which is also known as Kentucky Derby Pie, as pecan pie made even more decadent by the additions of sweet chocolate chips and a kick of Kentucky bourbon. Just like pecan pie, it has a sticky-sweet filling and a satisfyingly crunchy top made of pecans and caramelized sugar.

Kentucky Bourbon Pie
Katie Burdett/Southern Living

Why Is it Called Kentucky Derby Pie?

You’d think this popular dessert got its name from being served on the day of the Kentucky Derby, which has taken place at the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Ky. for nearly 150 years (making it the oldest continuously-running sporting event in the history of the U.S.). But as it turns out… the story actually goes the other way around.

In 1954, at the Melrose Inn outside of Louisville, Leaudra and Walter Kern created this pie with their son, George, for the Inn’s guests. When the trio needed a name for the popular dessert, they couldn’t agree on one. So they drew a name out of a hat, and “Derby Pie” was born.

Given the name and the addictive taste, it’s no surprise that the pie became as popular to serve on the day of the Kentucky Derby as Mint Juleps. But while many bakeries around the state served what they called derby pie, the Kern family applied to trademark the dessert as Derby-Pie® in 1964. 

After the decades that followed of bakeries receiving cease and desist letters from the Kerns (and Bon Appetit magazine famously getting slapped with a lawsuit in 1986) for using the name, the controversial recipe is now referred to as “Kentucky Bourbon Pie.” Or sometimes, as “We-Can’t-Call-it-Derby-Pie Pie.”

In 1985, Kern’s Kitchen served a giant 12-foot version of their famous Derby-Pie—the world’s largest—at the grand re-opening of the Kentucky Derby Museum. They’re still baking up the ever-popular pies today.

kentucky bourbon pie in a pie plate

Katie Burdett / Southern Living

Can You Substitute Walnuts for Pecans?

Using walnuts instead of pecans is a popular variation on this recipe, and it’s a simple swap to make: Substitute the same amount of chopped, toasted walnuts for the pecans. 

How to Store Kentucky Bourbon Pie

Refrigerate the pie for up to three days.

Can You Freeze Bourbon Pecan Pie?

While you can bake and freeze this pie for up to three months, the texture does suffer when frozen and thawed, so it’s best to make it fresh. (Which, considering that it only takes 20 minutes of active prep time is actually pretty easy to do.)

For the best results when freezing, thaw the pie in the fridge overnight and bake in a 450°F oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

kentucky bourbon pie on a cooling rack

Katie Burdett / Southern Living

Is it Served Warm or Cold?

While you can serve this pie at room temperature, chilling it in the fridge before serving sets the filling, which yields the cleanest slices.

No matter how you serve it, don’t forget to give each slice the restaurant-worthy finishing touches of a dollop of whipped cream topped with pretty chocolate shavings.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 (14.1-oz.) pkg. refrigerated piecrusts

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

  • 1 cup light corn syrup

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

  • 2 Tbsp. (1 oz.) bourbon

  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp. table salt

  • Whipped cream and chocolate shavings

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch metal pie plate; crimp edges. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate chips evenly over piecrust.

    pecans and chocolate chips in bottom of piecrust

    Katie Burdett / Southern Living

  2. Whisk together corn syrup, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high; boil, whisking occasionally, until sugars are dissolved, about 5 minutes.

    boiling pot of sugar, corn syrup

    Katie Burdett / Southern Living

  3. Whisk together eggs, butter, flour, bourbon, vanilla, and salt in a heatproof bowl. Slowly pour 1/3 cup of the hot corn syrup mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly until fully incorporated.

    adding sugar syrup to pie mixture for pecan pie

    Katie Burdett / Southern Living

    Whisk in remaining hot corn syrup mixture until smooth. Pour filling over pecan mixture in piecrust.

    unbaked pecan pie

    Katie Burdett / Southern Living

  4. Bake in preheated oven until pie edges are set and begin to puff up, but pie center is still slightly jiggly, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely to room temperature, about 2 hours. Slice and garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

    kentucky bourbon pie on a cooling rack

    Katie Burdett / Southern Living

Additional reporting by
Elizabeth Brownfield
portrait of a woman with brunette hair wearing purple shirt

Elizabeth Brownfield is a writer and editor specializing in food and cooking with over 20 years of experience in the print and digital publishing industry.

Related Articles