Kentucky Derby

Derby (aka Chocolate Pecan Bourbon) Pie

April 28, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg. Prop Stylist: Anne Eastman. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Like the good Kentucky boy that he is, my partner Ryan once suggested we have a Derby party. This understandably was a big deal to him. At that point I’d never watched the Derby and had no real association with it apart from the fact I knew there were a lot of big hats and mint juleps involved. But there’s nothing I love more than an excuse to bring people together over food, so I was in. As we were planning the menu of what to make for said party, Ryan mentioned that a chocolate-pecan-Bourbon pie—also known as a Derby Pie—was crucial to our spread.

This Kentucky original was created at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky in 1954 by the Kern family. The family actually trademarked the name “Derby-Pie” and still sells them through their website, Kern’s Kitchen. The family recipe has been kept a secret since its inception, but variations can be found all over Kentucky and beyond. Nuts and chocolate chips are nonnegotiables in Derby pie, but it seems everyone has their own method to get that classic gooey filling. Some recipes use corn syrup, while others stick with butter and eggs.

While similar to a pecan pie, this Derby-inspired pie typically has a good splash of Bourbon—fitting for its Kentucky roots, and it adds a smoky, caramel flavor to the filling. If you’re abstaining from alcohol, feel free to leave this out. I like making my own crust in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate (Erin McDowell has a great recipe), but you could also use a store-bought one to cut down on time. Topping the pie with flaky salt isn’t traditional, but I like that it cuts the sweetness of the filling.

I recommend using a deep-dish store-bought crust, or preparing your homemade crust for a deep-dish pie plate. If you can’t find one, just make sure to hold some of the filling back so that it doesn’t overflow during baking. —Alexis deBoschnek

What You'll Need
  • 1 unbaked deep-dish 9-inch pie shell, prepared and refrigerated for at least 1 hour
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature, divided
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (107 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (220 grams) raw pecan halves
  • 1 1/4 cups (210 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve
  1. Heat the oven to 350˚F and position a rack in the center. Prick the bottom and sides of the pie dough with a fork. Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and fill all the way to the top with pie weights, dried beans, rice, or even sugar. Bake the pie crust until it is a pale golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the pie crust from the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper, transferring the pie weights to a heatproof bowl. Return the crust to the oven and continue baking until the crust is lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Let the pie crust cool slightly while you work on the filling.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, 4 of the eggs, bourbon, and vanilla. Add the sugars, flour, and salt, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Add the pecans and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Carefully pour the filling into the cooled pie crust.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg along with 1 tablespoon water. Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the pie crust with the egg wash.
  5. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake until the filling has puffed and is golden, about 30 minutes. Let the pie cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let the pie cool to room temperature to set, at least 45 minutes to 1 hour, before serving. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

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Alexis deBoschnek is a freelance recipe developer, cook, and video host based in the Catskills.

1 Review

Smaug May 2, 2022
Most of the pecan pie recipes I've seen (lots) call for Bourbon. Never tried without corn syrup; not sure why you would- near as amounts can be compared with my usual recipe, this one is adding sugar in place of the corn syrup, which will add to the sweetness considerably, and also apparently require adding flour to the filling; putting salt on top will also accentuate the sweetness. Last time I made a choc/pecan pie I tried warming the filling to 120 a double boiler; cut the baking time considerably; I'll probably experiment with it further.