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Historical ingredients
Ingredients of today
Dishes of note
Fast food




Throughout most of the state's history before the discovery of coal deposits, Kentucky relied upon the subsistence farming of corn, beans and pigs. After the discovery of coal in Kentucky , this changed radically to the more modern form of factory farming with steam power turning much of the native forest into arable land quickly. Over a period of about 100 years, people from Germany , Greece , Wales and Ireland settled most of what was once a county of Virginia , bringing many methods of cooking and recipes from their homelands. Cincinnati , Ohio , across from Kenton County , Kentucky , was once the pig-slaughtering capital of the United States and depended heavily upon Kentucky pig and hog farms to supply them. The Flying Pig Festival was a holiday given originally to the workers in this industry.

The fusion of southern, midwestern and other cuisine
The cuisine of Kentucky today is a blend of midwestern and southern cuisines that is increasingly incorporating more cosmopolitan ingredients and methods. The Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky is the most southern of Kentucky in culture and cuisine. A typical summer lunch of 50 years ago would be fried catfish, slaw and hush puppies served with a glass of sweet tea. Fusion cuisine that is practiced at some of the leading restaurants in Kentucky like The Waterfront serve such things as wasabi cole slaw, chili and cumin hushpuppies and stout-beer battered fish served with green tea. Frog legs unlike most of the midwest are served without batter and grilled or sautéed. In the southern and eastern parts of Kentucky , burgoo and regular chili are preferred. In the northern and western parts, Cincinnati chili is more predominant with Dixie Chili from Erlanger , Kentucky being the only one actually incorporated in Kentucky .


Historical ingredients
Native Americans such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Mosopelea, Shawnee , and Yuchi along with the early European settlers relied upon the local plant and animal population to provide for all their needs. Native Americans especially revered beans, maize and squash which were known as the three sisters. To see more go to Native American cuisine.

  • Elk, elk are not as predominant as when the Shawnee used Kentucky for their spring hunting grounds
  • Maize, maize was also used to make shoes and other woven products
  • Squash
  • Opossum, is the only extant native marsupial in North America
  • Squirrel, some squirrels can have up to a pound of meat on them.
  • Beans, in the form of beans and bean sprouts
  • Crawfish

The early Europeans who settled in these areas adopted for the gamey taste of local fauna with strong flavors that would eventually lead to things like Henry Bain sauce.

Ingredients of today

  • Bourbon and Whiskey, traditions brought by the Irish
  • Catfish, since the Ohio River became polluted some catfish aquaculture has sprung up but most is now imported from other states.
  • Deer enjoyed as Venison, Kentucky has very generous hunting allowances as well as deer farms
  • Pigs enjoyed as Ham, not as much pork except in The Purchase, where barbecued pork shoulder is extremely popular. Ham was popular before refrigeration because it was cured.
  • Sheep enjoyed as mutton, Dutch farmers brought the first flocks to Daviess County in the late 1800's.


Dishes or recipes of note in Kentuckian cuisine

  • Burgoo, a thick stew made from vegetables and lamb
  • Mint julep, a potable that is made with fresh mint
  • Henry Bain sauce, a potent sauce for dealing with game
  • Brains and eggs, known mostly as an English dish; this was served in Frankfort restaurants until BSE scares
  • Mock turtle soup, Welsh and English settlers brought this recipe with them when they settled in Clay County
  • Fried squirrel, skewered or fried with its liver squirrels taste best when they eat acorns almost exclusively
  • Frog legs, as many other midwesterners
  • Derby pie, a chocolate and pecan tart named for the Kentucky Derby
  • Benedictine, a cheese spread made popular from Louisville 's Benedict's restaurant.
  • Hot brown, an open faced sandwich topped with a Mornay sauce
  • Stack cake, an Appalachian layered cake with apple preserves spread between each layer
  • Johnny cake, a corruption of " Shawnee " cake this is a flat corn bread cooked by direct heat
  • Bourbon balls, crushed cookies mixed with bourbon baked and than coated in powdered sugar

Fast food
KFC was started in Corbin , Kentucky by Col. Harland Sanders and Pete Harman. KFC now has over 11,000 restaurants in 80 countries. Per capita consumption of White Castle hamburgers in Kentucky is one of the highest in the nation with over 40 restaurants across a state with only 4 million people; for example, the New York city area has 8 million people and only 46 restaurants.

Kentucky is one of the few places in the country that Pace picante sauce sells ultra-mild salsa, as many people there can tolerate almost no heat from capsaicin. It comes with a blue lid.


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