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Kentucky Hot Browns

This classic Kentucky Hot Brown recipe is like a warm hug for your taste buds. Thick slices of toasted bread piled high with juicy roasted turkey, crispy bacon, and tomato smothered in a creamy Mornay sauce so creamy and cheesy, you’ll want to lick the plate clean.


Hey there, foodies! Today, I’m excited to share a classic Southern dish that’s bound to elevate your dinner game and have everyone begging for seconds: Kentucky Hot Browns. If you’ve never tried this mouthwatering concoction, you’re in for a treat!

And if you’re already a fan, get ready to perfect your recipe with some helpful tips and a bit of history thrown in.

What Exactly is a Kentucky Hot Brown?

The Kentucky Hot Brown has a rich history that dates back to the 1920s in Louisville, Kentucky. It was created by Fred K. Schmidt, the chef at the Brown Hotel, which was a popular destination for travelers and socialites during that era.

Legend has it that the Kentucky Hot Brown was born out of the desire to offer guests a late-night dining option that was both elegant and satisfying. Chef Schmidt wanted to create something hearty and delicious that would satisfy the appetites of his hungry patrons, so he came up with the idea of an open-faced sandwich featuring turkey, bacon, and a creamy Mornay sauce.

The dish was an instant hit and quickly became a signature item on the Brown Hotel’s menu. Its popularity spread beyond the hotel walls, and soon, the Kentucky Hot Brown became synonymous with Southern hospitality and comfort food.

From its humble beginnings in a hotel kitchen to its status as a culinary icon, the Kentucky Hot Brown continues to delight diners with its delicious flavors and rich history, making it a true gem of Southern cuisine and food enthusiasts around the world.

Now, let’s talk about why Kentucky Hot Browns are sure to be a hit with everyone at your table:

  1. Comfort Food at Its Finest: There’s something inherently comforting about a warm, cheesy sandwich, and Kentucky Hot Browns deliver on that promise.
  2. Versatile and Customizable: While the classic recipe calls for turkey and bacon, you can easily customize your Hot Browns to suit your taste preferences. Swap the turkey for roast chicken or add some sliced avocado for a creamy twist.
  3. Perfect for Any Occasion: Whether you’re hosting a fancy dinner party or just craving a cozy night in, Kentucky Hot Browns are a versatile option that’s sure to impress.
  4. A Taste of History: By serving up Kentucky Hot Browns, you’re not just treating your taste buds—you’re also paying homage to a beloved dish with a rich culinary history.

So there you have it, folks! With a few simple ingredients and a little bit of know-how, you can whip up a batch of delicious Kentucky Hot Browns that will have everyone coming back for more. So what are you waiting for? Get cooking and enjoy a taste of the South tonight!

What can you serve with this Kentucky Hot Brown?

  • Cucumber Tomato Salad
  • Sweet Creamed Corn Casserole
  • Pairing the perfect sides with your Kentucky Hot Browns can elevate your meal to a whole new level. Here are some delicious options to complement the rich and savory flavors of this Southern classic:

    1. Southern-style Grits: Creamy, buttery grits are a natural accompaniment to Hot Browns. They provide a comforting contrast to the bold flavors of the sandwich and add an extra dose of Southern charm to your meal.
    2. Mixed Greens Salad: Balance out the richness of the Hot Browns with a light and refreshing salad. Toss together mixed greens with your favorite vinaigrette dressing and top with sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onions for a burst of freshness.
    3. Fried Green Tomatoes: Embrace another iconic Southern dish by serving crispy fried green tomatoes alongside your Hot Browns. The tangy flavor of the tomatoes pairs beautifully with the creamy Mornay sauce and savory bacon.
    4. Sweet Potato Fries: Crispy sweet potato fries are a delicious and slightly healthier alternative to traditional fries. Their natural sweetness complements the savory flavors of the Hot Browns, creating a perfect harmony of tastes and textures.
    5. Cornbread: No Southern meal is complete without cornbread! Whip up a batch of homemade cornbread or pick up some from your favorite bakery to serve alongside your Hot Browns. The slightly sweet cornbread is the ideal vehicle for soaking up any leftover Mornay sauce.
    6. Collard Greens: For a truly authentic Southern experience, simmer a pot of collard greens with bacon or ham hock. The hearty greens add a savory depth to your meal and provide a satisfying contrast to the creamy Hot Browns.
    7. Fruit Salad: Refresh your palate with a simple fruit salad made with seasonal fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and grapes. The juicy sweetness of the fruit provides a light and refreshing counterpart to the indulgent Hot Browns.
    8. Deviled Eggs: Whip up a batch of classic deviled eggs to serve as a savory appetizer or side dish. The creamy filling and tangy flavor of the eggs complement the rich flavors of the Hot Browns, making them a winning combination.

    Remember, the key is to balance the rich, savory flavors of the Hot Browns with lighter, fresher sides to create a well-rounded and satisfying meal. So gather your ingredients, fire up the stove, and get ready to enjoy a taste of the South!


Some tips:

  • Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into some tips to help you nail your Kentucky Hot Browns every time:
    1. Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality ingredients, especially when it comes to the turkey and bacon. Opt for freshly roasted turkey breast and thick-cut, smoky bacon for maximum flavor.
    2. Homemade Mornay Sauce: While you can certainly use store-bought Mornay sauce, there’s something truly special about making it from scratch. It’s a simple combination of butter, flour, milk, and cheese, but the homemade version adds an extra layer of richness and depth of flavor.
    3. Toast the Bread Just Right: Don’t skimp on the toasting!  Texas Toast works perfect for this because the bread should be lightly toasted to provide a sturdy base for all the toppings without becoming too crunchy. You want the cheese to be melted and bubbly, with the edges of the bread golden brown and slightly crispy.
    4. Garnish with Care: Traditional Kentucky Hot Browns are garnished with tomato slices and parsley, adding a pop of color and freshness to the dish. Feel free to get creative with your garnishes, but remember to keep it balanced and complementary to the flavors.


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Kentucky Hot Browns

Kentucky Hot Browns

This classic Kentucky Hot Brown recipe is like a warm hug for your taste buds. Thick slices of toasted bread piled high with juicy roasted turkey, crispy bacon, and tomato smothered in a creamy Mornay sauce so creamy and cheesy, you'll want to lick the plate clean.


For the Sandwich

  • 4 Slices of Texas Toast or Sourdough
  • 2 Tomatoes, sliced
  • 3/4 pound sliced roasted turkey

For the Mornay Sauce

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (½ stick)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino Romano (about 1½ ounces) or Gruyere
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

For Assembling 

  • 8 slices crisp cooked bacon
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with aluminun foil and spay with with non-stick cooking spray. Place bread slices in one layer on prepared baking sheet. Set aside until ready. Then toast the bread until golden brown about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until mixture thickens to roux. Whisk milk slowly into the roux and cook over medium heat until the sauce begins to simmer and thicken, 2 to 3 minutes
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano until the sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, paprika salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat turkey slices in skillet with a little butter and place on toasted bread, pour the Mornay sauce over each, smothering the meat, bread and tomatoes. Cross 2 slices of bacon over each dish. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

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Kentucky Hot Browns
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