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Grab your knife and fork for this supremely satisfying, over-the-top Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich! It is served open-faced with thick slices of roasted turkey, crispy bacon, and fresh tomatoes on top of a thick piece of toasted bread, all smothered in a rich, cheesy mornay sauce.

We love substantial sandwiches for dinner and this is one of our new favorites! Some other sandwich recipes that we love are Monte Cristo Sandwiches, Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Kneader’s Copycat Turkey Bacon Avocado Sandwich, and Grilled Caprese Panini.

Slices of crispy bacon on top of open-face turkey sandwiches covered in mornay sauce.

It’s Kentucky Week on House of Nash Eats! I love exploring the flavors of the USA, and have been making some of the most popular dishes from each state at home in my own kitchen. I call it my “American Eats” series, and it has turned into a fun tradition that we enjoy as a family.

What is a hot brown?

A homemade hot brown sandwich on a white plate set on a cloth napkin.

A hot brown is a Kentucky original, created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. It was invented to serve to hungry hotel guests who came for the dancing that occurred at the hotel every night. It’s referred to as a “sandwich” but really it’s so much more.

The sandwich is served hot, with a thick piece of white bread as the base. Some people like to use Texas toast, although any thick, good quality white bread will do. This is followed by layers of thickly sliced roasted turkey. You can use turkey leftovers, if you happen to have them on hand, or do what I did and ask for the thickest slices of roast turkey that you can get at the deli counter.

The components for making a hot brown sandwich arrange on a white surface.

Then you top the turkey with thick-sliced tomatoes and smother the whole thing with a creamy, homemade mornay sauce. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy name.

Mornay is just a simple sauce that starts with a butter and flour roux. Then you add some milk, salt and pepper, before melting in some cheese. Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gruyere go into my favorite version of mornay sauce, but white cheddar can be used instead if you prefer. Finish off the sauce with a pinch of nutmeg and a dash of hot sauce, to taste.

Four open-face hot brown sandwiches on a baking sheet.

The whole thing is sprinkled with a little more cheese, then broiled until toasty warm and delicious. The finishing touch is to top each sandwich with two slices of crispy bacon and a sprinkle of chopped parsley and paprika.

Homemade hot brown sandwiches on a baking sheet with bacon criss-crossed over the top of each open-face sandwich.

How to make a hot brown sandwich

  1. Start with the mornay sauce. Heat the milk first in the microwave so it’s warm when you are ready to add it to the roux.
  2. Make the roux. Melt some butter in a large pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the heated milk, then thicken. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and bring to a boil. Cook until it starts to simmer and is thickened, whisking almost constantly, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in cheese until melted. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper, to taste.
  1. Roast the tomatoes. Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil for 1-2 minutes per side until lightly charred.
  2. Toast the bread. Butter bread slices and place on foil-lined baking sheets. Toast under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, then flip and toast the other side.
  3. Assemble the sandwiches and cook under the oven broiler. Top toasted bread with the turkey, then tomato, then the mornay sauce, then sprinkle with additional cheese and broil for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to plates and top with bacon. Sprinkle with parsley or chives before serving.
A hot brown sandwich on a plate with a bite cut from it on a fork.

More great Kentucky-inspired recipes to celebrate Derby Day

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Four open-face hot brown sandwiches on a baking sheet.
Yield: 4 Servings

Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich

Grab your knife and fork for this supremely satisfying, over-the-top Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich! It is served open-faced with thick slices of roasted turkey, crispy bacon, and fresh tomatoes on top of a thick piece of toasted bread, all smothered in a rich, cheesy mornay sauce.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

Mornay Sauce

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar or gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Few dashes of hot sauce
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Sandwiches

  • 4 slices thick bread, like Texas toast
  • 1 pound roasted turkey, thickly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sharp white cheddar or gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 8 slices thick cut bacon, cooked until crisp
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for sprinkling on top
  • Paprika, for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Heat milk in the microwave for 90 seconds.
  2. In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Gradually whisk in the hot milk. Cook until the sauce starts to simmer and is thickened, whisking almost constantly, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and whisk in cheese until melted. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, and hot sauce, to taste.
  5. Set oven to broil. Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil for 1-2 minutes per side until slightly charred.
  6. Butter bread slices and place on foil-lined baking sheets. Toast under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, then flip and toast the other side.
  7. Top toasted bread with the turkey, then tomato, then sauce, then sprinkle with additional cheese and broil for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to plates and top with bacon. Sprinkle with parsley or chives.

Notes

  • The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight, then rewarmed.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1198Total Fat: 76gSaturated Fat: 38gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 318mgSodium: 2213mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 2gSugar: 10gProtein: 87g

Recipe sources: Adapted from Food and Wine and The Brown Hotel.

Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series? Check them out below!

AlabamaAlaskaArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaiiIdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasKentuckyLouisianaOregonPuerto RicoSouth CarolinaTexas