This legendary dish is the perfect home for leftover turkey
Thanksgiving dinner is grand. But then come the leftovers. Turkey again?
No worries. Give those stray slices some swagger in this scrumptious sandwich.
The Kentucky Hot Brown (aka Hot Brown, aka Louisville Hot Brown) is an open-faced turkey sandwich smothered in tangy, cheesy Mornay sauce.
It’s quick and easy to make. So you can get out of the kitchen in plenty of time for those Black Friday sales.
Recipe: Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich
This dish, which dates back to the 1920s, originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Kentucky Hot Brown is basically a carnivore’s Welsh Rarebit: You layer turkey slices over toast, cover them with Mornay sauce, slide the sandwich under a broiler to heat (and brown) the top, then garnish and serve.
This dish takes about 15 minutes to make (including prep time).
The recipe serves two, but you can easily double or triple it.
- 4 slices of bread (Texas toast is traditional, but we prefer an Italian-style white bread)
- 6 to 8 ounces sliced turkey (thick slices – at least ¼ inch, and preferably closer to ½ inch – work better than thin deli slices)
- 4 bacon slices
- ~1 ounce grated pecorino romano cheese (may substitute parmigiano reggiano or cheddar)
- 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese for topping the sandwich (see Notes for substitutions)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup milk
- salt to taste (a few pinches kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (maybe half a dozen grinds)
- 4 to 8 cherry tomatoes (or a couple of Roma tomatoes cut in half, or tomato slices)
- chopped parsley for garnish (very optional)
- Toast the bread. Place the toast slices on two individual oven-proof plates or dishes (we like to use small casseroles, sometimes called rarebit dishes).
- Slice the turkey (if it’s not already sliced). Divide the turkey and place the slices over the toasted bread.
- Cook the bacon slices to your liking. Set aside.
- Grate the cheeses. Set aside.
- Make the Mornay sauce: Place a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan. Add the flour and stir with a whisk or wooden spoon continuously for 2 minutes. Add the cream and milk slowly (it should take about a minute to add all the liquid). Keep stirring so the sauce doesn’t become lumpy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then let it simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Add the grated pecorino romano cheese. Stir to combine, then remove the sauce from the stove. Ladle half the sauce over each sandwich.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, then arrange them on the plates (we usually place them along the sides of the sandwiches).
- Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the sandwiches (1 tablespoon on top of each).
- Place the plated sandwiches on a baking tray, then slide the tray under the broiler for a minute or two, until the sandwiches are piping hot and the sauce is bubbly and brown. About 30 seconds before removing the sandwiches from the oven, place bacon strips on top of each sandwich (to reheat the bacon).
- Remove the sandwiches from the oven and sprinkle them with parsley, if desired. Serve and enjoy.
- Our recipe includes some traditional garnishes for this sandwich – bacon strips and tomatoes. You can also add pimento strips (which were probably part of the original recipe). Or try sliced mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, fried eggs, or whatever suits your fancy. We like to keep it simple, so we stick with bacon (because, well, bacon) and tomato.
- Mornay sauce for this dish is usually made with pecorino romano cheese (but feel free to substitute parmigiano-reggiano or cheddar cheese if you wish).
- You can add a bit of hot sauce (like Tabasco) to the Mornay sauce if you like a touch of heat.
- Want something zippier than cream and milk? You could substitute beer (as in a Welsh rarebit sauce) or white wine.
- BTW, you could use all cream or all milk when you make the sauce if you wish.
- We like to use two slices of bread per serving, but you could reduce this to one if you prefer (it’s a hefty dish).
- Some cooks cut the crusts off the bread when they make this sandwich. We don’t bother.
- Some cooks also cut one of the bread slices in half on the diagonal (to form two triangles), then place the triangles on either side of a regular square piece of bread. This gives the sandwich a slightly fancier look. But the whole thing is covered with turkey and Mornay sauce anyway, so you don’t really see the toast arrangement.
- We like to top this sandwich with grated cheddar cheese before broiling, but you could use extra pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano if you prefer.
- Some cooks like to sprinkle paprika on the sandwiches after removing them from the oven. We don’t, but it’s a nice look.
- Many recipes for this sandwich call for twice as much sauce as we do (and at least twice the amount of turkey). That’s ideal if you’re feeding teenage boys, but it’s too artery-clogging for anyone over age 20.
- Rather than placing the sandwiches under the broiler, you could instead put them in the oven (400 degrees F or so) for about 5 minutes – until the sandwiches are hot and the cheese on top is melted and beginning to brown. Microwaving works too, although the cheese on top won’t get as brown.
- There’s a version of this dish called the Prosperity Sandwich (invented at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Louis around 1920). The Prosperity adds ham to the mix. The Mornay sauce is made with Swiss and parmigiano-reggiano cheese (or sometimes cheddar). It’s spicier too – you add Worcestershire sauce and paprika to the sauce, along with salt and pepper.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Too bad there are no Thanksgiving carols,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I’d serenade this sandwich.”
“Sing away,” I said. “It’ll be better than all that cheesy Christmas music we’re starting to hear everywhere.”
“If I’m going to have cheese, I’d prefer it in Mornay sauce,” said Mrs K R. “Can’t they wait until December 1 to start with the cheery chimes?”
“At least we can sandwich this dish in during the holiday season,” I said. “It will soothe our jangled – or is that jingled? – nerves.”
“I’d pay for Rudolph’s nose job if it meant I didn’t have to listen to his song anymore,” said Mrs K R.
Deck those howls.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Easy No-Knead Homemade Bread
Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini
Old-School Macaroni and Cheese
Or check out the index for more
I’ve never had a hot brown sandwich but I want one now. It looks heavenly!Thanks for the recipe, always so perfectly written up with so much details.
Woo hoo! Since I grew up in Louisville, I've enjoyed a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel many times. Yours looks just as delicious! Wish I had a helping now! Thanks for bringing back a lot of good memories! Take care
Hi Balvinder, it's a wonderful sandwich! Kinda rich, though -- one of those things we eat only once or twice a year. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, isn't that a great dish? Never been to the Brown Hotel, but I want to go. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It sounds really delicious — but way too much trouble the day after Thanksgiving with all the cooking involved then. I’m afraid I would settle for leftover turkey with cranberry sauce and mayo — or Durkee’s special dressing if I could get it. Save the moray sauce: just give me turkey gravy (which as some wag put it is viewed as a beverage by some Thanksgiving diners).
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Mae, yeah, this does compete with a lot of other great Thanksgiving leftovers. Guess we'll have to roast a turkey at another time of the year just so we can make this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I’ve never hear of or had a hot brown sandwich, but anything with bacon has got to be DELICIOUS!! I wish I could have one now too.
Hi Angie, it's really a good dish -- TONS of flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never seen a better way to use leftovers! Looks delicious!
I've had these on my must try list for awhile now. It looks fantastic!!!
Hi Kelsie, it IS delicious. Truly. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, you'll love this! SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Love that this only takes 15 minutes to make!
Yum! This looks great, John! Especially with that crisp bacon. I know what I am going to do with my leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Ashley, easy, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, bacon is tough to resist, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I do love a good hot brown! I always hope for leftover stuffing because I make a version with stuffing patties instead of bread. Just the best John! So glad you posted this!
Hi Abbe, I LIKE the stuffing idea. I'm so going to steal that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I agree - if I'm going to have cheese, give me that Mornay sauce! ZOWIE!
This is one mouth watering sandwich. I never heard of the hot brown sandwich but by seeing the bacon on top, I will take one without any hesitation
Hi Laura, Mornay sauce is wonderful! Can't get enough of it. Well, I can, but you know what I mean. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Holly, it's a great sandwich -- definitely worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh yum, I am so hungry now☺
Hot brown has been on my radar but this is the first time I've actually gotten to understand what it is exactly. Thanks GREG
It is just going to be TheHub and I for Thanksgiving. This might be a great and easy way to celebrate the day. I love a Hot Brown anyway!
What a stunning luncheon dish. Very tempting nice with all of these leftover turkey flavours embellished so well. Thanks for the background history it's fascinating story.
Hi Natalia, sorry about that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, this is really good -- definitely worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anne, isn't this a great dish? Really nice flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow! This is mouth-watering, for sure. Never mind waiting for the leftovers. ;-) ~Valentina
Hi Merryn, doesn't this look good? A touch on the heavy side (OK, more than a touch!) but really excellent flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Valentina, you may find yourself roasting turkey often just so you can make this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
You are killing me , no leftovers for me this . I have to wait until I cook a turkey.
Hi Gerlinde, your leftover will be eagerly awaited if this how you'll be using them. :-) Thanks for the comment.
well my arteries are screaming but my taste buds are clapping! do you mean they add ham to the bacon in the other version? now that's crazy talk. you know what's funny? we have black friday sales here when we don't even have thanksgiving!?!? what the?! it's a world gone mad i tell you...
Gobble Gobble!!! We just had a whole flock of wild turkeys run through our back yard a minute ago. Kind of risky don't you think so close to Turkey day?? If we manage to hunt one down we will be sure to give this delicious hearty breakfast a go. The boys would love it.
Hi Sherry, yup turkey with ham under the Mornay sauce, then bacon on top. Pretty good! But maybe a bit too much? Nah! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, this dish is perfect for your boys -- and they'd probably want you to double the sauce and the amount of the turkey. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've heard the expression "Hot Brown" but didn't really know what it was. Looks just like something I remember from the menu of a department store tearoom of my youth. They called it Turkey Killingsworth. Must make this soon!
I want some.
Hi Jean, there are a LOT of riffs on the Hot Brown out there. Including this one, of course, although this is pretty close to the original. We think. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, you NEED some! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never had one. This must be made right very soon.
Hi Amalia, you definitely must make this soon. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, this is my favorite after Thanksgiving treat! Yours looks fantastic! Thanks for all the tips!
Hi Kelly, we love this dish. LOVE it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I’ve never heard of this, John! And I actually like the leftovers better! (I oddly prefer pork for Thanksgiving!) And Welsh Rarebit is one of my favorite suppers... this is a winner all around!
Hi David, you'll love this, I'll bet. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It's hard to beat a perfectly executed sandwich. One this complex and gooey would totally hit the spot.
Hi Laura, complex and gooey is a great way to describe this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, I may actually like the leftovers better than the main meal! This one sounds like a real winner. Can't go wrong with a creamy Mornay sauce. :-)
Hi Frank, we love leftovers, too! Definitely the best part of the Thanksgiving meal as far as we're concerned. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Heck ya! I'm Totally gonna put an egg on top of this and call it breakfast. :)
Hi Judy, we sometimes do add an egg to this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Always looking for another breakfast idea and this is it! Love this sandwich. Will be making it during the holidays. thanks John!
Hi MJ, it's excellent stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Thank you for this timely recipe! It looks fantastic. How, after a huge Thanksgiving feast, I'll be hungry for a big ol' sandwich like this, I don't know - but you know I will!
Hi Jeff, hunger is a terrible thing. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I haven't tried anything like this before, what a great idea for using leftover turkey. This has made me really hungry!
Now John, as a former Kentucky resident I was most anxious to see how you prepared your Hot Brown. You did good in honoring this dish, even down to the grilled tomatoes. Although we've enjoyed a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel (very expensive), our favorite was made at a small place in Midway, KY called Darlin Jean's. Thanks for the memories.
Hi Caroline, hunger is a terrible thing -- you should make this to take care of that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ron, Darlin Jean's sounds like my kind of place! Glad our recipe passed muster with you. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is so good for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Nothing beats a gooey-cheese sandwich. ;)
Hi Carolyn, we love gooey cheese! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This sandwich looks wonderful. A great way to use that leftover turkey. John, wishing a Happy Thanksgiving!
Hi Dawn, isn't this a neat dish? So good! Happy Thanksgiving! And thanks for the comment.
I'm hungry and I think this would make a great breakfast sandwich!
Hi Debra, we like this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! :-) Thanks for the comment.
OMG John, I want to have turkey leftover just to make this sandwich...looks so good...thank you so much for the recipe!
Hi Juliana, it's totally worth roasting a turkey just to have leftovers for these. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Made this last night for supper with leftover turkey and it was a huge hit! Thanks John!
Glad you liked it! :-) And thanks for letting us know. :-)
I was going to ask you if you are familiar with the Prosperity Sandwich, since you're in St. L, but you already handled that! Mmmm, Prosperity Sandwiches were one of my favorite post-thanksgiving treats growing up. Thanks for spreading the good word.
Hi Anonymous we thought about making this a post about the Prosperity Sandwich instead of the Kentucky Hot Brown. But the latter is SO much better known, and really the Prosperity just seems to be a derivative of it. So we relegated the Prosperity to a Note. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, I have heard of a Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich, but I've yet to try it! This looks so hearty and flavorful, you can bet I will. Hot sandwiches are the best! That Prosperity Sandwich you mention in the notes is calling my name too! Thank you for sharing about these fantastic sandwiches! Looking forward to something new to us <3
Hi Marcelle, this is a wonderful dish! And really fills you up. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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