Kentucky Hot Browns

This decadent sandwich is an iconic Kentucky dish.  Kentucky Hot Browns are open-faced turkey sandwiches with tomato, bacon, and a cheesy Mornay sauce.  Add this classic dish to your Kentucky Derby party!

An iconic Kentucky Hot Browns sandwiches - open-faced turkey sandwich with tomato, Mornay sauce, and bacon. Perfect for a Kentucky Derby party!

If you’ve ever traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, the Brown Hotel is a must-see.  It’s at this hotel that in the 1920’s, Chef Fred Schmidt created the Kentucky Hot Browns to feed guests, tired from partying and dancing the night away. The rich, carb-heavy sandwich was the ultimate hangover food.  Thus, it was an instant hit and has continued to be a favorite all these years later.


  • Use good quality turkey.  Deli meat is fine in this dish, but get the best quality that you can afford.  This dish is also a great way to use up leftover holiday turkey!
  • Also, use great bread.  The original recipe uses Texas Toast with the crusts removed.  My version uses sourdough with the crust left on.  Use bread that your family enjoys.  I like the texture and flavor of the sourdough, but Italian, French, or in a pinch, plain old white sandwich bread would all work in this dish.
  • Only use ripe tomatoes.  You want as much fresh flavor from the tomatoes.  I like using tomatoes that are medium in size.  I also use a spoon to remove the seeds.
  • The cheese in the sauce provides all the flavor.  Use the best quality cheese you can find and afford.  Some cooks add cheddar to their Mornay sauce.  I like the flavors of the Parmesan and Romano cheese, but gruyere, Swiss, cheddar, or Havarti would work well.
  • When making your sauce, it should be pretty thick so that it does run off of the sandwich will under the broiler.  If your sauce isn’t thick enough, stir a teaspoon of cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of milk together and whisk into the sauce.  Cook, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.

Because these Kentucky Hot Browns are so rich, I like to serve Lemon Parmesan Roasted Asparagus and an Italian Aperol Spritz with the sandwich. 

An iconic Kentucky Hot Browns sandwiches - open-faced turkey sandwich with tomato, Mornay sauce, and bacon. Perfect for a Kentucky Derby party!




This iconic sandwich is a Southern staple – especially for the Kentucky Derby.  These Kentucky Hot Browns are a delicious, decadent, open-faced turkey sandwich with tomato, bacon, and a rich Mornay sauce.

  • Author: Millie from Eats By The Beach
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Main Dish - Sandwiches
  • Method: Broil
  • Cuisine: Southern



½ cup butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 ½ cups heavy cream

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika

2 pounds sliced roasted turkey

2 tomatoes, each sliced into 8 thin slices

8 slices sourdough bread, toasted

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

8 slices crispy bacon

Chopped chives, as a garnish


In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.  Cook, stirring constantly until the flour begins to turn golden.

Whisk in the heavy cream and milk, continuing to cook and whisk until there are no lumps.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.

Stir in the Parmesan and Romano cheeses.

Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from scorching.

Remove from the heat when thickened and smooth.

Stir in the salt, pepper, and paprika.  Mix well and taste to adjust for seasoning.  Set aside.

Preheat your oven’s broiler.  Wrap a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.

Place the slices of bread onto the baking sheet.

Cover the bread with the roasted turkey and top with 2 slices of tomato.

Spoon the sauce over the top of each sandwich and spread to coat.

Sprinkle the ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese over the sauce.

Place the baking sheet under the broiler and cook until the top is turning golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and top with 1 or 2 slices of bacon.

Sprinkle with the snipped chives and serve hot.

Keywords: Kentucky Hot Browns, sandwich recipes, turkey sandwiches, main dish recipes, Southern food, Kentucky Derby recipes