Kentucky Hot Brown Recipe

An open-faced turkey sandwich topped with cheesy, creamy Mornay sauce and broiled.

Top down view of a Kentucky hot brown.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why This Recipe Works

  • This open-faced sandwich is the perfect way to used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.
  • Mornay sauce is béchamel with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, which is poured on top of the sandwich and broiled until browned and bubbly.

The only bet I've ever won was at a Derby Day party hosted by Slice Editor Meredith Smith. The starting pistol went off just as I started on my third mint julep and Mine The Bird sprinted over the finish line before I'd even made it to my fourth, paying out 50 to 1 odds and suddenly making me $49 richer for it.

It's one-game winning streaks like this that make me think it might be fun to be a bit more of a betting man, and if I was, I'd put double or nothing on this one: despite prohibition, Fred Schmidt, the Chef at the Brown Hotel in Louisville Kentucky in the 1920's knew where to get whiskey. Nothing else could explain how he came up with the mother of Hangover Helpers that is The Hot Brown.

The fact that it happens to be made from roast turkey and that—at least at the López-Alt household—Thanksgiving is a day about giving thanks for all the wonderful family you have, then drinking copiously to try and deal with them, makes the Kentucky Hot Brown the perfect morning-after meal.

Pouring Mornay sauce on top of roast turkey and a slice of toast.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

The Hot Brown is ostensibly an open-faced sandwich—it starts with a piece of toasted bread (the original recipe calls for Texas Toast) and gets topped with sliced roasted turkey. But from there it leaps directly into Hangover Helper territory when a precisely measured volume (known as a morethanyoucouldreasonablyhopetoneed) of cheesy, creamy Mornay sauce is poured over the top and the whole thing is placed under the broiler to bake until bubbly.

I've been told by no less than two Kentuckians that if the edges of the plate do not look like this when it comes out of the broiler, you're doing it wrong:

Close up of a corner of Kentucky hot brown, bubbling.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Once out of the oven, a couple slices of crispy bacon are placed on top, just to remind you that buried underneath that cheese is some turkey and toast. X marks the spot, and all that.

The most traditional recipe calls for a couple slices of tomato to be added, but who in their right mind has tomatoes in their kitchen in the middle of November? I skip the tomatoes and go straight for the paprika and parsley.

November 2011

Recipe Details

Kentucky Hot Brown Recipe

Active 10 mins
Total 15 mins
Serves 2 servings

An open-faced turkey sandwich topped with cheesy, creamy Mornay sauce and broiled.


  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons flour

  • 1 pint heavy cream

  • 3 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 slices hearty toast

  • 8 to 12 ounces roasted sliced turkey

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked until crisp

  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves

  • Dash paprika

  • 4 slices ripe tomato (optional, if in season)


  1. Preheat broiler or toaster oven to high. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Continue to cook, whisking constantly until pale golden blond, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in heavy cream, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat. Whisk in grated cheese, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

  2. Place 1 slice toast in the bottom of each gratin dish and top each with half of the roasted turkey. Pour half the sauce over each sandwich, completely coating it. Place under broiler until spotty brown and bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes. Place 2 slices of bacon in a cross on top of each dish and sprinkle with parsley and paprika. Add 2 slices tomato to each dish if using. Serve immediately.

Special Equipment

2 ovenproof single-serving gratin dishes or plates


The Mornay sauce can be made in advance, cooled and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for several days. Reheat very gently on the stovetop or in the microwave before use.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1459 Calories
127g Fat
35g Carbs
47g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 1459
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 127g 163%
Saturated Fat 76g 381%
Cholesterol 445mg 148%
Sodium 2825mg 123%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 47g
Vitamin C 16mg 80%
Calcium 668mg 51%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 836mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)