Kentucky’s Culinary Icon: The Hot Brown Sandwich

The Hot Brown Sandwich is a beloved open-faced sandwich from Louisville with turkey, tomato, bacon, and smothered in a delicious cheese sauce.

When it comes to iconic dishes from the state of Kentucky, the Hot Brown takes center stage. This delectable open-faced sandwich has deep roots in Kentucky’s culinary heritage, particularly in the city of Louisville. 

This open-faced sandwich has turkey, tomato, bacon, smothered in a Mornay sauce and then put in a broiler to achieve its famous brown look.

What is a Hot Brown?

A Hot Brown is a hearty, open-faced sandwich that originated in the 1920s at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. This comfort food features layers of turkey, crispy bacon, and a creamy Mornay sauce, all elegantly arranged on thick slices of toasted bread. Traditionally, you top it with tomato slices and then broiled until the top is golden brown and bubbling with cheese.


The Origin of the Hot Brown

This sandwich has a fascinating history that dates back to the Roaring Twenties. It was created by Fred K. Schmidt, the chef of The Brown Hotel, as a late-night snack for hungry patrons who frequented the hotel’s ballroom dances. It quickly became a sensation and remains a cherished culinary tradition in Louisville.

To make a classic Kentucky Hot Brown, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Slices of roasted turkey
  • Crispy bacon strips
  • Thick slices of toasted white bread (traditionally, Texas toast is used)
  • Mornay sauce (a béchamel sauce with grated cheese, typically Parmesan)
  • Tomato slices for garnish
  • The layering of these ingredients and the broiling process give this sandwich its distinctive look and flavor.

What to Serve with Kentucky Hot Brown?

The Hot Brown is a hearty dish on its own, but it is delicious with a side of coleslaw or a simple green salad to balance the richness of the sandwich. Some restaurants in Louisville may offer variations that include additional sides or accompaniments.

Why Do They Call It a Hot Brown?

The name “Hot Brown” got its name from the dish’s origin at The Brown Hotel in Louisville. Over the years, it has become synonymous with both the hotel and the city of Louisville.

What is Mornay Sauce Made Of?

Mornay sauce is a creamy white sauce from a béchamel base, which consists of butter, flour, and milk. To make Mornay sauce add, grated cheese, often Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, to the béchamel, along with seasonings like salt, pepper, and sometimes a pinch of nutmeg. The result is a rich and cheesy sauce that enhances the flavor of this iconic sandwich.

Kentucky’s Culinary Legacy

The Hot Brown is one example of foods Kentucky is famous for. The state is also famous for dishes like bourbon-glazed ham, burgoo (a hearty stew), and the world-famous Kentucky Derby pie.

What Is Kentucky’s State Drink and Dessert?

Kentucky’s state drink is bourbon, an iconic American spirit that plays a significant role in the state’s culture and cuisine. As for dessert, the state is famous for the Derby pie, a rich chocolate and walnut pie that’s a favorite at the Kentucky Derby.

Where to Find a Hot Brown in Louisville?

When in Louisville, you can savor one at various restaurants, but for an authentic experience, consider visiting The Brown Hotel itself, where it all began. Many local eateries in Louisville also offer their unique twists on this classic dish.

The Hot Brown is not just a sandwich; it’s a symbol of Louisville’s culinary history. Created in the heart of Louisville, this delightful open-faced sandwich continues to be a cherished tradition, offering a taste of history and a slice of Kentucky’s rich food culture to all who try it.

Hot Brown

Author: Maddy & JD – Them Bites
The Hot Brown is a beloved open-faced sandwich from Louisville piled with turkey, tomato, bacon, and smothered in a delicious cheese sauce.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 1 sandwich
Calories 657 kcal


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup pecorino romano cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 slices thick bread Texas toast, sourdough, white bread
  • 4 thick slices of turkey breast
  • 2 pieces crispy bacon
  • 2 tomato slices
  • Parmesan cheese

Recipe Instructions

  • To make the mornay sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium low. Add flour and combine until a thick paste forms. Cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Slowly whisk milk and cream into the roux and cook until it begins to simmer, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Place two slices of bread in an oven safe dish. Cover with turkey slices and tomato slices. Cover with Mornay sauce and broil in the oven until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Remove and top with Parmesan cheese and crispy bacon.


Calories: 657kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 18gFat: 55gSaturated Fat: 35gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 178mgSodium: 413mgPotassium: 502mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 2550IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 537mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Hot Brown
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