A hot brown sandwich is an easy and iconic excuse to smother leftover turkey with bacon and a bubbling hot cheese sauce. Maybe Thanksgiving should come more than once a year.
If you’re from Kentucky, then you can just skip ahead to the hot brown recipe because this delicacy of a hot open-face sandwich needs no introduction.
If you’re not from Kentucky, allow us to introduce you to perhaps the loveliest thing ever to be constructed from leftover turkey, toasted bread, crisp bacon, and a blanket of bubbly cheese sauce. So lovely it may make you wonder whether maybe Thanksgiving ought to come more than once a year.–David Leite
Why our testers loved this
Our testers are calling these sandwiches “warm and satisfying” with a “great balance of flavor,” making them perfect for a “hearty lunch or cozy dinner.” It kind of makes you want to try one, doesn’t it?
Notes on ingredients
- Parmesan cheese–Use freshly grated Parmesan here. Pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt well.
- Toast–Since these are hearty sandwiches, you want thick-cut bread, such as Texas toast. Choose thick-cut sandwich bread, or try substituting artisan or sourdough bread.
- Turkey–Use a mixture of light and dark turkey for the most flavorful sandwich.
How to make this recipe
- Make the Mornay sauce. Melt the butter, then stir in the flour and cook, to create a roux. Slowly whisk in the milk and whisk constantly until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, followed by the egg, and whipped cream, if using.
- Assemble the sandwiches. Lay the toasted bread on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and top with turkey and plenty of sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and broil until golden and speckled on top.
- Serve the hot brown. Top each sandwich with two slices of bacon and serve immediately.
What’s a hot brown?
In the words of author Susan Russo, author of the book in which we found this lovely recipe for the hot brown sandwich, “It all started in 1923 with a chef named Fred K. Schmidt, who worked at Louisville’s Brown Hotel. The hotel’s dinner dances drew more than 1,200 people, who, after hours of revelry, craved a midnight snack. Bored with serving prosaic ham and eggs, Schmidt created this tasty open-faced sandwich.
It was an instant sensation and quickly led to many variations such as ham and chicken hot browns, Cheddar cheese hot browns, even vegetarian hot browns made with avocado or tofu that bear little resemblance to the real thing. Many hot brown sandwiches also include sliced tomatoes, pimientos, and grated Parmesan.
You can find the hot brown sandwich at eateries throughout Kentucky and bordering states, but the best place to eat one is still the Brown Hotel. Crust removal is traditional but optional—as is the dollop of whipped cream in the Mornay sauce. Though some establishments substitute cheese for the Mornay, stick with the sauce for an authentic experience.”
What should I serve with these?
Hot brown sandwiches are very rich, so a simple green salad is all you need to complete your meal.
- Be sure to use a rimmed baking sheet when making these sandwiches so that you don’t end up with cheese sauce dripping all over the oven.
- To get ahead, prepare the sauce and cook the bacon up to 1 day in advance. Store the cooled sauce and bacon separately in the fridge overnight. Reheat the sauce over low heat until warmed through and crisp up the bacon in a skillet or microwave.
- Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container for 1 day. To reheat, place on a rimmed baking sheet and cook in a 375°F oven for 15 minutes.
More great turkey sandwich recipes
☞ If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David
Hot Brown Sandwich
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- About 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups milk preferably whole or 2%
- 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese plus more for topping
- 1 large egg beaten
- About 2 tablespoons whipped cream (optional)
- Sea salt (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 slices toast
- Leftover roast turkey
- 16 strips bacon fried until crisp
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisking constantly, slowly add the flour, continuing to whisk until all the butter is absorbed and the mixture creates a very thick paste.
- Still whisking constantly, add the milk very, very slowly and whisk constantly until you end up with a paste that's sorta thick and spectacularly smooth. (When we make this, we slowly add 3 cups milk for starters and then if the sauce seems too thick, we add up to 1/2 cup more milk, a little at a time.) Do not stop whisking at any point and do not allow the sauce to boil.
- When the sauce is smooth, whisk in the Parmesan cheese.
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg until completely incorporated. Using a spoon or a spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (You may not need any salt since the Parmesan sorta takes care of the saltiness.)
- Preheat the broiler. Place the toast on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment.
- Top each slice with a liberal amount of turkey and smother it with a generous amount of sauce. (Note that any exposed portion of toast will crisp and brown in the oven, so bear this in mind when you slather the sauce over the toast and turkey with sauce. If you have some sauce left over, no big deal, just refrigerate it and make another hot brown tomorrow.)
- Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.
- Slide the baking sheet under the broiler until the sauce is speckled brown and bubbly. Watch it carefully as the sandwiches will go from almost perfect to past perfect in seconds.
- Criss-cross 2 strips bacon on top of each open-face hot brown sandwich. Serve the sandwiches immediately. (As if you could wait!)
- Make-ahead–Prepare the sauce and cook the bacon up to 1 day in advance. Reheat the sauce over low heat until warmed through and crisp up the bacon in a skillet or the microwave.
- Storage–Leftover hot browns can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 day.
- Reheating–Reheat leftovers on a rimmed baking sheet in a 375°F oven for 15 minutes.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
What a tasty way to use leftover turkey. I used about 3 ounces light and dark turkey meat and about 1/4 cup sauce per sandwich. After I added a liberal sprinkling of cheese to the top, I broiled them on a baking sheet for about 3 minutes, until the sauce was speckled and brown on the top, turning the tray halfway through.
The result was a delicious twist on a hot turkey sandwich. We served this with a simple green salad lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon. We also found that as this was very rich, a single sandwich was sufficient for dinner, although one taster did have seconds. Some of us had some caramelized onions on the side.
Since I had leftovers, I packed the toast, bacon, and turkey in a lunch container and the cheese sauce in another. I placed the sandwich on a plate after adding the cheese sauce and microwaved it for 2 minutes to heat it through. While not as good as the broiled version, it made for a tasty warm lunch.
I think the next time I make these, I will place the toasts in individual gratin dishes. That way, all the sauce will stay with the dish and not be left behind on the baking tray.
Warm and satisfying are the best words to describe this open-faced hot brown sandwich recipe. It has great balance of flavor and makes for a hearty lunch or a cozy dinner.
After reading through the recipe directions, I toasted thick slices of white bread. Then I whisked the flour and butter together over medium-low heat. The roux never thickened (which initially concerned me) but did bubble. I cooked it for two minutes and slowly whisked in the 3 1/2 cups milk with the Parmesan cheese. I thought the egg would curdle as I added it in a stream to the sauce, but no curdling occurred. After 4 more minutes of cooking over medium-low heat, the sauce was just the right consistency, very much like a thick béchamel.
I laid out several pieces of toast and topped each as specified in the recipe. After 3 minutes of broiling, the sandwiches were speckled brown and bubbly.
We ate as many of these as we could but still had almost half left over. I placed them in the fridge for lunch the next day. I was nervous the sandwiches would be soggy and heavy, but after 15 minutes in a 375°F oven, the sandwiches were toasty, warm, and delicious.