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Kentucky Hot Brown Dip has all the best parts of the classic sandwich made famous at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, but now you can enjoy it as a melty, cheesy snack. This Southern-inspired favorite is loaded with turkey, bacon, tomatoes, and, of course, plenty of cheese. From the Run for the Roses to the big game, this is the hot appetizer you need to add to your party menu!
Kentucky Hot Brown Dip – the Best Kentucky Derby Party Food!
This Kentucky Hot Brown Dip recipe takes the best parts of that traditional open faced sandwich – turkey, bacon, creamy goodness, and a few tomatoes for a fresh and acidic balance – and combines it all into one ooey gooey appetizer.
Unlike the flour and butter-based Mornay sauce, you’ll get the velvety texture with light cream cheese and Greek yogurt, and lots of flavor from sharp cheddar cheese. And while you can certainly dip bread or crackers, using it as a dip for veggies keeps it gluten free and low carb.
Of course, while it seems the perfect appetizer to add to your Derby Day menu, it’s also great for game day, whether you are cheering on those Kentucky Wildcats in basketball or football, or any other team you love. And don’t forget about it when you have leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or Christmas!
Really, it’s a delicious addition to any occasion. In fact, it just may be one of the best hot dip recipes you’ll ever make.
Why? Well, let’s start a the beginning.
What is a Hot Brown?
The Hot Brown Sandwich, also known as a Kentucky Hot Brown or Louisville Hot Brown, by Frank Schmidt in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. The story, which may or may not be mostly legend, is that it was dreamed up as an alternative to the late night ham and egg sandwiches usually served to the hotel guests after an evening of dinner dances.
At that time, it was an open-faced sandwich consisting of toasted bread topped with slices of roasted turkey, creamy Mornay sauce, and a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese. Then it was broiled until golden and bubbly. Eventually, the tomatoes and bacon that are now a quintessential part of the recipe were likely added later.
In fact, today there are many variations. Some people add cheddar cheese instead of Gruyere to the Mornay sauce while others make it with ham instead of bacon. It can be topped with a fried egg or even transformed into a Kentucky Hot Brown Grilled Cheese.
- Cream cheese: Let it soften to room temperature so it is easy to mix. You can use regular or light, but do not use fat free. It becomes weird consistency when baked in the oven.
- Plain Greek yogurt: This helps make the dip nice and creamy. You can use nonfat, low fat, or whole milk varieties.
- Grated nutmeg: The tiniest bit is used to enhance the flavor of many cream sauces.
- Shredded white cheddar cheese: While the Mornay Sauce in a Hot Brown is usually made with Gruyere cheese, the cheddar adds a nice bit of sharpness when making it into a dip. You can use yellow cheddar, but the white cheddar cheese keeps it more like the traditional color.
- Turkey: Use some leftover cooked turkey that’s been chopped. If you can’t get any turkey, leftover chicken will do.
- Tomato: Slice it in half to squeeze out the seeds a liquid, then chop it up.
- Bacon: Cooked until crispy and crumbled
- Grated pecorino romano cheese: This is traditional, but parmesan cheese is a fine substitute.
How to Make Kentucky Hot Brown Dip
It is super simple to make, and all the details and amounts are in the recipe card. But let’s get a quick rundown.
- Preparations: Pull your cream cheese out of the fridge to soften and preheat your oven to 350°. In the meantime, chop your turkey and tomato, cook and crumble the bacon, and shred the cheese.
- Make the dip: Stir together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, turkey, tomato, bacon, and most of the cheddar cheese, then spread it all into a glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar and pecorino cheese on top.
- Bake and serve: Pop it in the oven until hot and melty, then enjoy!
What do you serve for a Kentucky Derby Party?
Let’s start with this dip and what to ser with it:
- To make it more like the sandwich, you can spread it on slices of regular or gluten free baguette.
- Regular or gluten free crackers work great too, as well as tortilla chips.
- For a low carb option, scoop it up with veggies like cucumbers or peppers.
- Believe it or not, we actually had it over a salad for dinner. A small serving is actually super satisfying!
You’ll want to use a glass or ceramic baking dish that is about 1.5- to 2-quarts. I like to use a decorative stoneware dish or my Corning French White casserole dish, but a glass 11×7-inch baking pan works fine too.
If you are going to a party and don’t want to worry about getting your dish back, a disposable aluminum pan will work just fine, but place it on a cookie sheet and check it a few minutes early to make sure it isn’t getting overcooked.
Kentucky Hot Brown Dip
- 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (regular or light)
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (can use nonfat, low fat, or whole milk varieties)
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese, divided (about 6 oz.)
- 2 cups cooked and chopped turkey
- one small tomato, seeded and chopped
- 6 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
- 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (or parmesan)
- Crackers, sliced baguette, vegetables for serving
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a bowl, stir together the cream cheese, yogurt, nutmeg, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, and turkey until thoroughly combined.
- Transfer to a glass or ceramic 1.-5 to 2 quart glass baking dish baking dish and spread evenly.
- Top with chopped tomato, crumbled bacon, the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, and the pecorino romano cheese.
- Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and lightly browned.
- Serve with crackers, baguette slices, and veggies for dipping.