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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 roast 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.
The Hot Brown has also given rise to other non-sandwich copycats, like Kentucky Hot Brown Quiche, Hot Brown Baked Potatoes, and this cheesy dip!
A deliciously simple list of ingredients comes together to make this amazing Kentucky Derby appetizer! Here is some information about the ingredients, but the amounts and full instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- 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 and liquid, then chop it up.
- Bacon: Cooked bacon that is nice and crispy, 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. Start by getting all of your preparations done. 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 mixture. Stir together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, nutmeg, some of the cheddar cheese, and turkey. Then spread it all into a glass or ceramic baking dish.
Add the toppings. Sprinkle the chopped tomato, crumbled bacon, remaining cheddar cheese, and the pecorino romano cheese evenly over the top of the dip.
Bake and serve. Pop it into the oven and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, until it is hot, golden-brown, and melty.
How to serve Kentucky Hot Brown Dip
Just like all of your favorite hot, cheey dips, you’ll want to serve it with any of your favorite items for dipping and scooping.
- 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.
You can even enjoy it as part of your meal. Spoon some over a salad with a drizzle of Creamy Maple Dijon Dressing for a satisfying dinner!
What do you serve for a Kentucky Derby Party?
If you need some ideas for Kentucky Derby food you can start with Southern classics like Air Fryer Fried Chicken with some Gluten Free Biscuits. Have a party with Mini Hot Brown Sliders made on Gluten Free Hawaiian Rolls. Then get some inspiration from Kentucky’s favorite alcohol, and snack on Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Popcorn.
The don’t forget Derby Day classic desserts like Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcake or a rich and creamy Gluten Free Bread Pudding. And it isn’t the Run for the Roses without a Gluten Free Chocoate Chip Cookie Pie inspired by the classic Derby Pie!
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.
Can I make this a day ahead of time? Derby Day is busy! Thanks!
Yes, definitely! You can prepare it and refrigerate it until you are ready to bake it, or bake it almost all the way done, then just pop it back in the oven or microwave before serving.
Delicious! Everyone asked for the recipe!
This recipe was FABULOUS! I served this dip at my daughter’s bridal shower last weekend. It was very easy to make and bake. Many, many compliments came from our guests. I would make over and over again. We served with a veggie tray, Ritz crackers and Wheat Thins. It was also delicious by itself. No leftovers 🙁 Will pass this along to all who asks for it.
So happy to hear this! Thank you so much!
Can you freeze this? Or would the tomato get yucky?
I would not recommend freezing it. Dishes with this much dairy don’t always freeze and thaw well, and can tend to get watery with a strange texture.
What size baking dish are you using here? I’m terribly at calculating quantities. I tried another, much more complicated, recipe for this dip at Derby and while it was good, it ended up in a too-deep dish.
I’d like to try this recipe for Thanksgiving…seems like the perfect opportunity to serve this to guests in Louisville, KY.
About a 1 1/2 quart casserole or square baking dish would be fine. If you double it, then probably 2 quarts or about a 11×7 inch baking dish.
Such a hit at a Kentucky Derby party today! I doubled it and it went so fast. People were asking for the recipe as soon as it was served. Took longer than 10 minutes to assemble. Only reason for 4 stars not 5. Thank you!!!
I’m so glad that everyone enjoyed the dip, Sue! Thank you for your comment and for rating the recipe.
what size dish did you use, esp after doubling.
About a 1 1/2 quart casserole or square baking dish would be fine. If you double it, then probably 2 quarts or about a 11×7 inch baking dish.
Is the bacon on top pre-cooked? Or does it just cook on top of the casserole since it’s in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes?
Susanne, it needs to be cooked and crumbled.
May I bake this in a toss away aluminum pan instead of glass baking dish, will it alter anything? My condo clubhouse requests disposable items at our functions… ie: our Kentucky derby party, condo rules kinda suck 🙁
I’m so sorry that I missed seeing this comment until AFTER the Kentucky Derby! I truly hope you made it (in a disposable pan) and loved it!
I know you couldn’t call it Kentucky Hot Brown dip…but have you ever tried with shredded chicken instead of turkey?
I haven’t tried the dip with shredded chicken, but I can’t think of a single reason that it would anything but delicious! I mean, chicken, bacon, and cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly! 🙂
What could I use instead of nutmeg? Thanks
Janis, if you like the flavor of nutmeg but don’t have any on hand, you can use pumpkin pie spice or mace. If you’re trying to avoid the flavor of nutmeg, you can use cinnamon or ginger in place of the nutmeg.
Love this, I need to make it for the holidays!
Would this work for the crock pot? If so, what the instructions be? And do you think it could also be made ahead and baked the day of? Thanks–it’s going to be perfect for my daughter’s derby party!
You can definitely make it ahead, but I have not tried it in the crock pot.
This may be a silly question but what exactly do you mean by chopped cooked turkey? Is this ground turkey or something different? Thanks!
I used leftovers from a turkey breast I has roasted, but you could probably use the precooked turkey breasts from the grocery store, or even get deli turkey cut thick so you can chop it into cubes.
Greetings. I am having a KY derby party at work this week, and only have access to a microwave or crock pot. I usually have done hot dips in the crock pot on warm until lunch time, but wasn’t sure about this one. Have you ever kept it warm in a crock? Or cooked at home and reheated in a microwave? Any advice on how to adapt this would be welcome.
Sorry to have missed your question. It’s been a crazy week with my son’s birthday and days off from school. I have not done it in a crockpot, but I would think you could reheat it.
Growing up in Kentucky, this is going to be a great way to bring a little of home to Los Angeles. Thanks for sharing!
Can you tell me how much this makes. Need to take to a girls night and want to know if i should double the recipe. Thanks!
I don’t have an exact measurement. It filled that small casserole dish very full (I kinda heaped it in there), and it is quite filling. So if you are having other food, you might be ok.
Thanks for sharing my recipe Brianne! Can’t wait to meet you for this race weekend. This is not my first race, but my first race at a 10k distance. I am coming back from an injury, so I’m a little out of my running game, but being part of the Cabot Fit team has definitely bringing my running motivation back. Plus, knowing you and the other Cabot Fit members are going to be training at the same time will help me stay on track!
It does feel good to be part of a semi-virtual team! Good luck with working past the injury!
This dip sounds delicious!
Thanks Kita, we loved it!
i played sports growing up but was not very good! This dip looks amazing and I really want to make it this weekend.
At least you tried! I just gave up 🙂
Great idea for a dip!
I did not play sports growing up and was not athletic at all (hated gym and was not good at sports) although I was thin mostly because I was a picky eater. After college, I actually learned to like food and it has been a battle against the pounds ever since. I’m trying much harder to be healthier these days. I also had a scare with cancer that opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to take better care of myself.
I did my first 10K 3 years ago this month and just did my 3rd 10K last month. I’m a very slow runner, but it is about finishing what you’ve set out to accomplish and getting healthier along the way. I just need to keep up my running when I’m not training for a race (or train for more races, lol).
Good luck in your training! It’s a great feeling when you cross that finish line for the first time.
I think I’m like you, I need to keep signing up for races or it’ll be hard for me to keep running!
So proud of you for doing the Cabot Fit Team. It’s a fun experience and I know you will love it. And such a great appetizer recipe!
Thanks Carolyn! I’m nervous and excited!
Oh, I can TOTALLY relate to this post!! (Aside from the fact that it’s a yummy cheesy recipe, ha!) I too was the chubby kid in school, stunk at sports… and other than a brief commitment to running in college, hadn’t really been a very “active” adult. As an RD I’d become proficient at managing my weight well, but “fitness” was something I saw for other people… the athletic folks, not me.
But I kid you not — after our first year of CabotFit I truly began to embrace that being fit and active wasn’t about a number on a scale or being a “beast” of an athlete. It was about showing my boys that being active at any age is important and plus, I wanted to feel my best, day in and day out.
We’re so excited to have you on the team and take this journey with you!
It’s so funny you say that about being a “beast”. I follow some very athletic folks on Instagram, and some days they inspire me and others days I see them and just feel like throwing in the towel because I don’t work out 6 days a week for 2 hours a day and eat a perfectly clean diet 100% of the time, so w5y bother because I’m not going to be as “good” as them and run seven minute miles and have muscles like crazy. But I try to fight that all or nothing mentality and just do what it right for me. Today my body is telling me it needs to rest, but tomorrow I’ll be ready for my long run of the week (albeit at a 9-10 minute mile pace).
Oh I am SO with you!!! When we’re together in August, I’ll tell you all about my recent “too much too fast” debacle at CrossFit, my subsequent OldLady pity party and the resolution I finally came to in my own mind. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that being fit and healthy doesn’t mean being the fastest runner or the heaviest lifter 🙂
This Kentucky Hot Brown Dip is awesome.