This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.
Kentucky Hot Brown Grilled Cheese Sandwich recreates the classic open-faced sandwich as a kid-friendly family favorite. Creamy, cheesy goodness filled with turkey, bacon, and tomatoes oozes out from between two buttery pecorino-encrusted slices of bread. Transform the Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich into a traditional comfort food that is perfect for Kentucky Derby Day or any day.
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Gallo Family Vineyards via Sunday Supper, LLC. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Gallo Family Vineyards.
Grilled Cheese Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich Recipe
My husband and I have done the winery tour thing in Napa and Tuscany. I mean, that only makes sense. But pretty much everywhere we go, whether Delaware or Vermont or upstate New York, we are hitting up local vineyards or breweries. The chemical engineers in us just get such a rush from seeing tanks and vessels and pumps and filters. We love learning about the combination of science and art that goes into producing their products.
In Kentucky, obviously, we had to visit a bourbon distillery and enjoy Bread Pudding at the Keeneland Race Track. But digging into a Kentucky Hot Brown was also an absolute necessity.
What was also a necessity was coming home from the Bluegrass State and recreating that amazing sammie in a fun new way. While one creation was this breadless Kentucky Hot Brown Dip, I couldn’t resist turning a beloved sandwich into, well, another beloved sandwich.
Yes, this Kentucky Hot Brown Grilled Cheese Sandwich is inspired by the Kentucky classic dish that bears the same name.
What is a Hot Brown?
The Kentucky Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich with strips of bacon and slices of tomato. It is all covered in a rich béchamel or Mornay sauce, then typically sprinkled with grated pecorino. Finally, it is broiled till it is golden brown and bubbly. Comfort food at its best.
To make it into a grilled cheese sandwich, just take those classic elements, but make the cheese the star player in this ultimate Kentucky Hot Brown grilled cheese recipe. This may be one of my favorite grilled cheese creations ever. The Hubby, who tends to be fairly low key in his reactions to my cooking, exclaimed, “You have a definite winner with this one!” My boys, well, bread, cheese, bacon – it disappeared almost as fast as I put it on their plates. So here is what you’ll need.
- Unsalted butter: Make sure it is softened to room temperature so it spreads easily on the bread and so the pecorino cheese will stick to it.
- Pecorino romano cheese: This will be divided so that some can be used to make a deliciously cheesy crust on the bread. The rest goes into the sandwich filling. If you can’t find pecorino, you can substitute parmesan cheese.
- Plain Greek yogurt: This is the base of the super creamy sandwich filling.
- Sharp white cheddar cheese: I always love Cabot cheese. You can use yellow cheddar, but the white keeps it the same color as the Mornay sauce on a hot brown sandwich.
- Nutmeg: A key ingredient in white cream or cheese sauces to give it that little something you just can’t put your finger on, but enhances the flavor.
- Cooked turkey breast: This is a great recipe for using leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or a Slow Cooker Turkey Breast.
- Bacon: Make sure it is cooked until it is nice and crispy, then crumbled.
- Chopped tomatoes: Squeeze out some of the extra liquid and seeds.
- Sandwich bread: You can use your favorite – white, whole wheat, or gluten free bread are all fine.
- Olive oil: Your bread already has a nice, buttery coating, so using olive oil in the pan keeps it from sticking and helps it get a nice, crisp crust.
In a pinch, you can always use leftover rotisserie chicken from Costco or the grocery store.
How to you Make a Kentucky Hot Brown Grilled Cheese
Gather your ingredients, heat your pan, and let’s make this grilled cheese sandwich! Here is a quick overview, and all of the amounts and details are in the recipe card below.
- Prepare the bread: Combine the butter and grated pecorino romano cheese. Use this to butter the outside of each slice of bread.
- Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, pecorino and cheddar cheese, and nutmeg, then fold in the turkey, bacon, and tomatoes.
- Assemble the sandwiches: Divide the filling between four of the slices of bread and top with another slice of buttered bread.
- Cook the sandwiches: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Grill the sandwiches, one or two at a time depending on the size of your pan, for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and the cheese has melted.
Covering the pan with a lid during cooking will help the inside get all warm and gooey before the bread gets too browned.
Kentucky Hot Brown Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese, divided (can substitute parmesan)
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 cup chopped cooked turkey breast
- 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
- 8 slices of your favorite sandwich bread (white, whole wheat, and gluten free bread are all fine)
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided if you are cooking the sandwiches in batches in a smaller pan
- In a small bowl, use a sppoin to blend together the butter and 2 Tablespoons pecorino romano cheese. Using the pecorino butter, butter the outside of each slice of bread, about 1/2 Tablespoon per slice.
- In a medium bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, and nutmeg, stirring until mixed thoroughly. Gently fold in the turkey, bacon and tomatoes.
- Divide the filling between four of the slices of bread, packing it together, about a 1/2 cup in each. Top with another slice of buttered bread.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat (use 1/2 Tablespoon at a time if you ar enly cooking one or two sandwiches at a time). Add one or two sandwiches to the pan, depending on the size of the pan.
- Cook the sandwiches for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and the cheese has melted. Covering the pan with a lid during cooking will help the inside get all warm and gooey before the bread gets too browned.
More grilled cheese recipes
- Three Cheese Pizza Grilled Cheese it the easy way to enjoy white pizza, or you can dunk it in tomato sauce.
- Basil Balsamic Strawberry Feta Grilled Cheese is sweet, salty, tangy, and so delicious.
- Avocado Bacon Grilled Cheese combines rich and creamy avocado with the crunch of fresh summer corn.
- Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese featured everyone’s favorite spicy chicken.
- Apple, Prosciutto and Gruyere Grilled Cheese by Hip Foodie Mom
- Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich by Magnolia Days
- Roast Beef Horseradish Arugula Grilled Cheese by Shockingly Delicious
Thanks SO much for adding the Hot Brown Sandwich. Just recently, I went out with my photo group in the Versailles (KY) area, and we ate at restaurant that served Hot Brown Sandwiches. I wanted to try to re-create it, and now I can.
My aunt lives near Versailles! This isn’t exactly the same. Kind of a reinvention, but still yummy. Enjoy!
Should I admit that I’d never heard of a Kentucky Hot Brown until now? It sounds amazing, and your sandwich looks so creamy, gooey, and perfect!
YUM! I love a Kentucky Hot Brown – and this version sounds fantastic – I’m planning on making it for the Derby in a few weeks!
Ooh, that is perfect!
That sounds a lot like L and I, except we’re fascinated with how things work and we especially love watching moving parts of mechanical objects. (L’s a mechanical engineer, and I just like tinkering with things) This sandwich looks amazing, thanks for sharing 🙂
I have some mechanical engineer friends who are the same way!
What a great recipe! Something totally new!
Yes, it was fun to twist up classic dishes.
I’ve never had a hot brown but I want one now but really I want your version in all it’s cheesy and bacon glory!
Is cheese and bacon ever wrong?!
I am sad to say that I have yet to travel to Kentucky and kind of embarrassed to say that I’ve never heard of a hot brown. But the original sounds wonderful and your grilled cheese sounds fabulous, Brianne! I am a huge fan of grilled cheese in all its forms.
Oh my word. A Kentucky Hot Brown – I’ll take 2 now – stat! 🙂
I’ve never heard of a Hot Brown, but it sounds amazing, and I love your grilled cheese version!
I had heard of a Kentucky Hot Brown, but wasn’t entirely sure what was in it. Thanks for the lesson and the ingenuity on the grilled cheese!
My husband would die & go to heaven if I made this for him– can’t WAIT to try it! Yummy!!
This looks like the ultimate comfort food! Love how gooey it looks. I’ve never tried a Hot Brown, but grilled cheese has always been one of my favorites. I’m positive that this would be an instant hit in my household!
Sounds like you and your husband vacation the same way Jeff and I do 🙂 We’re always thinking about where we’ll eat next! This sandwich looks decadently heavenly. But I’ll pretend it’s healthy since there is Greek yogurt in there!
Yes, it’s so much fun!!
What a creative idea. I’ve never heard of this kind of sandwich…but then again, I’ve never been to Kentucky!
If my family didn’t move there, I’m not sure I would have gone, but there are some fun things.
Love how you reinvented a classic! When I saw what you were creating, I couldn’t wait to see what you were up to. You definitely didn’t disappoint!
Thanks Melanie! It’s definitely different from the original, but the elements are there and it is delicious!
I had not heard of a Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich before and loved reading how you included the traditional ingredients into your delicious grilled cheese sandwich. Kentucky, the hub of grilled cheese? Why not!!
You have to try a hot brown! So good!
I love the idea of upping the creamy factor with Greek yogurt! Our vacations definitely revolve around eating as well. It’s the best when you can recreate a cultural favorite at home!
I’ve used the Greek yogurt a lot and it works well for filling-packed grilled cheese sandwiches!
I am not a fan of greek yogurt. I am planning on using softened cream cheese instead. Any suggestionsor tthoughts?
I think that might work well, or perhaps sour cream. Though I will say, you don’t really taste the greek yogurt. It really works just as a binder to keep everything together.
I love a good Hot Brown, and what an awesome idea to turn it into a grilled cheese – looks brilliant!
Definitely makes it something easier that you can throw together anyday!
I have yet to make a hot brown. This needs to happen, obviously. Love this!
Hot Browns are amazing, and I think this is even easier and just as tasty!
grilled cheese with Slow Cooker BBQ Rubbed Turkey Breast . . oh my gawd. . yum!!! this looks soooooooo good!
Thanks Alice! Yep, and have to remember this one for when you are trying to use up the Thanksgiving leftovers!
What a perfectly delicious grilled cheese. This looks so yummy!! A must make for sure!
I’ve never had the traditional hot brown, but I think I’ll skip over that experience and go straight to your gorgeous grilled cheese version! YUM!
This is good, but you should still try the original. It’s awesome!
Your sandwich looks just amazing!!! I simply love it!!
Delicious! A combo of so many wonderful cheeses! I like the idea of dicing up some leftover turkey for a perfectly new and exciting dinner the next day too!
Yep, cook once, eat twice!
I love these flavors together! I need a little Hot Brown in my life!
Yes, I think you do!
Yep, I spy a sandwich that will be made here in the very near future.
Oh you must! So amazing!