Definitely comfort food, this Kentucky hot brown casserole takes the flavors of the iconic sandwich and makes it easy to prep for a crowd. This casserole not only makes a great main dish for entertaining, it’s a good way to use up leftover turkey or roast chicken.
I’m going to start this post with a very open and full disclosure. I have never actually eaten a Kentucky hot brown sandwich. Stay with me here though please, because this Kentucky hot brown casserole recipe is so worth it!
It’s like a savory bread pudding, with lots and lots of bacon and turkey, then covered with a delicious cheese sauce. We just checked off every box on the “this is an amazing casserole” checklist that I just made up. It’s on the internet, therefore it’s official.
You can thank my orthodontist for this recipe. Once a month, I get a brief moment to myself in the waiting room of my orthodontist’s office. When I’m there early enough, I like to pass the time browsing magazines in peace. Like an adult without children. And it just so happens I stumbled across this casserole during one of those moments. I snapped a photo of the recipe and sent a text to the Godfather that read, “For Easter?”
We decided to host approximately 14 people who hadn’t had a homecooked meal in weeks in our home, after church. Naturally, I was in charge of just about all the cooking, like the crazy person one-woman party planner and caterer that I am. The Godfather planned to make his honey bourbon ham in a slow cooker, which was great. But I needed something else to feed a crowd that large!
This casserole seemed like a perfect second main dish. Especially since I could split the prep over a few days, something I definitely recommend! As far as casseroles go, this is pretty involved.
In case you’re wondering how to cater such a large event and still spend a few hours out of the house before guests arrive, I’ll share. The rest of the menu involved a cheese and charcuterie board. Mostly a store-bought situation. The main meal consisted of the ham, a HUGE double batch of this casserole, my feta farro salad, baklava, and chocolate chip cookie bars for dessert.
To drink, we had sparkling water, sodas, a mimosa bar with both sparkling wine and non-alcoholic sparkling cider, and my berry basil rose sangria. This is how you feed about 15 adults with leftovers, and it was glorious! I barely had any of the casserole left. Enough people took extras home after I invited those who wished to take “to go” plates. Definitely the sign of a winning recipe.
It was at this point the Godfather suggested I blog the recipe. When he suggests I blog a recipe, it’s because he wants to see it on the menu again soon. Wish granted, obviously. 😉
I’m sharing this casserole now so you can file this away for the holidays and cooler weather. It’s definitely comfort food.
If there was a little less preparation involved, I’d even recommend it as a great recipe to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. But since Thanksgiving usually involves another savory bread-dish in the form of stuffing or dressing, this casserole may be better suited for using up that last bit of Thanksgiving turkey you find in the freezer a few weeks later. Of course, if you aren’t planning to serve dressing and need another idea… I’ll just leave this right here. 😉
My best tips for preparing this casserole in advance…
First of all, I’d definitely recommend splitting up the preparation time. Use leftover turkey breast or chicken breast! This is perfect for after the holidays, naturally, but also good if you meal prep.
When we have busy weeks (um, always, isn’t it like that for everyone?) I often whip up a couple chicken breasts or a bigger roast over the weekend for using in other meals during the week. Separate out about a pound for use in your casserole.
Then bake the bacon, because a pound of bacon is a lot to make in a skillet. Spare yourself the time over a skillet and use a rimmed baking sheet with the bacon placed on an oven safe rack. Bacon bakes nice and crispy after about 20 minutes in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven.
Line your baking sheet with a large piece of heavy duty aluminum for easy cleanup. The bacon lays nice and flat, and there’s no flipping. Your clothes also won’t smell like bacon, which I feel always happens to me after cooking bacon. Maybe you too?
You can toast your bread crumbs in advance, and assemble the casserole the night before for baking the next day. Alternatively, leave the individual ingredients separate for mixing up to 2-3 days later. If you assemble the casserole the night before, you’ll get a slightly more custardy bottom than if you bake immediately. We liked it though because leftovers were PERFECT sliced and pan fried then topped with an egg. You can’t go wrong either way, so adjust your timing for what works best for you and your schedule.
The only thing I don’t recommend is preparing the cheese sauce until the casserole is baking. It’s very hard to reheat a cheese sauce without making it grainy, so just wait on this. Thankfully, the Kentucky hot brown casserole cheese sauce only takes a few minutes to whip up. It would take you more time and worry to try to reheat, trust me.
Have you saved this Kentucky hot brown casserole recipe yet?
As far as indulgent savory casseroles go, this one is our current family favorite, and may be yours too!
So break out the leggings and oversize sweaters, raid your freezers or plan your meal prep accordingly. Then gather your favorite people around the table with this Kentucky hot brown casserole!
- 1 pound sliced bacon, cooked, divided (see notes)
- 1 pound thick, cubed white bread
- 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 large eggs
- 2 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
Additional Casserole Ingredients
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
- 12-16 ounces turkey breast, chopped (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpuse flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup fresh tomato, diced
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Cook your bacon. The easiest way to do this for a pound of bacon is to bake it on an oven safe rack set in an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Bake in a 375 F oven for 20-30 minutes until the bacon is done and crispy.
- While your bacon is baking, you can also toast the bread for the casserole. Take thick sliced white bread and cut into cubes.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes with 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes until the bread is lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Spray an 11x7-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray (or brush with butter) and set aside.
- When your bacon is ready, remove from the oven and set aside. Chop or crumble into small chunks. Part of the bacon will go in the casserole and the other part will be used for topping.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, black pepper, and dry mustard. Add the toasted bread crumbs to the bowl.
- Add the 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese, turkey, 12 ounces of the bacon, and drippings. Stir to combine and then pour into the prepared casserole dish.
- Bake in a 375 F oven for 45 minutes, then loosely tent with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning, and bake an additional 15 minutes. The total baking time is 1 hour.
- When the casserole has baked, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour, and whisk for 1 minute. Then slowly drizzle in the whole milk, whisking constantly to create a thick roux. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan, pepper, and salt.
- Pour the sauce over the top of the cooked casserole and top with the fresh diced tomato, remaining bacon, and fresh parsley. Serve warm. See notes for a tip about leftovers (if there are any!)
- I highly recommend using leftover turkey or chicken in this recipe instead of adding yet another thing to cook. Depending on what you have on hand, you may use as little as 12 ounces of meat or as much as a pound with no significant effect on the final outcome of the recipe.
- It literally just dawned on me that you could, in theory, buy the cooked bacon at the grocery store and save yourself a step. If you do this, substitute olive oil or melted butter for the bacon drippings in the recipe. Your bacon flavor won't be as strong, but this will still taste good. Because butter.
- If you have leftover casserole, store in the refrigerator. We like to cut leftover pieces into slices and pan sear them, then top with an egg. It makes for a delicious breakfast!