Kentucky Hot Brown Bites

Made famous by The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1926, these hot brown bites are miniature versions of the hot, open-face turkey sandwich covered in Mornay sauce. I like to serve them in crispy phyllo cups for an easy Kentucky Derby appetizer!

Kentucky Hot Brown Bites

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Phyllo cups are one of my very favorite entertaining tricks! Keep them on hand in your freezer and fill them up with anything and everything from pimento cheese to hot chicken salad to create the quickest appetizers.

These delicious Kentucky Hot Brown Bites are one of my favorite appetizers to make in May to enjoy for the Kentucky Derby! I even feature them in my book, The Southern Entertainer’s Cookbook because they’re just a quintessentially Southern appetizer you will find yourself serving again and again!

Kentucky Derby Hot Brown Bites Appetizer

Hot Brown Bites: Tips & Ingredient Notes

These are super simple to make, fear not! But I have a few tips for you below to help you with the recipe. If you want to head straight to the recipe, you’ll find it at the end of the post where you can save it or print it too.

The first step in making Kentucky Hot Brown Bites is making the mornay sauce (think rich cheese sauce). You’ll melt butter and flour in a small saucepan to make a roux then add in half-and-half and let simmer for a couple of minutes. It will thicken up quite a lot! Keep stirring!

Remove from the heat and stir in your grated Pecorino-Romano cheese. You can substitute in parmesan cheese if you prefer.

Also add in salt, white pepper and paprika. You can certainly use black pepper if you prefer. If you want a bit of kick, add in some cayenne pepper!

Next, stir in diced roasted turkey, crumbled cooked bacon and diced tomatoes. Use any turkey you have on hand, I usually get turkey from the deli and just dice it right on up!

hot brown bites filling in phyllo cups

Once you stir your feeling to combine it well, scoop it into the phyllo cups and pop them in the oven to bake for about 10 minutes or until nice and bubbly! They’ll be lightly golden brown when ready.

I like to garnish my hot brown bites with a sprinkle of finely diced herbs like parsley but you could also use chives, green onion, basil or whatever you have on hand!

kentucky hot brown bites

Ta-da! That’s it! Now serve these Kentucky Hot Brown Bites up with a pitcher of my very favorite Derby cocktail, the Mint Julep Punch and you’ll be ready to watch the run for the roses in style!

Can You Make Hot Brown Bites in Advance?

You can! If you want to prep in advance (every hostess’ go-to tip) then just prepare your filled phyllo cups, tightly cover and refrigerator for up to a day in advance. Then when ready to bake, pop them in a preheated oven. You will want to add 2-3 minutes longer in the oven to account for them being chilled.

Kentucky Hot Brown Bites Appetizer

More Kentucky Derby Party Recipes

When my youngest daughter turned 2, I hosted her an “Off Two the Races” birthday party filled with ideas that would also be fabulous for any Kentucky Derby watch party! It’s worth checking out, especially if you’re entertaining kids on Derby day!

Kentucky Hot Brown Bites Appetizer

Kentucky Hot Brown Bites

A miniature version of the famous Hot Brown Sandwich from The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. This appetizer version is served in phyllo cups for easy entertaining during The Kentucky Derby!
SERVINGS 30 bites
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 cup diced roasted turkey breast
  • 3 slices crispy-cooked bacon - crumbled
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 30 phyllo cups
  • chopped parsley - for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 325℉.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, melt your butter then slowly whisk in flour to form a roux.
  • Whisk in half-and-half, stirring constantly, until mixture simmers. It will begin to thicken quickly, keep stirring!
  • Remove saucepan from heat and stir in grated cheese, salt, pepper and paprika to create the Mornay cheese sauce.
  • Add in diced turkey, bacon crumbles and diced tomato. Stir to combine well.
  • Place phyllo cups evenly on a baking sheet. Add filling to each cup.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped parsley.


Calories: 41kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 2gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 153mgPotassium: 29mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 0.4gVitamin A: 55IUVitamin C: 0.5mgCalcium: 19mgIron: 0.1mg
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