~ This BLT Pierogi Skillet Dinner uses just one pan, and is on the table in 30 minutes! Pillowy soft pierogies are draped in a creamy, cheesy, alfredo-like sauce and loaded up with vibrant BLT flavors – comfort food with a satisfyingly fresh twist! It’s one of those meals that wins little cheers of joy at my house when dinner is announced. Bonus: it reheats beautifully, too, so you can even make it ahead for busy evenings! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Make Ahead •
Pierogi Night will always hold a special place in my heart. Ohhhhh … my pierogi glory days …
Back in college, the dining hall’s “Pierogi Night” was pretty much my idea of dining excellence. Lookin’ you straight in the eyes here and totally not kidding. I lived for Pierogi Night. Waited for it alllllll quarter, so happily circled on the dining hall menu taped to the back of my little dorm room’s door.
I’m honestly not sure if I’d ever even had pierogies before they showed up on the dining hall menu. Oh, what unique and novel heights of ethnic diversity our college menu achieved (ahem) … pierogies!
I embraced them with wholehearted abandon, and in very, very large quantities. (Full disclosure – I wholeheartedly embraced an awful lot about the never-ending smorgasbord of dining hall meals. I probably should’ve gained that fabled “freshman 10” … or, truly, a “freshman 100” the way I ate back then. I think my only saving grace was being really active and staying fit. Because, well … among other things … pierogies!)
And I loaded ’em right on up with butter-sautéed onions, plus full-fat sour cream and cheddar cheese. It was, after all, a very special occasion. Pierogi Night. I for sure wasn’t skimping. (Or skipping seconds!)
Fast forward to reality … to realizing that there’s a whole lot about college that just can’t go on and on in “real life.” *Nostalgic sigh* But also realizing that food doesn’t have to be swimming in fat to taste good … that it usually tastes much better when it’s got some fresh, vibrant flavors layered in there, too. Well, huh! Who knew?!? I guess some things you just don’t learn in college!
So, yeah – Pierogi Night will always hold a special place in my heart. But I sure don’t want that special place to be plaque-clogged arteries. (Arteries? Who even worried about that back in college, right?!?! 😉 )
My whole family seriously loves this healthier, yet still rich and comforting, Pierogi Skillet. Pierogi Night revolutionized! Both my kids actually make happy little cheering sounds when I tell them I’m planning this for dinner.
It’s so delicious every.single.time I make it – we never get tired of it!
With smoky bacon, fresh and juicy tomatoes, pretty green spinach, and a double hit from sweet cooked onions and a sprinkling of perky green onion slices – this skillet dinner has so much great BLT flavors goin’ on. But that’s only the beginning …
Even better, all that yummy BLT deliciousness is thickly draped with a two-cheese sauce that blankets the soft little pierogies in not-too-naughty decadence. Oh, my … I’m doing a little inner happy dance just imagining it all …
And it’s fast, FAST, FAST!
Perfect for busy weeknights! (And … exactly which of your weeknights aren’t busy?)
Even better, you can …
Make It Ahead!
Yes, my busy-busy, on-the-go friends. I’ve got ya on this one!
I’ve tested making this recipe entirely ahead, early in the day, and then gently reheating it at mealtime. Works like a charm. The sauce loosens and gets all creamy-dreamy again as it reheats … mmmmmmm … perfect in just minutes!
I was (pleasantly!) surprised that the little confetti bits of spinach weren’t overcooked when I tried this make-ahead idea. That was my biggest worry – but they were actually still just fine. Even so, if you’d like your veggies to be the very most fresh and vibrant, you can definitely leave out the spinach and tomatoes when you initially prepare this ahead of time, waiting to swirl them in at the very end, after you’ve reheated the rest of the skillet meal just before serving.
Either way, it’s a terrific option that turns an already-quick skillet dinner into a magic-wand solution for feeding the crew on hectic evenings (with no drive-through meals or pizza delivery needed!).
Here’s how I layer in all those flavors, as this Pierogi Skillet recipe comes together in a few easy-peasy minutes:
Building Layers of Deliciously Cheesy BLT Flavors
The first step in building those great BLT flavors is to cook smoky bacon and sweet onions until the onions are just starting to soften and turn golden brown (photos 2 and 3 below). After that, I quickly add garlic (photo 4) for just a minute or so – since there isn’t much fat in the pan at all, that garlic will burn readily if it’s cooked too long before other “wet” ingredients are added.
So, after the garlic just barely starts to cook, I quickly add the still-frozen pierogies (still frozen … no thawing or pre-cooking needed … hurray, time saver!), and the chicken broth (photo 1 below). It all mixes and mingles deliciously in the pan while those pierogies cook until they’re perfectly piping hot.
And that’s when the cheesy-awesome goodness thing happens … just a little reduced-fat cream cheese (photo 2 below) turns the broth into a creamy alfredo-like sauce (photo 3). And just a mere half-cup of sharp cheddar (photo 4) adds big, big cheesy flavor. I’ve tested this recipe using regular cheddar (when I didn’t happen to have any sharp cheddar on hand), and it’s truly not as good. Since we’re relying on just a little cheese to go a long, long way in the flavor department here, that extra hit of flavor from the sharp cheddar really makes a difference.
Next up, I stir in the final delicious touches – loads of gorgeous, super-nutritious veggies! Crisp little green onion slices and a whole heap of spinach (photos 1 and 2 below), plus eye-poppingly pretty red tomato (photos 3 and 4).
Done and done! Ridiculously quick and easy!
My family always serves this straight out of the skillet at the table. Or, you can skip the forks and just dive in face first. I’m certainly in no position to judge pierogi feasting strategies. Do what you gotta do.
Spinach Tips and Tricks
Just like with our BLT Egg Salad, my favorite “lettuce” in BLT recipes is usually super-nutritious spinach. There’s an entire 5-ounce bag chopped up and gently stirred into this recipe – that’s an impressive nutritional punch, for sure!
Tip #1 for making spinach a regular dinner guest: because my family doesn’t love overly cooked spinach, I typically add it to recipes like this one just at the very end of cooking, so it’s perfectly softened to meld with the cheesy goodness … but doesn’t take on those cooked-spinach flavors some people just hate. Even my veggie-picky Amy doesn’t mind that it’s in there!
You’ll notice that I use this little trick in a lot of my THK recipes – incorporating spinach just at the veeeeerrrry end of cooking, so it’s still lively and fresh, but just wilted down enough that you can stir in a surprisingly large amount of healthy spinach goodness without anyone objecting. We do the same thing for our Crock Pot Italian Wedding Soup and our Creamy Tomato and Sausage Pasta.
One other little strategy that I find helps spinach-suspicious eaters to embrace Popeye’s favorite veggie: I usually chop it up before cooking it, rather than stirring in whole, big leaves. For some reason, those chopped pieces seem to look and taste less “wilty,” and little confetti-speckles of spinach throughout a dish are somehow much less off-putting than whole, silky, cooked leaves. Got big-time spinach lovers at home? Great – lucky you! Then you can definitely feel free to make this recipe even faster yet by skipping the chopping step for the spinach, and simply tossing in whole leaves.
Choosing Your Bacon
What’s a BLT recipe without bacon? Well, an LT, I guess – and that’s just not as fun!
I’ve made this Pierogi Skillet recipe with so many different varieties of bacon – center-cut bacon (lower in fat than regular bacon), turkey bacon, reduced-sodium turkey bacon, even thick-cut uncured turkey bacon. They all work great, so choose whichever you prefer, with an eye to what’s healthiest and most in line with your family’s dietary priorities.
Because I don’t think most turkey bacon crumbles very well after cooking (the way “normal” bacon would), I pre-chop my bacon for this recipe before cooking.
Beyond that, the only major difference I’ve really found for how different types of bacon perform in this recipe is that you might need to add a tiny pinch of salt at the very end of cooking if your bacon is really low in sodium. (Whether or not you use the recommended reduced-sodium broth in this recipe can also affect the need for salt at the end of cooking.) Honestly, though, in all the times I’ve made this, I think I’ve needed to add a little salt just once or twice. I recommend tasting the final dish at the very end, and adding a little dash of kosher salt only if needed to make the flavors vibrantly pop. And trust me – pop they will!
Choosing Your Pierogi Flavor
You know I love me some whole grain goodness, and I sure do wish I could still find whole grain pierogies at my local grocery stores, but lately I can’t find them anymore. If you’re able to find them, then I heartily recommend considering that option to add in some fiber-rich whole grains to this recipe.
Whatever you choose, though, be sure to check the nutrition panel – there’s a surprisingly wide variation in the amount of fat and calories in different sizes and flavors of pierogies. For example, I usually choose Mrs. T’s brand from the freezer aisle, simply because that’s what’s available, and the pierogies in that product line can vary from 2.5 or 3 grams of fat per serving up to as much as 9 grams (with corresponding increases in overall calories, as well).
I’ve tried using all sorts of different pierogies in this recipe, but I typically go with Mrs. T’s Mini Classic Cheddar, because we really prefer the size of the smaller mini pierogies in this recipe, and also because the mini cheddar variety doesn’t have nearly as much fat or calories as some of the others. Mrs. T’s Mini Classic Onion Pierogies are even slightly lower in overall fat and calories, and would also be a good bet for this recipe. Or, for just a little splurge and to amp up the bacon flavor, you could try the Mini Cheddar Seasoned with Bacon.
Really, though, don’t overthink this too much. You can’t go wrong! No matter what little variations I play around with, this BLT Pierogi Skillet is always a tried-and-true family favorite, time after time. It’s nestled its way into its very own special place in my pierogi-loving heart.
Hurray! Pierogi Night lives on! Reinvented, a little bit healthier … and better than ever!
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion (from about half a medium onion)
- 4 slices turkey bacon, chopped (about 60 grams or 2 - 2 1/4 ounces total) (see note)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 12.84-ounce boxes frozen mini pierogies (no need to thaw), such as Mrs. T's Mini Classic Cheddar Pierogies
- 1 14.5-ounce can fat-fee, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 5 ounces baby spinach, chopped to yield about 4 1/2 cups
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1 cup seeded, diced tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes)
- optional dash of kosher salt, only if needed
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook chopped sweet onion and bacon until bacon is nearly done and onion has begun to soften and turn slightly golden, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring so garlic does not burn.
- Add frozen pierogies and broth, stirring so that all pierogies are completely moistened. Turn the heat up to high, cover and cook until pierogies are done (about 8 minutes).
- Stir in cream cheese until fully melted and incorporated into broth to form a creamy sauce. Then add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Next add spinach and green onions and stir just until spinach is slightly wilted.
- Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes.
- Taste and add just a little kosher salt, only if needed to make the flavors really pop. (I occasionally need to add salt if using a very reduced-sodium turkey bacon; otherwise I find that adding salt is usually unnecessary.)
- Serve immediately, from skillet, or see note about serving this later as a make-ahead meal.
Turkey bacon and salt: As discussed in greater detail in the post, I've tested this recipe with a variety of types of bacon, including various turkey bacons and also center-cut bacon. There is a wide variance in processing ingredients and sodium levels from one brand or variety to the next, so use whatever your family prefers. Note that, depending on how much sodium and salty curing flavor is in the bacon you choose (and also whether or not you use the recommended reduced-sodium broth), you may need to add a little bit of salt at the end of cooking. I often find that this is not necessary, but with some very low-sodium varieties of turkey bacon, that little final hit of salt really wakes up the flavors perfectly.
Also note that some thicker-cut bacon varieties weigh about twice as much per slice as regular-cut slices, which is why we offer more specific weights in the ingredient list. For typical bacon, I generally use 4 slices, but for thicker cuts, I sometimes need just 2 slices to yield the same amount of bacon.
Make-ahead ideas: Although this skillet meal comes together very quickly and easily in less than 30 minutes, you can make it even faster on busy evenings by making it entirely ahead. After cooking this recipe earlier in the day or even a day ahead, you can cover and refrigerate the (slightly cooled) skillet. Then, gently reheat the meal when you're ready to serve. Although I find that the veggies hold up very well and don't seem too overcooked when I do this, if you prefer, for the freshest and liveliest veggies, you can wait to add the spinach and/or the tomatoes until the very end, after the final reheating and just before serving.
This recipe was inspired by Cooking Light’s Bacon Pierogi Bake recipe, published back in December 2010. We loved the recipe from the very first time I made it, but immediately saw opportunities to pump up the healthy veggies (which also added loads of great flavor), by adding in regular onion, more tomato and green onion, and also a big wallop of spinach. We also wanted to transform Cooking Light’s original recipe from a slightly more time-consuming baked dish into a super-fast skillet meal. If you’d like to try the original, you can check it out HERE.