Easy Skillet Stroganoff

The famous Russian steak draped in sour cream sauce, here turned into a weeknight skillet casserole with ground beef plus the usual mushrooms and sour cream plus a simple secret ingredient that makes all the difference. (Think pickles!) Good news, the recipe easily converts to chicken, Greek yogurt and brown rice, a "stroganoff-ish" combination that's just as good and Weight Watchers friendly!

Easy Skillet Stroganoff (Beef or Chicken), more weeknight comfort food ♥ KitchenParade.com. Budget Friendly. High Protein.

Real Food, Fresh & Flexible. Budget-Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. High Protein.

Dinner, Dinner, What's for Dinner?

How many days a week is this the last-minute question?

Hyper-organized cooks (haha, no namin' names) even set a mid-morning alarm, a reminder to ask and answer that daily dinner question while there's still time to pull meat out of the freezer and mentally run through the ingredient list to avoid six o'clock surprises.

For lots of cooks, that "meat in the freezer" is ground beef because if there are Facts of Life of the Kitchen Kind, the truth is that once the meat is thawed, dinner's as good as cooked.

You know, family favorites like Hamburger Soup or Cast Iron Meatloaf or Picadillo (Cuban Ground Beef Skillet Supper).

How to Thaw Ground Beef At Almost the Last Minute

It takes 60 - 90 minutes for a pound of frozen hamburger meat to thaw using the cold-water technique. Here's how you do it.

  • Find a bowl or baking dish that's big enough to fully submerge the package of meat.
  • Fill the bowl halfway with cold water. Yes, cold water, not hot water! Even cold water is relatively warmer than the frozen meat. Cold water thaws the meat while keeping it at a safe temperature. So no hot water, okay? Just cold water for thawing frozen meat!
  • Leave the meat in its packaging, whatever it is. If the packaging has gotten a little torn up in the freezer, put the package in a freezer bag, express as much air as possible from the bag and seal it tightly. This keeps the meat from getting watery.
  • Put the package into the water. Is it fully covered plus at least an inch or two of water? Great, quit. If not, add more cold water, enough to fully submerge the package. You might need to weight down the meat with something heavy, even a a soup bowl filled with cold water can be heavy enough but the meat must be fully submerged in the cold water.

  • After about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, the meat will be fully thawed. Take note how long this takes, so you'll know for the next time.
  • Once the meat is thawed, move it to the fridge for safekeeping until it's time to cook. To avoid getting meat juice all over the fridge shelves, pour the water out of the bowl and keep the meat in the bowl or just use the freezer bag, propped so that the seal side is up. I don't know about you but I go all *&(*&^% when meat juice gets into fridge drawers. :-(

But What's This Thing Called Stroganoff?

Stroganoff is a Russian dish with beef and sour cream that dates back into the 1800s, the idea is that it likely originated with French chefs.

Usually Beef Stroganoff is usually made with beef so lots of times it's called "Beef Stroganoff" or "Beef Stroganov". The meat is usually steak (a cut like sirloin or flank steak, even round steak) cut into thin strips or cubes. My friend Sharon once turned a big piece of bison into Bison Stroganoff!

Always Sour Cream The other iconic ingredient is sour cream that once warmed, becomes a ready-made skillet sauce. Russian sour cream is called "smetana" and it's much richer than at least American-style sour cream, closer to crème fraîche. An international grocery may well have smetana, it's worth seeking out!

Always Mushrooms Mushrooms are a third essential ingredient for stroganoff, no surprise when you understand that foraging for wild mushrooms is part of the culture in that part of the world, one I'm lucky to have personally experienced. And besides, mushrooms = flavor!

But.But.But. Stroganoff is one of those dishes that's criss-crossed the world through millions of kitchens so there are thousands of creative adaptations and permutations.

Mine included!

A Secret Ingredient for Stroganoff: Pickles & Pickle Juice!

Well, not so much a secret ingredient as a surprise ingredient.

Over the years, the trouble I've had with stroganoff is that it's so ... one note. Rich. Creamy. Meaty.

Instinct counseled that stroganoff needs an acid, something to counter all that richness. If you've read Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat or seen her show of the same name on Netflix, you understand the importance of acidity.

Some stroganoff recipes use tomato paste or mustard for acidity but these just didn't work for me.

I thought about lemon juice but feared the sour cream would curdle. I tried adding red wine vinegar, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

I checked the pantry, checked the condiments, checked the fridge ... and there it was, a big jar of pickles. I just knew that pickles would make all the difference with stroganoff.

And so they do!

And the funny thing? When I was paging through my favorite Finnish cookbook earlier this month (checking for more ideas for Finnish Tiger Cake, no doubt), I laughed out loud learning that the Finnish version of stroganoff includes pickles!

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What's In My Skillet Stroganoff? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

For traditional stroganoff, there are three essential ingredients, beef, mushrooms and sour cream. So even though my recipe is definitely a more casual, homey stroganoff, my recipe includes all three.

  • Onions Onions are the starting point for so many dishes, adding an underlying savory sweetness. Substitutes could be celery, fennel, even chopped cabbage.
  • Ground Meat Traditionally, stroganoff is made with beef steak that's sliced thin. But my version is pure comfort food so hamburger meat it is – good news, it's less expensive and maybe you even keep some in the freezer? We use both ground beef and ground venison but any lower-fat ground meat would work too, ground turkey, ground chicken, etc.
  • Mushrooms We like the looks of the brown button mushrooms but taste-wise, the white ones work just as well. Cut the mushrooms in thick slices, you want the slices to be noticeable, not to melt in.
  • "Umami" Umami isn't on the ingredient list but it is an important addition of two ingredients and one technique. Both Worcestershire and the mushrooms are sources of umami, that coveted sense of savoriness. The technique comes from really browning the meat, letting it develop a fond, almost but not quite a burn, that adds so much flavor to dishes.
  • Sour Cream Sour cream is another essential ingredient. Low-fat sour cream works but I don't recommend non-fat sour cream. If you have heavy cream, you can make Homemade Crème Fraîche to substitute for sour cream. Homemade Buttermilk would work too!
  • Pickles & Pickle Juice Choose a pickle without sugar, we are big fans of the baby kosher dills from Vlasic. The pickles themselves break up the stroganoff's texture, the juice just makes the whole casserole, well, lively! Don't skip these!
  • Noodles Stroganoff is usually served over flat egg noodles. But for a one-pot dish, I went with a sturdier pasta, penne. Elbow macaroni would work, so would basically any shape pasta.

But Wait! Let's Make a Weight Watchers Friendly Stroganoff!

Easy Skillet Stroganoff (Beef or Chicken), more weeknight comfort food ♥ KitchenParade.com. Weight Watchers Friendly. Budget Friendly. High Protein.

With just a few easy substitutes, Stroganoff becomes Weight Watchers friendly, especially for those who follow the blue or purple plans.

(Curious about how Weight Watchers uses points these days? See Weight Watchers Zero Point "Free" Food Lists.)

  • Instead of Beef, Use Chicken Breast meat from a rotisserie chicken is extra easy. (Chicken breast meat is a "free food" in the blue and purple plans.)
  • Instead of Sour Cream, Use Non-Fat Yogurt We use Greek yogurt but plain unsweetened non-fat yogurt would work as well. (Non-fat yogurt is "free" in the blue and purple plans.)
  • Instead of Noodles, Use Brown Rice Switching from noodles to rice makes the Stroganoff more "chicken and rice casserole"-ish but it's still totally delicious. (White rice isn't free in Weight Watchers but brown rice is "free" in the purple plan, as is whole wheat pasta which would be another good substitute.)

You'll Love Easy Skillet Stroganoff If ...

  • you're craving comfort food, meat and pasta in a single skillet
  • dinner needs to be on the table in 30 minutes flat
  • you love beef stroganoff but not the price of steak
  • you've got a pound of hamburger but just can't think what to make with it
  • you're looking for a way to use up cooked pasta, cooked rice or cooked chicken

  • Easy Skillet Stroganoff (Beef or Chicken), more weeknight comfort food ♥ KitchenParade.com. Budget Friendly. High Protein.

  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time-to-table: 30 minutes
Makes 6 cups
  • 8 ounces (225g) pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 pound (454g) ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 8 ounces (225g) fresh mushrooms, cut in thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • Cooked Pasta
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
  • 4 medium pickles (112g), diced (no skipping or skimping)
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice (no skipping or skimping)
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish, optional

PASTA Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain but keep hot.

Heat a large, deep skillet on medium heat, add the oil and let warm until shimmery. Stir in the onion and let cook just until beginning to soften. Add the ground beef and thyme, breaking up the meat into big chunks with a spatula; let cook, stirring occasionally, letting the chunks really brown on the bottom side before moving. While the meat is still pink, add the mushrooms; continue to cook until the beef is no longer pink and the mushrooms have softened.

Stir in the Worcestershire. Stir in the hot pasta and sour cream and heat through. Stir in the pickles and pickle juice and heat through.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve tableside.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS If you like, cook the pasta ahead of time; also the meat, onion and mushroom mixture. Just before serving, reheat the pasta and meat mixture together, then add the remaining ingredients to serve.

LEFTOVERS reheat well.

FREEZING the whole dish isn't recommended but I would freeze the meat mixture on its own and add the pasta, sour cream and pickles just before serving.

ALANNA's TIPS Pickles and pickle juice? Yes! The combo cut the richness of the sour cream, turning something bland into something quite, well, addictive! Choose pickles without sugar, we love kosher dills but hamburger chips would work well too. Ha, could you throw in some ready hamburger relish? You bet!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 350 Calories; 14g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 57mg Cholesterol; 226mg Sodium; 33g Carb; 2g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 22g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 8 & PointsPlus 9 & SmartPoints 10 & Freestyle 10 & myWW green 10 & blue 10 & purple 10


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time-to-table: 25 minutes
Makes 6 cups
  • 2 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 ounces (225g) fresh mushrooms, cut in thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • Cooked Rice
  • 1 pound (454g) cooked chicken, diced
  • 1/2 cup (120g) non-fat yogurt (Greek or plain)
  • 4 medium pickles (112g), diced
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish, optional

RICE Cook the rice, I recommend either Perfect Stovetop Brown Rice or How to Cook White Rice.

Heat a large, deep skillet on medium heat, add the oil and let warm until shimmery. Stir in the onion, mushrooms and thyme and let cook until the mushrooms are fully cooked.

Stir in the Worcestershire. Stir in the Cooked Rice and cooked chicken and heat through. Stir in the yogurt and heat through. Stir in the pickles and pickle juice and heat through.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve tableside.

ALANNA's TIPS We especially like kosher dills for the pickles and juice but if you have another pickle without sugar, that would work too. A friend gifted a jar of chow-chow, it might could work!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup (assumes brown rice, chicken breast and non-fat Greek yogurt): 259 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 64mg Cholesterol; 287mg Sodium; 21g Carb; 2g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 28g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 5 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 7 & Freestyle 3 & myWW green 5 & blue 3 & purple 1

More Ideas for a Pound of Hamburger

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Cast Iron Meatloaf Picadillo (Cuban Ground Beef Skillet Supper) Hamburger Soup
~ more hamburger recipes ~

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.