I trust you’ve pulled through your tryptophan-induced coma, and that’s why you’re here today, searching for something to shake things up after a week of Thanksgiving flavors. Friend, I feel ya. How’s Cheesy Pineapple-Habanero Bacon Dip sound to you? Personally, my fancy is so tickled by the 3 types of cheese, caramelized fruit, smoky cured pork, Caribbean seasonings, and minced hot pepper that make this dip a knockout appetizer. And it’s not turkey. Thank goodness it’s not turkey.
Don’t get me wrong, I like turkey, but after 5 days of leftovers I’m ready to kick the stuff to the curb for a while. You know, you’re right there with me. I can feel it.
I wasn’t even supposed to eat turkey this year, guys. Every year, my family swears that we’re going to skip the whole holiday hubbub and go on a vacation far, far away. And you know what? Every year my family is full of filthy liars because I wind up sitting on my freezing cold butt here in New Jersey, dreaming of warm ocean water and palm trees while I polish off the last of the Thanksgiving scraps.
As retribution for dropping the ball on travel plans, I ditched my family this past Thursday and spent Thanksgiving with James’ family instead. Nah, I’m just foolin’ with ya. It was all priorly and not-at-all-spitefully arranged, honest. I opted to do a second Thanksgiving with my family a couple of days after the fact instead. Two times Thanksgiving is the ultimate form of foodie compromise; I highly recommend it.
Nobody was interested in the idea of twice the turkey, though, since we all had eaten our fair share on Thursday. Instead, I figured we would get our trip to the tropics after all with a taste-bud transporting Caribbean-inspired dinner. Each dish was loaded with island flavor and was even a hit with my “meat-and-potatoes-man” grandpa. I took a gamble, sure, but the dinner– especially the dip– wound up being a huge success. Make that “a sweet and spicy success”. (Yes, that’s the tastiest kind of success.)
In fact, we all almost tapped-out before dinner because everyone went to town on the dip. And who can blame us? Ultra-cheesy, loaded up with bacon, slightly sweet and tangy, and with just a tiny kick, this dip is irresistible.
Don’t worry if you’re not a hot pepper fanatic, by the way. My grandparents are in their seventies and are very sensitive to spicy foods, and even they could handle the heat. You’ll be A-OK, I promise. And if you do want some major melt-your-face hotness, just increase the amount of habanero pepper to your liking (and maybe keep a glass of milk nearby)!
So, I know that I said this dip was Caribbean-inspired (and it was) but I can’t deny some serious Hawaiian pizza vibes going on here… and I’m loving it. I’ve come out as a Hawaiian pizza fan in the past, and I’ll defend my freedom to eat pineapple on pizza to the bloody death. No matter what anybody says, fruits are, always have been, and always will be the perfect accompaniment to savory foods. They offer contrast and bring out deeper, fuller flavors from rich ingredients and meats. And that play on flavors translates wonderfully on more than just pizza. Combine sweetness, tanginess, saltiness, smokiness, and richness and you’ve got a delicious dish in any configuration. It just so happens that Cheesy Pineapple-Habanero Bacon Dip is probably the best of them.
This appetizer is also pretty foolproof, especially if you’ve got a cast iron skillet or grill pan to make and hold your dip. I love my Staub Grill Pan for this, because it has those grill lines so I can get a great char on my pineapple rounds before I chop them up and mix them into my dip in the same pan. The oven-safe pan also makes an awesome vessel for preparing Cheesy Pineapple-Habanero Bacon Dip ahead of time and reheating later to serve. (You know, in case you want to get a head-start on your party cooking, and let’s be serious, WHO DOESN’T?)
Tell me you can’t imagine this dip, with its gooey, stretchy, melted cheese being a hit at your Super Bowl shindig. I’d be willing to bet that even the Hawaiian pizza naysayers and hot pepper handwringers will dig into this baby. And when they do, it’s taking them right to the tropics.
As always, when you make the dip, resist the urge to dive into it face first, as strong as that urge may be. First of all, the dip is very hot, and we’ve gotta think about safety here. But more importantly, you’ve got to take a picture. You know that this dip to just serve without showing it off. Tag #hostthetoast on Instagram and it will come up on the You Made It page! It might not be the same as taking a picture at the beach with a cocktail in hand, but it’s close. And delicious.
Cheesy Pineapple-Habanero Bacon Dip
Serves: 18 servings
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 pineapple, cored and sliced
- 8 ounces bacon
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ – 2 habanero peppers, stemmed, seeded, and very finely minced
- 2 (8 ounce) blocks light cream cheese
- 1 cup light mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 cup sliced green onions
- 6 ounces (1½ cups) shredded cheddar cheese
- 6 ounces (1½ cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
- Oil a grill pan or cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
- Once the pan is hot, place a few pineapple slices in at a time. Cook the pineapple slices without flipping or moving them at all until they are lightly browned (and have grill marks, if using the grill pan), about 3-4 minutes. Flip the pineapple slices over and continue to cook until browned on the other side. Set the cooked pineapple aside on a plate and continue until all of the pineapple has been browned.
- Reduce heat to medium. Without cleaning the pan out, add in the bacon, a few slices at a time. Cook, flipping once, until crisp but not burnt. Transfer cooked bacon strips to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease.
- Chop up the bacon and pineapple into bite-sized pieces. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Pour off most of the bacon grease from the pan, leaving just a bit for cooking the garlic and habanero. Cook the garlic and habanero until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Allow the cream cheese to melt, and then add in the seasonings. Stir until evenly distributed. Do the same with the bacon, pineapple, and green onion, reserving a bit of each for topping. Mix in half of the shredded cheeses and smooth the dip mixture evenly into the pan. Top with the remaining shredded cheeses.
- Transfer the dip to the oven and bake until all of the cheese on top is melted and beginning to bubble, about 10 minutes. Top with the reserved bacon and pineapple and continue to bake, until lightly browned and bubbly, about 10 more minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining green onion and serve warm with chips, crackers, pita bread, or pretzels, to dip.
Feel free to halve this recipe and use a smaller pan, if desired.
Adjust the amount of habanero pepper to your heat preference, with ½ pepper giving just a very slight kick, and 2 peppers being super hot.
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