The Best Stuffed Peppers Recipe (For Meat Lovers and Vegetarians)

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Are stuffed peppers inspired by Mexican cooking, Mediterranean cuisine, or Southern food? We’d make an argument for all three. 

By making simple tweaks to the spices, filling, and topping, you can completely shift the flavor profile of these stuffed peppers.  

Stuffed peppers commonly contain a few basic ingredients. Aside from the obvious bell peppers, this dish often contains rice or another similar grain, ground meat or beans, finely-chopped, sauteed vegetables, like onion and tomato, and a bubbly layer of cheese to top everything off. These delicious vegetables make a great main course, but they could also be a delightful side dish or a fun leftover lunch.
Do you see the potential yet? There are no right or wrong ingredients, so after you become an expert at the simple stuffed peppers recipe below, we invite you to switch up everything to make this dish your own.

How to make stuffed peppers

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Servings: 12 pepper halves

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups cooked white rice 

  • 6 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, deseeded, and membranes removed (or choose a variety of colors for a more vibrant dish)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)

  • 1 ¼ pounds lean ground beef (you can substitute for ground turkey and ground chicken as well)

  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped 

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, or 1 can of drained diced tomatoes 

  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder 

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 

  • 1 can pinto or black beans, drained

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice 

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

  • Salt and pepper

Preparation instructions 

  1. Start by making the rice, following the package instructions. We recommend long-grain white rice, but brown rice also works well. (Don’t forget that the cooking time for brown rice is significantly longer.)

  2. While you’re waiting for the rice to cook, preheat the oven to 425°F. Line up the peppers in a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Then, use your fingers to coat all sides of the peppers with the oil, salt, and pepper, and leave them open-side up. 

  3. Bake the stuffed bell peppers in the oven for 20-25 minutes until they start to turn golden brown at the edges and become softer. They’ll be going back in the oven once you stuff them, so don’t overcook them at this stage. 

  4. While you’re waiting for the peppers to bake, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Sautée roughly 3 minutes, until slightly transparent. 

  5. If you’re making your stuffed peppers with ground beef, now’s the time to add in the meat. Move the onions to one side and then add the meat, so that it makes full contact with the pan. This helps it brown quickly. After the meat has browned on one side, you can start mixing it into the onion. Let the meat cook through completely. If you are making vegetarian stuffed peppers with rice, skip this step entirely. 

  6. Add in the tomatoes and cook your sauté for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

  7. In the last minute or so, add in the cilantro, garlic, chili powder, and cumin. 

  8. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cooked rice, drained canned beans, and the juice. Season again, to taste, with salt and black pepper. 

  9. Take the cooked peppers out of the oven and drain off any liquid accumulated while roasting in the oven. 

  10. Stuff the peppers to the top with the bean and rice mixture. Then, sprinkle the stuffed peppers with cheese. Don’t skimp.

  11. Return the baking dish with the stuffed peppers to the oven and bake for roughly 12 minutes longer, until the cheese is bubbly and golden. 

  12. Remove the finished stuffed peppers from the oven and garnish with more fresh chopped cilantro (optional). Allow them to cool a bit before serving

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy and Cookie and Kate.

Brent Hofacker – stock.adobe.com

Nutritional values per serving (2 peppers) 

Calories: 430

Fat: 18.4 grams

Saturated Fat: 5.1 grams

Cholesterol: 18.4 milligrams

Sodium: 766.6 milligrams

Carbohydrate: 52.3 grams

Fiber: 10.2 grams

Sugar: 11.8 grams

Protein: 16.5 grams

This nutrition information is an estimate based on the recipe above without meat. 

Variations: 

As we mentioned at the top of the article, stuffed pepper ingredients are very versatile and interchangeable. Here are some quick substitutions that will completely transform the feel of this dish.

Mediterranean-inspired stuffed peppers: To make Mediterranean-inspired stuffed peppers, switch out the rice for bulgur wheat (or quinoa if you’re gluten-free), and choose herbs common in this geographical area like fresh basil, parsley, and mint. You could also add in some regional veggies like cherry tomatoes or roasted eggplant and zucchini. Instead of pinto or black beans, use cannellini beans or similar. Top with feta cheese instead of mozzarella or cheddar.  

Italian-inspired stuffed peppers: Make a straight-forward meat and rice filling with a bit of chopped tomato and basil. Leave out the beans. Before you finish baking the peppers as shown above, spread a layer of your favorite tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella cheese on top. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated parmesan. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and a few dollops of rich pesto sauce before serving. 

Southern-inspired stuffed peppers: In this variation, swap out the classic rice filling for a southern variety like jambalaya. You can also omit the grain component entirely and stuff the peppers with buttery succotash. These varieties might be best without cheese, but don’t forget to serve with hot sauce and a side of cornbread. 

Vegan stuffed peppers: Follow the vegetarian version of the recipe given above (that is, omit the ground beef) and top with a vegan shredded cheese that melts well. You can also leave out the cheese entirely.

seagull_l – stock.adobe.com

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