Dinner With My Family #30: Stuffed Bell Peppers

Each week, I’ll present a low-cost meal (or a meal that demonstrates a lot of options for cutting costs) that my family eats for dinner and enjoys. Many of the recipes will be vegan or vegetarian, with options to add other ingredients for non-vegetarians.

Bell peppers are appearing by the dozen in neighborhood gardens, which means it’s time to figure out some great uses for them. My favorite use is to take five or so, clean them out, and stuff them with rice and other goodies.

Cored peppers

Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, this is still a good time of the year to try stuffed bell peppers, as the key ingredient you need (bell peppers) is often on sale in the grocery store. At least, that’s the case around here, where grocery stores are competing with roadside vendors for sales on the fresh produce that’s coming online.

For us, this is a perfect summer rainy day meal. It’s really flexible, takes advantage of fresh vegetables from the garden, and creates a delicious meal with plenty of leftovers.

Finished pepper

What You Need
For the exact recipe I’m describing below, all you really need are a few bell peppers, roughly one cup of cooked rice per bell pepper (this is a good opportunity to cook some extra rice for other meals, so don’t hesitate to cook some extra), roughly one small tomato per bell pepper (or one large tomato per two bell peppers), and a bit of cheese (we used a bit of Parmesan and some mozzarella). We also sprinkled some dried herbs (basil and oregano) on top along with some ground black pepper.

However, you can stuff these things to your delight. Other ingredients you might use include onions, garlic, mushrooms, spinach leaves – the options are endless.

You’ll also need an oven and a good-sized dish to bake the peppers in. I’m using a 5.5 quart enameled cast iron pot for the five very large bell peppers we’re using.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)
If you want, you can do the entire meal preparation the night before quite easily, leaving you to just pull out the dish to bake the bell peppers in the next day.

You can also divide up the work into batches by cooking the rice in advance or preparing the complete mix that you’re going to put inside the bell peppers in advance.

One thing I would absolutely do in advance, though, is clean out the bell peppers. Cut a hole in the top to remove the stem and allow yourself some room to spoon in some of the mixture you’re going to make, then thoroughly clean the pepper so that you remove excess seeds.

Preparing the Meal
First, cook the rice according to the package directions. We used long grain brown rice, but anything will work here.

While the rice is cooking, clean and then dice up your tomatoes. I usually try to conserve as much of the juice as possible from the tomatoes when doing this.

Stuffing mix

When the rice is done, mix the tomatoes directly in with the rice, along with any additional vegetables or ingredients you’re using, like onions or mushrooms or herbs or some of your cheese. I made plenty here so that we can freeze one batch of the mix to add to peppers again later in the fall, using the last of our peppers from the garden. We mixed about 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese straight into the mix.

Start spooning that mix directly into the peppers. When the pepper fills up, I like to press down on the top of the mix with a spoon to force out air bubbles, which usually makes room for a bit more mix.

Cheese on top (before herbs and spices)

Once you’ve stuffed all the peppers and put them in your cooking pot, pour in the rest of the rice mix right in with the peppers if you have a little extra. It will cook just fine. Add any extra ingredients on top (we added mozzarella cheese), cover, and bake at 375 F covered for about 8 minutes per pepper (if the filling was hot) or about 12 minutes per pepper (if the filling was cool because you refrigerated things).

Scoop out the peppers (with some of the extra rice) and serve!

Finished pot

Optional Ingredients
As mentioned earlier, you can stuff the peppers with any number of things. While I would consistently use some sort of grain to make up some of the bulk of the stuffing, you can use any sort of grain, from long-grain rice to quinoa. You can also add many different types of vegetables to the grain. We used tomatoes, but you could easily add spinach, onions, garlic, radish – any number of things. You can also add spices and cheese to your heart’s content.

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  1. Mister E says:

    The recipe is great and I’ve made similar ones many times.

    But as with many of the often delicious recipes that you post, the presentation is incredibly unappetizing. That plate looks like slop. At the very least, wipe your rims, man!

  2. Carmie says:

    I know most meat eaters put ground beef into their stuffing, but as a vegetarian, I like to make a mixture of rice, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and red beans. It gives the entire meal a bit more protein and really fills you up.

    Great post!

  3. Michelle says:

    Are you no longer doing the vegan thing, Trent? Not criticizing, just curious!

  4. valleycat1 says:

    We enjoy stuffed peppers too, and local friends have had great luck this year so we get bags of free ones.

    We usually cut just enough off the bottom of the peppers that they are flat enough to stand up, but not enough to make a hole in the bottom. And usually put all the ingredients in the stuffing mix instead of putting the cheese over the top.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Red lentils are good in them, too.

  6. Teresa says:

    Stuffed peppers were a staple at my house growing up because as Trent said, most of the stuff came directly from my parents garden.

  7. Emma says:

    I always look with a smile at that familiar plain plate and that lonely fork. With a water glass the setting looks like a painting itself. From 19th century.

  8. rebecca says:

    We prefer stuffed zuchinni instead. I love peppers, but only raw or very slightly stir fried, not mushy as they get in baked stuffed peppers. Also a great way to use up tons of zuchs.

  9. Holly says:

    I just did this last week as red peppers were on sale at my local produce market.

    I used black beans with the rice/tomato mixture and cilantro + cumin as seasonings in addition to black pepper, garlic and onion.

  10. littlepitcher says:

    I top the mix with tomato sauce, seasoned with a bay leaf or two, and serve whipped taters with the tomato gravy.
    Or: pinto beans, stale cheese bread, corn, and cumin in the peppers.
    Or: the standard hamburger, seasoned with onions, caraway, and a touch of mustard and “stretched” with rye bread.

  11. Allie says:

    …I posted Friday afternoon about how I like to substitute orzo pasta for the rice, and how delicious is it. It got put in moderation. It’s still in moderation. Huh?

  12. Carole says:

    This was a favorite when I had a garden. Usually when peppers are in season, it’s very hot and I wouldn’t want to use the oven. I’ve found that the microwave oven does a nice job of cooking this. The time and liquid used need to be modified, but it’s not hard to figure out.

  13. Nick says:

    I like the step of cooking the peppers in the large pot. I usually bake them on a sheet pan, but I think I like your method better.

    Cool idea.

  14. jcandles says:

    If you cook your rice in chicken or beef broth instead of plain water it adds a lot of flavor!! Or vegetable stock if you want to go vegetarian.

  15. Georgia says:

    Once, when we had an abundance of peppers, my mother tried something new for her. She was using a large crock (about 10-15 gal) to make sauerkraut. She just took the peppers, stuffed them with the shredded cabbage and placed it in the brine in the crock. Most delicious kraut I have ever eaten.

  16. Emma says:

    @ 15 It is good to know that there are folks out there who know how to make sauerkraut. Forgotten art.
    I stopped using pepper in general since I do not grow them myslef. A friend in agriculture institue confessed that peppers have most of toxins out of all veggies. They require some 6 rounds of pest control stuff.They come already “stuffed” with chemicals. Organic peppers is the only way to go. Or from your own veggie patch.

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