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Vegetable Stuffed Peppers have tender bell peppers, stuffed with a variety of fresh vegetables, rice and cheese. Even picky vegetable eaters will love this dish!
These Italian-inspired Vegetable Stuffed Peppers are loaded with a variety of chopped vegetables, brown rice, and cheeses. They are hearty and filling – and a delicious way to eat more veggies!
Inspired by our Classic Stuffed Pepper recipe, we swapped out the ground beef and swapped in lots of healthy vegetables in its place. But this dish is so good, you won’t even miss the meat!
Why You’ll Love these Vegetable Stuffed Peppers
- They are a hearty and delicious meatless meal.
- You can prepare vegetable stuffed peppers ahead of time, then pop them in the oven about an hour before serving. (See Frequently Asked Questions below for additional tips.)
- Once cooked, they can be easily packed for lunch on the go, then reheated in the microwave.
“Best stuffed pepper recipe ever! Even better than peppers with meat. Flavor was outstanding.” – Catherine
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Bell Peppers – Buy large, plump, thick-walled bell peppers. We bought red, yellow, and orange peppers for stuffing, plus a green bell pepper for the filling. For more color, we also included red pepper in the stuffing, but you can use all green, or a combination of colored peppers. Your choice.
- Brown Rice – We used a long grain brown rice in our recipe today, but you can also use a short grain brown rice, or a long grain white rice.
- Fresh Vegetables – Our stuffed peppers included a combination of the bell peppers mentioned above, as well as yellow onion, zucchini, celery, carrot, garlic, baby spinach and mushrooms.
- Cheese – Shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese are used in the filling, as well as sprinkled on top of the peppers and on the filling. For a change, you could use fresh mozzarella or fontina cheese, and use Romano in place of the Parmesan.
- Tomatoes – Both canned tomatoes and tomato paste and are used in this dish.
- Fresh herbs – Fresh oregano, basil, mint, parsley and thyme add bright flavors to the sauce and the filling. You can swap in dried herbs if that’s all you have on hand.
How do I make Vegetable Stuffed Peppers?
- Cook the rice according to package instructions, then cool. This can be done the day before to save time.
- Combine tomato paste, olive oil, water, salt, pepper, and herbs together. This also can be made well in advance of the dish. (This will be spooned into the bottom of the pan, and over each stuffed pepper.)
- Cut each bell pepper in half (front top to bottom) and clean out the seeds and membranes. You can leave the stems on for esthetics or remove them. Boil in a pot for 6-8 minutes (this is called blanching) then cool upside down to drain. This will partially, but not fully, cook the peppers.
- Sauté chopped carrots, celery, peppers, onion, garlic, mushrooms, zucchini and spinach in olive oil along with herbs and spices. Cool slightly.
- Mix cooked vegetables with cooked rice, tomato puree, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
- Spread some sauce on the bottom of the pan, then spoon filling into each pepper half and place (filling side up) into the casserole dish or braiser. Top with the remaining sauce and more mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted and golden on top.
- Serve immediately.
Blanching the peppers is a critical step (see #3 above) so that the peppers are tender after they bake. Blanching is essentially boiling a food to take the rawness away – but you aren’t fully cooking the vegetable.
Thick-walled peppers will take about six to eight minutes, thinner-walled peppers will cook closer to four to six minutes. Start testing at the four-minute mark and test every minute until the peppers are tender, but the sides will still stay up once filled.
Frequently asked Questions
- Can I make Vegetable Stuffed Peppers ahead of time? Yes, in the instructions above, we noted a few steps that can be done ahead of time. Or, you can assemble the peppers ahead of time, then refrigerate and bake later. Just be sure to bring the peppers to room temperature for about 30 minutes before placing in the oven to ensure even baking.
- How do I store leftovers? Cover and store refrigerated for up to three days.
- Can I freeze Vegetable Stuffed Peppers? Yes, these peppers will freeze well – before or after baking. But, like most foods, there will be some excess moisture once the vegetables and sauce thaw, and some of the vegetables will be softer as well. If you are filling then freezing with the intent to bake some other time, blanch for a few less minutes. otherwise the pepper will be too soft once thawed and will fall apart.
- Do I need to boil the peppers before stuffing them? Yes – the peppers won’t fully cook through in the oven. Boiling or blanching them for a few minutes will soften them a bit, then the peppers will finish cooking through at the same time as the filling.
- Can I swap in another grain other than rice? Sure. One cup of uncooked brown rice yields about three cups of cooked rice – so you can swap in three cups of cooked quinoa, farro, wheatberry, etc.
- What are the best peppers to stuff? Technically, any pepper can be stuffed including mini peppers and Italian frying peppers. But for this recipe, look for large, plump, sturdy bell peppers with thick walls.
Click here to explore more delicious Meatless recipes!
1 cup uncooked long grain brown rice
2 cups water
1 6–ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced and divided
3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced and divided
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced and divided
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced and divided
4 large assorted-colored bell peppers (any assortment of red, yellow and orange)
1 small to medium green bell pepper, cut into half-inch dice
1/2 cup carrot, diced small (about one small carrot)
1/2 cup celery, diced small (about one medium stalk)
2 cups diced yellow onion, half-inch dice
1 cup diced zucchini, half-inch dice (about one medium zucchini, seeds scraped out before dicing)
1 cup diced white mushrooms, half-inch dice (about 4 ounces)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 cups baby spinach, packed and coarsely cut up
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
1 cup canned tomato puree
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
Place the rice in a pan or rice maker with the two cups of water and cook until tender covered on low, about 35-45 minutes depending on the brown rice brand. Lay out to cool on a platter and add in a little oil then mix to keep the rice from sticking. Set aside to cool.
While the rice is cooking, chop and prepare all of the other ingredients for the steps below.
Make the sauce by mixing the entire can of tomato paste, ¼ cup of the olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper and one teaspoon each of parsley, basil, oregano and mint. Add ½ cup of hot tap water and whisk to combine. Set this aside, it does not need to be cooked.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Pick three of the most attractive looking peppers and cut with a sharp knife from top to bottom to yield six even halves. Remove seeds and membranes. You can leave the stem attached or remove. It is for looks only in the final dish.
Fill a medium pot three quarters full of water and bring to a boil. Add one teaspoon of the salt then add the six cut pepper halves and boil for 4-8 minutes or until tender but not falling apart. Check at four minutes then check every minute. They should be soft when poked but firm enough to hold up to filling. Lay them out, cut down, on paper towels to cool. Discard the water and reuse the pot to saute the vegetables.
Save the fourth colorful pepper to dice for the filling. Dice into half-inch dice along with the green bell pepper. You should have about 2 cups of the two mixed diced peppers.
In the medium pot, add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and over medium high heat, add the diced peppers, diced carrot, diced celery, diced yellow onion, diced zucchini, diced mushrooms, one teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of pepper, the remaining parsley, remaining basil, remaining oregano, remaining mint and all of the thyme and cook for four minutes.
Add the spinach and garlic and cook for two additional minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the tomato puree, 1 cup of mozzarella and ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and toss. Add the cooked rice and stir to combine.
Chose your casserole dish capable of holding the six pepper halves. A 9X13 dish would work. Spread a half cup of the sauce across the bottom.
On your counter, fill the six pepper halves, mounding and using all of the filling. Place into the prepared casserole dish and spoon the rest of the sauce over each pepper.
Top each pepper with the remaining half cup of mozzarella and the remaining quarter cup of Parmesan cheese and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
Serve at once.
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If you use dried herbs instead of fresh, use half the amount.