Mom's famous stuffed peppers, prepared Greek style with a flavor-packed meat and rice mixture with chickpeas and fresh herbs. Diary free and gluten free. Vegetarian option included.
Best part, you can prepare these ahead of time! Be sure to check out all the tips along with the step-by-step tutorial and video below.
Stuffed vegetables for the win!
In fact, stuffed vegetables are their very own class within Greek and Mediterranean cooking. In Greece, they are called gemista or yemista (γεμιστά), which means things that are filled. And in the Middle East, they're called mahshi, which literally means stuffed!
My mom's signature Greek stuffed peppers recipe is one of those comfort foods I have always loved, and I've added my own twist on her recipe.
About this stuffed peppers recipe
These stuffed bell peppers are dairy free and gluten free. They are delicious and totally hit all the right flavor notes for me. And it all comes down to two things: the tasty Greek-style stuffing and how you prepare the bell peppers.
The stuffing or filling mixture is dairy free and gluten free made of well-seasoned meat mixture with rice, chickpeas, and fresh parsley. For spices, I used a combination of allspice, sweet paprika and garlic powder (although 2 minced garlic cloves do the job, if you don't have all-natural garlic powder). For this recipe I do cook this meat mixture first before stuffing the peppers.
The bell peppers. I use a variety of mild peppers here--green, red, and yellow. They do not all taste the same. Green peppers are a bit more on the savory/bitter side while red peppers tend to be sweeter. Choose what you like. For a Greek style bell peppers recipe, here is how you prepare the peppers:
- Core the peppers but leave them whole. Lay each pepper on its side and cut only the top part where the stem is.
- Cook the peppers well until tender. In Greek style stuffed peppers (and throughout the Mediterranean) the peppers must be cooked until fully tender, they can not be crunchy or taste raw in any way. To accomplish this, before they're stuffed, grill the peppers for a few minutes (gas grill or indoor griddle will work) until they gain a nice char all around (great flavor)! Then, once stuffed, the peppers finish cooking in the oven, covered. A little bit of liquid in the baking dish creates some steam that cooks the peppers until they are nice and super tender.
- Extra virgin olive oil- I used Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil
- Onion- 1 small yellow onion is sauteed in extra virgin olive oil to begin making the meat mixture for the stuffing.
- Ground beef- ½ pound of lean ground beef (you can also use ground turkey or ground chicken). The meat will be fully browned or cooked before using in the stuffing.
- Spices- 1 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 minced garlic cloves) 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika, kosher salt and black pepper to taste. The spices are used at different times in creating the stuffing or the meat and rice mixture that we use to fill the bell peppers
- Chickpeas- 1 cup of already cooked chickpeas (or from can).
- Rice- 1 cup of white rice. Tip: wash the rice well and let it soak in plenty of water for 20 to 30 minutes or until you are able to break one grain of rice easily. This helps cook the rice quickly and evenly.
- Parsley- 1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped (Or a mixture of chopped fresh parsley and fresh dill)
- Liquid: Tomato sauce and water- in order for the rice to cook well with the ground meat and chickpeas, you will need some liquid. ½ cup tomato sauce and 2 ½ cups of water provides that. The tomato sauce adds more of umami and a subtle color to the stuffing mixture, so don't skip it if you can. You can also use ½ cup of diced tomatoes from a can in place of the tomato sauce, if you like.
- Bell peppers- 6 large bell peppers, any color you choose. Like I mentioned earlier, you only need to remove the stem and the seeds, leaving the actual peppers pretty much whole.
- Broth- A little more liquid is needed to bake the peppers once stuffed. I like to use ¾ cup of broth or water in the baking dish.
How to Make Stuffed Peppers
Time needed: 55 minutes.
Guide for how to make these Greek-style stuffed peppers (print-friendly recipe below)
- Cook the meat and chickpeas for the stuffing mixture
The stuffing for our bell peppers begins with meat and chickpeas. To cook them, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a pot and add chopped onions to cook briefly, then add the ground beef and cook till fully browned. Season with kosher salt, pepper and ground allspice. Add the chickpeas and toss around to cook briefly.
- Add the rice u0026 remaining stuffing ingredients and cook
Add the chopped parsley, rice (after you've soaked the rice in water for 20 minutes or so and drained it well), paprika and tomato sauce. Add 2 ½ cups of water and bring to a high simmer until the liquid is reduced by ½ (you want the water to reduce well enough that it is barely covering the rice mixture). Turn the heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the moisture and is fully cooked through (the rice should not be hard nor too sticky).
- Grill the bell peppers
While the rice mixture is cooking, work on preparing the bell peppers. Use 6 large bell peppers. Remove the tops and seeds so that you have bell pepper shells to carry the stuffing.
Heat a grill or indoor griddle (brushed with a little olive oil) to medium-high heat and grill the bell peppers, covered for 10 minutes or so. You will need to uncover and turn the bell peppers around frequently until they have softened a bit and gained a nice color on all sides. (Tip: You can skip grilling the peppers but allow more time for baking, they do need to be quite tender to serve).
- Assemble bell pepper shells
Grab a baking dish that's large enough to fit the bell peppers standing up. Put ¾ cup of broth (or water) in the baking dish. Add the bell peppers open side up.
- Stuff the bell peppers
Now, stuff each pepper with the rice mixture (and since the mixture is already cooked, you do not need to worry about making too much room for it to expand, you can fill the peppers all the way up pretty much).
- Bake u0026 serve stuffed bell peppers
Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree F heated oven for 20 minutes or until the peppers are fully tender (make sure to tent the foil so it does not touch the stuffed peppers).
Do you have to cook the meat before stuffing the peppers?
For this recipe, I do like to cook the meat before hand. And you'll notice, the entire stuffing mixture of meat, rice and chickpeas is fully cooked before adding to the stuffed bell peppers. This is really a fool-proof way that ensures the stuffing is cooked well and evenly and reduces the risk of having it be under-cooked or too mushy.
You can totally make this recipe your own. Here are a few variations you can try on this Greek stuffed peppers recipe:
- Change up the meat. If you like, replace ground beef with ground chicken or turkey. Adjust seasoning to your taste
- Need a vegetarian stuffed peppers option? Omit the meat all together. Cook the onions, chickpeas and rice the same way but without the meat!
- Change up the herbs and seasoning. Instead of using just parsley, use a bit of parsley and fresh dill. And in place of allspice, you can try a little ground cumin or even Italian seasoning. Always taste the cooked stuffing mixture and adjust seasoning to your liking.
- Add cheese! This is a diary-free recipe, but if you're in the mood for cheese, a little crumbled feta for garnish just before serving will work.
Make ahead option
You can work on this recipe one night ahead. You can prepare and cook the stuffing fully (that's the meat, rice and chickpea mixture) and you can also core and grill the bell peppers. Let everything cool and store each separately in the fridge.
The next day, proceed with the recipe and stuff and assemble the bell peppers for baking. It helps to bring things to room temperature in preparation for baking, but that's optional.
Can you freeze stuffed peppers?
If you end up with leftovers, you can freeze these dairy free stuffed peppers.
First, be sure to cool the stuffed peppers completely. You can portion them in freezer-safe containers and freeze for 1 to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and warm up in a medium-heated oven (it helps to add a little bit of liquid to your baking dish, and cover the peppers before placing in oven.)
What to serve with stuffed bell peppers?
Watch the video for this recipe:
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You'll love these stuffed peppers, prepared Greek-style and stuffed with a perfectly seasoned meat mixture with rice and chickpeas and fresh herbs. You can prepare parts of this recipe ahead of time, and you can even freeze leftover stuffed peppers! Serve them as the main coarse or a side dish.
- Greek extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve EVOO)
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- ½ lb ground beef
- Kosher salt + black pepper
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
- 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped ( about 1 cup packed fresh parsley. Or a mixture of chopped fresh parsley and fresh dill)
- 1 cup white rice, soaked in water for 2o to 30 minutes, then drained
- ¾ tsp hot or sweet paprika
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- 2 ¼ cup water
- 6 bell peppers, any colors, tops removed and cored
- ¾ cup chicken broth (or water)
- Cook the meat & chickpeas. In a medium heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil. Saute the chopped onions until golden. Now add the meat and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned. Season with salt, pepper, allspice, minced garlic (or garlic powder). Stir in the chickpeas and cook briefly.
- Add rice etc. and cook. To the same pot, now add the parsley, rice (which had been soaked in water and drained), paprika, and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Add the water and bring to a high simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Then turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and no longer hard nor too chewy. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
- Grill the peppers. While the rice is cooking, heat a grill or indoor griddle or skillet over medium-high. Grill the bell peppers for 10-15 minutes, covered, and turning over as needed so that the peppers will soften and gain some color. Remove from heat and set aside to cool briefly.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Assemble stuffed peppers. Assemble the bell peppers open-side up in a baking dish filled with ¾ cup broth or water. Fill each of the bell peppers with the the cooked stuffing mixture of meat, rice and chickpeas.
- Cover and bake. Cover the baking dish with foil (making sure the foil does not touch the stuffed peppers) and place the dish on the middle rack of your heated oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and garnish with parsley, if you like, and serve.
- To serve stuffed peppers as a main dish Greek-style, add Tztaziki sauce and Greek salad for sides.
- Variations for Stuffed Bell Peppers: If you like you can replace the ground beef with ground turkey or ground chicken. Or you can make these stuffed peppers vegan by eliminating the meat all together. And to try different flavors, you can replace ground allspice with ground cumin or Italian seasoning. This is a dairy free stuffed pepper recipe, but if you want to add cheese, a sprinkle of crumbled feta added at the end is a good option.
- To Prepare Ahead: You can prepare the rice mixture one day in advance if you like by following steps #1 and #2. Let the rice cool completely before storing in the fridge. And you can also prepare the peppers per step #3. Store the peppers in the fridge separately once cooled. The next day, you can assemble the stuffed bell peppers and bake (steps #5 and #6). It may help to bring the stuffed peppers to room temperature before baking.
- Can you freeze cooked stuffed peppers? First, be sure to cool the stuffed peppers completely. You can portion and store them in freezer-safe containers and freeze for 1 to 2 months. Thaw in fridge overnight, and warm up in a medium-heated oven (it helps to add a little bit of liquid to your baking dish, and cover the peppers before placing in oven.)
- Visit our Online Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and all-natural and organic spices used in this recipe
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 50 mins
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Greek/Mediterranean
Keywords: stuffed peppers, stuffed peppers recipe, Greek stuffed peppers, stuffed bell peppers
*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2018 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit.