These vegetarian stuffed peppers with orzo, tomato, and chickpeas are from my new cookbook, The Mediterranean Dish: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You'll Make on Repeat. Serve them as a satisfying meatless main or elegant side dish — either way they're a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!
These vegetarian stuffed peppers from my new cookbook are a modern take on my earlier Greek-style stuffed bell peppers, where the peppers are stuffed with a seasoned meat and rice filling. In this recipe, I decided to skip the meat and create a bold vegetarian dish that is equally satisfying and delicious. (Yes, this one is for all the orzo lovers out there).
Here, colorful bell peppers are halved and roasted until tender, and then filled with warm orzo pasta, tossed with chickpeas for protein and heft, fresh vegetables for color and flavor, and pine nuts for texture (you can skip the pine nuts if you don't have them or use walnuts or even pistachios). I toss the orzo and veggie mixture with a good drizzle of herby basil vinaigrette, then stuff the peppers with the filling, and finish with a sprinkle of creamy feta cheese (if you want to keep this dish vegan, you can omit the feta).
Like my stuffed delicata squash and stuffed zucchini recipes, stuffed bell peppers can work as a side for dishes like baked fish, lemon chicken, or grilled chicken or stand on their own. Thanks to the orzo, chickpeas, olives, and fresh herbs and vegetables these stuffed peppers will satisfy anyone who sits at your table — vegetarians and meat-eaters alike!
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Vegetarian filling for stuffed peppers
The filling really brings the wow factor to these hearty bell pepper boats. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Orzo pasta: You need ¾ cup uncooked orzo.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas add some plant-based protein to the filling. You can either cook them from scratch or use canned chickpeas to cut down prep time.
- Cherry tomatoes: These add some acidity and a pop of color.
- Shallot: A minced shallot introduces a hint of sweetness and a slight oniony bite.
- Kalamata olives: For some tanginess. Feel free to use another kind of olive instead.
- Toasted pine nuts: While these are optional, they do add texture to the orzo stuffing.
- Basil vinaigrette: Adds bright and fresh herbal notes from the basil and lime juice.
- Feta cheese: Crumble some feta from a block in the brine. I don’t recommend pre-crumbled feta – it is typically quite dry and not creamy.
How to make vegetarian stuffed peppers
To make vegetarian stuffed bell peppers, whip up a quick orzo filling while the peppers roast, and then stuff them! Here’s what you need to do:
- Core and roast the bell peppers. Start by cutting 5 bell peppers (any color) in half lengthwise then remove the seeds to make room for the filling. Brush the peppers on all sides with extra virgin olive oil on all sides. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and season with 2 teaspoons dried oregano, kosher salt, and black pepper. Bake, cut side up, in a 400°F heated oven until tender (about 30 minutes).
- Make the orzo filling. While the peppers are roasting, cook the orzo in boiling water until al dente (about 8 minutes). Drain the cooked orzo well and add it to a medium bowl, along with 1 cup chickpeas, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1 minced shallot, ¼ cup chopped kalamata olives, and ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (optional). Drizzle with ⅓ cup basil vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and feel free to add more vinaigrette if you need.
- Stuff the peppers. Scoop the vegetarian filling into the cooked pepper halves. Sprinkle some feta cheese on top and serve.
Sides for stuffed peppers
I happily serve these vegetarian stuffed peppers as a meatless main – thanks to the orzo and chickpeas, they are so satisfying! I simply add a quick salad on the side, like parmesan lettuce salad or a lemony arugula salad, and call it dinner.
But if I’m cooking for a larger group (5 peppers will serve 10 people as a side), these bell pepper boats make a delicious vegetarian side. Try them with:
Swaps and substitutions
This recipe lends itself really well to customization! Here are some swaps you can make if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand:
- Instead of bell peppers, you can core and stuff large tomatoes and small zucchini.
- Feel free to omit the bell peppers altogether and just make the orzo mixture to serve as a side.
- Use toasted slivered almonds (or another nut) instead of pine nuts.
- Swap out the orzo with rice (this is great if you need a gluten free option) or another grain like farro.
- To make this recipe vegan, simply leave out the feta cheese.
How to store leftovers
Leftover stuffed peppers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you only have leftover filling, that will also keep for 4 days. Serve leftovers at room temperature.
More bell pepper recipes
This recipe is from The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You'll Make on Repeat. More about this book here.
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers with Basil Vinaigrette
- ⅓ cup Basil Vinaigrette, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the peppers
- 5 large bell peppers, any color, halved lengthwise, cored and seeded
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¾ cup uncooked orzo pasta
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, optional
- 1 cup chickpeas, cooked from scratch or canned
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 large shallot, minced
- ¼ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
- ⅓ cup crumbled creamy feta cheese, from a 2-ounce block
- Make the basil vinaigrette (according to this recipe) and store in the refrigerator. You will mix some with the orzo and chickpea stuffing.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush a large baking dish with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Brush the peppers generously on all sides with some olive oil and arrange them in a single layer, cut side up, in the baking dish. Season with the oregano, kosher salt and black pepper. Roast the peppers until they are tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo according to package instructions or until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
- In a small skillet set over medium heat, add the pine nuts. Stir or toss until the nuts are fragrant and lightly golden. Stay nearby and stir frequently. This will only take a few minutes. Nuts can go from toasted to burnt in the time it takes to wash your hands.
- In a medium bowl, combine the orzo, chickpeas, tomatoes, shallot, olives, and toasted pine nuts (if using). Drizzle with ⅓ cup of the basil vinaigrette, then toss to combine. Taste and add more of the vinaigrette to your liking.
- Spoon the orzo mixture into the pepper halves. Sprinkle a little feta on top and serve.
- This recipe is from my cookbook The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You'll Make on Repeat. More about this book here.
- Gluten-free option: Replace the orzo with cooked basmati rice instead.
- Vegan option: Omit the feta cheese.
- Make ahead tips: The basil vinaigrette can be made a few nights ahead of time. Store it in a Mason jar in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. It will keep for up to 4 days.
- Serve bell peppers with: You can simply serve them as a meatless main with a lettuce salad or arugula salad. To serve stuffed peppers as a side, pair them with meat and seafood dishes like Chicken piccata, baked flounder, roasted branzino, Cornish hens, or roast turkey breast.
- Leftovers and storage: Leftovers will be good in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you only have leftover filling, that will also last for 4 days in the refrigerator. Serve leftovers at room temperature.
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