Let’s make something fresh and healthy for dinner tonight – and let’s make it meatless!
Vibrant, nutrient-packed, and colorful, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear as you enjoy these tasty and tender vegetarian stuffed bell peppers.
If you have been cycling through a parade of heavier dinners, from thick slices of meatloaf served with rich and creamy gravy to slowly cooked succulent pot roasts, you may find yourself occasionally craving a lightened-up meal.
And you should welcome the idea of enjoying a meatless meal every now and then. Embrace this refreshing shift with open arms!
The next time you’re planning your weekly menu, consider bypassing the meat counter for just one shopping trip – don’t even wink at it, you little flirt – and head straight to the produce department instead.
With a recipe as fun and delicious as this one, there’s no way you’ll regret serving this veggie-focused dinner.
Stuffed peppers are often filled with seasoned ground meat. In this version, fluffy white rice replaces the meat as the base.
But I wouldn’t make you eat just plain white rice in plain bell peppers. How silly!
Mixed with a simple and straightforward combination of caramelized onions, minced garlic, juicy tomatoes, and chopped fresh basil, the humble grains get a flavorful makeover.
You then roast the stuffed veggies for 35 to 40 minutes, until the halves blister and soften.
While you could end the cooking fun right here, I would be remiss with my cheesemongering duties if I ignored a perfectly opportune moment to incorporate cheese in this recipe!
A small handful of shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese piled on top of each mound of rice will melt beautifully after with a few additional minutes in the oven.
Okay… now you can serve them all, and savor every bite of this meatless delight!Print
Make a light and healthy dinner tonight with Foodal’s recipe for vegetarian stuffed bell peppers, filled with a flavorful white rice and veggie mix.
- 1/2 cup medium-grain or long-grain white rice
- 4 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more greasing
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium plum tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup gently packed fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheddar or low-moisture, part skim mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil and lightly grease the foil with olive oil.
- Cook the rice according to the package instructions. Set it aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Halve the peppers lengthwise. Remove the stems, seeds, and inner membranes. Set the halves cut side up in the prepared baking dish in a single layer. They may touch each other.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and salt and saute until the onions are caramelized and browned, 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic. Cook for another minute until the garlic is very aromatic.
- Stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until the tomatoes have slightly softened but still maintain their shape.
- Remove the pan from the heat and gently fold in the cooked rice, black pepper, and basil, until all of the ingredients are completely incorporated. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper and fold again.
- Spoon equal amounts of the rice mixture into the pepper halves.
- Cover the top of the baking dish with aluminum foil and transfer the dish to the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the peppers are blistered and slightly softened.
- Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and dispose of the aluminum foil. Sprinkle 1/8 cup of the shredded cheese on top of each pepper half. Transfer the dish back to the oven and bake uncovered for another 8-10 minutes, until the cheese has completely melted.
- Remove the dish from the oven, garnish the tops of the peppers with additional basil, and serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stovetop/Roasting
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keywords: vegetarian, stuffed bell peppers, rice, tomatoes, basil
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
Preheat your oven to 375°F, and place an oven rack in the position that receives the most even heat, usually in the middle of the oven.
Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil and lightly grease the foil with some olive oil, or spray it with nonstick cooking spray. This ceramic rectangular baking dish from Made In would be a great choice, but you can also use a rimmed half-size baking sheet instead.
Measure out the white rice. You can use your favorite medium-grain or long-grain variety for this recipe. Following the package instructions, measure out your water for cooking the rice as well.
Measure out the olive oil, salt, and pepper – freshly cracked is best!
Mince the garlic with a sharp knife, or use a garlic press.
Wash and dry the plum tomatoes. Remove the cores and dice them.
Wash and dry the bell peppers – use four of the same color, or choose a variety of red, orange, and yellow.
Identify a few small basil leaves in pristine condition to reserve for the final garnish before measuring and roughly chopping what you need for the recipe.
Using the coarse side of your box grater, grate 1 cup of cheddar or low-moisture, part skim mozzarella cheese. Mild to sharp, you can’t go wrong with any cheddar selection – choose your favorite!
Step 2 – Cook the Rice
As the rice is cooking, you can prepare the next step.
Step 3 – Halve the Peppers and Place in Baking Dish
Using a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board, halve the peppers lengthwise. Remove the seeds and inner membranes from each half. You may want to use a spoon to scoop everything out.
You can remove the stems if you prefer, but I actually like the pretty presentation with the stems kept intact.
Set the halves cut side up in the prepared baking dish in a single layer. Depending on the shape of each half, you may need to assemble them in two or three rows.
It’s fine if they touch each other, don’t worry about that!
Step 4 – Caramelize the Onions and Add the Garlic
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Saute the onions in the skillet for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. You are looking for full flavor, so don’t stop cooking when they are simply translucent! Stir occasionally during this process.
Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute until it’s very aromatic, stirring constantly to prevent the garlic from burning.
Step 5 – Cook the Tomatoes
Add the diced tomatoes to the skillet. Continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
The tomatoes should soften slightly, but you don’t want them to completely lose their shape and get too saucy. You want to still be able to see beautiful pieces of tomatoes throughout the filling.
Step 6 – Mix in the Remaining Filling Ingredients
Turn off the heat and remove the skillet from the burner to halt the cooking process.
Gently fold in the cooked rice, black pepper, and basil until completely incorporated. You don’t want to excessively crush the tomatoes, so avoid harshly mixing everything together.
Taste the mixture, and season with more salt and black pepper if needed. Fold the additional seasonings into the mixture.
Step 7 – Stuff the Halves
Place the skillet right next to your baking dish with the pepper halves – this will help you to assemble more easily and cleanly.
Spoon equal amounts of the rice mixture into each half, filling them generously. Avoid pressing down on the filling – this is not necessary.
Step 8 – Roast
Cover the top of the baking dish with a large piece of aluminum foil. You’ll need this to prevent the rice from drying out and hardening during the roasting process.
Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The skin will be slightly blistered. The flesh should soften slightly, but it should still have a little firmness to it.
You can pierce one with a knife to check – the flesh should give just a little resistance.
Step 9 – Melt the Cheese
Remove the baking dish from the oven and place it on a trivet or heat-proof surface. Remove and dispose of the aluminum foil.
Evenly sprinkle 1/8 cup of cheese over the top of each half. Return the baking dish to the oven.
Bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted completely without browning excessively.
Step 10 – Serve
Remove the baking dish from the oven and place back on your trivet or heat-proof surface.
Using a spatula – tongs may rip the tender peppers – carefully transfer two halves to each plate. Garnish with the reserved basil leaves, and serve while they’re still warm.
Serve with a Sauce
There are very valid reasons why I decided not to include a sauce in this recipe.
For one thing, these stuffed peppers are so tasty on their own! Sure, a sauce would be delicious, but it won’t make or break the enjoyment of this dish, especially if you don’t want to dedicate more time, or do more dishes, making a separate sauce.
And secondly, if extra time and dishes aren’t a concern for you, there are a multitude of sauce options that would all complement these peppers so incredibly well that it was too difficult to decide on just one!
So I’ll give you at least some of my saucy suggestions right here from Foodal’s collection of recipes, condensed in a happy little list:
- Oven-Roasted Tomato
- Pesto Alfredo
- Classic Mornay
- Golden Tomato
- Simple Marinara
- Tomato Cream
- Classic Italian Pesto
- Kale Almond Pesto
Do you have a special sauce of your own that you would consider serving with this delicious meal? Share your idea below in the comment section!
Bell peppers are refreshing and crispy when raw, and sweet and tender when cooked – what a versatile ingredient to use! Looking for other vegetarian recipe ideas? We have a few more favorites for you to craft in your kitchen:
- Chickpea and Black Bean Salad with Bell Peppers and Sweet Corn
- Spicy Roasted Portobello Sandwiches with Bell Peppers and Camembert
- Sweet Potato Hash with Fresh Herbs, Peppers, and Onions
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on May 26, 2015. Last updated on April 1, 2023.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.