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These vegan stuffed bell peppers are easy to make, tasty and fulfilling. You can fill them with your favourite grain and legumes, we show you several combinations below. While there's no meat or cheese, these stuffed pepper are packed with protein and flavour.
What are vegan stuffed bell peppers?
First, stuffed bell peppers are a very popular dish in most mediterranean countries, from Italy to Turkey, from Spain to the coasts of north africa.
In those countries, bell peppers of any colour are generally stuffed with rice and some kind of meat, and in some cases, they are also made vegetarian.
While I get my inspiration for this recipe from the stuffed peppers that I ate while growing up in Italy, our recipe is 100% vegan, and so without meat or cheese.
We combine grains with legumes to make a nutritious and fulfilling meal, and then add some vegan ricotta cheese and some unsweetened soy yogurt on top to add some cheese-like texture and freshness to this dish.
Also, we tried to keep this recipe as simple as possible and with easy to find ingredients. We tested different grains and legumes and they all taste delicious!
In all cases, you will only need to first precook the grain on a pan (rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet or other) for 10 minutes, and then bake those beauties for 40 minutes in the oven.
Ps. These vegan stuffed bell peppers are also delicious when eaten cold, or preheated. So they are perfect for meal prep!
Ingredients & Substitutions
For the stuffed peppers
- Rice: we use white rice since it cooks faster, but you can use any rice. You just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. You can replace rice with most grains. We tried buckwheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth and they all work perfectly.
- Red lentils: we love the combination of rice and red lentils. They really are perfect together. However, you can replace red lentils with canned chickpeas, canned beans, tempeh, corn, tofu, or any other legume that doesn't have too long of a cooking time.
- Bell peppers: you can use green, yellow, orange, or red bell peppers. Green peppers are less sweet, while red and yellow are more sweet and flavourful.
- Tomato: canned tomato or fresh ripe tomatoes both work.
- Onion: to fry the grain at the beginning. It's important to build flavour. You can also add garlic and paprika to it for an even richer flavour base.
- Extra virgin olive oil: we use it to gently fry onion. You can replace it with just water if you are on a low-fat diet.
- Parsley: fresh parsley would be best for this recipe. If you can't find fresh one, then try pre-cut frozen parsley. If you can't find that, then use "Italian herbs mix / Italian seasoning", but just a sprinkle or two.
- Vegetable bouillon: we add a tablespoon or two to the rice to add flavour. There's no need to dissolve it in water, just add to the grain mix while it cooks.
For the toppings
You can top these peppers with your favourite vegan topping, like for example vegan melted cheese, vegan parmesan, or vegan cream cheese. We like to use:
- Homemade vegan ricotta: we make this ricotta once a week and we keep it in the fridge ready to be used in recipes like this one. Here we crumble it on top of the peppers after they are baked.
- Unsweetened soy yogurt: we love to drizzle this on top of the steamy hot peppers to add freshness and creaminess to the meal.
- Olive oil and parsley: a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of parsley.
- A pan to cook the rice
- a baking sheet that can fit all the stuffed peppers
How to make vegan stuffed peppers
Let's start with the filling. In a pan with two tablespoons of oil, fry the chopped onion on medium heat for 1 minute. When the onion is translucent add the rice and the red lentils and fry for another minute.
Now add ½ of the total water, the vegetable stock powder, salt, canned tomatoes, and stir.
Cook on medium to low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining water when the pan dries up. You should not cook the rice completely, it should still be a little hard.
While the rice and lentils cook, you could prepare the bell peppers to save some time. Just make sure to stir the rice occasionally to prevent it from sticking.
Turn the heat off, add the chopped parsley, stir and set aside.
Prep the bell peppers
You can do this while the filling cooks. Preheat the oven to 360F or 180C. Wash and cut the peppers in half. You can cut them on the short side, or on the long side, like we did. If your peppers are quite big, like ours, then cutting them on the longs side is better.
Remove the seeds and the white flesh. Add a pinch of salt in the peppers, then stuff them with the filling and place them on a sheet pan.
Bake in the oven at 360F or 180C for 40 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool down for 10 minutes before putting them on a serving platter.
Top with your favourite topping. We add crumbled vegan ricotta, unsweetened soy yogurt, fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.
Taste the filling before stuffing the peppers: we do this for two reasons: 1) to adjust for salt, 2) to check that the rice and the lentils are not overcooked. Try to not overcook the filling by tasting it around the 8 minute mark.
Can I use green peppers instead?
Yes, you can use green, orange or yellow, they all work here. Red bell peppers are are sweeter and are the richest in nutrients.
That's because they stay on the vine the longest and so they have time to develop more flavour and a richer nutritional profile. For example, did you know that they are packed with vitamin A, potassium and fibre? They also have about 3 times more vitamin C than orange.
Mix it up: change up your grains and your legumes. We tested rice and red lentils, rice + beans + corn, millet + tempeh + chickpea, buckwheat + chickpea. Follow the exact same cooking instructions. From a nutritional stand point, try to always use both a grain and a legume in your filling.
Use your favourite grain: rice is only one option. You can replace it with most grains. Just keep in mind that if you use whole-grains (like brown rice, barely, or oats) you'll need to cook the filling in the pan more than just 10 minutes.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can make stuffed peppers in advance. They are perfect for meal prep because their flavour is even better if you let them cool down completely. You can make the up to three days in advance, then store them in the refrigerator or freeze them.
Yes. These vegan stuffed bell peppers are full of fibre and vitamins, especially C-vitamin. They are also packed with plant-based protein from the grains and legumes. This is a whole-food plant-based recipe that is definitely good for you.
We cook the rice first for two reasons. 1) To speed up baking, 2) to develop flavour. In Italian cooking, building a flavour base for every dish is very important.
Yes, however you need to adjust the cooking time. With whole grain rice for example you'd need to almost fully cook the rice in the pan first, or else it won't cook when in the peppers.
In the refrigerator
Our vegan stuffed bell peppers are the perfect food for meal prep as they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Their flavour will be even richer the day after you cooked them.
When you reheat them, make sure you only reheat the peppers that you are going to eat.
Can you freeze stuffed bell peppers?
Yes, these vegan stuffed bell peppers can be frozen without any problem. We recommend freezing them once cooked, but let them cool down completely before doing so. If you have a freezer-safe pot and a large enough freezer, then just put a lid on and freeze.
Alternatively you can place each pepper into single freezer bags. That's the easiest way to defrost them individually.
To thaw, just place in the oven and bake until completely thawed. It shouldn't take more than 15 - 20 minutes.
We tested all these variations and they all take the same time to cook and follow the same instructions as described in this article.
- Rice + red-lentils: this is our basic, go to recipe, for stuffed bell peppers.
- Quinoa + kidney beans + corn: this is your mexican variation for stuffed peppers. Hearty, fulfilling, and with a mexican spin. Here you can replace the parsley with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime on top.
- Millet + Chickpea + Tempeh: have you ever tried millet? Or tempeh? They are perfect in this recipe. Millet is a super healthy ancient grain cultivated by humans for over 7000 years.
It's come back in fashion in the last couple of years, and you can find it in most supermarkets in the grains and legumes section.
Tempeh is a fermented, soy bean food, extremely popular all over south east Asia. In this vegan stuffed bell peppers recipe tempeh is a really great substitute for meat. We think it's delicious here. You just have to crumble it with your hands, before adding it to the pan.
- Buckwheat + chickpea + beans: another delicious ancient grain, buckwheat is the perfect substitute for rice in this recipe. It has a nutty taste, and a funny triangular shape. Try it, and we are sure you are going to love it.
For other delicious vegan Italian dishes, check out our:
- vegan frittata (no tofu)
- easy vegan risotto (it works with most veggies)
- Italian cheese spread
- no-knead Italian focaccia
- crisp focaccia with melted vegan cheese
- piadina with stracchino cheese and arugula
Vegan stuffed bell peppers
- 4-5 bell peppers
For the filling
- 200 g (1 cup) rice (or buckwheat, millet, quinoa)
- 200 g (1 cup) red-lentils (or beans, chickpea, tempeh)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion
- 400 g (14.5 oz) tomatoes canned or fresh
- 30 g (1 handful) parsley
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 L (4 cups) water
- 2 tbsp vegetable stock powder
Topping suggestions (you can use other toppings of your choice)
- 100 g (1 cup) vegan ricotta homemade
- 100 g (½ cup) soy yogurt unsweetened
For the filling
- In a pan, fry the chopped onion with the olive oil for 1 minute, then add the rice and the lentils and fry for another minute.
- Add ½ of the water, vegetable stock powder, salt, canned tomatoes, and stir well.
- Cook on medium to low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking. Add the remaining water when the pan dries up. You should not cook the rice completely, it should still be a little hard.
- Turn the heat off, and the chopped parsley, stir and set aside.
Prep the bell peppers
- You can do this while the filling cooks. Preheat the oven to 360F or 180C. Wash and cut the peppers in half. You can cut them on the short side, or on the long side, like we did. If your peppers are quite big, like ours, then cutting them on the longs side is better.Remove the seeds and the white flesh. Add a pinch of salt in the peppers, then stuff them with the filling and place them on a sheet pan.
- Bake in the oven at 360F or 180C for 40 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool down for 10 minutes before putting the on a serving platter.
- Top with your favourite topping. We add crumbled vegan ricotta, unsweetened soy yogurt, fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.
Full video on youtube @theplantbasedschool
Did you make this recipe at home? Let us know in the comments below, or take a picture and tag us on Instagram @Italiaplantbased.