Stuffed bell peppers are a classic, versatile dish that packs a lot of flavor and nutrition. It is perfect for a wholesome family dinner, and its vibrant colors make it a festive choice for special occasions.

Today, I’m including two cooking methods. Oven Recipe #1 and Stovetop Recipe #2 (easier, less mess).

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers – Oven Recipe #1

Skill Level for Recipe #1: Intermediate (See why ↓)
Servings: 4
Prep and Cooking Time: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes


  • 4 large bell peppers (any color), tops cut off, seeds removed
  • 1 pound (450 grams) lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (200 grams) cooked rice or quinoa
  • 1 cup (240 ml) tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 grams) black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) paprika
  • 1 cup (100 grams) shredded cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil


  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and minced garlic, sautéing until softened.
  3. Add ground meat to the skillet, cook until browned. Drain excess fat.
  4. Stir in cooked rice, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and paprika. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Stuff each pepper with the meat and rice mixture. Place them in a baking dish.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.
  7. Remove foil, sprinkle cheese on top, and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Stuffed Bell Peppers – Stovetop Recipe #2

Skill Level for Recipe #2: Beginner
Servings: 4
Prep and Cooking Time: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes

This is my usual way to make stuffed bell peppers, and the way my mom made it.  The great news is that it results in a one-pot meal. A lot less clean-up!!

This stovetop method calls for mixing the ingredients (uncooked) together in a bowl.

It uses all the same ingredients as recipe #1, with one exception… you will also need tomato juice in a separate step.*

After you put the stuffed peppers in a large pot (like a dutch oven), the *next step is to pour in a large can of tomato juice to surround the peppers in the pan (about one-half to two-thirds up the sides of the bells). You don’t want the juice too full to prevent splattering.

Cover and cook for an hour or so. To know when they are fully cooked, slightly split one open and check inside the stuffed pepper to see if the rice is fully cooked and fluffy. When in doubt, cook longer, or split each of them and add more tomato juice as needed.

This is actually the traditional cooking method, quite common in many culinary traditions.

Here are a few points to consider about the two methods:

  1. Raw Meat Method:
    • In this method, the raw meat is mixed with other ingredients and then stuffed into the peppers. The cooking process is longer, as the meat needs to cook thoroughly inside the pepper.
    • Cooking stuffed peppers with raw meat involves simmering them in a liquid, like tomato juice, which adds flavor and prevents the peppers and filling from drying out.
    • This method can result in a different texture for the meat, often a bit more tender and moist, as it absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients while cooking.
  2. Pre-Cooked Meat Method:
    • Cooking the meat separately before stuffing the peppers ensures that the meat is fully cooked and safe to eat. This can be particularly reassuring when dealing with poultry or pork.
    • Pre-cooking allows for better control over the seasoning and texture of the meat. It also lets you drain excess fat, which can be desirable for health reasons.
    • The overall cooking time in the oven is shorter since the meat is already cooked.

Both methods are valid and can yield delicious results.

The choice between them often comes down to personal preference, tradition, and sometimes health and safety considerations. (Of note, I have never had any issues with this method.)

The raw meat method embraces a slow-cooking process that can meld flavors beautifully, while the pre-cooked method offers more control and can be a bit quicker and potentially leaner.

Tips for Perfection:

  • Choose firm, brightly colored peppers with no blemishes.
  • For extra flavor, mix in herbs like basil or oregano into the filling.
  • If the peppers wobble, slice a small amount off the bottom to make them stand upright.

Optional Ingredients:

  • Add corn, black beans, or diced tomatoes to the filling.
  • Use a mix of different colored peppers for a colorful presentation.

Vegetarian Suggestions:

  • Replace meat with a mix of mushrooms, lentils, or tofu.
  • Add more vegetables like spinach or zucchini for extra nutrition.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with a side of garlic bread and/or green salad. For a low-carb option, accompany with steamed vegetables.

Nutrient Information (per serving):

  • Calories: Approximately 350
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Fat: 18g
  • Fiber: 4g

Storing and Reheating Leftovers:

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Reheat in the microwave or oven until heated through.

Origin and Folklore:

Stuffed bell peppers have origins in various cuisines around the world, including Spanish, Hungarian, and Middle Eastern cooking.

Each region adds its unique twist, showcasing the versatility of this dish.

In Turkey, for example, they’re known as “dolma” and often include a mix of spices, pine nuts, and raisins, reflecting the rich culinary heritage of the Mediterranean.

FYI – Oven Method Skill Level:

Labeling the recipe for Stuffed Bell Peppers as “Intermediate” in skill level is due to several factors:

  1. Multistep Process: The recipe involves various cooking techniques such as sautéing, browning meat, and baking. Managing these different processes efficiently requires a bit more skill than a straightforward, one-pot dish.
  2. Preparation of Ingredients: The preparation of multiple ingredients (like chopping vegetables, cooking rice or quinoa, and preparing the meat) needs a certain level of kitchen proficiency.
  3. Stuffing and Baking: Properly stuffing the peppers without breaking them and baking them to the right level of doneness (ensuring the peppers are tender but not too soft or mushy) can be a bit challenging for beginners.
  4. Balancing Flavors: The recipe includes a variety of spices and ingredients. Achieving the right balance of flavors so that no single ingredient overwhelms the others requires some culinary insight.

These aspects make the recipe more suitable for someone with a bit of cooking experience rather than a complete beginner. However, it’s still approachable enough that someone with basic skills and a willingness to learn can successfully make it with a little extra effort and attention.

Stuffed peppers are one of my all-time favorite dinners.

My mom, who was an awesome cook, used to make them often. I’ve added a few finishing touches of my own in these recipes. So don’t be afraid to add yours!


P.S. I use this type of pot for the stovetop version: