Classic Stuffed Bell Peppers done right! Say no to bland and watery stuffed peppers. This baked stuffed peppers recipe is easy to put together (hint: we’re using the microwave), healthy, and really flavorful thanks to a blend of fun spices and a couple secret ingredients. If you are looking for a low carb easy dinner, look no further! Originally published August 11, 2020.
Stuffed Pepper Recipe
The other day I sliced a specific number of apples for my afternoon snack. Charlotte walked by and nabbed one, and I totally flipped out on her. I had already entered it into my calorie tracking app, you see. I had basically ALREADY EATEN that apple slice. How dare she just come and take food out of my mouth??
This is what happens when you start dieting, apparently. No one told me. You turn into a heinous witch. How could I have predicted what calorie deficit would do to my ability to be reasonable?! Poor Charlotte. (Don’t worry, I apologized for being hangry. That’s what dieting is, by the way, a constant low level hangry that you don’t get brownies today.)
Eric was just telling me last night about how he was a full grown adult before he had any concept of what calories were. He told me that his reasoning as a kid would be something like, “you just take butter and spread it on your toast, and it melts all the way in, so that’s like…no calories, right? You can’t even see it!” … (“Is butter a carb?” Name that movie!!)
It just melts in, guys! Good thing the calories you can’t see don’t count, right? Ha! As if. (<< name that movie! Wow, I guess dieting makes me revert to only being able to think of quotes from teenage girl movies.)
Stuffed Bell Peppers
If you are hangry dieting too (or even if you’re not), might I suggest the humble stuffed bell pepper for dinner tonight? I feel like stuffed peppers get a bad rap sometimes. I’d never really been super into them until recently. Now I’m obsessed! They are cheap, they are filling, they are healthy, they are easy, they are versatile. What’s not to love here?
Stuffed Bell Peppers Ingredients
Here’s your basic grocery list! Look for bright, waxy peppers that hold their shape. You can use leftover cooked rice if you have it!
- Bell peppers
- Kosher salt
- White rice
- Kosher salt
- Ground beef
- Diced tomatoes. I like petite diced.
- Frozen corn
- Mozzarella cheese. Or Italian cheese blend
- Worcestershire sauce
- Liquid smoke (optional)
- Italian seasoning
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
- Crushed red pepper
How to make Stuffed Peppers
Here are the basics! This recipe is super easy! More details and photos below.
- Microwave your peppers to soften them a bit.
- Cook your rice.
- Prepare the filling: cook the ground beef with garlic, tomatoes, corn, and spices.
- Add in the cooked rice.
- Fill the peppers, top with however much cheese your low carby self will allow.
- Bake about 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted! Voila!
Now that you’ve got the idea of it, here are all my tips!
First, the low-down on cutting the peppers. To halve or to whole?? Halving the peppers makes them easier to eat, but takes up more room during prep, meaning you might have to soften your bell peppers in batches. Leaving the peppers whole is delightfully showy, but makes for large portions during the meal. Decide if you want to stuff the whole pepper and have it sit upright in the pan, or if you want to cut it in half to lie flat, like this:
Either way will work fine. I like cutting them in half, because then I get double the amount of crispy cheese topping, and I’m all about the cheese.
The best stuffed pepper hack: the microwave
Stuffed peppers take kind of a while to bake in the oven, and if you put them in completely raw, your filling will get dried out by the time your peppers are tender. So choose your method of precooking: microwave, par-boiling, or baking. Any way will work just fine! I’m super lazy, so I microwave.
What is the best way to soften bell peppers?
The microwave is best for me, but don’t let some food blogger boss you around. Here are all your options:
Microwave: Place the peppers cut-side-up in a microwave safe dish, like a glass 9×13 inch pan. Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan. The peppers should not be stacked. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Microwave for 5 minutes on high. (You might have to do this in a couple batches if you halved your peppers. 6 whole peppers sitting upright will fit in a 9×13 or even a 2-quart pan, but 12 pepper halves probably won’t. If you halved, transfer your pre-cooked peppers to a large baking sheet after microwaving.) Continue with filling.
Boil: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the prepared peppers (halved or whole) and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and place in a pan or on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Continue with filling.
Bake: Line up your peppers cut side down in a pan or on a baking sheet. Add 1 cup water to the pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the water, turn them over and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Continue with filling.
Do you have to boil peppers before stuffing them?
Yes you DO have to soften the peppers. Microwave, boil OR bake. (Not all three. We’re not torturing our poor peppers.)
How do you keep stuffed peppers from getting soggy?
Great news! Your peppers won’t get soggy with this recipe! It’s because of the softening step we took. People used to bake stuffed peppers in a pan of water, meaning that the sometimes if you weren’t careful the filling would get soggy sad. Because we’re softening the peppers in advance rather than trying to boil them while baking, there’s no water pooling at the bottom of the pan. Hence, no chance for a sog fest. Sog fest=sob fest, amiright?
Now it’s time to prepare the filling: for this recipe we are using ground beef, canned tomatoes, onion, corn, and cooked rice. You can change these up however you like. Use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. Replace the corn with peas, or cooked zucchini. Replace the rice with quinoa or brown rice. (Whatever grain you use must be fully cooked when it goes into the filling. Leftover rice is a great option! Now you have something else to make with leftover rice besides Fried Rice!)
(Here on the right is what an upright whole stuffed pepper looks like, you could squeeze a whole bunch in a pan together to make them stay upright and not fall over!)
As for seasoning the filling, my secret is to add a little smoked paprika and liquid smoke to the mixture. This lends a really delicious smokey element to your stuffed bell peppers that I just love! If you are not into smokey flavors, you can leave them both out. I think it really takes stuffed peppers from ho-hum to delicious though!
Top each stuffed pepper with cheese and pop it in the oven! 20 minutes later, your delicious low carb dinner is done. Hallelujah!
Serve it with a nice green salad and some crusty bread. Or get a little fancy and serve it with Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans, or a quick Sauteed Zucchini side dish.
Other easy and low carb dinner ideas you will love!
- Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats << I’ve been obsessed with zucchini boats lately! So good.
- Greek Pasta with Chicken (and Zoodles) << Zoodles are a great option if you are low-carbing it! I love this meal.
- Cauliflower Rice Skillet with Zucchini and Kielbasa << If you still have never tried riced cauliflower, you haven’t lived!
- Oven Baked Greek Chicken with Veggies << This is done in about a half hour. It’s one of my favorite weeknight meals.
- One Pan Sausage and Veggies with Lemon Aioli << Who can argue with one dirty pan for dinner??
- Zucchini Pizza Bites << No one can resist these!
- Red Pepper Soup with Black Bean “Meatballs” << This is a unique and delicious soup!
- Spicy Stuffed Tomatoes from A Girl Called Adri
- Stuffed Avocados with Chicken and Bacon from Diethood
- Turkey Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Cookin’ Canuck
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Classic Stuffed Bell Peppers
To prep bell peppers
- 6 bell peppers, medium to large
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, for seasoning peppers
- 3 tablespoons water
For the rice
- 3/4 cup dry white rice
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons water, for the rice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, for the rice
For the filling
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 onion, medium or large, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 & 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, for the filling
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, (I like petite diced)
- 1 cup frozen corn, don’t bother thawing
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese or Italian cheese blend
- Prepare your bell peppers. You need to decide if you want to slice the peppers in half (half peppers lie flat in pan; you will need more pan space) or just remove the top and seeds (peppers stand upright in the pan; you won’t need as much pan space). See photos. I like to slice the peppers in half because this means you get more crispy cheese on top of each serving. Remove the seeds and membranes from each pepper. If you are slicing the peppers in half, leave the stem on so that the filling doesn’t spill out from the top.
- Pre-cook your peppers. I love to do this in the microwave because it is SO easy. Place the peppers cut-side-up in a microwave safe dish, like a glass 9×13 inch pan. Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan. The peppers should not be stacked. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Microwave for 5 minutes on high. Discard the water in the bottom of the pan. (You might have to do this in a couple batches if you halved your peppers. 6 whole peppers sitting upright will fit in a 9×13 or even a 2-quart pan, but 12 pepper halves won’t. Microwave them in another dish, and then transfer the cooked peppers to a large rimmed baking sheet.) If you don’t have a microwave, you can also boil or bake the peppers to precook them. See notes.
- Cook your rice. If you don’t have leftover rice (you need 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups cooked rice), cook some now. In a small saucepan, add 3/4 cup dry white rice and 1 cup + 2 tablespoons water. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil with the lid on. Once it boils, turn the heat down to low and continue cooking another 10 minutes (lid on). Turn the heat off and leave the lid on for another 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
- Prepare the filling. In a 12 inch skillet, cook 1 pound ground beef and 1 chopped onion over medium high heat for 5-10 minutes until the ground beef is cooked and no longer pink, and the onion is soft. Drain the grease from the pan.
- Add 3 cloves of smashed and minced garlic to the pan over medium high heat and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke.
- Add 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, 1 and 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper.
- Add a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Let cook for a while over medium high heat, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add 1 cup frozen corn and the cooked rice (you don’t have to add all the rice if you don’t want to.) Mix it all together. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Spoon the filling into each pepper. Top each stuffed pepper with about a tablespoon of mozzarella cheese, or any kind of cheese you like.
- Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted. You should be able to easily slide a fork into the side of a pepper. If it seems to hard, let it bake a few more minutes.
- Let cool a few minutes and enjoy!
Great recipe! I loved the microwave trick too! Made it his recipe a quick weeknight meal!
These stuffed peppers were delicious . The recipe was spot on. I did take some of the rice mixture and left out the ground beef to add pinto beans. Keep the great recipes coming! Thank you
Pinto beans is a great veggie sub Cindy, I love that! Thanks for sharing and reviewing!
Yum you can’t go wrong with these stuffed bell peppers, I am making this for dinner, Thank you.
It is hard to go wrong, right? Enjoy Deborah!
I have to admit, I’ve always turned my nose up at pre-cooking the beef. But I might just have to give this a try! Any thoughts on stuffing with raw ingredients and baking without par boiling?
Hi Jennifer! I haven’t tried that way and didn’t see any recipes in my research that used that method. I think it would take you longer in the end, and you would get a much less flavorful filling. Plus it would be super greasy because you wouldn’t have a chance to drain it? Also by the time the beef was cooked I think the peppers would be over cooked. Those are just my initial thoughts, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, I haven’t tried it! Let me know if you try it out!
I love stuffed peppers and need to try them halved laying down. When I make them, I bake them in a cupcake tin to keep the standing up! I don;t pre-cook the peppers, though, so that might help this method work.
I saw a couple recipes that suggested baking in cupcake tins! It’s a good idea if you don’t have enough peppers to fit snuggly in a pan (and if you want to do whole peppers.) Great suggestion Janis! Thanks for chiming in.
I love stuffed pepper but never make them because parboiling them takes too long once you get the water boiling… definitely going to try the microwave and DEFINITELY trying the smoked paprika and liquid smoke. Brilliant idea!!!
Have you ever had stuffed pepper soup? I found this recipe a few years ago and I love it – still low carb but easier to make and with all the flavor. I bet you could bring it up a notch, though! 😉. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13378/stuffed-pepper-soup-iv/
Yes parboiling is for some reason this huge insurmountable step to me!! Makes it go from “easy dinner” to “pain in the neck,” haha. Microwaves ftw!! And I’m definitely going to check out the soup, it sounds delicious! Thanks for the note Marci!