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BEST Stuffed Peppers {Plus: Make-Ahead Directions} – WellPlated.com

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Succulent bell peppers filled with a hearty, flavorful blend of ground beef, rice, and cheese, this classic Stuffed Peppers recipe is the all-in-one meal that ties together many of my favorite healthy recipes!

Baked stuffed peppers with rice in a white casserole dish

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I feel like I’ve been prepping my entire life to make the perfect baked stuffed peppers.

Over the years, I’ve created a stuffed pepper recipe for every need and possible craving:

Overkill? Nah!

Healthy stuffed peppers recipes are a way of life in our house.

The BEST stuffed peppers on a plate with arugula salad

5 Star Review

“These are SO GOOD! Definitely our favorite stuffed pepper recipe, and we’ve tried many. Whole family loved them, including the picky toddler which is saying something.”

— Nicole —

This is a go-to, CLASSIC stuffed pepper recipe ideal for everyday enjoyment.

This stuffed pepper recipe:

  • Takes the best methods, tips, and tricks from each stuffed pepper recipe on Well Plated.
  • Contains a traditional stuffed pepper filling of beef, rice, and cheese.
  • Is endlessly versatile—offering plenty of options to play around with the ingredients and toppings to suit your taste preferences and diet.
  • It even inspired Stuffed Pepper Casserole—one of my site’s all-time most popular recipes, adored by toddlers, picky partners, and discerning healthy eaters alike.

To summarize, this recipe for stuffed peppers is simply fabulous!

Recipe for stuffed peppers with rice and cheese arranged in a casserole and baked in the oven

How to Make the BEST Stuffed Peppers

I’ve eliminated as many extra steps as possible in this classic stuffed peppers recipe.

The filling comes together quickly on the stovetop, and the peppers are a breeze to stuff.

TIP!

The other BIG bonus to these easy stuffed peppers with rice? You don’t need to cook peppers before filling them. Just pour a bit of water into the pan to ensure they soften quickly and properly.


The Ingredients

  • Bell Peppers. Vitamin-rich and fiber-rich bell peppers act as a healthy, colorful, and tender vessel for the flavorful filling.
  • Ground Beef. Not just for Hamburger Casserole, lean ground beef is a wonderful source of protein. It’s hearty and pairs nicely with the spices, tomatoes, and cheeses. You could also make these stuffed peppers with ground turkey or chicken.

Dietary Note

For a vegetarian stuffed peppers recipe, try vegetarian meat crumbles or simply omit the meat and add a can of beans or chickpeas.

  • Brown Rice. Stuffed peppers with rice are a classic. Adding a grain, like brown rice, makes the recipe more filling. (It also adds bulk to my favorite Mexican Casserole; and Instant Pot Brown Rice is an easy way to cook it!)

Substitution Tip!

For stuffed peppers without rice, try stuffed peppers with quinoa, farro, cauliflower rice, or orzo instead. If making stuffed peppers with orzo, make sure it is very al dente (or even a little undercooked) before stuffing since the orzo will continue to cook in the oven. 

stuffed peppers with ground beef in a baking dish with quinoa, cheese, and Italian herbs
  • Fire-Roasted Tomatoes. While these are stuffed peppers without tomato sauce, I did add a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes. It’s a simple change that adds a more complex flavor without sacrificing moisture.
  • Fresh Spinach. Fresh spinach cooks down and blends seamlessly into the filling, making it an excellent healthy sneak for stuffed peppers (and this Meatball Casserole). Spinach is packed with iron and vitamins.

Market Swap

Swap for other greens of your choice if you don’t enjoy spinach. Try stuffed peppers with sautéed kale or wilted Swiss chard.

  • Cheeses. Because stuffed peppers with cheese is a true crowd-pleaser! I used a combination of pepper jack cheese and sharp cheddar cheese.

Substitution Tip

If you want a less spicy version of the recipe, you could swap more cheddar for the pepper jack, or use gouda, muenster, or mozzarella instead.

  • Spices. Italian seasoning, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper make this from-scratch filling far from one-note.

Topping Ideas

  • Fresh Herbs. Parsley and cilantro would both be delicious, fresh, and colorful.
  • Greek Yogurt. Swap less healthy sour cream for equally cool, thick, and creamy non-fat plain Greek yogurt. It’s tangy and scrumptious on these peppers.
  • Avocado. Sliced avocado is always a good choice.
  • Salsa. You’re missing out if you’ve never tried stuffed peppers with salsa. It’s an excellent way to add a little extra kick to this dish.

The Directions

  1. Slice the peppers and lay them in a baking dish.
Ground beef in a skillet with sautéed onions and spices
  1. Brown the beef and onion. Add the seasonings.
Spinach being added to a skillet of ground beef
  1. Stir in the spinach.
A skillet with ground meat and vegetables with bowls of quinoa and shredded cheese next to it
  1. Add the tomatoes.
Cheese and quinoa being added to a skillet of ground beef and vegetables for stuffed peppers
  1. Stir in your cooked grain of choice and part of the cheeses.
Uncooked classic stuffed peppers with quinoa in a baking dish
  1. Pile the filling into the peppers, top with more cheese, and add water to the bottom of the baking dish.
  2. Bake the stuffed peppers in the oven at 375 degrees F until tender, and the cheese is melted. Add desired toppings. ENJOY!
cheesy stuffed peppers in oven served on a plate with salad

Stuffed Pepper Tips & Tricks

  • Keep the Peppers from Getting Soggy. Don’t overbake your peppers. They will get mushy and soggy if cooked too long. Also, avoid adding extra liquids to the filling before baking to keep the stuffed peppers from getting soggy.
  • Make Sure the Peppers are Fork Tender. While you don’t want your peppers soggy, you certainly don’t want them underdone. When properly baked, you should be able to easily pierce the stuffed peppers with a fork. If the peppers aren’t tender when the cheese is melted, and the filling is hot, simply tent the pan with foil and continue baking until they are. The amount of time you need can vary based on your oven, baking pan, and pepper size.
  • Cut the Pepper in Half from Stem to End. When making stuffed peppers in the oven, I find splitting them from top to bottom best. It allows you to lay the peppers flat on their back in the baking dish, which makes for easier stuffing. If all of your peppers don’t fit in one pan, you can bake the extras in a second, smaller baking dish such as an 8×8-inch pan.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate peppers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F.
  • To Freeze. Freeze peppers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Meal Plan Tip

Options 1: Make-Ahead Stuffed Peppers

Cut and core the bell peppers up to 1 day in advance, and refrigerate them in an airtight storage container. Cook the filling as directed up to 1 day in advance. Let cool, then refrigerate it in a separate airtight storage container. Fill and bake peppers as directed just before serving.

Option 2: Freezer Stuffed Peppers

Did you know stuffed peppers can be frozen before cooking? Prepare and stuff the peppers as directed. Then, rather than baking, store the fully assembled peppers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and bake as directed.

Leftover Ideas

Cut your leftover stuffed peppers into small pieces, rewarm them, and enjoy them on top of greens like a salad. Or, dice up, reheat, and pile the peppers into tortillas for a spin on burritos.

What to Serve with Stuffed Peppers

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Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Dutch Oven. The perfect cookware item for preparing the pepper filling.
  • Baking Dish. You’ll use this beautiful dish on repeat.
  • Hamburger Chopper. The ideal tool for stirring and breaking up ground meat.

The Best Dutch Oven

A high-quality, heavy-duty Dutch oven like this one will last a lifetime. It’s great for preparing recipe ingredients, making soup, and so much more!

Beef and cheese stuffed peppers

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

It’s been quite the marathon to get here, now excuse me as I do a final sprint to a second helping of baked stuffed peppers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Cook Peppers Before Stuffing Them?

No. While some stuffed pepper recipes may suggest cooking peppers before stuffing them, I’ve found that it is not a necessary step. If you follow the suggested preparation method in this post, there’s no need to soften or parboil the peppers before stuffing them.

How Long Does it Take to Soften Peppers in the Oven?

The amount of time needed to soften peppers in the oven will depend on the size of your peppers, the selected filling, and your oven’s temperature. On average, I find that most baked stuffed peppers will be tender after 30 to 35 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees F.

Where Did Stuffed Peppers Originate?

It’s hard to pinpoint who was the first person to stuff a pepper with a cheesy, meaty rice filling. This is because it’s a method that has been practiced for generations across cultures. From pimientos rellenos of Spain, to bharvan mirch of India, dolma in the Mediterranean, and chile rellenos in Mexico, different ethnic groups throughout history have made their own version of stuffed peppers using local ingredients.

Can Stuffed Peppers Be Cooked in an Air Fryer?

I have not experimented with making stuffed peppers in an air fryer before. If you decide to experiment and give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes. That may need to be my next recipe for stuffed peppers.

  • 4 large bell peppers any mix of colors you like; red is our favorite
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or swap for ground turkey or ground chicken
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups roughly torn fresh spinach
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juices (15 ounces)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice or farro, quinoa, cauliflower rice, or orzo (if using orzo, undercook it slightly)
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese or additional cheddar
  • For serving: chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Slice the bell peppers in half from top to bottom down through the stem. Remove the seeds and membranes, then arrange cut side up in the prepared baking dish.

  • Heat a Dutch oven or similar deep, wide skillet over medium-high. Add the beef and onion. With a wooden spoon or spatula, break the meat into small pieces. Cook and stir until the meat is browned and fully cooked and the onion is tender, about 7 minutes. Drain off any excess fat.

  • Stir in the Italian seasoning, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Let cook for 30 seconds.

  • Stir in the spinach a few handfuls at a time, cooking until it wilts down; this will take between 1 and 2 minutes.

  • Pour in the can of diced tomatoes along with the juices. Let simmer for 1 minute.

  • Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the rice (or your grain of choice), 1/4 cup of the cheddar, and 1/4 cup of the pepper jack. Taste and add additional salt and/or pepper as desired.

  • With a spoon, mound the filling inside the peppers, then top with the remaining cheeses. The peppers will be very full.

  • Pour a bit of water into the pan with the peppers—just enough to scantly cover the bottom of the pan. I like to put the water in a liquid measuring cup, then carefully pour it around the outside (be careful not to pour it into the peppers themselves).

  • Bake the stuffed peppers uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the cheese is melted. Top with parsley or cilantro. Serve hot.

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate stuffed peppers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F.
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze peppers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • TO MAKE AHEAD: Cut and core the bell peppers up to 1 day in advance, and refrigerate them in an airtight storage container. Cook the filling as directed up to 1 day in advance. Let cool, then refrigerate it in a separate airtight storage container. Fill and bake peppers as directed just before serving.

Serving: 1pepper half (of 8)Calories: 201kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 18gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 49mgPotassium: 432mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 2916IUVitamin C: 80mgCalcium: 153mgIron: 3mg

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