Serving any type of food in its very own edible vessel always feels a bit celebratory to me. Winter squash filled with wild rice and sausage, clams on the half shell stuffed with breadcrumbs, jacket potatoes with scallions and cheddar, and these bell peppers.
These Kofta-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers are made with ground chicken, bulgur, heaps of herbs and spices. They have just a hint of heat, and come with a tangy yogurt sauce to spoon on the side.
The fact that they happen to be healthy (and easy to make) is the icing on the cake.
WHAT IS KOFTA?
The inspiration for these peppers is kofta, spiced ground meat that shows up in the cuisines of the Middle East, Central Asia, and pockets of the Mediterranean.
The specific ingredients and spices in kofta vary by region, but what stands out is flavor. And lots of it.
In Afghanistan, for example, you might find kofta made with green onions, cilantro, and coriander. In Iran, you’ll find large kofta meatballs with beef, dill, and fava beans. And in Greece, ground lamb might be on the menu, with a yogurt sauce to go with it.
Kofta comes in the form of patties, meatballs in a range of sizes, and kebabs, where the meat is formed around long skewers before being grilled.
SWAPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
The flavor combination in this specific mix is a tasty one, but feel free to make some swaps if need be.
- Substitute ground lamb for all or half the amount of chicken, and you’ll get delicious results. Ditto with beef, pork, bison, or turkey.
- When it comes to yogurt, the only swap I recommend is using regular rather than Greek yogurt, if that’s what you have on hand.
- I wouldn’t use either sour cream or labneh for this recipe. Labneh is strained yogurt, and it’s too thick to make a sauce for this recipe, so I’d recommend saving your labneh for another day.
As for the spices, tinker away.
- Bump up the chili flakes by 1/4 teaspoon or more.
- Scale the amount of garlic up or down depending on your affinity for it, though I wouldn’t leave it out altogether.
- Adjust the amount of mint or cilantro depending on your personal preference.
HOW TO MAKE VEGETARIAN OR GLUTEN-FREE STUFFED PEPPERS
- To make it vegetarian: Use a vegetarian ground meat substitute, such as Beyond Meat in place of ground chicken.
- To make it gluten-free: Use about 1 1/3 cups cooked quinoa instead of the bulgur, and you’ll be good to go.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MAKING STUFFED PEPPERS
I tested several approaches in developing this recipe and found the best results by cooking the chicken on the stove before stuffing the peppers. Then, it’s just a matter of filling raw bell peppers and getting them into the oven to cook until tender, which takes about 30 to 35 minutes.
STUFFED PEPPERS ARE A GOOD MAKE-AHEAD RECIPE
These bell peppers work well assembled and cooked all in one fell swoop. That said, this is a great make-ahead recipe, too:
- Prepare the chicken mixture; fill the peppers; arrange in the baking dish
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator up to a day ahead of time.
- Remove the plastic and transfer straight from fridge to oven, and bake as directed.
HOW TO SERVE STUFFED PEPPERS
There are lots of ways to enjoy these peppers. Here are some options:
- For a simple family dinner, serve as a main course with a simple green salad and a side of warm pita, lavash, or crusty bread.
- Serve them as part of a bigger buffet for larger gatherings. Think about choosing dishes with complementary flavors from the Mediterranean or Middle East, such as a tomato and feta salad, baba ganoush, little grilled lamb chops, or a generous mezze platter.
- Double the recipe and bring it to your next potluck.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT STUFFED PEPPERS
These stuffed peppers are great a day or two after they’re made. Cover any peppers you don’t eat with plastic wrap, and store them in the refrigerator.
Reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through, or on high in the microwave for a minute or two.
MORE STUFFED VEGETABLE RECIPES!
Kofta-Style Chicken Stuffed Peppers with Yogurt Mint Sauce Recipe
- 1/2 cup whole-grain bulgur
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium chopped yellow onion
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 medium diced tomatoes (or one 15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained well)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 6 medium red, yellow, or green bell peppers
For the yogurt sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups non- or low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Preheat oven to 400°F.
2 Cook the bulgur: In a medium saucepan bring 1 1/4 cups water to a boil. Add the bulgur and stir. Reduce the heat to medium low so it simmers. Cover the pan and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Set aside.
3 Make the filling: In a large skillet set over medium-high heat add the olive oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the cumin, coriander, chili flakes, salt, chicken, and tomatoes. Cook just until the chicken is done, breaking it up like taco meat, about 7 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, mint, and cooked bulgur. Remove from heat.
4 Prepare the peppers: Cut the tops off the bell peppers and pull out the seeds and membranes. Set the peppers upright in a baking pan large enough to accommodate them.
Divide the filling among the peppers. Set the tops on the peppers. Bake until the peppers are tender and slightly shriveled, but still firm, 30 to 35 minutes.
5 Make the yogurt sauce: In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, mint, and kosher salt.
6 Serve: Serve peppers warm with yogurt sauce on the side.
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