At the heart of the dish is comfort: Warm, cheesy rice festooned with mushrooms and cubed tofu, seasoned with cumin and paprika, and tucked into a red pepper that cooks until tender enough to slice with ease.
The peppers are warm, filling, and enormously healthful. It’s the type of dish I crave when I want something comforting, but don’t want to land in a food coma. Trust me, these stuffed peppers promise a very good dinner, whether you are a devout vegetarian or not.
The inspiration for the recipe comes by way of Deborah Madison, a chef and pioneer in the vegetarian cooking scene. I’ve been making the brown rice casserole from her famed The Greens Cookbook since it hit my bookshelf two decades ago.
I spun the essentials of that recipe—rice, vegetables, and tofu—into something just as tasty, if not a tad more elevated. The flavors won’t knock you over with heat or spice or richness, but the sum total of ingredients is immensely satisfying.
An Everyday or Special Occasion Recipe
In my book, this recipe is suitable for a weeknight supper, since it takes about 30 minutes of hands-on time and offers the kind of nourishment I want in my everyday cooking. That said, parceled up in those pretty peppers, I would also do this for a sit-down dinner or party buffet.
The peppers work beautifully as a vegetarian main course or a side dish to any number of roast poultry or meat dishes. The recipe can be scaled up as needed, so consider it fair game whether you’re serving a party of six or 16.
What to Serve with Stuffed Peppers
These peppers have all the elements of a balanced meal—protein (tofu and cheese), quality carbs (brown rice), and plenty of vegetables.
If serving the peppers as a center-of-the-plate dish, I’d suggest making a simple salad to go with, such as this Kale with Balsamic Dressing. If serving the peppers as a side dish, this Dry Brined Roast Chicken would be a perfect main dish.
It’s worth noting that this recipe makes six peppers. That's enough for six people with lighter appetites or a table set with additional salads, side dishes, or larger mains.
Hungrier folks may want an extra half pepper or even a second serving. So let’s say you are a family of four with two heartier appetites, the recipe will be just about right.
Red Peppers Preferred
The recipe calls for red, orange, or yellow bell peppers. That’s because I’m just not crazy about green bell peppers, , so I lean on the sweeter red/orange/yellow end of the vegetable rainbow. That said, if you fancy green peppers, feel free to use those instead.
Can You Make Stuffed Peppers Ahead?
Yes! There is plenty you can do up to a day ahead, then cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
- Cook the rice
- Cut the tops off the peppers and pull out the seeds and membranes
- Cut all the vegetables
- Grate the cheese
- Make the filling in its entirety
In addition, while this recipe is at its very best when it goes straight from oven to table, it can be made in advance and reheated quite successfully. A few minutes in the microwave or about eight minutes in a 350°F preheated oven should do.
Stuffed Peppers Are Great as Leftovers
As far as leftovers go, this recipe is a real keeper. Just store them in a sealed container for up to four days in the fridge. The peppers offer their own, built-in container that can easily be transported and reheated.
If you’ve got kids with adventurous appetites, there’s no reason you can’t heat and tuck one into a lunchbox thermos. For adults, one of these warmed in the office kitchen for a desk lunch may just earn the envy of co-workers.
Swaps and Substitutions
This is such a flexible recipe, so feel free to tinker with it depending on your mood and what you have in your larder.
- Swap half or more of the button mushrooms with cremini, portabella, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms.
- Use other vegetables in place of the carrots or celery, such as diced fennel, zucchini, or broccoli.
- Add another leafy green instead of spinach, such as chard, kale, or collard greens. These are heartier greens, so give them a two-minute head start in the pan before you add the rice and tofu.
- Try another cheese such as sharp Cheddar, Havarti, aged Gouda, or crumbled feta.
- Use white rice instead of brown or give the peppers a dramatic look by using antioxidant-rich black rice.
- Try a different grain, such as barley, farro, or sorghum
- Use the filling to stuff smaller, spicier peppers such as large poblanos, knowing you will need to double the amount of peppers and split the peppers in half, filling both halves.
More Satisfying Stuffed Pepper Recipes
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
If you have leftover brown rice in your fridge, you can also use it for this recipe. You’ll need 2 cups of leftover cooked brown rice.
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
6 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 medium carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced then roughly chopped
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock or water
8 ounces firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 packed cups baby spinach
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat the oven:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook the rice:
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and boil until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain well. Set rice aside until you are ready to finish the filling.
Prepare the peppers:
Cut the tops off the bell peppers and pull out the seeds and membranes. Set the peppers upright in a 9x13-inch baking pan.
Make the filling:
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Sauté for a minute and add the broth or water.
Reduce the heat medium or medium low. You want the liquid to simmer, not boil. Cook until the vegetables are nearly tender, stirring regularly, about 10 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water if the pan is dry. The filling should be moist, but not saucy. Remove from heat.
Gently stir in 2 cups cooked rice, tofu, spinach, and lemon juice into the vegetables. Add the cheese and stir again to combine. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
Stuff the peppers:
Spoon the filling into the peppers, patting it down. It’s ok if the filling domes above the edge of the peppers a bit. You may have extra filling, which is tasty on its own.
Bake the peppers and serve:
Put the tops on the peppers and bake until they begin to wrinkle and are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||16%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||26%|
|Total Carbohydrate 17g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||15%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 40mg||201%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|