Do you have a busy week and no time to think about what to make for dinner tonight? No worries, we got your back with a simple, healthy vegetarian take on a weeknight staple. This stuffed peppers recipe swaps out ground beef for heart-healthy quinoa and lentils, turning a childhood dinner upside down.
This recipe is perfect for those who are trying to go meatless or stick to a Mediterranean diet, and it's a great use for summertime bell peppers fresh from your very own garden or the farmers market. This recipe makes six whole stuffed bell peppers, which makes it perfect for family weeknight dinners (plus a leftover pepper or two for lunch the next day)!
You can use whatever color of bell pepper you happen to have on hand or prefer, whether it's the slightly bitter, crisp green pepper or a sweet red, orange or yellow pepper.
Hollow them out, set aside and then make the filling. For the filling, cook onion, quinoa, lentils, rice, raisins and pine nuts in a skillet along with a blend of spices and herbs for extra flavor and freshness. Za'atar, cumin, sumac and red pepper flakes give this dish just a touch of heat and a nutty, earthy flavor that will more than make up for any umami you may be missing from meat. Stuff the peppers with your filling, but don't be alarmed if you have extra filling. You can use the leftover grains and veggies for an easy side dish to serve alongside protein the next night. It also works in poblano peppers or on top of grilled eggplant.
Arrange the stuffed peppers in a baking dish filled with tomato sauce and cook in the oven for 45 minutes.
Though this dish is meatless, don’t be afraid to add in ground beef, turkey or lamb in place of the quinoa and lentils. The seasoning blend works just as well with meat as it does with the plant-based ingredients. Did you fall in love with this recipe? Then you should consider more plant-based recipes that will make you want to go vegan.
6 large, nicely shaped red, orange or yellow bell peppers (or a combination), about 3 pounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 cups cooked red quinoa and lentils
1 cup cooked white or brown rice (or more quinoa and lentils)
1/2 cup dark raisins, or chopped ripe apricot, pear or tart apple
1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons za‘atar spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac or grated lime rind
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped (or half of an 8-ounce bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, about 1 cup)
3 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
1 jar (18 ounces) tomato sauce
Step 1: Cut tops off of 6 peppers about a quarter of the way down the pepper. Use a grapefruit spoon to remove the core and membranes inside. Shake out all the seeds. Put hollowed-out peppers and lids into a microwave-safe baking dish. Add ¼ cup water; cover with plastic wrap vented at one corner and microwave on high until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Cool. (Refrigerate covered up to 3 days.)
Step 2: Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add half of the chopped onion. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes.
Step 3: Stir in 2 cups quinoa mixture, 1 cup rice (if using), 1/2 cup raisins, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 1 tablespoon of the za’atar spice, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon of the cumin, 1/2 teaspoon sumac, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir in 4 cups spinach, 3 onions, 1/4 cup cilantro and 1-2 teaspoons mint.
Step 4: Mix 1 jar of tomato sauce with the remaining 1 tablespoon za’atar spice and ½ teaspoon cumin.
Step 5: Heat oven to 375F. Stuff each pepper tightly with a generous portion of the quinoa mixture. Pour tomato sauce into the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold the peppers snuggly. Stand the stuffed peppers upright in the baking dish. Place the tops of the peppers in place.
Step 6: Bake until peppers are tender, 45-50 minutes. Serve with spoonfuls of tomato sauce.
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