I used to turn up my nose at bell peppers, I guess there was something about the texture I wasn’t fond of. Lucky for me though, my taste buds have changed and I am enjoying my share of peppers lately! When Chris hinted he was craving stuffed peppers, I was off to the kitchen to create a different version than the more common beef and rice variety. Ground meat + lots of veggies + a sprinkle of cheese kept coming to mind, and they turned out beautifully!
I decided on a Mexican-inspired pepper but the spices and herbs could easily be modified for an Italian dish – replace cilantro with basil, Italian seasoning for cumin, use diced tomatoes instead of salsa and add parmesan instead of cheddar or jack.
The veggies in this recipe are very versatile so if you don’t like something, feel free to leave it out. Mushrooms, yellow squash, green/orange/yellow bell peppers, chard or kale could all be welcome additions! I served this dish with a side of wild rice but any rice or grain would do, or even a side salad if you are going for a low-carb meal.
Turkey Stuffed Peppers
2 large red bell peppers, cut in half and seeded
1/2 pound ground turkey (ground chicken or beef would work too)
3 tsp oil, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh baby spinach, torn into pieces
1 cup salsa or canned diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, jack or mozzerella), optional
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place the pepper halves cut-side down in a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove baking dish from oven and set aside.
2. While peppers are baking, heat 1 tsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground turkey, cumin, garlic and oregano to pan and cook until meat is browned and cooked through (about 5-7 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove meat mixture from pan and set aside.
3. Add remaining 2 tsp oil to the pan along with the onion, zucchini, carrot and spinach until tender (about 5 minutes). Add turkey mixture back to the skillet and mix in the salsa/tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt and pepper.
4. Fill small oven-safe bowl or ramekin halfway with water. Place bowl in the middle of the baking pan (in the middle of peppers). This will help keep turkey mixture moist while baking.
5. Divide turkey mixture evenly in half-cooked peppers, place back in dish around bowl/ramekin and bake for another 12 minutes. Carefully remove from oven (be careful of splashing hot water!!!) and sprinkle peppers with shredded cheese, if using*. Return to oven and let bake another 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted, then serve!
*Recipe Notes: If you are not adding cheese to the pepper, cook peppers for 15 minutes instead of removing part of the way through.
Instead of using a bowl of water to keep the mixture moist, try pouring a can of tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish around peppers. I didn’t have any cans of tomato sauce lying around so I had to improvise 🙂