February 23, 2024

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers | The Mediterranean Dish

These vegetarian stuffed peppers are filled with a bright and herbaceous mix of orzo, chickpea, cherry tomato, and olives and finished with feta cheese and an easy basil vinaigrette. 

7 vegetarian stuffed peppers in a baking dish.
Photo Credit: Caitlyn Bensel

This stuffed pepper recipe is from my cookbook, The Mediterranean Dish, 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You’ll Make on Repeat. It’s a vegetarian twist on a class of dishes I call mahshi, meaning “stuffed.”

In the Mediterranean we stuff all kinds of vegetables. Greek and Italian stuffed peppers, stuffed grape leaves called dolmas, onions filled with fragrant rice and earthy spices, zucchini, and cabbage. There isn’t a vegetable on the planet we won’t make even more delicious by filling it with our favorite flavors! I mean have you tried stuffed tomatoes? Amazing! 

In this easy recipe, I swap meat for chickpeas for a nutritious and satisfying main. Springy orzo pasta adds heft, but you can always replace it with rice or quinoa for a gluten free option.

Simply put the Greek-inspired filling loaded with tomatoes and olives together while the peppers roast, then finish it all with a lemony basil vinaigrette and a crumble of feta cheese. It couldn’t be easier or more filling.

These stuffed bell peppers are an easy vegetarian (or vegan if you leave off the cheese) supper, they also make a nutrient dense side dish. Serve with protein, like Lemon Garlic Chicken, Poached Salmon, or Grilled Chicken.

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients for this Vegetarian Stuffed Pepper Recipe
  2. How to Make Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
    1. Make the Basil Vinaigrette 
    2. Roast the Peppers & Start the Stuffing
    3. Mix, Stuff, & Serve
  3. How to Store Leftover Stuffed Peppers
  4. What to Serve with Stuffed Peppers
  5. Swaps and Substitutions 
  6. More Mahshi! Stuffed Vegetable Recipes
  7. Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers with Basil Vinaigrette Recipe

Ingredients for this Vegetarian Stuffed Pepper Recipe

The filling really brings the wow factor to these hearty bell pepper boats. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Orzo pasta: A small, rice-sized pasta that adds texture and heft. You can substitute with any cooked grain, like Farro or quinoa or Basmati Rice if you’re avoiding gluten. 
  • Chickpeas: Add plant-based protein to the filling. You can either cook them from scratch or use drained canned chickpeas to cut down prep time. 
  • Cherry tomatoes: Add acidity, freshness, and a pop of color. Feel free to substitute with other small, firm, and juicy tomato varieties, like grape tomatoes of chopped Campari. 
  • Shallot: A minced shallot introduces a hint of sweetness and a slight oniony bite. 
  • Kalamata olives: For some tanginess. Feel free to use any variety of olive you like. 
  • Pine nuts: While these are optional, they do add a satisfying texture and buttery flavor to the stuffing. You can substitute with other nuts, like almonds or walnuts.
  • Basil vinaigrette: Adds bright and fresh herbal notes. You’ll need fresh basil, shallot, garlic, lime, white wine vinegar (or substitute with Champagne vinegar), extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt
  • Feta cheese: Crumble some feta from a block in the brine. I don’t recommend pre-crumbled feta – it is typically quite dry and not creamy. 
  • Seasonings: Dried oregano brings an aromatic quality. Salt and pepper enhance the flavor. 
an overhead photo of three vegetarian stuffed peppers on a plate.

How to Make Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

The key to the best vegetarian stuffed peppers is a flavorful filling. Here, we make a bright and herbaceous basil vinaigrette, and whip up a quick orzo filling while the peppers roast. 

Make the Basil Vinaigrette 

  • Get ready. Fill one large pot and one small saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and set it next to the stove. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Brush a large baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil. 
  • Blanch the basil. Ready yourself 2 packed cups of basil leaves. Into the small saucepan of boiling water, add the basil and wilt for 10 seconds, then use a slotted spoon or tongs to immediately transfer it to the ice water (you can turn off the heat on the saucepan now, but leave the large pot boiling). Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a paper towel and squeeze to wring out as much water as possible.
  • Make the basil vinaigrette. To the bowl of a food processor fitted with a multipurpose blade, the blanched basil, 1 chopped shallot, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime and blend until well combined and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
basil salad dressing in a small glass jar.

Roast the Peppers & Start the Stuffing

  • Roast the peppers. Slice 5 large bell peppers in half lengthwise and pull out their core and seeds, but leave the wall of the pepper intact. Brush them generously on all sides with olive oil and arrange in the prepared baking dish with the cut side facing up. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons dried oregano, and ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 30 to 35 minutes. 6 hollowed out red, yellow and orange bell pepper halves on a table.
  • Cook the orzo. While the peppers roast, generously salt the large pot of boiling water. Cook ¾ cup orzo in the boiling salted water according to the package instructions or until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
  • Toast the pine nuts (optional). In a small skillet set over medium heat, add ¼ cup pine nuts. Stir or toss until the nuts are fragrant and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stay nearby and stir frequently, as nuts can go from toasted to burnt in the time it takes to wash your hands.

Mix, Stuff, & Serve

  • Mix the stuffing. In a medium bowl, combine the drained orzo, 1 cup of cooked (or canned) chickpeas, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1 minced shallot, ¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives, and the toasted pine nuts (if using). Drizzle with ⅓ cup of the basil vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and add more of the vinaigrette to your liking.close up of vegetarian filling for stuffed peppers in a bowl with orzo, chickpeas, olives, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Stuff and serve. When the peppers are tender, remove them from your oven and transfer to a serving platter. Spoon the orzo mixture into each pepper half. Sprinkle with feta and serve.
close up of stuffed bell pepper with orzo and chickpea filling.

How to Store Leftover Stuffed Peppers

Leftover vegetarian stuffed peppers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you have leftover filling, that will also keep for 4 days. Serve leftovers at room temperature.

Leftover vinaigrette will keep for up to 4 days as well. Drizzle it over: 

  • Salad: I especially enjoy it in grain or pasta salads, like couscous salad or farro salad, because they can absorb the dressing’s big flavor easily. Or punch up vegetable, lettuce, or even fruit salad, like roasted asparagus salad, cucumber salad, green bean salad, or watermelon salad. 
  • As a condiment: This basil and white wine vinaigrette can also be used as a zippy sauce, perfect to dress up some flaky grilled salmon, a whole baked fish, and lemon garlic drumsticks. 
  • For roast vegetables: I even sometimes pour a little over warm roasted vegetables and boiled potatoes. 
vegetarian stuffed peppers on a blue and white plate with a fork. A glass container of basil vinaigrette is in the background.

What to Serve with Stuffed Peppers

I happily serve these vegetarian stuffed peppers as a meatless main – thanks to the orzo and chickpeas, they are plenty satisfying all on their own. Or, for a bit of crunch, I sometimes add a quick salad on the side like parmesan lettuce salad or a lemony arugula salad and call it dinner.

But if I’m cooking for a larger group, I treat these stuffed peppers as a show-stopping side dish.. Serve with a protein, like Mediterranean Poached Halibut or this Italian-Style Skillet Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Tomatoes.

Swaps and Substitutions 

This recipe lends itself very well to customization. Here are some ways you can mix it up: 

  • Don’t like bell peppers? You can core and stuff large tomatoes and small zucchini. Or, omit the bell peppers altogether and just make the orzo mixture to serve as a side. 
  • Try different nuts: Use toasted slivered almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts instead of pine nuts. 
  • Make it gluten free: Swap out the orzo with rice (this is great if you need a gluten free option).
  • Make it vegan: To make this recipe vegan, simply leave out the feta cheese. 

More Mahshi! Stuffed Vegetable Recipes

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Cover for cookbook
  • Make the basil vinaigrette. If you haven’t done so already, prepare the basil vinaigrette according to this recipe.
  • Get ready. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Brush a large baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil.

  • Roast the peppers. Brush the peppers generously on all sides with olive oil and arrange them in the prepared baking dish with the cut side facing up. Season with the oregano, salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

  • Cook the orzo. Cook the orzo in the boiling salted water according to the package instructions or until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well.

  • Toast the pine nuts (optional). In a small skillet set over medium heat, add the pine nuts. Stir or toss until the nuts are fragrant and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stay nearby and stir frequently, as nuts can go from toasted to burnt in the time it takes to wash your hands.

  • Mix the stuffing. In a medium bowl, combine the drained orzo, chickpeas, tomatoes, shallot, olives, and toasted pine nuts (if using). Drizzle with the ⅓ cup of basil vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and add more of the vinaigrette to your liking.

  • Stuff and serve. When the peppers are tender, remove them from your oven and transfer to a serving platter. Spoon the orzo mixture into each pepper half. Sprinkle with feta and serve.

Calories: 141.6kcalCarbohydrates: 17.8gProtein: 4.9gFat: 6.3gSaturated Fat: 1.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.7gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.6gCholesterol: 4.5mgSodium: 231.7mgPotassium: 249.4mgFiber: 3.2gSugar: 3.2gVitamin A: 346.1IUVitamin C: 51.7mgCalcium: 53mgIron: 1.4mg