If you’ve never had Greek Stuffed Peppers (or Gemista / Yemista), you’re in for a treat! These inexpensive beef and rice stuffed peppers are packed with flavor from onions, herbs, and tomato, with plenty of olive oil. Blanching the peppers before stuffing them ensures that they’re soft, with no overpowering pepper flavor and a homogenous texture throughout. This is a wonderful make-ahead dinner (that just happens to be gluten and dairy free!).
This is my family’s recipe (with some liberties taken to make them easier) and once you try these stuffed peppers, you’ll have a hard time going back to any others. My husband, a self-proclaimed stuffed pepper hater, can’t get enough of these. Neither can my kids. Neither can I. So much yum.
Not only is the stuffing absolutely delicious (and can be used for all sorts of things!), but these peppers are light years better than other stuffed pepper recipes because of how soft the bell peppers are.
Other stuffed pepper recipes stuff raw peppers and heat in the oven until warmed up, but the peppers don’t cook enough. You’re left with a crunchy pepper with a flavor that overpowers everything else.
Not with this recipe! The halved peppers are blanched before stuffing, resulting in a super soft texture and just-enough pepper flavor.
And the best part? You can easily make these ahead of time and they’re cheap to make! Let’s get to it.
Greek Stuffed Peppers Ingredients and Substitutions
- Bell peppers – any color will do, green are usually the least expensive. You can also make these with other veggies (see FAQs below for more on this).
- Ground beef – or another ground meat, such as lamb, turkey, chicken, or vegan substitute.
- Mint – fresh or dried is fine.
- Rice – I used converted rice (Ben’s Original) but other kinds can be used, bearing in mind different timings or liquid amounts for different kinds (see FAQs below for more on this).
- Marinara sauce – I used Rao’s, any will do, or canned tomato sauce.
- Chopped tomatoes – or canned diced or crushed tomatoes, or more marinara sauce will work just fine.
- Optional Ingredients: Red wine and Romano (or other aged) cheese.
How to make Greek Stuffed Peppers (Gemista)
- First, make the stuffing. Sauté onions and parsley in a large skillet in olive oil, then add the ground beef and cook completely. Add the mint, tomatoes, wine (if using), salt, and pepper. Add water and bring to a boil, then add the rice and simmer, covered, until the rice is cooked.
- While the stuffing is cooking, blanch the peppers. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, leaving the stem for structural integrity. Remove the seeds and ribs (I use my hands or a paring knife for this). Plunge them into boiling water for 5 minutes. Spread some marinara sauce out onto a baking dish, and remove the peppers from the water to the baking dish, hollow side up.
- Stuff the peppers with the cooked stuffing, then top with some marinara sauce and some Romano cheese (if using) and drizzle the tops with some olive oil. If you’re making it ahead of time, you can put it assembled like this in your fridge at this point. When you’re ready to cook, pour a little water around the peppers in the baking dish.
- Bake the peppers and allow them to cool slightly before serving. Spoon some of the sauce from the bottom of the pan on top of the peppers, as well as on sides like rice or mashed potatoes, when serving.
Yes! The greek word Gemista refers to stuffed vegetables, not just peppers. Hollowed out tomatoes (which don’t need to be blanched first), zucchini, or stuffed cabbage is perfect for this stuffing. And the stuffing is absolutely delicious on its own as well – eat it in a bowl with crumbled feta, chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and tzatziki on top!
My family has always used converted rice (aka parboiled rice, such as Ben’s original). It’s not starchy, so it holds its shape without getting mushy, and I love the texture in this recipe. But you can use any rice you want – white, brown, or even wild. Different rices have different cooking times and liquid requirements, so keep that in mind. Arborio rice, for example, requires more liquid and more time than short grain white or basmati rice, which is the fastest to cook. To save time, grab some already cooked rice from the store!
Yes! You can freeze stuffed peppers assembled and ready to cook (either in a roasting pan or individually, for easy meals for one or two people). Defrost completely before cooking as instructed. You can also freeze them once they are already cooked. Here’s more on how to freeze stuffed peppers.
Other Bell Pepper Recipes
- Taco Stuffed Mini Peppers
- Sweet and Spicy Sausage with Peppers and Onions
- Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
Other Favorite Greek Recipes
- Avgolemono Soup (Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup)
- Greek Spinach and Rice (Spanakorizo)
- Greek Lentil Soup (Fakes)
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Greek Stuffed Peppers
- 4 large bell peppers any color, or 6 smaller peppers (I used a mix of sizes, see notes)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 yellow onion diced
- ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
- 1 lb. ground beef or lamb, turkey, or your choice of ground meat or vegan substitute
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup red wine (optional)
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes or a 15 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes, or more marinara sauce
- ½ cup converted rice, such as Ben's Original (see notes for other kinds)
- ¼ cup grated romano cheese or parmesan or Kefalotiri
- 1 ½ cups marinara sauce or canned tomato sauce
- Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds with a paring knife, leaving the stem intact. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (unless making ahead of time).
- Make the stuffing. In a large skillet, sauté the diced onion and chopped parsley (¼ cup) in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until softened and starting to brown. Add the ground beef (1 lb.) and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped fresh mint (2 tablespoons), kosher salt (1 ½ teaspoons), black pepper (½ teaspoon), red wine, if using (½ cup), and chopped tomatoes (1 cup).
- Add the converted rice (½ cup) to the skillet and stir to coat. Pour in 1 cup (see notes if using another kind of rice!) of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until rice is cooked almost completely.
- Meanwhile, go back to the bell peppers. Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the halved peppers to the water and blanch them for 5 minutes. While they are cooking, spoon ½ cup of marinara sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (or similar size). Spread out to cover the bottom. Remove the peppers with tongs and shake off any excess water and add them to the baking dish, cut side up.
- Once the stuffing is done, add it into the halved peppers. You should be able to pack a lot in there – use it all up! Spoon the rest of the marinara sauce onto the tops of each pepper and spread it out (about 2 tablespoons per pepper). Sprinkle evenly with the grated cheese, if using. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- At this point, you can bake immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours until you're ready to cook. Pour ½ cup of water into the bottom of the baking dish around the peppers. If the peppers have been in the fridge, place them on top of the oven to warm up a bit while it preheats.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes – 1 hour, depending on if they were cold from the fridge or not. Allow the peppers to cool for a few minutes before serving. The sauce at the bottom of the pan is delicious – spoon it on top of the peppers or any sides like rice or mashed potatoes that you're serving it with!
- I used bell peppers from my garden so it was a mix of sizes. Don’t worry too much about this – just use as many as will fit in your baking dish (cut in half).
- Rice: I used converted, or enriched rice (Ben’s Original). You can use any kind you want, but keep in mind, different rices have different cooking times and require different amounts of water to cook fully. Basmati or other long grain white rice takes a short time and uses less water; arborio or brown rice will take longer and require more water. Just use your best judgement here – if there is too much water, let it simmer uncovered for a while, and if there isn’t enough, just add some more!
- Other veggies: The Greek word Gemista refers to stuffed veggies, not just peppers. You can use this same stuffing mix to stuff large hollowed out tomatoes (no blanching required), zucchini, or in cabbage rolls.
- Too much stuffing? I always pack the peppers very full so I don’t have leftovers, but if you happen to, you can save it for another purpose. It’s delicious on it’s own, or in a bowl with chopped up cucumbers, some feta cheese, etc.
- Slow cooker instructions: This is a great seasonal summer recipe but heating up the oven in the summer is tough! If you prefer to cook them in the slow cooker, SKIP blanching them, follow the steps for assembling them, and place them in a crockpot instead of a baking dish. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Keep in mind- you may not be able to fit as many in a slow cooker.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools: