If you are running out of meat-free meal ideas, this is a great choice to add to your dinner options. These vegetarian mushroom stuffed peppers are gluten-free and full of healthy things, but also have just enough melty cheese that everyone will ask for them again and again.
This time of year, with the markets full of peppers, stuffed peppers always seem like a great dinner idea. But sometimes the basics of meat, rice, and cheese can get a bit boring. The good news is that you can stuff pretty much anything in a pepper!
I have really fond memories of my mother making her meat stuffed peppers every summer and fall. So when I saw all the beautiful bell peppers – in all their amazing colors – show up at the farmer’s market, I just had to make my own. And since my family has been reducing our meat consumption to be a bit healthier, I thought it was the perfect time to experiment with a vegetarian version.
When I was selecting grains to pair with the mushrooms for this recipe, I wanted to go with something really dense in nutrients. I selected quinoa because it is so high in protein and vitamins. And I also LOVE this pseudocereal. Patties, salads, muffins, I use it everywhere.
With the addition of mushrooms, that means these stuffed peppers have a large serving of protein, even without meat. Plus, I just really like the nutty and chewy flavor of quinoa. If you haven’t tried it yet, I really encourage you to do so.
How to select a bell pepper
While bell peppers are available at most stores year-round, you are definitely going to find the best ones in late summer and early fall. When harvested in season, peppers are sweet, flavorful, and crisp. The sweet bite goes perfectly with the nutty quinoa and almonds of this stuffed pepper recipe. In the off-season, I find they can get a bit watery and just don’t have quite the same delicious flavor.
Whether you are getting your peppers from the farmer’s market or grocery store, you always want to make sure you select the best ones. To select the perfect bell pepper that will be flavorful and not go bad too quickly you should follow these tricks:
- Pick up the pepper and turn it around, examining every side for soft spots, cracks, or wrinkles. Ones with soft spots will go bad quickly or may already be rotting inside.
- Also avoid ones with yellow or brown sun-burnt patches. Those peppers won’t last as long.
- Choose peppers that are very heavy for their size. These will have the most flesh and the fewest seeds.
- Select peppers with a dark red (or orange) color. Darker peppers will be more flavorful. It’s ok if your bell pepper has a few green areas.
Of course, if you are selecting peppers to make stuffed peppers with, you also want to think about the shape. For this recipe, you want both halves to sit in the baking pan without falling over. So select peppers that have two flat-ish sides opposite each other. It is ok if they are not perfect, but the flatter they are, the easier they will be to fill.
Using other peppers
If you are lucky enough to live in an area where lots of varieties of peppers are grown, you can absolutely use some of the less common ones. This recipe works with any type of mild, sweet pepper. Gypsy peppers are good choice and pair beautifully with mushrooms and cheese.
You just might need a few more of the smaller varieties to fit all the filling. Or you can select smaller peppers and make 2-3 bite vegetarian appetizers for a small gathering like these mini cream cheese stuffed peppers. Smaller peppers will need a little less baking time. No matter what pepper you chose, these mushroom stuffed peppers are one of those amazing meals to have in your supper rotation year-round (though I really recommend trying it with freshly harvested bell peppers). Vegetarian and gluten-free, it still has a solid serving for protein from the mushrooms and quinoa (not to mention the cheese). This stuffed pepper meal is the perfect example of how healthy things can be tasty too.
Quinoa and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers
- 4 small bell peppers , halved and seeded
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 3 tbsp olive oil , divided
- 1 lb (450g) cremini mushrooms , finely chopped
- 1 onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 14.5 oz can (450g) diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme , leaves only
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and onion, and cook, stirring, until softened and all the moisture has disappeared (about 10 minutes).
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the canned tomatoes, thyme, salt, and black pepper. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes more.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked quinoa, Parmesan cheese, almonds, and parsley.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Place the pepper halves, cut sides up, in a large baking dish. Spoon the mushroom quinoa mixture into the peppers, mounding if necessary. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and lemon juice.
- Cover with foil and bake for about 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until the peppers reach your desired level of tenderness.
- Uncover, top with the shredded mozzarella cheese, and bake for 5-10 minutes more until the cheese has melted.