Stuffed Pepper Casserole
Some nights I have my act together. Most nights I make this Stuffed Pepper Casserole. Free-form and easy-going, this recipe takes the classic flavors and ingredients of stuffed peppers, then turns them into cheesy, healthy comfort food that cooks in one pot. “Unstuffed pepper casserole” would be a fitting name for it too.
A forever fan of all-in-one meals—meaning single recipes that provide servings of lean protein, whole grains, AND vegetables alike, so you don’t have to fuss with a side if you aren’t in the mood—my love of stuffed vegetable recipes is well-documented here.
Let’s take stuffed peppers. I have a version for every mood!
Stuffed Peppers For When You’re Feeling Polished: Mexican Stuffed Peppers; Italian Stuffed Peppers; Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. These recipes are easy, healthy, and tie the total dinner package with a tidy, knife-and-fork, bell pepper bow.
Stuffed Peppers For When You’ve Planned Ahead. Crockpot Stuffed Peppers. Prep them a few hours in advance, and dinner is ready to go when you are.
Stuffed Peppers For When You’re Barely Holding It Together. THIS IS THAT RECIPE.
Think of this casserole as stuffed peppers, deconstructed—a very fancy way of saying, these are stuffed peppers for last-minute people who are in need of easy recipes.
A mix of ground turkey (or ground beef), red and green bell peppers, brown rice, cheese, and a few sneaky extra vegetables that no one will complain about and you’ll feel happy you included, this recipe tastes like a stuffed pepper, no actual stuffing required.
Instead of stuffing the filling into the peppers, the bell peppers here are sliced, sautéed, then mixed with the other ingredients.
The rice cooks in the same skillet too. You don’t need to make it in advance, and it will be perfectly tender when the casserole is complete.
This recipe is a cross between the assorted classic stuffed pepper recipes on my site (see above) and this reader favorite Sausage and Rice Casserole, with an extra ooey-gooey, casserole comfort factor added for good measure/general happiness.
The cheesy stuffed pepper casserole yields a generous amount, and the leftovers are easy to pack for lunch and reheat for fast dinners. I have storage tips for you below. Make it once, and your future self will thank you for the rest of the week!
How to Make the Best Stuffed Pepper Casserole
Fresh ingredients and pantry staples combine to create one serious skillet.
- Ground Turkey. To make this a lean and healthy stuffed pepper casserole, I used ground turkey. You could also use ground chicken or lean ground beef.
- Vegetables. The more the merrier for this nutrient-packed dish! I used a combination of onion, green and red bell peppers, and frozen spinach. The frozen spinach is especially sneaky. It’s so mild, you can barely taste it.
- Spices. As with all my stuffed pepper recipes, there’s oodles of flavor to be found. I used Italian seasoning for zest and cumin for warmth. The combination might sound a bit odd at first, but here it works magnificently.
- Diced Tomatoes + Tomato Sauce. Fire roasted diced tomatoes and tomato sauce do double duty give the casserole excellent flavor and provide cooking liquid for the rice.
- Worcestershire Sauce. The savory, umami factor.
- Brown Rice. Brown rice is a staple in my house, and it’s good for you too! Because brown rice is a whole grain, it’s higher in fiber, protein, and nutrients than regular white rice. (See below for tips on how to make this a low carb casserole using cauliflower rice instead).
- Cheese. I love the blend of cheddar and pepper jack cheese here. They’re bold and pair perfectly with the other flavors. If you prefer a more mild flavor, use Monterey jack, mozzarella, or cheddar only.
- Toppings. I like to top my casserole with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for freshness and Greek yogurt for creaminess. In a hurry? You can skip the toppings. The casserole will still be delish.
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven or great big skillet, then add the turkey and onion. Cook until browned, breaking the meat apart.
- Add the spices and garlic, cooking until fragrant. Then, add the spinach. Add the peppers, water, tomatoes and tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and rice. Stir to combine.
- Bring everything to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Then, uncover, stir, and recover. Let simmer until the rice is tender. Sprinkle cheese on top.
- Let the casserole sit a few minutes, until the cheese is melted. Add fresh cilantro or parsley, and serve warm. ENJOY!
- To Make Vegetarian. Swap the ground turkey for 2 (15-ounce) cans of reduced sodium white beans. Stir in the beans after the spinach in Step 3. (Or try these Vegan Stuffed Peppers.)
- To Make Gluten Free. No changes needed! This recipe is naturally gluten free as written.
- To Make Low Carb – Use Cauliflower Rice. You can experiment with making this stuffed pepper casserole with cauliflower rice. I would suggest omitting the tomato sauce and water, as they won’t be needed. Drain the diced tomatoes and add them with the spices and bell peppers in Step 2 (wait to add the spinach). Sauté the vegetables until the peppers are tender and the tomato liquid has cooked off. Add the spinach, then cauliflower rice and stir to warm through. Add the cheese and dig in!
What to Serve with Stuffed Pepper Casserole
While this is a wonderful all-in-one meal, here are a few ideas of what else you could serve with it:
- Vegetables. Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, Sautéed Cabbage, Roasted Butternut Squash, or Crock Pot Honey Carrots would all be excellent options to serve with this casserole.
- Cornbread. Serve Mexican Cornbread or Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread as a filling, crowd-pleasing side dish.
- Salad. For a fresh and light side, try either this Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad or Caesar Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Crispy Chickpea Croutons.
Make Ahead, Storage, and Freezer Tips
- To Store. Place leftover casserole in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat the casserole in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until hot. You can also rewarm this casserole in the microwave until warmed through.
- To Freeze. Store leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- To Make Ahead. To make this dish ahead, chop all the fresh veggies and brown the meat. Store them in the refrigerator in separate containers until you’re ready to prepare the casserole. You can also place your bag of frozen spinach in the refrigerator to thaw the night before.
So, are you waiting for me to confess which stuffed pepper recipe iteration is my favorite? It truly does depend on my mood (and let’s be honest—my level of dinner preparation that day!).
I can say that on any day when you’re in the marketing for a healthy dinner that comforts and mostly takes care of itself on the stove, this stuffed pepper recipe is hard to beat.
If you try this recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below. It makes my day to hear from you and keeps me going to know that you enjoy these recipes!
Stuffed Pepper Casserole
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground turkey - or ground chicken or lean ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 3 cloves garlic - minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 12 ounces frozen chopped spinach - thawed with as much water squeezed out as possible
- 1 red bell pepper - cored and diced
- 1 green bell peppers - cored and diced
- 2 cups water
- 1 can 15-ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes in their juices
- 1 8-ounce can no salt added tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice - rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese - use Monterey jack or mozzarella for a more mild flavor; or swap in additional cheddar
- For serving: chopped fresh cilantro or parsley; Greek yogurt
- In a Dutch oven or similar deep, sturdy pot, heat the oil over medium high. Add the turkey and onion. With a wooden spoon or spatula, break the meat into small pieces. Cook and stir until it is browned and fully cooked through and the onion is tender, about 7 minutes.
- Add the Italian seasoning, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spinach. With a fork (or very carefully with your fingers) break apart the clumps so it's fairly evenly distributed with the meat. Add red and green bell peppers, water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and rice. Stir to evenly combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and let cook 30 minutes. Uncover and stir, scraping up any rice that is beginning to stick. Recover and continue to simmer until the rice is tender, about 10 to 15 additional minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Uncover and stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Don’t worry if it’s still a little liquidy. It will continue to thicken and the liquid will further absorb as it sits. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, then recover.
- Let sit off the heat 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted, the rice is tender (it will still have a little bit of chew, which is normal for brown rice, but it should not be crunchy). If you'd like the top golden, place the dish, uncovered, under the broiler for a minute or two (watch carefully to ensure the top does not burn). Serve warm, sprinkled with fresh cilantro or parsley.
- TO STORE: Place leftover casserole in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat the casserole in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until hot. You can also rewarm this casserole in the microwave until warmed through.
- TO FREEZE: Store leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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