My mom is the queen of stuffed bell peppers. Her peppers have been well-known within our extended family, and frequently requested by friends and family when they visit. What I am saying is that stuffed bell peppers should be in my DNA, but it took me years to transform what I learned in my mom’s kitchen to a dish that will be a crowd pleaser.
The first major breakthrough in my pursuit to a perfect stuffed bell pepper recipe came when I realized that cutting the peppers in half lengthwise makes my life so much easier than cutting just the top off. Cutting peppers lengthwise makes cleaning out the seeds and the spines a breeze, plus helps distribute the stuffing and helps the stuffing stay put. It also helps peppers cook faster. Another thing that I found through many round of experimentation is that it helps if you pre-cooks peppers just a bit before stuffing them. I tried parboiling and it helps but it changes the flavor of peppers in a direction that I don’t really like. So, I recommend par-roasting, which means letting your peppers roast for 10-15 minutes, until they just start to soften and get browned on the surface. This is a great way to jump start cooking your papers and add some flavor.
The second breakthrough came when I discovered that the stuffing does not need to include a starch component. You can have lovely stuffed bell peppers without filling them with rice, or potatoes, or quinoa, or barley, or any of that stuff. I am not saying these are bad things to use, but most recipe use them as space fillers more than anything else. But for me in this recipe, a mix of yellow onion, red onion, white mushrooms, and baby bella (crimini) mushrooms. One tip here is to chop all these to pretty small pieces so that they match the size of ground meat chunks you would usually find in a stuffed bell pepper recipe. Another tip: for a recipe like this you can use both the mushroom tops and stems, and minimize the waste!
This brings me to my most recent breakthrough: vegan substitute for ground meat. I followed this recipe I found on Glow Kitchen, with only one modifications – I did not add olive oil and used cooking spray on my baking sheet instead. The recipe produces amazing ground beef substitute and uses tofu and a handful of pantry staples. The prep time is a bit on a longer side, as it takes about 1 hour in the oven with frequent stirring, but it is worth it!!! I think you will love this so much that I recommend doubling the recipe right off the bat.
Finally, I did use some vegan cheese to top the stuffed peppers, but you can definitely skip that step or top them with fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley. Or both!
Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Beef Substitute
What you’ll need:
4 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, green – any color will do)
8 oz. (225 g) white mushrooms, finely diced
8 oz. (225g) baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 red red onion, finely diced
1 batch of Vegan Substitute for Ground “Beef”
15 oz. (425 g) crushed tomatoes, can
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup vegan cheese, shredded
What you’ll do:
- Prepare the ground beef substitute according to instructions here. You can make this a day ahead, which is what I did. Also, you can use any store bought ground beef substitute you like.
- Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
- Wash and dry the peppers, then cut lengthwise and clean out the seeds and spines. Put them into a roasting pan and spray gently with cooking spray. Par-roast for 15 minutes or so. Take them out of the oven and remove any liquid that peppers released during roasting. Set aside.
- Lower the oven temperature to 350 F (175 C).
- Sauté onions and mushrooms on medium heat with a bit of cooking spray for 5-8 minutes. Stir in beef substitute and sauté for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and mix in smoked paprika. Your stuffing is ready for the next step!
- Pour the can of crushed tomatoes into your baking dish. Place par-roasted peppers in, and fill them with the stuffing. Cover the baking dish with foil and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top and let it melt which will take another 5 minutes. And that is it. You are ready to enjoy!
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017
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