I have made variations on these Turkish stuffed peppers for years. While the recipe I give here includes meat, I often omit it, and the peppers are still 100% delicious without. I have no hesitation about posting this as a vegetarian recipe.
Mound any extra stuffing that doesn’t fit in a pepper in a hollowed-out zucchini, or heap it on a slice of eggplant, or simply eat it as a treat. You’ll find that as you go along, the stuffing will resemble trail mix – keep going, don’t worry, this isn’t gorp-in-a-pepper.
Also, don’t let the large ingredient list stop you. Yes, there are a lot of spices and seasonings, and every one of them contributes to the delicious flavor. Be brave, and use all the spices listed here. You might like to increase the Aleppo pepper, if you wish a slightly spicy rendition.
I like to use a blend of blend of brown and wild rice in these Turkish stuffed peppers; you should feel free to use whatever rice you prefer.
The peppers may be served hot, or at room temperature: they are very flexible.
Turkish Stuffed Peppers
- 2 cups cooked rice, cooled
- 6 bell peppers, any color you prefer
- ¾ lb ground lamb or beef (OPTIONAL)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 1 large onion, diced finely
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
- salt & freshly ground pepper
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 1 cup roasted cashews, chopped
- 1 cup raisins or currants
- 1 cup chopped dried apricots
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves (divided)
- ½ tsp Aleppo pepper
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or canned
- 2 fresh tomatoes
- extra olive oil, lemon juice, and mint, for garnish
PREPARE OVEN, BAKING DISH, AND PEPPERS
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a baking dish that will hold all the peppers easily. Ideally, the dish will be as deep as the peppers are tall.
- Cut off the tops of the peppers for stuffing, and remove the seeds and ribs. If needed, cut a very thin slice off the bottom so they’ll stand up without leaning. Put the peppers in the baking dish.
- Put the cold cooked rice in a large bowl, and stir it well to separate the grains.
IF USING MEAT, COOK IT, AND RESERVE
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over moderate heat. If using meat, Add the ground meat, breaking it up. Brown the meat, stirring well, and when it is cooked, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Pour off the accumulated fat, and discard it.
COOK ONIONS, ASSEMBLE STUFFING
- In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil, and sauté the onions and half the garlic. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and allspice; stir well, and cook not quite a minute, just until the fragrance blooms. Add the chopped cashews, dried fruits, and 1/4 cup of the mint. Cook about 5 more minutes, until very fragrant. Remove from heat.
- Add this fruit and nut mixture to the bowl of rice. If you’re using meat, add the cooked and drained meat to the bowl as well. Stir well to combine. Add remaining mint, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper, and taste this mixture. Adjust seasoning as seems good to you: the spices should taste balanced, you should definitely notice lemon, cinnamon, and mint.
STUFF PEPPERS, MAKE TOMATO HATS, AND BAKE
- Divide the stuffing mixture among the 6 peppers, pressing down to pack it well. Pour about half of the tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers.
- Slice the sides of the tomatoes to get six curved ‘hats’, and put one of these tomato slices on top of each pepper. Add 1/2 cup water to the remaining tomato sauce, stir briefly, and pour that around the peppers into the bottom of the baking dish.
- Bake, uncovered, about 45 minutes. Baste the peppers with the sauce once or twice. While the peppers cook, if the pan seems to be drying out, simply add a little more water to the bottom
- Serve the peppers hot or at room temperature. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and garnish with more fresh mint leaves.