Old fashioned stuffed bell peppers were a staple in our family when I was a kid and they find the way onto my family’s table now. They are an inexpensive comfort food that can be made in the oven, crockpot, or top of stove. There are a lot of variations but here is how I like them.
Stuffed peppers were a year ’round meal in our house. My parents had both reached their teen years during the Great Depression (ever wonder what was so great about it?) and both being from small farms in the extremely fertile “thumb” of Michigan they were both avid gardeners. I honestly think this was the only thing that they had in common.
Farm families had it quite a bit better than those in the cities because the were used to producing their own food. They didn’t eat much meat and when they did it was stretched by the addition of lots and lots of starches and vegetables. So, stuffed peppers became something my mom remembered from her childhood and she passed that down to me. I, of course, have passed that on to my kids.
In the summer the big, sun warmed green peppers would be picked and brought in from the garden, The would get a quick rinse – mom and dad were both organic gardeners well before it was popular – and then a whole pepper would be cleaned and filled with a rice, onion, tomato, and meat mixture. In the winter? It would be the peppers from the grocers or garden peppers from the freezer, all ready stuffed and ready to be warmed up.
Needless to say, the house would fill with the spicy, garden-y, summer aroma of peppers and tomatoes and pure yum. There was no way I would ever be late for dinner on those days.
The ratio of meat to rice would be quite low because, to my mom, this was food meant to take a half a pound of meat and make it feed an entire family. Although my dad did very well financially she never lost that mindset that half a pound of ground beef could feed eight people if you added enough rice and stuffed the mixture into a vegetable.
Stuffed peppers can be made and frozen, they can be made in a crockpot, they can be baked, or they can be simmered tightly covered in a pan. You can add as little or as much meat as you have the budget for. You can use ground lamb, ground pork, ground beef, or a mixture of all of them. You can use walnuts in place of the meat to make it vegetarian. When you think of this dish think of the word, flexible.
Since Stuffed Bell Peppers has meat, starch, and vegetable in it the menu used to be a headache for me. If your family isn’t very hungry all you need are the peppers and maybe a whole grain baguette. If you need a little more add sliced cucumber salad and some apples sauteed in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Perfect!
My mom used to make it with a can of tomato soup. I prefer to use diced organic tomatoes in the rice and meat mixture. It is just lighter, more flavorful, and more natural than what mom used. If you want to use tomato soup in it read the notes at the bottom of the recipe.
I’ve made a few other changes just to update this comfort food from my childhood.
Stuffed Bell Peppers Recipe
Old Fashioned Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 8 bell peppers , cleaned and seeds removed
- 1 1/2 lb ground beef
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 1/4 cup finely minced onion
- 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno , optional
- 1 cup diced tomatoes in juice ,
- 1/2 cup V-8 juice
- 1 tbs fresh mint or basil , chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pepper to taste
- about 1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Brown the ground beef in a skillet with the onion and jalapeno (if using)
- Drain well, blotting away excess fat
- Add cooked rice, beef mixture, tomatoes, mint,lemon peel, salt and pepper to a bowl
- If you want the filling to be more compact you can add a beaten egg to the rice mixture before stuffing peppers
- Mix well
- You can stuff the peppers one of two ways, either cut them in half vertically and stuff each half or just cut the tops off and stuff the whole thing upright.
- Fill the cavity of the peppers with the rice mixture, don't pack it too tight
- Place the peppers upright in a baking pan, for halves place them with the filling mounded upwards
- Pour 1/2 cup V-8 juice around the peppers - it should come just a little way up the sides but not cover the halves
- Cover pan with foil
- Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes
- Let cool slightly before serving
- Use the whole peppers stuffed. Place in the crockpot upright and pour 1/4 cup of V-8 in the crockpot. Cook on low for 6 hours.