This classic recipe has been a family favorite for decades! No tomato sauce; V-8 juice is used instead. You won't believe the difference in flavor!!
Table of Contents
🗝️ Key takeaways
- Stuffed bell peppers are a hearty, inexpensive meal that can easily be made ahead or frozen for another time.
- This easy recipe is great for making on the weekends and warming up as needed during those weeks when everyone is on a different time schedule.
- Stuffed peppers freeze like a charm. Be sure to read the storage section for details.
The ground meat and rice mixture is stuffed inside of the colorful veggie. You get every food group in one simple dish—no sides required!
Wondering what to serve with your peppers? Check out these 49 ideas for what to serve with cabbage rolls. They'll all work here, too!
This is an overview of the ingredients. You'll find the full measurements and instructions in the green recipe card (printable) at the bottom of the page.
🍅 What can I substitute for the tomato sauce?
Although this is a stuffed pepper recipe with no tomato sauce, the classic recipe (when cooked the original way) does call for it.
Here are some tomato sauce substitutes:
- Condensed tomato soup
- Tomato juice
- Plain or lightly seasoned spaghetti sauce
- Marinara sauce
- Tomato puree
- Stewed tomatoes - try my homemade recipe!
- A mixture of one part tomato paste to one part water
- Pizza sauce
The best substitute for a fresh and flavorful stuffed bell pepper is V-8 juice!
That's what we'll use in today's recipe. The whole family will love this subtle, modern upgrade.
The best part about this easy stuffed peppers recipe is how you can customize it! These ideas are only the beginning—adjust according to your personal preferences.
- Mix up your meat. Try ground turkey, ground pork, ground chicken, lamb, venison, game, or Italian sausage. Alternatively, go meat-free with a vegetarian option like Beyond Beef.
- Swap the starch. Classic white rice is great, but you can also try Minute rice, brown rice, quinoa, or go low-carb with cauliflower rice.
- Have fun with flavor. If you like it, add some red or black pepper, a pinch of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, or a dash of hot sauce. Some families love to add a small spoonful of brown sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes (helpful for picky eaters!) Taste test the cooked ground beef mixture before filling the peppers and adjust as you'd like.
- Cook in the Crockpot. Prepare stuffed peppers as directed. Place them upright in the crockpot and add ¼ cup of V-8 around the peppers. Set the slow cooker to low for 5-6 hours.
- Simmer on the stove. Halve the peppers, then fill them open-face style. Next, place the peppers in a large pan and add the V-8 juice to cover the bottom by about an inch. Cover tightly and simmer for 45 minutes. Add more juice if needed.
- Keep it classic. If you want to try stuffed bell peppers the way I grew up eating them, replace the tomatoes and V-8 with ½ of a can of condensed tomato soup. Then, mix the remaining ½ can of soup with one teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and spoon it over the peppers with about ten minutes of cook time to go.
- Cheese it. I don't care for cheese on my stuffed peppers but lots of people do. If that's you just add your favorite shredded cheese to the top about 10 minutes before the peppers are done.
Try this super easy stuffed pepper casserole!
This is an overview of the instructions. Full instructions are in the green recipe card at the bottom of the page.
- Brown lean ground beef with onion in a large skillet.
- In a large bowl, mix together the meat, rice, tomatoes, and seasonings.
- Fill each of the red bell peppers and pour V-8 juice into the bottom of the baking dish.
- Bake and enjoy.
🥫 How to store stuffed peppers
When it comes to storage this recipe is one of the best for family meal prep!
You can store leftover stuffed bell peppers in the refrigerator for three to five days. Cover with plastic wrap or put in an airtight container.
You can freeze stuffed peppers for up to 6 months. This makes them great for meal prepping.
- Cut the peppers as instructed in the recipe card.
- Add to a casserole dish and cover with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil.
- Label and date.
Pull them out the night before you're ready to bake them. Thaw in the refrigerator until it's time to bake. Uncover, and continue with steps 10- 13.
Have leftovers? Here's what to do.
- Let the stuffed peppers cool to room temperature.
- Wrap individual peppers in plastic wrap then carefully place in an airtight container or larger freezer bag like a Ziploc.
- Label and date.
Thaw peppers in the refrigerator overnight before you reheat them.
Place refrigerated bell peppers into an oven-safe casserole dish. Then, heat at 350 degrees F until warmed through (165F).
Check the center of the pepper with an instant-read thermometer for accurate temperature. It should be 165F degrees.
For a quick option, you can reheat individual peppers in the microwave.
💭 Things to know
Expert Tip: To keep the peppers upright during baking, try to buy the kind with four points on the bottom. If you have a stubborn pepper that just won't stay standing up, you can make a tin foil ball and use it to prop up the pepper. You can take a thin slice off the bottom.
- Spray the casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray so the peppers don't stick.
- Be sure to use cooked rice in this recipe! Raw rice won't work.
- If you like your peppers very soft (rather than crisp-tender) parboil them in the microwave. Place the peppers in a microwave-safe dish, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and fill the dish with no more than a cup of water. Heat for four to five minutes. Then, stuff peppers and bake as directed.
- I use lean beef (90/10) in this recipe. If you are using a fattier blend of ground beef then be sure to drain off the extra fat and pat with paper towels.
- Don't waste a thing! Chop the tops of the peppers (the part you removed) and add to the meat while cooking. Extra flavor!
Sure, any color of bell pepper will work. Red peppers are the sweetest, then orange and yellow. Green peppers are the least sweet, but if you like them, go for it!
Absolutely! Prepare the bell peppers as directed, cover, and refrigerate for up to three days. You can also freeze the peppers before cooking and save the meal for up to three months. It makes a great freezer meal for a friend in need!
Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Bake as directed - you may need a few extra minutes.
Not with my method! In my recipe the peppers are stuffed raw. The casserole dish is covered with aluminum foil during baking. This allows the bell peppers to steam to perfection!
Yes. The ground beef needs to be thoroughly cooked before mixing it with the rice and stuffing the peppers.
Yes. Just follow the recipe through step 8. Place the peppers upright in your slow cooker. Add the V-8 juice as called for in the recipe. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours until tender.
📚 Related recipes
- How do you make anything better? Bacon. These Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf Stuffed Peppers combine everyone's favorite comfort foods.
- When you're craving stuffed peppers but don't want any prep, just throw all the ingredients in your slow cooker for yummy Stuffed Pepper Soup!
🍽️ Serve with...
This really is a complete meal in one dish but a crispy side salad or some southern green beans work really well to round it out. I like this rustic bread served alongside it to help get all of the tomato-y goodness.
My family loves sweets so we have dessert often. My pick for this meal is an easy banana pudding pie!
📞 The last word
Stuffed peppers are high on my list of comfort foods. A tomato-y beef and rice mixture is stuffed into green peppers.
Bake in the oven until the house smells like you want to chew on the walls and your stomach is turning somersaults in anticipation.
It's a gloriously easy meal that your wallet will thank you for.
If you click on the number of servings in the recipe card you can adjust the measurements up or down for the exact number of servings you need.
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Old Fashioned Stuffed Bell PeppersPrint Pin Recipe Save Recipe
- 8 bell peppers, cleaned and seeds removed
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- 2 cups cooked rice
- ¼ cup finely minced onion
- 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno, optional
- 1 cup tomatoes , canned, diced
- ½ cup V-8 juice
- 1 tablespoons fresh mint or basil, chopped - optional
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- pepper to taste
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- 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 ½ 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 ¼ cup of V-8 in the crockpot. Cook on low for 6 hours.
For Top of the Stove
- Use the halves. Place filled pepper halves in a large pan and add V-8 to cover the bottom of the pan by an inch. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until done, adding more juice as needed.
- My mom used to make it with a can of condensed tomato soup. I prefer to use diced 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.
- Use ground beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, venison, game, or leave the meat out and go vegan. Mom said in the Depression they made them with chopped walnuts sometimes.
- To make in a slow cooker just put about ¼ cup V-8 juice or water in the bottom of the slow cooker and add the peppers. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- To make in a dutch oven you'll add liquid to the bottom of the pan, add your green peppers, cover, and simmer for about an hour.
- Top each pepper with a spoonful of tomato sauce or tomato soup about 15 minutes before they're ready to come out of the oven.
- You can assemble these ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before cooking.
- You can make these ahead of time and freeze for up to 6 months.
Nutrition information is estimated as a courtesy. If using for medical purposes, please verify information using your own nutritional calculator. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Originally published August 7, 2012. Last updated October 20, 2023, for editorial improvements.