This twist on Italian stuffed peppers swaps the traditional beef and rice filling for a mouthwatering mix of ground pork, bulgur, aromatics, and Italian-inspired seasonings. Enjoy them as a wholesome and flavorful weeknight dinner or make-ahead meal!
Stuffed peppers are a favorite for dinner in my house because they’re easy to make and fill with all kinds of flavor-packed ingredients.
My healthy stuffed peppers keep it classic with the traditional ground beef and white rice, while these Italian stuffed peppers have a more wholesome twist! It’s also a great way to keep things interesting because my family loves plenty of variety.
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Why this recipe works
- Easy for all home cooks. Like stuffed tomatoes, making these stuffed peppers is foolproof whether you’re a seasoned home cook or a beginner!
- Balanced and flavorful dish. Thanks to the wholesome and flavor-packed ingredients, the peppers are loaded with protein and fiber. One stuffed pepper should be enough to fill you up.
- Incredibly flexible! I have a family of fussy eaters, and stuffed peppers are one of the most versatile dinners I can make. It’s easy to change up the ingredients or leave something out without sacrificing taste! I can even use the leftovers to make a stuffed pepper soup.
- A family meal you can make ahead. I typically double batch this recipe and keep one in the freezer for a weeknight dinner. They thaw and reheat beautifully, and, like a stew or curry, the flavors taste even better.
This Italian stuffed peppers recipe uses simple and easy-to-find ingredients and kitchen staples. Here is what it calls for:
- Bell peppers. Try to find even-sized large bell peppers. I used red bell peppers, but feel free to use orange, yellow, and/or green peppers.
- Olive oil. To prevent the filling mixture from sticking to the skillet.
- Onion and garlic. This aromatic duo gives the filling a base of deep, savory flavors.
- Ground pork. The main protein in this stuffed pepper recipe. Because of the other ingredients used, I like to use lean ground pork because it doesn’t seep out too much liquid. If you use a higher-fat pork, mop up any excess moisture.
- Italian seasoning. A one-stop shop for perfectly balanced Italian-inspired flavor.
- Salt and black pepper. To taste.
- Bulgur. Stuffed peppers are typically made with rice, but bulgur is a more nutritious option and my family love the chewy texture of it.
- Parmesan. This classic Italian ingredient gives the filling a salty and cheesy flavor.
- Canned chopped tomatoes. To enhance the umami element while adding moisture to the filling.
- Mozzarella cheese. For the topping.
How to make Italian stuffed peppers
For such a fancy looking dish, you’ll love how hands-off and simple it is to whip them up.
Prep the peppers: Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and membrane. Place them in a baking dish, cut side up.
Saute the aromatics: Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Make the filling: Add the ground pork to the skillet and cook until it’s no longer pink and begins browning. Stir in the spices and bulgur, followed by the parmesan and tomatoes.
Assemble, bake, and serve: Spoon the filling into the peppers, then bake.
Add cheese and broil: Take them out of the oven and top each pepper with mozzarella. Continue baking until the cheese is melted, then garnish with fresh parsley or basil and enjoy!
Recipe tips and variations
Soak the bulgar: The bulgur is parboiled as it cooks with the filling, so it doesn’t technically need to be cooked ahead of time. However, I find soaking them beforehand helps cook them a little faster and also they have a chewier texture.
Don’t overfill: Don’t fill the peppers more than ⅔ to ¾ full, and arrange them in the baking dish in a snug single layer. It prevents over-spilling but also leaves plenty of room for the best part: the cheese!
Cover the dish: When I’m cooking two batches at once, I sometimes notice the top of the filling is cooking quicker than the middle. If this also happens to you, cover the baking dish with a layer of foil, then remove it when you’re ready to melt the cheese on top.
Let the peppers cool: Set the baked peppers aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes when they come out of the oven. This gives the filling time to settle and prevents it from spilling out and making a mess.
Use other ground meat: Replace the ground pork with ground beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, or veal. I sometimes even use Italian sausage which is incredibly delicious.
Add more veggies: as mentioned earlier, these peppers are easy to customize so I often use up veggie leftovers in the fridge. Zucchini and corn are both solid options, as are chopped cooked potatoes.
Change the grains: If you prefer not to use bulgur, swap it for cooked quinoa, white or brown rice, couscous, or farro. You can also cut them out completely and use cauliflower rice, like we do in our low carb stuffed peppers.
What to serve with this dish
These stuffed peppers are a hearty and filling meal on their own, but they’re also complemented well to almost anything.
Salads are always a fresh addition, whether that be some mixed greens or a simple cucumber salad.
Make ahead and storage instructions
To make ahead: Assemble the peppers without baking, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours. If you’re storing them in the freezer, wrap each assembled pepper in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge, let the peppers come to room temperature, and bake as instructed.
To store: Keep the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To freeze: Place cooled stuffed peppers in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: You can either reheat leftover stuffed peppers in the microwave or a 350°F/180°C oven until heated through.
More Italian-inspired recipes
- Lasagna with Cottage Cheese
- Chicken Parmigiana
- Pizza Bowl
- Lamb Ragu
- Chicken Piccata
- Stuffed eggplant
Frequently asked questions
Place the assembled stuffed peppers in an air fryer basket and cook at 400°F/200°C for 10 minutes, turning halfway through. You can also follow the process for making air fryer stuffed peppers.
Place the trivet into the Instant Pot and the assembled peppers on top (minus the cheese topping). Pressure cook on High for 10 minutes, then add the cheese on top. Place the lid back on top (without turning the machine on) and let the peppers sit until the cheese has melted.
Place the assembled peppers in the slow cooker with a splash of water or broth. Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
Italian Stuffed Peppers
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Lightly grease a large baking dish.
- Slice the bell pepper in half, remove the seeds, and place it in the baking dish, sliced side up.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Add garlic and cook for one minute more.
- Add the ground pork and cook until it changes color and starts browning. Add the spices followed by bulgur. Mix everything and add parmesan and tomatoes. Cook for a couple of more minutes and set aside.
- Evenly distribute the filling amongst the peppers and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Top with mozzarella cheese and cook until the cheese melts.
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