I am 100% sure you are going to fall head over heels for these easy Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers! They’re loaded with Italian flavors including basil, tomatoes, olives and Fontina cheese and they pack 14 grams of protein per pepper!

A closeup of a red bell stuffed peppers with kidney beans, red onion, basil and olives with melted cheese on top.

I originally shared this recipe on September 11, 2020. I have added more information and step-by-step photographs to share it with you again today.

Can I just say how excited I am about sharing these stuffed peppers with you? It’s like that time when I perfected my Minestrone soup, and I could barely wait to publish the recipe. That’s because I just KNEW that you guys would love the recipe so much! That’s what’s going on today. I cannot wait for the reviews to start coming in!

I love a meaty stuffed pepper- so don’t get me wrong. If you’ve had my Low Carb Mexican Stuffed Peppers, then you know I am all for a meat-filled stuffed pepper, but this recipe is all about a meatless meal that’s just as filling and satisfying, but with rice and beans instead! 

Using canned beans and pre-cooked rice saves a step of browning meat for the filling. Plus beans and rice help make these stuffed peppers a good source of dietary fiber at 7 grams per serving!

Stuffed bell peppers in a white casserole

What Are Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers have been a staple of American cuisine going back to the late 1800’s with a documented variation in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook

Stuffed peppers appear in a number of different world cuisines in various forms and flavors such as chile rellenos in Mexico and pimientos rellenos in Spain.

In both the Joy of Cooking and the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, versions of stuffed peppers involve par cooking the peppers and stuffing them with beef, rice and cheese and cooking them with tomato sauce.

My version of Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers today is theoretically similar, but I have swapped in canned beans for the beef to make it a meatless recipe and amped the flavors up with bold Italian inspired ingredients. 

a plate of peppers from the side on a white table

Ingredients For These Italian Stuffed Peppers

ingredients with labels
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Italian Seasoning herb blend
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 6 bell peppers, any color
  • 8-ounce package cooked brown rice or 1 ½ cups cooked brown rice
  • 14-ounce can kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (or 1-8 ounce can)
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup chopped black olives, optional
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 6 ounces Fontina cheese, grated

Notes about the spices

If you don’t have Italian Seasoning you can use 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil. The fennel mimics the flavors of Italian sausage, but without the meat, calories and fat. If you do not have fennel seed you can skip it.

I also tested this recipe using 2 teaspoons of Hot Italian Spice from Teeny Tiny Spice Company which has fennel and the herbs traditionally included in Italian Seasoning blend. Plus some red pepper which really is a nice touch if you like spice! 

What Kind Of Peppers Are Best For This Recipe

prepping bell peppers for stuffed peppers
  • Look for medium-sized firm, unwrinkled peppers. Make sure they are free from soft spots.
  • Any color of sweet bell pepper works great. I like to use a variety of colors so everyone can choose their favorite color. 
  • Look for peppers that can stand upright easily.

overhead of a platter of stuffed peppers with melted cheese and basil sprigs

Step-by-Step Directions To Make These Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

making the onions for the filling

To make the filling for the stuffed peppers, the only “pre-cooking” you have to do is of the onions and garlic. They cook so quickly after they are stuffed that otherwise the onions would be too raw and the garlic too hard. Cooking them and softening them helps to mellow out the garlic and makes the onion taste sweeter. 

Step 1

  • Simply heat the olive oil in a skillet, add in the onion and garlic and add some salt. Sauteeing the onion with salt helps them to release their liquid which will help them soften before they brown. 
  • Before you take the onion and garlic off the stove, add in the spices. I used a blend of Italian Seasoning herb blend and fennel seeds. 
  • Adding the spices to the onions and garlic in the oil allows them to wake up and will make them more flavorful. 

Step 2

Scrape the onion mixture into a mixing bowl.

prepping the peppers

Step 3

  • Cut the top off the peppers removing the stem and a small amount of edible pepper. (Save the edible portion and add to a salad.) 
  • Cut around the core and then pull out the core and seeds.
  • If the pepper doesn’t stand upright, you may have to level it by slicing a small amount off the bottom of  the pepper. Try not to cut through the bottom of the pepper though so the filling can’t fall out the bottom! 

Step 4

Just like in the Joy of Cooking, the peppers in this recipe are pre-cooked to give them a bit of a head start to soften them. To save time, I used the microwave. 

  • Place the peppers in a microwave safe casserole dish and add 1/2 cup water. Cover with parchment and then plastic wrap.
  • Microwave for 6 to 7 minutes until the peppers are softened but not collapsing.
making the filling and stuffing the peppers

Step 5

  • Combine the cooked onion, garlic and spice mixture with the beans.
  • Add in the cooked rice (I used a package of pre-cooked brown rice.)
  • Add in tomato sauce. (A small 8-ounce can is the perfect amount.)
  • Add in cherry tomatoes, olives and basil. 
  • Take the shredded Fontina cheese, and divide it visually in half (it doesn’t have to be exact.) Stir half of it into the filling. This will help the filling to stick together and give it creamier texture too.

Step 6

  • Be careful when you remove the plastic from the peppers, there may be some steam trapped in there that will try to sneak out and burn you.
  • Make sure there isn’t any water in the bottom of the peppers, just tip them out with tongs if you see any water in the bottom. It is okay if there is still water in the casserole dish. This will help them steam and cook.
  • Return/keep the peppers in the casserole dish, because they will continue cooking in the dish in the next step.
  • Use a large spoon to scoop the filling into the peppers, dividing evenly among the six hollowed-out, par-cooked peppers. 
  • Take the rest of the shredded Fontina and pile it on top of the peppers. 
finishing the stuffed peppers with garnish

Step 7

To finish the dish, simply transfer the casserole back to the microwave and cook on high power for 3 to 4 minutes. Microwave ovens vary in power so you may have to adjust the amount of cooking time up or down depending on your individual microwave oven. 

Step 8

Top the peppers with chopped red onion and more basil. Serve hot!

Stuffed peppers from the side with cheese melted over them

FAQs and Expert Tips For This Recipe

Can this recipe be made without a microwave on the stove-top or oven?

{I am one of those cooks who loves to use my microwave to reheat stuff and I use it to cook veggies too, like Spaghetti Squash.) But I realize not everyone agrees, so if you do not want to use a microwave, you can par-cook them in boiling water for 3 minutes or steam them in a steamer basket for 4 minutes.
Once the peppers are stuffed bake them in the casserole dish, uncovered at 350 degrees until the peppers are steaming hot all the way through and the cheese on top is melted, which should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Test to make sure the filling is hot with an instant-read thermometer. 

How do you make stuffed peppers not watery?

Steaming the peppers (opposed to boiling) helps them retain their shape and prevents them from becoming mushy or watery. Serve them with a slotted spoon to leave the steaming liquid in the casserole dish.

Can I freeze stuffed peppers?

This recipe makes a great freezer meal. To do so, I recommend blanching the peppers in boiling water for only 30 seconds. Then shock them in a bowl of ice water to prevent them from cooking any further. This will help the peppers keep their shape better and give a better texture when thawed. Once the peppers are stuffed, wrap the casserole tightly with foil and plastic wrap. Then freeze up to three months. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before heating through in the microwave or oven. Note that baking time will be longer because the filling will be cold.

What is the best way to reheat stuffed peppers?

These peppers reheat really nicely in the microwave. Because they’re dense, I like to heat them on 50% power for a relatively longer time, rather than a shorter time. This helps to prevent hot spots (or cold spots) from occurring. For one pepper, start with three minutes on 50 percent power.  Add on additional minute increments on 50 percent power until the filling is heated through. 

How long do stuffed peppers keep in the refrigerator?

They can be kept covered and refrigerated up to three days. 

How do you fix soggy peppers?

Once the peppers become soggy there isn’t much you can do about it. To prevent it from happening, do not overcook the peppers in the pre-cook step.

Meal Prep Instructions

  1. Make the filling.
  2. Par-cook the peppers.
  3. Stuff the peppers, but do not top with cheese.
  4. Set in a casserole dish, cover and refrigerate up to two days ahead. 
  5. When you are ready to serve them, make sure there is a little water in the bottom of the casserole dish. Cover the peppers with parchment and plastic. Microwave until they are warmed through. 
  6. Remove the plastic and parchment and top with the remaining Fontina cheese. 
  7. Microwave until the filling is steaming hot and the cheese on top is melted. 

What should I serve with vegetarian stuffed peppers?

Italian Stuffed peppers in a casserole dish from overhead

Additional Recipes To Try

  1. This Chickpea Stew with Moroccan flavors has butternut squash and tender cooked vegetables. It makes a hearty and vegan dinner in only 35 minutes.
  2. If you love vegetarian slow cooker dinners, then this Veggie Chili with sweet potatoes and corn is going to be a new favorite!
  3. These Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Chicken, spinach and Italian flavors are cheesy and delicious!  

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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A closeup of a red bell stuffed peppers with kidney beans, red onion, basil and olives with melted cheese on top.

Italian Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers Recipe

  • Author: Katie
  • Prep Time: 40
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Microwave
  • Cuisine: Italian American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

These easy microwave Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers have Italian flavors including basil, garlic, tomatoes, olives and Fontina cheese.


Scale

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon Italian Seasoning herb blend *see Note

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

6 bell peppers, any color

8-ounce package cooked brown rice or 1 ½ cups cooked brown rice

14-ounce can kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup tomato sauce (or 18 ounce can)

½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

¼ cup chopped black olives, optional

½ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish if desired

6 ounces Fontina cheese, grated


Instructions

  1. Cook onion and seasoning: Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside 2 tablespoons red onion for garnish. Add onion, garlic and salt to the skillet and cook, stirring often until the onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add in Italian seasoning and fennel seeds.
  2. Set aside onion mixture: Remove from the heat and scrape into a bowl.
  3. Prep the peppers: Meanwhile, cut off pepper tops and remove the seed core.
  4. Pre-cook the peppers: Set peppers in a casserole dish and add ½ cup water. Cover with a layer of parchment and then a layer of plastic wrap. Microwave until just beginning to soften, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain liquid and set peppers cut side up in the casserole dish.
  5. Finish filling: Add rice, beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes, olives and basil to onion mixture and stir to combine. Add ½ of the fontina cheese and stir to combine.
  6. Stuff the peppers: Spoon filling into the peppers, dividing evenly. Top with the remaining Fontina cheese.
  7. Cook Stuffed Peppers: Microwave uncovered until the cheese is melted and the filling is heated through, 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. To Serve: Serve warm with reserved red onion and chopped basil if desired.

Notes

*Ingredient Note:

If you do not have Italian Seasoning, you can substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil.

Meal Prep Instructions

  1. Make the filling.
  2. Par-cook the peppers.
  3. Stuff the peppers, but do not top with cheese.
  4. Set in a casserole dish, cover and refrigerate up to two days ahead.
  5. When you are ready to serve them, make sure there is a little water in the bottom of the casserole dish. Cover the peppers with parchment and plastic. Microwave until they are warmed through.
  6. Remove the plastic and parchment and top with the remaining Fontina cheese.
  7. Microwave until the filling is steaming hot and the cheese on top is melted.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 pepper
  • Calories: 278 calories
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 6 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 29 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Protein: 14 grams
Easy Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers Recipe