I grew up in a family where stuffed peppers (Green Bell Peppers stuffed with a rice filling with tomato sauce, onions and ground meat) were a regular feature on my mom’s table. I always looked forward to stuffed pepper night too, because well, my mom made the very best stuffed peppers of course. I still love those flavors and this dish is a comforting one for me. But as I strive to improve my health and lose the weight I need to in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle I have been experimenting with these classic dishes that I have loved since long ago. Here is my take on my Momma’s Stuffed Peppers — No meat, no dairy and no starch either! By replacing the rice with cauliflower I significantly reduced the calories! I had the audacity to serve these to my mom. More on that later!
It starts with a head of fresh cauliflower riced in the Ninja and ready for oven steaming with almond milk and a little sea salt. Place five cups of raw riced cauliflower in a covered casserole with Almond Milk and sea salt. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes, take it out to stir it and and add seasonings like dried Italian herbs and garlic powder. Cover and bake for another 15 minutes or until you reach the desired consistency – I like a little tooth in mine. You do not need to use all of this rice if you want to make a smaller batch of peppers, say you are cooking for two or even for one. This rice keeps for other uses. You can even freeze it raw for future uses or freeze it in portions cooked.
Making a batch of Vegan Ground “Beef” for stuffed peppers is easy, just assemble some Baby Portabella or Crimini mushrooms, a sweet onion, walnuts and garlic. Pulse a couple of times in the processor to create a crumble and toss it in the wok or your favorite large saute pan with some sea salt and olive oil to caramelize the onions some. It smells so good! Once you have your crumble ready and the rice is done you are ready to assemble the filling for stuffing the peppers.
I use my own home made Puttanesca sauce but you could use a store bought puttanesca or whatever is your favorite red sauce. I love Puttanesca for it’s Mediterranean flare. True Puttanesca has anchovies, but I make it at home as a vegan sauce using black and green olives and capers and more. To make the filling I just dump the cauliflower rice into my wok with my crumble and pour a portion of my sauce right over it and mix it all up together to blend all those lovely flavors and textures.
Notice how the completed filling looks a whole lot like rice with ground beef, am I right? This filling is so good, I like to bake any extra I have right along with the peppers. It would make a great stuffing for any stuffing application.
The next step is to spoon the filling into your peppers. My mom always sliced the tops off to make a large pepper pocket and she cooked and served them with the tops on, which is what I did for these peppers. But you can also slice the peppers in half vertically and stuff the halves for reduced portions. When stuffing the whole pepper I use a muffin pan because it helps keep them upright without having to trim the bottom to be level. To get started, place a spoonful of sauce in the bottom of each muffin cup, stuff peppers with filling and top with a spoonful of sauce. If you are only doing 4 peppers like I was put the extra filling in the middle cups and top with sauce and then place the pepper caps over the center cups to roast. If you are doing 6 peppers, then you will have enough stuffing for all six. Bake for 45 minutes at 350ºF. Allow to rest a few minutes before plating. I like to use some Bragg Nutritional Yeast as a cheesy topping on these peppers. VERY TASTY!!! By the way, when I served these to my mom, she said they were perfect and was blown away when I told her they were not only vegan but that there was no starch – no rice! She was amazed and you will be too!
- 1 Head Cauliflower, cut into florets and “riced” in a processor
- ½ C Almond Milk
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- Dried Italian Herbs
- Roasted Garlic Powder
- 1 lg Sweet Onion
- 8 oz.pkg Portabella Mushrooms
- 2-3 Cloves Garlic
- ¼ C Chopped Walnuts
- Cracked Black Pepper
- 4-6 Bell Peppers
- 2 C Vegan Puttanesca Sauce or Marinara
- Bragg Nutritional Yeast
- Wash and rice a head of cauliflower in your processor.
- Place riced cauliflower in a covered baking dish with healthy a pinch of sea salt and ½ cup Almond milk.
- Bake the rice for 20 minutes in a 350º F oven and remove from oven.
- Stir the rice and season with Dried Italian herbs and Roasted Garlic Powder and return to the oven to bake covered for another 15 minutes.
- Make a crumble in the processor with the onion, mushrooms, garlic and walnuts, pulse until it appears like a browned ground meat.
- Heat a large saute or wok pan and add a drizzle of Olive Oil. Toss in the crumble and add a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper – if you like a little heat and are not using a Puttanesca sauce — add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the crumble. Brown your crumble to caramelize the onion.
- Wash and trim your peppers, removing the seeds.
- Once the rice is done. Add the rice to the crumble in your large pan along with about 1 ½ cups of sauce and blend thoroughly.
- Use a 6 cup muffin tin to support peppers. Place a spoonful of sauce in the bottom of each cup.
- Position each pepper in a cup and fill with rice mixture – use a spoon to tamp it down and fill them to the top.
- Put a spoonful of sauce on top of the stuffed peppers and top with the pepper cap.
- Optional: If you are baking 4 peppers, put the extra filling in the open cups and top with two of the lids so it gets that pepper flavor as it bakes. If you are doing 6 peppers, you will not have any extra filling.
- Bake the peppers for 45 minutes at 350º F and allow to rest a few minutes before serving.
- Garnish with Bragg Nutritional Yeast.