These easy stuffed peppers are made without rice, and instead filled with healthy ingredients like spiralized zucchini, protein-packed quinoa, and ground turkey sausage for a fast and super healthy all-in-one dinner everyone at the table will love.
The other day I read that the day of the family dinner plate being made up of a main protein (meat, chicken, fish), a side of carbohydrates (rice, pasta, potatoes), and then a side of veggies (carrots, broccoli, whatever is languishing in the fridge), is quickly losing ground as the best idea of what dinner should look like. I grew up on the same idea of that ratio and for many years followed suit.
But thanks to the popularity of meals in bowls, hearty salads served as the main meal, and more all-in-one serving options, the dinner plate has changed. And it’s not only in how we divvy out portion size, but the actual vessel our meal is served in, like using vitamin-packed vegetables such as sweet potatoes, every squash imaginable, and cabbage leaves, just to name a few.
And at our house, there’s really no more versatile vegetable-to-bowl main ingredient than the almighty bell pepper.
Stuffed peppers have made plenty of appearances at our house, from our basic Stuffed Pepper Recipe, to Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, and probably the stuffed pepper recipe we make most often, my husband’s Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers.
This time around I wanted to make a protein-packed, veggie-loaded stuffed pepper dinner, but one that still had tons of flavor.
How to Make Stuffed Peppers
One of my most used appliances/gadgets/kitchen helpers (besides my trusty husband behind the stove) is my Inspiralizer. This baby takes all the work out of chopping, dicing, and slicing, and makes vegetables hearty, I think mainly because of the cut, they simply take up more space in a dish but don’t overwhelm it flavor-wise.
My husband hasn’t quite converted to the idea that, Yes! Dinner meals CAN be served without any meat, seafood or poultry, and still be amazingly filling and delicious. So for these peppers I added ground turkey with garlic and fennel to give it that sausage flavor he adores.
If you can find it, turkey sausage in links can certainly be used here too, just be sure to remove the casings before cooking if using it ground. You could also chop the sausage to give it a chunkier bite.
Healthy Ingredients for Stuffed Peppers
I added more protein-power to this dish by substituting quinoa for the traditional rice. So many love quinoa as an option for gluten-free eating that scores as one of the highest plant-based proteins out there.
Other superfood ancient grain ideas to use in place of quinoa or rice are:
- Brown rice
- Wheat berries
- Whole wheat acini de pepe pasta
If you’re curious about more recipes with ancient grains, check out my post 10 Grains You Should Be Cooking With Right Now, including 30 recipe links to get your dinner planning going.
How to Cook Stuffed Peppers
We always par bake our peppers in the microwave before stuffing them so they cook a little quicker. A simple sprinkle of kosher salt to the interior of the peppers and then a 5 minute blast in the microwave pre-cooks these peppers and cuts your baking time in half.
Our favorite way to stuff the peppers is to cut the tops then stand them like little soldiers in a baking dish. I use a smaller baking pan so the peppers fit snugly, holding more of the ingredients without spilling out.
Thanks to the folks at Cooks Illustrated, I discovered four other ideas to keep your peppers upright as they bake:
- Place the individual peppers in ramekins or mini coquettes when baking a smaller amount.
- Place the peppers in a bundt cake pan so the peppers stand straight up.
- Use a muffin tin so the sides hold the peppers in place.
- Save the tops of the bell peppers that were cut off for stuffing and wedge them between the peppers in larger pans for stability.
More Recipes to Make With Bell Peppers
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Spiralized Zucchini, Quinoa and Turkey Sausage Stuffed Peppers
- 6 bell peppers of assorted colors
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium zucchini, spiralized or diced, about 4 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- ½ teaspoon dried fennel seed, crushed
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
- 4 cups cooked quinoa
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Remove the stems and core the bell peppers, removing all of the seeds, then rinse. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the peppers with kosher salt and place in a microwave safe dish with ¼ cup water. Microwave for 5 to 7 minutes or until they start to soften. Remove and set aside.
- Spiralize or dice the zucchini. Heat 1 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and season with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Toss the zucchini and cook until it just begins to soften, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same pan, heat the rest of the olive oil until hot then add the ground turkey, pressed garlic, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper flakes and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until cooked almost through, stirring often. Add the onion and continue to cook until the onion softens. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the quinoa and zucchini. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and the fresh basil and season to taste.
- Transfer the peppers to a 3 quart baking dish and fill them with the sausage and quinoa mixture. Sprinkle the tops with more Parmesan cheese if desired, and bake for 20 minutes or until peppers are tender and cheese is browned. Serve hot.
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