These Italian-Style Stuffed Peppers Without Tomato Sauce are healthy, satisfying, and jam-packed with flavor. Made with roasted red pepper purée, this dish is loaded with lean ground beef, vegetables, and rice. Serve them with a side salad or roasted veggies for a well-balanced and easy weeknight dinner. Gluten-free, low-carb.
I love making stuffed peppers for dinner. They're meaty, cheesy, and full of flavor. Plus, they're good for you too! What's not to love?
Classic stuffed pepper recipes often use tomato sauce, tomato soup, or tomato paste in the filling. But, what happens if you don't like or can't eat tomatoes?
Well, you make these stuffed peppers without tomato sauce, of course.
These homemade stuffed peppers are made using roasted red pepper purée in place of tomato sauce. For this recipe, I wanted to make an Italian-style stuffed pepper similar to the ones I grew up with. The ground beef and rice filling is seasoned with Italian herbs, garlic, and onion for a rich, hearty, and delicious comfort food meal.
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What are Stuffed Peppers?
A stuffed pepper is exactly what it sounds like - a hollowed-out pepper stuffed with some type of filling.
Many different cuisines around the world have their own version of stuffed peppers. Typically, the filling consists of meat, rice, vegetables, and sauce.
Personally, I grew up with Italian-style stuffed peppers. These were made by stuffing bell peppers with a mixture of ground beef, rice, onion, garlic, and tomato sauce.
Can You Make Stuffed Peppers Without Tomato Sauce?
Yes, of course! There are many different ways to make stuffed peppers, including without tomato sauce.
For this recipe, I wanted to create something similar to the Italian-style stuffed pepper that I grew up with. So, I swapped the traditional tomato sauce for a quick and easy homemade roasted red pepper sauce. And it turned out perfect!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- No Tomatoes- Whether you are allergic to or intolerant of tomatoes, or you simply don't enjoy them, this recipe is for you. These stuffed peppers have no tomato sauce or any other tomato products.
- Balanced Meal- Protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates all in one dish. This recipe is a perfectly balanced and complete meal all on its own.
- Easy to Make- Made with simple, flavorful ingredients. Skills required include dicing, blending, sautéing, and baking.
- Healthy- The fiber and protein in these stuffed bell peppers will leave you feeling satisfied long after finishing dinner. Plus, they're loaded with vitamin C.
- Make-Ahead Friendly- Both the roasted red pepper sauce and the ground beef filling can easily be prepared ahead of time for an easy, make-ahead weeknight dinner.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Bell Peppers- Look for bell peppers that are uniformly shaped. Additionally, each bell pepper you choose should be similar in size to ensure they cook evenly. I like to use a combination of green, yellow, and red bell peppers, which makes for a pretty finished dish.
- Ground Beef- Since we don't drain the ground beef in this recipe, I like to use 93% lean to keep the overall fat content down.
- Rice- Pre-cooked white rice is best. Even better if it's leftover from another recipe.
- Onion- Finely diced onion adds flavor and moisture to our pepper filling.
- Garlic- Fresh garlic adds a nice kick of flavor to the meat mixture that pairs well with the other flavors.
- Roasted Red Peppers- Our tomato sauce substitute. Puréed roasted red peppers have a similar consistency and flavor profile to tomato sauce.
- Olive Oil- My favorite cooking oil for Italian-style dishes.
- Seasonings- A blend of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes gives these stuffed peppers their Italian flavor.
- Parmesan Cheese- Freshly grated parmesan cheese is best. Melted on top, parmesan cheese adds a salty, nutty note to the dish.
Seasonal Tip: Bell peppers are in season throughout the summer months, which is when they're freshest and most flavorful. And often less expensive, too. If you grow peppers in your garden, this recipe is a great way to use them up.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make these stuffed peppers without tomato sauce.
Step 1: Par-bake the bell peppers. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare the bell peppers by removing the tops, inner membranes, and seeds. Reserve the tops for dicing. Cut each bell pepper in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in a 9"x13" baking dish. Par-bake the peppers in the oven for 25 minutes.
Step 2: Make the roasted red pepper sauce. While the peppers are baking, drain the jar of roasted red peppers and add them to a food processor or blender along with ½ cup of water. Blend until a smooth sauce forms. Set aside.
Step 3: Sauté the vegetables and ground beef. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the diced bell pepper tops, onion, and garlic for 5-7 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, and cook until it is no longer pink.
Step 4: Finish making the filling. Season the ground beef mixture with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, stirring until everything is well coated. Mix in the cooked rice. Pour the roasted red pepper sauce into the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until thickened.
Step 5: Fill peppers and bake. Generously fill each bell pepper half with the ground beef mixture. Sprinkle the top of each filled bell pepper with parmesan cheese. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Then, uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Tips for Success
- Buy peppers with uniform size and shape. Lopsided peppers should be avoided as they're harder to stuff. When at the grocery store, look for peppers that are symmetrical. Additionally, each pepper you choose should be about the same size so that they cook evenly.
- Use leftover rice. I love using leftovers from one dish to make another. When meal planning, I often try to make recipes that use similar ingredients. Make another rice dish the same week you make these stuffed peppers for easier meal prep.
- Shred your own parmesan cheese. Freshly grated parmesan cheese has more flavor, melts better, and tastes fresher. It's also cheaper.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can try customizing this healthy stuffed bell pepper recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Bell Peppers- Try stuffing poblano peppers or large jalapeño peppers instead for a bit of a kick. This filling can also be used to stuff eggplant, zucchini, and squash. Keep in mind that cook time will vary depending on the vegetable you use.
- Ground Beef- While I like to use 93% lean ground beef, feel free to use whichever percent fat you prefer. Ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork, or ground sausage can all be used as well.
- White Rice- Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, farro, lentils, or white beans are fiber-rich substitutes for white rice.
- Onion- Replace fresh onion with 1 tablespoon of onion powder or 3 tablespoons of dried onion flakes.
- Garlic- Substitute fresh garlic with 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Alternatively, swap the garlic and olive oil for garlic-infused olive oil.
- Roasted Red Peppers- Use one cup of chicken stock or beef stock in place of the roasted red pepper purée.
- Olive Oil- Feel free to use butter or any cooking oil you prefer.
- Seasonings- Substitute the Italian seasoning for oregano, parsley, and basil. Add more or less red pepper flakes, depending on your tolerance for heat.
- Parmesan Cheese- Shredded mozzarella, provolone, or cheddar cheese can be swapped for parmesan cheese.
- Gluten-Free- These stuffed peppers are naturally gluten-free. Of course, always double-check all ingredient labels to be sure.
- Dairy-Free- For dairy-free stuffed peppers, replace the parmesan cheese with dairy-free parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
- Vegetarian- Swap the ground beef for cooked brown lentils or tofu for vegetarian stuffed peppers.
- Low Carb- Skip the rice entirely or swap it for cauliflower rice.
- Extra Veggies- Add chopped spinach, kale, zucchini, or cannellini beans for extra fiber and nutrients.
- Spicy- Bump up the red pepper flakes or mix in a little of your favorite hot sauce to give these stuffed bell peppers without tomato sauce a kick.
What to Serve with Stuffed Peppers Without Tomato Sauce?
- Spinach Caprese Salad
- Kale Crunch Salad
- Ancient Grain Salad
- Roasted Green Beans and Carrots
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts
- Parmesan Potatoes and Broccoli
- Butternut Squash Fries
- Tomato Burrata Bruschetta Toasts
- Pumpkin Soup
Storage and Reheating
How to Store
- Refrigerator- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- Freezer- Allow the peppers to cool completely before storing them in the freezer. To freeze, wrap each individual stuffed pepper tightly in plastic wrap, then store them inside a freezer-safe storage bag for up to 6 months. Let the peppers thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
How to Reheat
- Oven- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place leftover stuffed peppers in a casserole dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon of water if the filling seems dry, then cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until fully warmed through.
- Stovetop- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Place the stuffed peppers in the skillet in a single layer. Add a few tablespoons of water and cover with a lid. Allow the peppers to steam for 7-10 minutes or until heated through.
- Microwave- Place an individual stuffed pepper on a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a damp paper towel. Heat on half power (50%) for 2 minutes. Then, microwave on HIGH in 30-second intervals until fully warmed through.
- Air Fryer- Preheat the air fryer to 350°F for 2 minutes. Place leftover stuffed peppers in the air fryer basket in a single layer, being sure not to overcrowd them. Reheat the stuffed peppers for about 5 minutes or until they're hot in the center.
Each part of this recipe can be prepared in advance, which is helpful when it comes to meal planning.
- Bell Peppers- Clean and cut the bell peppers up to one day before cooking. Store the cut peppers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Roasted Red Pepper Sauce- Purée the roasted red pepper sauce 2-3 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Ground Beef Filling- Prepare the ground beef filling and store it in the refrigerator for up to one day before making these stuffed peppers. Store it separately from the bell peppers. Then, assemble and bake just before serving.
- Complete Dish- For even easier meal planning, fully cook the stuffed peppers and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before serving. I recommend reheating the whole dish in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes for the best results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Since the oven is already being used, I prefer to par-bake the bell peppers instead of boiling them. I do recommend pre-cooking the bell peppers so that they cook more evenly and don't turn out too crunchy.
Cover the stuffed peppers for the first 15 minutes of cooking to ensure the bell pepper fully cooks through and the stuffing doesn't dry out.
Yes! These Italian stuffed peppers without tomato sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. For best results, reheat the dish in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes.
More Recipes You May Enjoy
Stuffed Peppers Without Tomato Sauce
- 4 large bell peppers any color
- 7 ounce jar roasted red peppers drained
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound ground beef 93% lean
- ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare the bell peppers by removing the tops, inner membranes, and seeds. Reserve the tops for dicing. Cut each bell pepper in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in a 9"x13" baking dish. Par-bake the peppers in the oven for 25 minutes.4 large bell peppers
- While the peppers are baking, drain the jar of roasted red peppers and add them to a food processor or blender along with ½ cup of water. Blend until a smooth sauce forms. Set aside.7 ounce jar roasted red peppers, ½ cup water
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the diced bell pepper tops, onion, and garlic for 5-7 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, and cook until it is no longer pink.2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 small yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 pound ground beef
- Season the ground beef mixture with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, stirring until everything is well coated. Mix in the cooked rice. Pour the roasted red pepper sauce into the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until thickened.½ tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 cup cooked white rice
- Generously fill each bell pepper half with the ground beef mixture. Sprinkle the top of each filled bell pepper with parmesan cheese. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Then, uncover and bake for and additional 10 minutes.½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Quick Tip: Peppers should have a uniform size and shape for best results.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.