Sometimes I think a bell pepper can be stuffed with just about anything but I gotta tell you these easy Southwestern Stuffed Peppers are really a standout. They have the fun flavor of tacos but are fresher, lighter, and lower carb, and can I just say, stuffed with mostly pantry ingredients? And cheese. And ground beef, chicken or turkey (or just go vegetarian.) And then, well, more cheese.
I don’t know if you guys are like me. I have a few more pantry ingredients these days and it’s nice to find a use for them and keep them in rotation. I love that this recipe can be made with a little canned corn and canned beans or that it can be made with frozen corn and beans you’ve cooked up yourself (and maybe made extra to stash in your freezer.)
About Southwestern Stuffed Peppers:
But most of all, what I really love about these Southwestern Stuffed Peppers is that they’re awesome! I love them of course because I’ve made them just how I like them and honestly, I don’t usually even follow a recipe. I paid close attention the last few times I’ve made these, so you can count on it if you want to make them just as is or you can riff to your heart’s content (and your taste) and use this as a rough guide.
I think my combo of ground beef or chicken, beans, cheese, corn, tomatoes (fire-roasted with green chilis is fabulous…something along the lines of that magic that is Rotel) with just a little rice, and then just a few pickled jalapenos for some fresh heat is perfect. It’s got a little spice and just a hint of heat and once inside those sweet bells, well that’s where those flavors really start playing off each other. I gotta tell ya, I’ve roasted poblanos, too, and stuffed them with this mixture before and that’s a fun variation!
There’s cheese inside these peppers, Colby Jack or Cheddar, which can never be wrong, but helps the filling seem a little more cohesive; that being said, this filling is a little loose. The cheese does help tie the flavors together, then, of course, I use cheese on top, too. I used pepper jack slices but any cheese you’d like, slices or grated will be just fine.
The Flavors and the Heat:
The flavor base of these Southwestern Stuffed Peppers is taco seasoning, and I love to use the classic flavors in my Homemade Taco Seasoning. You can buy yours or vary this recipe easily by using fajita or another seasoning. At this point, the peppers are very family-friendly. Add salt and pepper and taste it and if you like it, you’re good to go!
For me, I just can’t stop there. I love to add Cholula hot sauce (it has a touch of lime) and some diced up Pickled Jalapenos. You could just use a few jalapenos that have been roasted or a few from a can of jalapenos to jazz it up, too, but I love the pickled ones!
And I like to add a few pickled jalapenos to the top when finished and sometimes I pour a teaspoon or two of the brine right in the filling. You can always pickle your own Jalapenos, too, and you can check out my recipe for Cowboy Candy or my first choice, these more classic Refrigerator Pickled Jalapenos. (Or you can buy some!)
As far as serving, I served my peppers up with my Mexican Red Cabbage Slaw, or rather with the dressing from that slaw, because I sadly had no red cabbage! The mix was cruciferous veggies, and yes there was a bit of red cabbage in it and the dressing was as fab with that mix as it is on red cabbage.
The Filling for Southwestern Stuffed Peppers:
Now here’s the thing with this recipe. If you’re using pantry ingredients, like canned corn and canned black beans along with a pound of ground beef or chicken, by the time you add in the other ingredients, you’re going to have way more filling than is needed to stuff a few peppers. The peppers are fabulous so I don’t mind making extra because we eat more than we should of them and they reheat beautifully in the microwave.
But even so, I have never used all the filling in the peppers I make, and I usually make 4 peppers cut in half for a total of 8 halves. Peppers always vary in size, but using a medium-sized pepper I think you could easily use 5 to 6 peppers and make 10 to 12 pepper halves, so if you have a big family, go for it.
But the amount of filling gives you a choice to either cut back on the recipe, use the excess filling another way, or freeze any excess filling to make peppers another time.
- Cutting back on the recipe can be done by either using less ground meat and maybe either corn or beans or by cutting back on all ingredients and use less of everything. I don’t cut back because I don’t like having a lot of odd ingredients to use up.
- Freezing the filling for peppers in the future is a fabulous way to shortcut another meal and easily have bell peppers another time (I just put it 1/2 the filling in a Ziploc). You can freeze whole bell peppers after they’re cooked, too, but I don’t think the texture of the pepper is as good if you do.
- My favorite option is to just use some of that excess filling in other items, and sometimes I make this filling just for tacos, burritos, quesadillas or so on, with a little extra cheese to hold it together well. My fave is quesadillas, crunchy ones. I just add a little extra cheese to the tortilla on the bottom and the top so the filling stays in place, use a good amount of oil in the bottom of the skillet, enough to come halfway up the tortilla once it’s laid in, and fry them until crispy and crunchy. I might have used a bit too much cheese this time…they were just oozing cheese (but so good!)
The Rice in the Filling:
I do like to add a little rice to the filling in these burritos and usually add about 3/4’s of a cup. I think it helps balance the other ingredients and helps the filling kind of stay together. But I don’t want to make rice just for this recipe or for any stuffed pepper recipe and unless you want this super easy recipe to turn into a project, I’m betting you don’t either!
If you want to skip the rice, that’s your prerogative (and makes these a little lower carb) but my shortcut is to freeze bits of leftover rice in small packets just to make recipes like this, add to soups or burritos, or use in fried rice recipes. (Another quick tip: rice that has been frozen makes the best fried rice!)Just a quick hint: when you look at your little packets of rice that have been frozen, you might be concerned; they always look partially dry and/or freezer-burned but once thawed are usually just fine! Don’t count on rice keeping forever in the freezer, though as it does get drier with time. I’d count on no more than two or three months.
Of course, you can shortcut with a microwave packet of rice (my gosh those are pricey compared to making your own) or make your own rice and if you have an Instant Pot, you might want to check out my recipe for Perfect Instant Pot Rice.
Preparing the Peppers & Cooking:
There are three ways to cook stuffed peppers like this. They can be made in the oven, which is pretty standard and the instructions are in the recipe. You can microwave the peppers and finish them in the oven, or you can microwave the peppers start to finish. If using the microwave method to par-cook the peppers for the oven or to par-cook the peppers to microwave, do NOT use all the juices from the tomatoes or the filling will be soupy.
- Just make filling as stated in the recipe, stuff the peppers and bake, covered, in a casserole or on a sheet tray until peppers are tender and to your liking, about 50 minutes at 350 degrees F., then uncover, add cheese and bake until cheese is melted.
- These can be cooked for more or less time depending on how tender you like your peppers to be. In my oven they are crisp, tender at 50 minutes.
Par Cook Peppers:
- Do this to shortcut the oven cooking or to microwave the peppers after being stuffed.
- Place peppers cut side up in a microwaveable baking dish. Add two tablespoons water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Vent wrap in one or two places. Cook three to five minutes on high. Remove peppers, drain and set aside dish. Have a thick clean towel ready to protect your hands; those peppers are hot hot hot!
Stuff & Bake the Peppers, Oven or Microwave after Par Cooking:
Remember that if you par cook your peppers will not spend as much time cooking after being stuffed. Reduce the amount of juice from the tomatoes to about 2 to 3 tablespoons or so. Use your judgment.
- To bake the par-cooked peppers in the oven, do not use the full amount of the juice from the tomatoes; just use about three tablespoons. Fill peppers and bake on a sheet pan or in a casserole dish, covered at 350 degrees F. for about 15 to 20 minutes, until filling is good and hot, uncover, add cheese and bake a few more minutes until cheese is melted.
- To microwave the par-cooked peppers, again, do not use the full amount of juice from the tomatoes, just about two tablespoons. Fill peppers, place back in the dish, cover with plastic wrap, and cook four to five minutes on high. Uncover, add cheese, and return to the microwave for a minute or two to melt the cheese.
The biggest surprise here is how good the microwave peppers are! They are, imho, just as good as the oven-baked version. That being said, you can’t fit as many peppers in the microwave and sometimes it IS nice to just shove the peppers in the oven and go about your business until dinner is ready.
Saving Money on Southwestern Stuffed Peppers:
One of the ways the cost of this recipe is kept down is by cutting each pepper into two and serving them as halves; the peppers are just about the priciest ingredient (depending on what kind of sale price you get on the ground meat & whether or not you make your taco seasoning or buy.)
There are two types of sales on Bell Peppers, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area, it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. Bell peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. Aldi price for a three-pack may be better than any grocery store sale. Keep in mind that the green peppers are usually less, and you pay more for the sweeter mature more colorful ones. Bell Peppers keep well for a week or two; buy enough for the current week and the next. If the price is great, I may pick up extra red, yellow or orange peppers and roast them, then portion and freeze.
Do watch the pricing on any ground beef, stock up at a low (most will drop to a low once per quarter) then portion in sizes your family will use and freeze. I prefer to buy boneless, skinless chicken, cut up, and pulse it in my food processor. The price is usually better and I know what the quality is.
You’ll find fabulous prices on canned beans/corn in late summer when the warehouses are full but keep an eye out for sales. There’s never any real reason to pay full price if your pantry is stocked and you’re able to cherry-pick the best sales as they come up. Keep an eye out on the Aldi prices, too. Items like Rotel are often on sale around Cinco de Mayo and lately around the Superbowl and other sporting events. Check out my post “Win at the Grocers” to see what might be on sale around most of the big holidays.
It does pay to really watch sales on cheese and it will go on deep sale, usually quarterly. Cheese will keep unopened for weeks in the fridge and can be frozen. Keep that in mind if the price is fabulous and you want to stock up, but know once frozen the texture suffers. It’s fine for recipes like this, but it does get crumbly.
I hope you all enjoy this easy recipe and know you’re safe whether you’re serving littles or wish to modify it for a spicier palette! If you can make tacos and open up a couple of cans, well, you can make these but there’s no doubt they seem like so much more a meal! Take care and stay safe!
Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
- Total Time: 25 minutes to an hour
- Yield: 4 to 8 servings 1x
- Category: Beef Main Dish
- Cuisine: Mexican or Southwestern
- 4 bell peppers halved with seeds removed
- 1 pound ground beef, chicken or turkey
- 1 packet taco seasoning or 2 to 3 tablespoons Homemade Taco Seasoning (to taste)
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, lightly rinsed and drained or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
- 1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained or about 1 1/2 cups frozen
- 3/4 cup cooked rice
- 1 (15 ounce) can Rotel or Fire Roasted tomatoes (choose one with green chilis for most flavor)
- 1 cup shredded cheese, about 4 ounces, Colby, Cheddar or Colby Jack
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup diced pickled Jalapeno, plus a few slices for garnish, optional
- a little juice from the pickled Jalapeno, to taste, optional
- a little hot sauce to taste, Cholula preferred, optional
- 8 slices thickly sliced Pepperjack or cheese of choice to top; grated will work, too, about 4 ounces or more if desired
- Preferred taco toppings, optional, if desired. Cilantro, green onion, sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, etc.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a Dutch oven, brown ground beef, chicken or turkey. Add a little oil if needed. Break up as it browns, drain if necessary, and sprinkle with the taco seasoning. Add about a 1/4 cup of water and cook, stirring, until the water has evaporated and the meat is nicely coated.
Remove from heat and add the beans, corn, cooked rice, and grated cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. For additional spice, add chopped pickled jalapeno, a little of the juice from the jar, and a little hot sauce all as desired and to taste.
Fill bell peppers and place on sheet pan or in a large casserole. Cover with foil and bake to desired tenderness (keep in mind they will cook a few more minutes when cheese is added to top), about 50 minutes for crisp tender. Remove from oven, remove foil and add cheese. Bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes until cheese is melted. Garnish with additional pickled jalapeno if desired.
Serve as is or serve with favorite taco toppings.
Note: You will likely have leftover filling. You can make more peppers, freeze the filling to use another time, or make tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. All are wonderful with this filling and a little extra cheese.
Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Beef, Bell Peppers, black beans, canned tomatoes, Cheese, Chicken, colby jack, Corn, Dried Beans, Ground Beef, Ground Chicken or Turkey, Mexican or Southwestern, pepper jack, Rice, Taco Seasoning, Tomatoes, Turkey