My husband’s been suggesting for years that I stuff some bell peppers, and he always wondered why I would roll my eyes and tell him he could stuff them himself. The truth came out over dinner the other night. It turns out that both of our mothers made stuffed peppers, but while D remembered them fondly, I shuddered at the memory. (Mom, if you’re reading, I’m sorry!)
Mom stuffed green bell peppers with hamburger and cooked them in cream of mushroom soup. Oddly enough for a future vegan, I could tolerate the filling but hated the peppers themselves. To me they tasted bitter, and I always left their limp shells empty on my plate.
Cooking styles change and tastes change, so when our garden started producing pretty little Gypsy peppers, I began to think that I might be able to devise a stuffed pepper that I would be able to eat in its entirety. I think the trick is having a filling that complements–and is complemented by–the pepper. To me, peppers cry out for beans, corn, and other peppers, especially jalapenos and chili powder, so that’s where I began.
Along with those semi-traditional chili ingredients, I decided to add a natural meat substitute: diced portobella mushroom. Mushroom haters, do not turn away! I can almost guarantee that you won’t be able to taste the mushroom in this filling because of the other seasonings. It adds a certain savoriness as well as a touch of meaty texture, but not a lot of flavor, and you can chop it up tiny if the texture bothers you. Mushrooms add loads of antioxidants and phytonutrients, support your immune system, and guard against cancer and heart disease. You can get their health benefits without noticing their taste and texture if you give this recipe a try.
I suggest red bell peppers because they taste sweeter and less bitter than the green peppers my mom used. I used the two small gypsy peppers from our garden and one red pepper from our fridge and had about half of the filling left for E (not a fan of peppers of any color) to eat in soft tacos. I’m guesstimating that this will fill about 5 regular-sized bell peppers, but if you have any filling left over, wrap it up in a tortilla along with lettuce and tomato or use it atop a salad for an easy lunch.
- 1 medium onion , chopped fine
- 1 large portabello mushroom , diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper , minced (or more to taste)
- 1 16-ounce can black beans , drained and rinsed well (or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans)
- 1 1/2 cup corn kernels , fresh or frozen
- 1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder* (or more, to taste)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 red bell peppers
- 2 green onions , thinly sliced
Heat a large non-stick skillet or saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring often until it softens, about 4 minutes. (Add a splash of water as necessary to prevent sticking.) Add the mushrooms and jalapeno and continue to cook until mushrooms soften.
Add black beans, corn, tomatoes, and seasonings. Cook for a few more minutes to allow most of the tomato liquid to cook off.
Preheat oven to 400F.
While the chili is cooking, prepare the peppers by cutting them in half through the stem end, removing the seeds and membranes, and rinsing the insides to make sure all the seeds are out. Check to see if they will stand upright, and if not, peel a strip off of the back side. Oil a baking dish big enough for the peppers (or line it with parchment paper). Fill each pepper half with the chili and place it in the baking dish. Bake until peppers are tender, about 40 minutes.
Sprinkle each pepper with sliced green onions and serve hot.
I used Penzey’s Chili 9000, a chili powder that contains cumin, oregano, and other spices as well as chiles. Depending on the spiciness and flavor of your chili powder, you may need to add more or less.