These tender and savory Italian-style turkey stuffed peppers are a favorite around here. They are full of fennel-seasoned ground turkey and flavored with pizza sauce, and cheese – all nestled into a soft and delicious bell pepper to round up all that goodness. Perfect one dish meal and so easy to make-ahead or freeze for future nights when you just don’t feel like cooking. Make extra now and have them for later.
This is a pizza-themed update to the more traditional old fashioned stuffed peppers!
The main ingredients are turkey, vegetables, spices, herbs, and tomato sauce. The beauty of this dish is it’s a make ahead dish whose flavor improves over time as the flavors mesh.
Overview of Recipe
Top Tips and Customizations
One of my biggest pet peeves (there, I’ll say it) is the plethora of stuffed pepper photos where it’s obvious that the peppers are barely cooked. Now, I’m all for raw peppers – maybe with hummus? But most definitely NOT part of a stuffed pepper dish. Nope!
I think there is nothing better than a well cooked, tender, soft bell pepper to hold the rest of the ingredients for this comfort dish.
And so, the best way to ensure this is to precook the peppers to speed things up; (many recipes call for stuffed peppers to be baked for 1 to 1.5 hours [this is not necessary plus the peppers are often still somewhat too raw/crispy]. I precook the peppers in the microwave for about 6 minutes.
The other thing I love about this recipe is that it’s easy to customize. For example, use whatever rice you like – I’ve used cauliflower rice, brown rice, and white rice at different times (and feel free to omit the rice)- all good!
I also love to use leftover rice from Chinese take out or even brown rice that is heat and serve.
This dish would also be delicious as a deconstructed warm bowl – Try omitting the rice from the mixture and simply topping rice with the stuffing and adding a layer of sliced tender cooked and seasoned peppers in between.
Curiously enough, this stuffing is also good on a burger bun as a sort of sloppy joe.
Alternative Cooking Methods
On the Grill – these can easily be cooked on the grill in a large disposable aluminum pan or any other pan that is deep enough and can withstand the direct heat of the grill. Cooking time in probably more like 20 minutes with extra time added to melt the cheese afterwards.
Because the ingredients are mostly cooked, we are simply trying to finish off the cooking of the bell peppers and, in the end, allowing the topping (cheese) to melt.
Storage, and Make Ahead
Freezer meal – To freeze, arrange in a freezer safe, airtight container with peppers in a single layer or separated using a sheet of waxed paper between layers. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Consider individually wrapping peppers for smaller servings.
To reheat after freezing, keep the peppers covered in aluminum foil and reheat at 375 degrees until warmed through (about 60 to 90 minutes). I like to insert a butter knife in middle of pepper to gauge the temperature. If the knife comes out cold, keep baking.)
Cooked peppers should last about 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. You may microwave to reheat leftovers.
Other Recipes to Try
Turkey Stuffed Peppers
- casserole dish or other large baking pan (I used ~11×15 inch)
- aluminum foil
- 6 bell peppers (mixed colors) washed, cored and seeded, and cut in half
- 1 large sweet onion diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 3 to 4 cups frozen or fresh mushrooms chopped
- 1 pound ground turkey up to 1.5 pounds (or use italian style turkey sausage, NOT breakfast sausage)
- 1 can tomato paste 6 ounces
- 1 jar pizza sauce 15 ounces or 1.5 to 2 cups
- 1 cup shredded mozarella
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp fennel smashed
- ¼ tsp red pepper flake
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (or red wine)
- 2 cups brown or white rice (or cauliflower rice) cooked
- 6 slices provolone cheese cut in half
- basil chopped (for topping)
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup white wine optional
- Par cook the peppers (microwave for 6 minutes in a dish with ½ inch or so of water on bottom). Cover the dish with plastic wrap before microwaving.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and position rack to center of oven.
- If you don't have cooked rice on hand, prepare enough to make 2 cups of cooked rice and set aside.
- On stove top, using a large pot, saute chopped onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat until translucent and then add mushroom.
- Continue cooking onions and mushrooms until the water from mushrooms has mostly burned off.
- Add ground turkey and continue cooking over medium high heat until the meat is mostly browned.
- Add pizza sauce, herbs/seasonings (oregano, fennel, salt, pepper, and red pepper) and tomato paste, cooked rice, vinegar, and combine well. Continue cooking over medium heat until all ingredients are warmed through (2 to 3 minutes).
- Add mozzarella cheese and stir until cheese has incorporated and melted.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- Place peppers in a large baking dish and stuff with the filling. I used a 11 x 15 dish – you can bake in two batches if you only have a smaller pan.
- Slowly pour about 1 to 2 cups of water in bottom of pan and add ¼ cup of wine (wine is optional). Be careful not to pour water on top of peppers only between them. Use only enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan (the purpose is to create a moisture for peppers to continue softening.)
- Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes at 375F. About 10 minutes before finishing, uncover, top with provolone slices and basil and bake until cheese is melted.