Lentil and Rice Stuffed Peppers

I get so many cooking ideas in my head, but never seem to have time to execute them. One of my goals while I’m taking a little time off and figuring out my life is to really experiment with new recipes instead of falling back on the same old standbys.

I tried out this Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf recently and just loved its complex flavors. Yesterday, I used the same flavor profile to make a vegetarian version of stuffed peppers.

Stuffed peppers are something I grew up eating. My mom usually made them with turkey or beef, a little bit of rice, and a tomato sauce topping. They were always delicious, but I was excited to try a version that both Matt and I could enjoy. Like the lentil “meatloaf,” I made this filling with a base of lentils and brown rice, flavored with carrots, celery, onion, apple, currants, and thyme. I topped the peppers with a twist on the glaze from the other recipe, making the sweet sauce more tomato-based and adding a little heat.

The result was a hit. The stuffing was incredibly flavorful and stayed moist during baking. The tomato sauce was like a very tomato-based barbecue sauce, and had a nice spice from the sriracha I added. Because the recipe does take a little bit of time, I might double it next time and freeze a few servings for a lazy day.

Lentil and Rice Stuffed Peppers with Sweet and Spicy Tomato Sauce

Lentil and Rice Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients (serves 4)

    For the Stuffed Peppers

    • 2/3 cup uncooked lentils
    • 3/4 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
    • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth or stock
    • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
    • 1/4 cup currants
    • 1/3 cup apple, peeled and grated
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 large green bell peppers, seeds and membranes removed, sliced in half lengthwise

    For the Sauce

    • 2 cups tomato sauce (I used a plain, canned version)
    • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup apple-cranberry butter (I used Trader Joe’s, but any apple butter would work)
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 2 tsp. sriracha
    • Salt


    Rinse and strain the lentils. Place them in a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for for about 45 minutes, or until tender. When they are cooked, strain them and reserve a couple tablespoons of the cooking liquid.

    Meanwhile, cook the rice according to package directions, but use the vegetable broth instead of water. Set aside.

    In a large pot or dutch oven, saute the onion, celery, and carrot with a pinch of salt in the olive oil over medium heat. When softened, add the garlic and thyme. Cook for a minute or two, and then add the grated apple and currants. Cook for another couple of minutes and add the cooked lentils, reserved cooking liquid, and the cooked rice. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

    For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook for 15 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.

    At this point, there are two options for assembling. If you want to eat the peppers right away, you could blanch or steam the peppers for a few minutes, stuff them with the hot stuffing, top with the warm sauce, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked. I was making this in the morning to eat for dinner later, so I stuffed the raw peppers and placed them in the refrigerator.

    Either way, to assemble, first lightly salt the inside of each pepper. Stuff each pepper with the lentil and rice stuffing, making sure to pack it down so it stays in the pepper. Place the stuffed peppers in a lightly oiled casserole dish.

    Lentil and Rice Stuffed Peppers

    When you are ready to cook the peppers, preheat the oven to 400°F. Spoon a little the tomato sauce over each pepper, and season again with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and cook for about an hour, or until the peppers are tender. Remove the foil and spoon over a little extra tomato sauce. Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce is warm.

    Lentil and Rice Stuffed Peppers

    I loved this tomato sauce, so I served my pepper with a little warm sauce on the bottom of the plate.

    Have you ever tried making a vegetarian version of a classic?

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