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Recipe: Spicy Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers


Spicy Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers -

I admit it. I’m lazy and messy. Thee mere thought of  forcing gobs of unruly stuffing into tall, wobbly-bottomed peppers is an open invitation to Murphy. But, I got smart, knocked the suckers on their side and stuffed them full without so much as an “oops.” Anyone who’s grappled with a towering stuffed pepper will thank me for this culinary cheat. There’s no embarrassing spillage in the kitchen. And at the table? Hungry eaters can dig in without drafting a plan of attack that involves advanced physics and an extra limb. Nope. Just grab your knife and fork and dig in.

As a bonus, the shallow version cooks faster. Everybody wins. Except Murphy.

With fall in full swing and a bounty of big, sweet, inexpensive peppers at hand, I’m sharing my stuffed pepper tips with Kyle Christie (no relation). Tune in to Kitchener’s CTV News at Noon if you can. There’ll be not-so-deadly nightshades, oh-so sharp implements and the ever-present danger of spillage. And that’s before I even reach the studio.

To demonstrate the versatility of stuffed peppers, I made a Southwestern filling. With quinoa, black beans and cheese, they’re practically a meal in themselves. Having had my share of carb-heavy vegetarian holiday meals, I know I would be thankful for a protein-rich, meatless alternative — even if it isn’t exactly traditional.

Don’t like peppers? Zucchini makes a fine alternative. Just be sure to scoop out the seeds. This gets rid of the tough bits and creates a hollow to hold the filling. Okay, zucchini’s not quite as pretty, but it tastes just as good.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers and Stuffed Zucchini -

Spicy Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
Recipe type: Legumes and Lentils
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 as a main, 8 as a sidedish
With quinoa, black beans and cheese, these stuffed peppers are practically a meal in themselves. Serve as a main or a filling side dish.
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (or 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1½ teaspoons chipotle powder))
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 10-ounce box cooked spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove moisture
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained (about 2 cups cooked)
  • ¾ cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • ½ cup grated carrots
  • 1½ cup water
  • 1½ cup grated cheese, divided (spicy jalapeno Jack or TexMex mix is good)
  • generous pinch fresh ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 4 large sweet peppers (any colour)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chili powder, chipotle powder (if using), cumin, oregano and garlic, and cook for one minute, stirring well to blend the spices. Add the spinach and tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes to remove a bit of the excess moisture. Stir in the black beans, quinoa, corn, carrots and water. Cover and bring to a boil. When the liquid reaches a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is cooked, about 20 minutes.
  4. While the quinoa cooks, cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the ribs and seeds.
  5. Once the filling cooked, stir in 1 cup grated cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pepper half with the hot quinoa mixture. Place stuffed peppers in a baking dish or roasting pan. Cover with foil and bake for 25 to 35 minutes (see note on timing), or until the peppers are beginning to get tender. You want them cooked but not falling apart.
  6. Sprinkle each stuffed pepper with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese. Bake uncovered for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
One reader reports he needed to cook the peppers for an hour. Cooking times vary depending on the size of the pepper, how closely packed the pan is and how tender or crisp you like your peppers.


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45 Responses to Recipe: Spicy Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

  1. Quinoa Diet October 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Wow, such a great and simple recipe. I have a quinoa stuffed squash recipe but I never tried it with peppers.
    Thank you for sharing it, I will definitely try this.
    Quinoa Diet recently posted…Quinoa diet – delicious quinoa recipesMy Profile

    • Charmian Christie October 6, 2010 at 9:16 am #

      @Quinoa Diet, squash sounds good. You can also stuff zucchini, portobello mushrooms and eggplant.

  2. P-A-McGoldrick October 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    Peppers are practically perfect!
    This recipe is great as you do not specify to pre-cook the peppers a bit.
    As I had some peppers on hand, guess what is on the menu for supper?
    Have to go now to top with some cheese!
    P-A-McGoldrick recently posted…NEW BOOK ABOUT BOOKS!My Profile

    • Charmian Christie October 6, 2010 at 9:17 am #

      @P-A-McGoldrick, I found the peppers didn’t need precooking at all. I like mine tender-crisp and they cook just perfectly without any extra help.

      Hope you like the results.

  3. Sally October 6, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    Stuffed vegetables of any rotation tick my box every day of the week. But you are right, the anticipated time-consuming fiddliness sometimes makes me go for a simpler option. These look great and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my family to like quinoa this way.
    Sally recently posted…LiveSTRONG with a taste of yellowMy Profile

    • Charmian Christie October 6, 2010 at 9:19 am #

      @Sally, I’m biased and like quinoa but in this recipe you hardly notice it. I used red quinoa, which was hardly noticeable. Black quinoa might be even more invisible — and if they don’t know what’s in the recipe, they are less likely to balk. Sneaky? Yes, but this is how I learned to like spinach. Mom told me AFTER I gobbled the meal.

  4. Miranda Merten October 6, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Great tip on turning those peppers over. You know I have made stuffed peppers plenty of times and even after they fell over in the oven, the thought never occurred to me :) My husband does not like Quinoa so much, but with all of these ingredients, you are right – he might not notice!
    Miranda Merten recently posted…Tuesdays Take Me Back- Coconut Curry ShrimpMy Profile

    • Charmian Christie October 7, 2010 at 11:53 am #

      @Miranda Merten, yup, lazy goes a long way in my books. :-)

      I found I couldn’t taste the quinoa but could still feel its lovely crunch. However, if your husband can sniff out the quinoa amongst the other ingredients, you can always try using rice instead. You might have to adjust the liquid depending on the rice you use.

  5. julialikesred October 8, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Hmm yes. This looks delicious. And agreed – a perfect way to disguise quinoa for those dubious about that awesome grain.
    julialikesred recently posted…Foraging- then fondue! All Hail AutumnMy Profile

    • Charmian Christie October 8, 2010 at 11:15 am #

      @julialikesred, I hate the idea of pulling a fast one on the quinoa haters, but maybe, just maybe this will prove to them it’s a really great grain. I love it.

      If you do try the recipe, I’d love to hear how it went over.

  6. carol January 28, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Can this receipi freeze???

    • Charmian Christie January 29, 2011 at 8:48 am #

      The filling will freeze nicely. I wouldn’t freeze pre-stuffed peppers though,since the peppers would go mushy and might collapse when rebaked.

      If you are considering freezing the filling for convenience, you could freeze individual portions. Using a large ice cream scoop, spoon portions onto a baking sheet and freeze. Once the scoops are frozen put them in a freezer bag or lidded container, then remove as many portions as you need. They’d defrost fairly quickly (or in the fridge during the day) and could then be baked inside fresh peppers.

  7. Ivan February 19, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    Good recipe, but 35 minutes wasn’t enough to get them cooked …they were still quite hard. It took a bit over an hour to get them tender.

    • Charmian Christie February 20, 2011 at 10:37 am #

      Thanks for the feedback, Ivan. I like my peppers with a bit of crunch (tender crisp) so cooked them no more than 45 minutes. Cooking times will vary with the size of the pepper and personal preference. I’ll amend the recipe to reflect your findings.

      Hope you enjoyed them even though dinner was delayed.

  8. Brandi April 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Hi this looks delicious and I’m thinking about cooking it this weekend. Do you have any idea how many calories/protein each finished half contains? Did I miss nutritional info somewhere? Thanks for posting!

    • Charmian Christie April 5, 2011 at 9:43 am #

      Glad you like the looks of the dish. It is quite tasty, if I do say so myself :-)

      I don’t post nutritional information, so you didn’t miss anything. I am not a nutritionist or dietician and lack the expertise to do this with any sort of authority. If you’re looking for a reasonable estimate, you can enter the data from any recipe into

      Hope you like the stuffed peppers.

      • Brandi April 5, 2011 at 10:05 am #

        Hiya! No problem…I entered the ingredients in my iphone “Lose It!” app and I think it gave me a pretty good ballpark of around 250-300 calories a serving. I did make them and they were awesome! I had to use a dutch oven/stockpot to fit all the quinoa and other stove-top ingredients in though–a big pot wasn’t enough :) I had so much of the stuffing mix left over that I froze it into 4 individual servings to thaw later and make burritos with! Thinking maybe in a tortilla with some sour cream and avocado :)

        • Charmian Christie April 5, 2011 at 10:11 am #

          Brilliant idea to use an iPhone app. Why didn’t I think of that?

          Love your leftover idea! I used big peppers so it’s always a guessing game to see how many the recipe serves.

          Glad you liked the results. And thanks so much for taking the time to let me know how they turned out (and about that app!)

  9. dona April 25, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Excelent recipe and even better presentation !!!

    Made this for vegetarins in my family for Easter dinner.
    – Greased ceramic pan with olive oil before arranging peppers
    – omitted water (1 and half cup would just spoil the strong taste!)
    – used cheeses Emental+Gruyere and sprinkled with parmesan.
    – baked for 45 minutes.
    Can be served hot, but served cold is also very good .
    The filling can be used served cold as a side with barbecue for pancake rolls or in tacos.

    • Charmian Christie April 26, 2011 at 10:32 am #

      What a great idea for Easter. Love the idea of using the filling for pancake rolls or tacos. Brilliant!

      Thanks for taking the time to share your variations and suggestions. I’m now craving a taco version of this! And it’s only breakfast time.

  10. elle September 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    This was awesome, we loved it. Kind of fudged a few parts based upon what we had, but the base of this recipe is pure gold.

    • Charmian Christie September 8, 2011 at 8:33 am #

      Thanks! I’m so glad you liked the recipe. Out of curiosity, what parts did you fudge? I love hearing about variations.

      • elle September 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

        We didn’t have frozen spinach nor canned diced tomato. I used a bunch of fresh spinach (not a genius sub, obviously), and dissolved some tomato paste in the 1.5 c water and chopped up some roma tomato in lieu of the canned. I also threw in 2 T cayenne, because we like things hot.

        • Charmian Christie September 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

          Great improvisation! Smart use of tomato paste. I’ll keep that in mind for future.

          Not sure I could take 2 T of cayenne, but I love that you spiced it up to your palate.

          Thanks for posting your substitutions!

  11. Kristen September 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    I made this a couple of nights ago for myself and my husband, it was DELICIOUS!! It made way more filling that what I could fit in my 4 peppers. I have enough left over (which I froze) for another dinner. THANK YOU

    • Charmian Christie September 22, 2011 at 8:43 am #

      I’m so glad you liked the recipe! I always have left over filling, too, but the amount varies with the size of the peppers. Leftover filling is always a bonus in my house!

  12. Lizzy October 4, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    I just made this tonight and it was so delicious! I added a can of green chiles to add a little extra spice, and it was awesome. I will absolutely be making this again. Plus, i have so much extra stuffing that i cannot wait to use again…two huge thumbs up!

    • Charmian Christie October 5, 2011 at 8:49 am #

      Oh, I bet the green chiles were a fabulous addition to this. Thanks so much for sharing your great idea.

      Glad you liked the recipe. I’m now hankering for this dish with green chiles!

  13. AnitaMac February 15, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    I have not ventured too far into the stuffed vegetable world – squash and jacket potatoes being my stand bys. I have had intentions of stuffing red peppers – I think the colour makes them a feast for the eyes as well as the meal! Will have to take that leap!

    • Charmian Christie February 15, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Leap! Leap high and long! Worst thing? They spill their contents while cooking.

      Actually, I did the lazy leap, which was more of a skip. Instead of cutting the tops off, I cut the pepper lengthwise, forming two shallow bowls. They don’t tip (much), are easy to de-seed and fill, cook faster and aren’t a battle to eat once served. Everybody wins.

      Have fun and happy stuffing.

  14. Judith Rutty Godfrey February 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Charmian, what size is the can of black beans? I’m thinking it might be the small size not the 28oz. can I want to make this next weekend for my vegetarian house sitter! Thanks a bunch.

    • Charmian Christie February 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      The black beans are 19 oz tin — about 2 cups. Funny but I’ve only seen this size in our stores. I’ll go update the recipe to reflect this.

      Hope your vegetarian sitter likes it. There will be lots of filling left, which will freeze nicely.

  15. Judith Rutty Godfrey February 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    THANKS! I’m sure it will be a hit! Oh, do you have Goya brand products in Canada? The beans I buy here are from Goya and they have two sizes from which to choose.

    • Charmian Christie February 17, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

      I don’t recall seeing that brand. It’s Unico or no-name on the shelves. At least where I shop. I’m also cooking beans from dried more often these days.

      Hope you like the dish. I’ve fixed the recipe to reflect the tin size and added cups for the DIYers. :-) Thanks for asking. I wonder how many other people I’ve confused?

  16. Jana March 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Made this recipe tonight! I added a little bit of a diced jalapeno and omitted the carrots and corn. I didn’t read the recipe very well and pre-cooked my quinoa in vegetable broth, which was sort of a bummer because I like my quinoa with a bit of crunch to it. However, it is absolutely delicious! Since I didn’t use the carrots & corn, I didn’t have as much left over. This recipe is one of my new faves!

    • Charmian Christie March 6, 2012 at 7:57 am #

      I love the idea of the diced jalapeno. I’m with you on having a bit of crunch in my quinoa. I’m not into soggy grains.

      I’m thrilled you like the recipe. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your tweaks and results.

  17. Lizzy August 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    I actually have a question, or would like your thoughts on something… I am making these to bring to a party tomorrow night but will not have time between work and the party to cook them. I am planning on preparing them tonight and am wondering if I should do everything including cooking them tonight, and then leave the last step of sprinkling with cheese and cooking in the oven uncovered before the party tomorrow? Or what would be your best suggestion?

    • Charmian Christie August 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      Ooooh. Good question. My gut says to prepare the filling, stuff the peppers and refrigerate the stuffed, uncooked peppers once the filling has cooled. Then you can cook them fully the next day before the party. If you fully cook them the day before, it will take longer to cool and the peppers will likely be soggy upon reheating.

      The down side of this approach is that you will have to cook the peppers a bit longer than if you were just reheating them.

      The deciding factor is how much time you have before the party. Do you have time to cook them or just enough time to reheat? Hope this helps and that you and your guests enjoy the meal!

      • Lizzy August 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

        Your suggestion worked out perfectly and the peppers were a huge hit at the party!! Thanks!

        • Charmian Christie August 7, 2012 at 10:15 am #

          I’m so glad to hear your peppers were a hit! Thanks so much for taking the time to report back. It’s good to know that you can do this dish ahead of time! I always learn something from the comments.

  18. Ivana August 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    That is exactly what I am doing.
    In this heat during the day (35°C) here in Croatia, it is more convenient to do any baking during the night.
    I do the same with lasagna.

  19. Ivana August 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    To make my reply clear:
    do everything including cooking them at night, and then leave the last step of sprinkling with cheese and cooking in the oven uncovered.

  20. Kathryn February 4, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    This is one of my go-to recipes and just perfect for a chilly February night. Turns out this particular February night, the available peppers were not ideal: they were the little snacking peppers (two bite peppers?). Not wanting to head out again, I sliced the peppers in half; lined the bottom of a caserole with the peppers; put the quinoa stuffing on top; then put a layer of breadcrumbs, topped by more cheese. Not as spectacular looking as the original, but I really liked the crunchy addition of the breadcrumbs!
    Thanks again for the great recipe.

    • Charmian Christie February 4, 2015 at 8:08 am #

      Brilliant! I love your creative twist. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your variation. I’m going to give it a try myself!!


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