This is our favorite and best stuffed peppers in tomato sauce recipe – bell peppers stuffed with ground beef and rice and smothered in a smooth and flavorful tomato sauce.
This is a traditional way of cooking stuffed peppers with tomato sauce in many parts of the world. Definitely, in Eastern Europe, where I come from, but not only. The Turkish version of peppers with tomato sauce is similar, and so is the German way of cooking them.
A comforting and filling dish, full of childhood memories, satisfying, and utterly delicious. I love the sweet flavor of the red bell peppers, the heartiness given by the meat, the luscious, slightly sweet, and sour tomato sauce, and, most of all, the dill aroma.
Ingredients for the stuffed peppers
- Peppers: Medium-sized red bell peppers (capsicum) or pointed red bell peppers. Pointed peppers are generally smaller than red bell peppers, so if you choose them, ensure they are about the size of a bell pepper.
- Ground meat: I usually use beef or a mixture of beef and pork. For a Turkish-style recipe, you would choose pure beef; for an Eastern-European-style version, you would go for pure pork. The stuffed peppers will be equally delicious, no matter what kind of mince you choose.
- Rice: Plain white rice.
- Sweet paprika powder: A key ingredient in this recipe for stuffed peppers in tomato sauce. Ensure you have sweet paprika (not hot or smoked) and that it is the best quality you can afford.
- I am very particular about paprika powder, the cheapest available sweet paprika powder around here tastes only of dust...
- I usually use Hungarian sweet paprika, but Spanish or regular sweet paprika is also perfect (Amazon affiliate link).
- Dill: Fresh or frozen dill, not dried dill. Dried dill is not flavorful enough for this recipe.
- Other ingredients: White bread, onion, garlic, egg, fine sea salt or Kosher salt, and ground black pepper.
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
- Tomato paste: Concentrated tomato paste. It’s sold in small cans, tubes, or jars.
- Tomato puree: Blended tomatoes that are milder in taste than the paste, as they are not concentrated. They are sold in cartons, bottles, jars, or cans.
- Stock: I often use homemade chicken stock because I almost always have some in the fridge or freezer.
- Otherwise, choose a good quality brand of low-sodium stock. Beef or vegetable stock is also acceptable.
- Other ingredients: You will also need sweet paprika powder and fresh or frozen dill for the tomato sauce. And olive oil, onion, garlic cloves, sugar, salt, and pepper.
How to cook stuffed peppers in tomato sauce?
Stuff the peppers
- Cook the rice according to the packet's instructions. Drain well and let cool while you prepare the rest.
- Prepare the rest of the ingredients while the rice cooks.
- Remove the tops and the seeds of the peppers (1,2).
- Soak the white bread in some water for a couple of minutes, then squeeze it in your hand to remove the excess (3).
- Chop the onion very finely and grate the garlic cloves. Chop the dill.
- Stuffing: Mix the ground beef, bread, rice, sweet paprika powder, egg, onion, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper to taste (4).
- Fill the capsicums with the mixture (5).
Tomato sauce for stuffed peppers
- Cook the finely chopped onions until translucent (6); add the garlic and the sweet paprika, and stir shortly (7).
- Add the stock, tomato paste, tomato puree, salt, pepper, and sugar, and mix well. You can use a small whisk to ensure the tomato paste is fully dissolved in the sauce (8).
- Place the stuffed peppers into the sauce (9).
- Simmer on medium-low heat, covered, for about 10 minutes. Turn the stuffed peppers on the other side and cook for 10 minutes. Turn again, turn the heat down to low, and continue simmering for another 15 minutes or until the peppers are soft.
- Check: It might take longer if the peppers are larger; poke them with a fork to see how soft they are and prolong the cooking time accordingly; you want them to be soft but still hold their shape (10).
- Adjust the taste with more salt and pepper, stir most of the chopped dill into the tomato sauce, and sprinkle the rest on top.
Not green bell peppers: they are not sweet enough for this recipe. You can use them if you like, but personally, I find them too bitter.
If you choose green peppers, make sure you buy Turkish-style green peppers, which are shaped like bell peppers but a bit smaller, lighter in color (light green or yellowish), and sweet. They also have thinner skins than bell peppers.
Sure. You can make them one day ahead. Let the dish come to room temperature and refrigerate the pot, covered, until ready to serve. Reheat on low heat as instructed above.
The stuffed peppers in tomato sauce will last up to 3 days in an airtight container. Reheat them well before serving.
Reheat them on the stovetop, covered, adding a splash of stock or water to loosen the sauce if it has thickened too much. Turn the peppers in the sauce several times during reheating.
When I want things to go faster, I carefully split the peppers in the middle, so I have two halves; they will get hot more quickly, and there will be no need to turn them in the sauce.
You can also reheat the peppers in the microwave.
Freeze the peppers in the sauce for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge and reheat before serving.
How to serve filled peppers?
- Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes. Of course, mashed potatoes are the best, but if you choose boiled potatoes, crush them with the fork on your plate so they can soak that delicious sauce.
- Bread is a good choice as well, typical for Eastern Europe. Preferably a crusty white bread with a fluffy interior. However, sourdough, whole wheat, or soda bread is also great.
- We always serve stuffed peppers with dill pickles or other pickles, for instance, Pickled Green Tomatoes or Zucchini Pickles.
- Other good choices are a simple green salad, white cabbage salad, and roasted or steamed vegetables like broccoli, green beans, or carrots.
- Add a dollop of sour cream or smetana on top. It’s optional but fitting and delicious.
More stuffed vegetables
Stuffed Peppers in Tomato Sauce
- Large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot
- 8 medium red bell peppers Note 1
- 2.5 oz white rice 75 g
- 2 oz white bread crust removed, 60 g
- 1 medium onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 lb ground beef 450 g, Note 2
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika powder Note 3
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill Note 4
- fine sea salt or Kosher
- ground black pepper
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika powder
- 2 ¾ cups chicken stock low sodium, 650 ml, Note 5
- 3.5 oz tomato paste 100 g
- 10.5 oz tomato puree 300 g
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- fine sea salt and black pepper
- 4-6 tablespoons fresh dill chopped
- Cook the rice in salted water, drain well, and let it cool until you prepare the rest.2.5 oz/ 75 g white rice
- Prepare stuffing ingredients: Cut and remove the tops of the peppers, discarding the seeds and the membranes. Soak the white bread in some water for a few minutes, and squeeze it in your hand to remove the excess water. Chop the onion very finely and grate the garlic cloves.8-10 red bell peppers, 2 oz/ 60 g white bread without crust, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves
- Stuffing: Mix the ground beef, soaked bread, cooled rice, sweet paprika powder, egg, onion, garlic cloves, chopped dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with your hand and fill the peppers with this mixture.1 lb/ 450 ground beef, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1 large egg, 2 tablespoon dill
- Sauté: Heat the olive oil and cook the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and the sweet paprika and stir for one minute more.2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- Tomato sauce: Pour the stock into the pan. Add tomato paste, tomato puree, sugar, salt, and pepper, and stir well to dissolve the tomato paste and combine everything (you can use a small whisk to help the tomato paste dissolve). Place the stuffed peppers into the sauce.2 ¾ cups/ 650 ml chicken stock + 3.5 oz/ 100 g tomato paste + 10.5 oz/ 300 g tomato puree + 1 teaspoon sugar + salt + pepper
- Simmer on medium-low heat, covered, for about 10 minutes. Turn the peppers on the other side and cook for further 10 minutes. Turn the peppers in the sauce again, turn the heat down to low, and continue simmering for another 15 minutes or until the peppers are soft.
- Check: It might take longer if the peppers are large, poke them with a fork to see how soft they are and prolong the cooking time accordingly; you want them to be soft but still holding their shape.
- Adjust the taste with more salt and pepper, stir most of the chopped dill in the sauce, and sprinkle the rest on top.4-6 tablespoon chopped dill
- Ground meat: You can use a mixture of beef and pork or only pork as well.
- Sweet paprika powder: Use the best quality you can afford; when it comes to paprika, it really makes a difference. I like sweet Hungarian or Spanish paprika powder. It has to be sweet for an authentic flavor, hot or smoked paprika is unsuitable for this dish.
- Dill: Fresh dill is best, but frozen dill is also fine. Dried dill is not an option.
- Stock: Chicken stock is my first choice, but beef or vegetable stock is also fine. It’s preferable to use low sodium to avoid over-salting the dish.