Stuffed Peppers with Turkey and Quinoa

A less traditional version of Greek stuffed peppers, using ground turkey, quinoa, mushrooms, spinach, berbere spices and chili powder. Easy to put together, tasty as heck, and pretty healthy. Sounds awesome, right? We think so, too.

8 multicoloured stuffed peppers with turkey and quinoa in a metal dish, on a table with blue and white napkins.

Adapted from Nicholas Tsakiris, Chloe Tsakiris, and Olivia Tsakiris | Sea Salt and Honey | Harper Design, 2021

Berbere spice blend gives the turkey and quinoa filling a complex depth of flavor, and the chili powder gives it an extra kick. This version has officially replaced the more traditional Greek one in our household. Serve these with a simple green salad. Be sure to choose peppers that have a flat enough bottom that they can stand upright in the baking dish.–Nicholas, Chloe, and Olivia Tsakiris

CAN I MAKE STUFFED PEPPERS IN ADVANCE?

The beauty of this recipe, besides the spectacular taste, is that you can make them in advance by up to 2 days. Prepare them and cover with foil, then refrigerate until you are ready to bake. You can refrigerate the prepped peppers for up to 2 days and cook when ready.

If you make them right before you’re going to serve them, you can keep the leftover stuffed peppers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven before serving.

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey and Quinoa

8 multicoloured stuffed peppers with turkey and quinoa in a metal dish, on a table with blue and white napkins.
Peppers aren't native to Greece; they arrived from the New World in the late fifteenth century, and now they are ubiquitous in Mediterranean cuisine. Our gemista (Greek rice-stuffed peppers) nods to the pepper’s origin by substituting quinoa for rice and using turkey instead of beef, giving a uniquely American twist to the traditional stuffed pepper.
Nicholas Tsakiris, Chloe Tsakiris, and Olivia Tsakiris

Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr 30 mins
Total 2 hrs
Entree
Mediterranean
8 peppers
277 kcal
No ratings yet
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Ingredients 

  • 1 cup quinoa rinsed and drained
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for the quinoa, the peppers, and the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons berbere spice blend*
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder or ground cayenne pepper plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped cremini or button mushrooms
  • 8 cups fresh spinach or 1 (10-ounce| 280-g) box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 2 medium (14 oz) onions diced
  • 8 very large bell peppers (2 each of red, orange, yellow, and green) with flat bottoms (or slice a thin layer off the bottom)

Directions
 

  • Cook quinoa in water following package instructions, adding 1 teaspoon salt and a splash of olive oil to the boiling water.

    TESTER TIP: For extra flavor, cook your quinoa in chicken stock. If using salted chicken broth, don’t add extra salt to the quinoa.

  • Coat bottom of a large skillet with about 1/4 cup (60 ml) oil, add 1 tablespoon berbere spice, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Place over high heat.
  • Add mushrooms and spinach to skillet, stir and cover. Once spinach starts to wilt, stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Cook until mushrooms are soft and spinach has wilted completely, 8 to 10 minutes. Dump into a medium bowl.
  • To the same skillet over medium-high heat, add black pepper and remaining oil, berbere spice, cumin, and chili powder.
  • Add turkey and cook, stirring continuously, to brown meat and break up any large pieces. While stirring, add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Once meat has browned, stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add onions, sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt over them, and let cook undisturbed for 30 seconds. Stir well and cook until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Coat the bottom of a 13-by-9-by-2-inch (33-by-23-by-5-cm) baking dish with olive oil.
  • Stir quinoa and mushroom mixture into the turkey mixture. Turn off heat but leave skillet on warm burner.
  • Cut tops off peppers and save. Remove seeds from peppers and tops. Fill and pack hollowed peppers with turkey mixture, cover with tops, and stand upright in prepared baking dish.
  • Using a pastry brush, coat outside of peppers with oil, including tops. Bake until peppers have softened and tops have started to brown, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm.
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Notes

*What is berbere spice?

A building block of Ethiopian cooking, it’s a spice blend composed of chiles, garlic, fenugreek, and a handful of warm spices, such as allspice, cinnamon, or ginger. Meaning “hot” in Amharic and pronounced bari baray, it can be made with varying levels of spice, so if you’re spice averse you might want to search out a mix with less chile.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 277kcal (14%)Carbohydrates: 16g (5%)Protein: 17g (34%)Fat: 16g (25%)Saturated Fat: 2g (13%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 31mg (10%)Sodium: 1335mg (58%)Potassium: 474mg (14%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 2917IU (58%)Vitamin C: 11mg (13%)Calcium: 50mg (5%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe for stuffed peppers with turkey and quinoa has a winning combination: tons of flavor, healthy ingredients, and easy to make (though it takes a little time).

Ground turkey is a good choice for these peppers because it takes on the flavors really nicely. And the berbere is really something! You get the spice from the chiles, savoriness from the seeds and cardamom, and a little sweetness from the cinnamon.

So, I do love this dish. Visually, it’s a neat package of everything a meal should have and the flavor is wonderful. I just felt the seasoning needed to be tweaked a little to be balanced.

I had way too much filling for the peppers, I could have filled at least another 4 peppers but I do wonder if my peppers were just a touch too small. Maybe larger ones would have received all of the filling, and taken the full 75 minutes to cook.

I served the peppers with some high-quality French cream cheese, and it was fantastic! In terms of pairing with other foods, these peppers don’t need much-they really are a complete meal all in one convenient (if time-consuming) package! It’s a great prep-ahead meal and convenient for leftover lunches too.

Originally published September 16, 2021

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