Southwest Turkey-Stuffed Baked Peppers Recipe

These Southwest turkey-stuffed baked peppers are a hearty, flavorful meal that's easy enough for a busy weeknight. Bell peppers are roasted until tender and filled with a savory, protein-packed mixture of spiced ground turkey, rice, and vegetables. A generous smattering of cheese makes sure these peppers are cheesy, creamy, and dreamy.

According to Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, stuffed peppers are a great way to use up whatever veggies and ground meat you have on hand. For these Southwest-inspired peppers, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, and spices like chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika give the ground turkey filling plenty of big, bold flavor — especially since it's initially simmered on the stovetop so all the tastes can meld together. The peppers are then finished with melted Tex-Mex style cheese and tangy sour cream, topping off an easy baked dish that's satisfying but not heavy.

Kids and adults alike will love these peppers filled with cheesy, zippy turkey and rice. They make for excellent leftovers too. Make this recipe on a busy weeknight to enjoy a dinner recipe that's simple yet still special and fun.

Gather the ingredients for Southwest turkey-stuffed baked peppers

To make these stuffed peppers, you will first need ripe sweet bell peppers and olive oil. To make the filling, grab some canola oil, onion, garlic, ground turkey, fresh cilantro, long-grain rice, tomatoes, corn, black beans, chili flakes, smoked paprika, cumin, water, salt, and pepper. To finish topping the peppers, you'll need just shredded Tex-Mex cheese and sour cream. Fortunately, this recipe requires minimal prep work since the turkey is already ground and the tomatoes, corn, and black beans are canned. 

Step 1: Preheat the oven

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Step 2: Prep a baking sheet

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 3: Heat some oil in a pan

Add canola oil to a large pan over medium heat.

Step 4: Start sauteing the turkey

Saute onion, garlic, ground turkey, and half the minced cilantro for 5 minutes, until turkey is no longer pink.

Step 5: Add rice and veggies

Add rice, diced tomatoes, corn, and black beans, and stir.

Step 6: Add seasonings

Season with chili flakes, smoked paprika, and cumin, stirring again to combine.

Step 7: Add water and let simmer

Pour in the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Step 8: Prep the peppers for stuffing

Arrange pepper halves on the prepared baking sheet.

Step 9: Add oil and seasonings

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons olive oil over the peppers, rub in to coat, then season with salt and pepper.

Step 10: Fill them with the turkey mixture

Stuff each pepper half with turkey mixture, filling them all the way to the top.

Step 11: Top with cheese

Top peppers with shredded cheese, season with more salt and pepper, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Step 12: Bake

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the filling is heated through.

Step 13: Serve

Serve peppers with a drizzle of sour cream and the remaining cilantro sprinkled on top.

Can I use ground beef instead of turkey for these Southwest stuffed baked peppers?

While this recipe calls for ground turkey, you can absolutely use ground beef instead if you prefer. In fact, the heartiness of the beef complements the peppers and filling nicely, matching the Tex-Mex flavors perfectly. The cooking method and times will remain the same. Simply use 1 pound of lean ground beef in place of the ground turkey.

In general, the main difference between the two proteins is that ground turkey tends to be leaner and mildly sweeter in flavor, and it may cook faster with less fat to brown in the pan. So, using ground beef will result in a dish that is a bit richer and more savory, as well as deeper in color. Aside from these subtle differences in flavor and texture, the two meats can be used interchangeably. Just be sure to use 90% lean ground beef so it doesn't add too much grease to the dish. You may also want to drain any excess fat after browning the meat and before adding the other ingredients.

Can I use a different type of rice in these Southwest turkey-stuffed baked peppers?

You have several options for substituting different types of rice in this recipe. Brown rice can replace white rice in a 1-to-1 ratio. It adds a nuttier flavor but may take a bit longer to cook. If using wild rice, make sure to mix it with regular rice in a 1-to-2 ratio of wild rice to white rice, and cook the wild rice before adding it to the filling. Short-grain risotto rice like Arborio will make the filling creamier, but you may want to reduce the liquid slightly.

If you're short on time, you can also use pre-cooked or instant rice in the filling, using the same amount the recipe calls for of uncooked rice. Just prepare the instant rice per package instructions before mixing it into the stuffing, and skip the simmering time in step 7, which is meant to soften the uncooked rice. Feel free to use rice mixes like seasoned yellow rice to infuse more flavor. 

While not technically rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat can substitute rice in a 1:1 ratio and using the same cooking method. They may change the texture of the filling a bit, but they will still taste delicious.

How do I keep stuffed baked peppers from getting soggy?

Stuffed peppers can often become soggy, especially if stuffed with too much filling. Luckily, there are some easy ways to keep these Southwest turkey-stuffed peppers nice and firm. First, be sure to bake them at a high temperature — hence the 450 F setting called for in this recipe. The initial high heat helps set the peppers and prevents too much moisture from being released, while baking at a lower temperature may cause them to steam and get mushy. 

Additionally, choose peppers with thick, sturdy walls, as thinner peppers are more likely to become soft. Resist overstuffing the pepper cavities with too much filling; keeping them moderately filled prevents the insides from becoming too moist. Plus, letting any excess liquid drain off the filling mixture before stuffing the peppers can also help prevent sogginess. Finally, after baking, let the stuffed peppers rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. This allows them to firm up a bit more after being removed from the oven. Follow these tips, and your Southwest stuffed peppers will maintain a tender yet crisp texture that's never soggy.

Southwest Turkey-Stuffed Baked Peppers Recipe
4.9 from 31 ratings
Full of rice, black beans, veggies, and Southwestern spices, these turkey-stuffed peppers are a colorfully nutritious meal for the whole family.
Prep Time
20
minutes
Cook Time
45
minutes
Servings
6
servings
southwest turkey and cheese stuffed peppers on baking sheet
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced, divided
  • ½ cup long-grain rice
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 12-ounce can corn, drained
  • 1 19-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 red bell peppers, cut in half, stems and seeds removed
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Tex-Mex cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Add canola oil to a large pan over medium heat.
  4. Saute onion, garlic, ground turkey, and half the minced cilantro for 5 minutes, until turkey is no longer pink.
  5. Add rice, diced tomatoes, corn, and black beans, and stir.
  6. Season with chili flakes, smoked paprika, and cumin, stirring again to combine.
  7. Pour in the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  8. Arrange pepper halves on the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons olive oil over the peppers, rub in to coat, then season with salt and pepper.
  10. Stuff each pepper half with turkey mixture, filling them all the way to the top.
  11. Top peppers with shredded cheese, season with more salt and pepper, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
  12. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the filling is heated through.
  13. Serve peppers with a drizzle of sour cream and the remaining cilantro sprinkled on top.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 601
Total Fat 32.3 g
Saturated Fat 9.6 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 85.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 51.6 g
Dietary Fiber 12.2 g
Total Sugars 11.7 g
Sodium 1,313.6 mg
Protein 30.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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