Turkey Parmesan Stuffed Peppers

one stuffed pepper on a spoon getting lifted out of a skillet with a cheese pull

Everyone loves stuffed bell peppers. Or, everyone thinks they do until they dig into an unseasoned, watery vegetable filled with dry, overcooked beef. There might be a suggestion of tomato sauce inside, or an overwhelming amount of cheese. But there is never a big, bold flavor statement where there so easily could be.

So I set out to develop a recipe for the best stuffed peppers with ground turkey and tomato sauce — one that finally lived up to expectation. I decided to go with turkey stuffed peppers rather than beef, because that’s what I had on hand at the time. Plus, ground turkey opens up so many more possibilities for flavor combinations than ground beef. Why not chicken Parmesan stuffed peppers, you ask? It would make more sense, I know. But ground chicken is always hard to find at my grocery store, and it’s often extra-lean and will cook up into dry, crumbly pieces. If you can find 85% lean ground chicken — no higher, which will be drier — feel free to use it here.

I got all of my best tools ready: I planned to dice and deep-fry, I imagined breadcrumbs and butter, I prepped pile of shredded cheese. Then, I got lazy.

And that’s when I struck gold.

How to make turkey parmesan stuffed peppers

Turns out, tomato sauce, ground meat, and cheese are the only things you need to make excellent stuffed peppers, you just have to treat them better than that dude who always brings them to game day. The key to making healthy stuffed peppers with ground turkey is to treat both the inside and the outside of the stuffed peppers as equally important parts of the meal. The pepper is not just the venue for the stuffing, it’s the opening act.

Start by rubbing down cleaned, halved bell peppers with vinegar and olive oil until they shine like new silverware. Season them lightly with salt and pepper.

six halved peppers on a cutting board, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper

Do you have to cook meat before stuffing peppers?

I prefer to cook the meat before stuffing peppers, as it helps some of the moisture cook off and renders the fat to ensure that your stuffed peppers won’t become watery or greasy. The USDA agrees, but for a different reason: Precooking raw meat before stuffing it in the peppers reduces the risk of foodborne illness. Win-win!

uncooked ground turkey in a skillet with spices and parsley

So, cook up ground turkey with plenty of salt and spices, then drench it in tomato sauce and toss it with well-seasoned rice. Adding rice in your stuffed peppers increases the portion size and also turns this into a complete meal (protein + veggie + grain). Stuffed peppers with ground turkey and brown rice makes something that, in my mind at least, is healthy enough to enjoy leftovers all week, but cheesy enough to actually make you excited about dinner.

ground turkey in a skillet

Another important step: Taste the cooked filling and adjust the seasonings as necessary, until it’ so irresistible you start wondering if you should just eat it out of the pan and forget the whole stuffed pepper thing.

cooked ground turkey, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, and rice in a skillet

But it’s about to get so much better.

six halved peppers in a casserole dish with sauce

A bit of time in the oven (while you have a seat and read that magazine from last November) sweetens and softens the peppers. They hold their shape but surrender easily to the side of a fork. The stuffing tumbles onto your plate in a juicy, tomato-y mess.

six stuffed peppers with marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella in a casserole dish, unbaked

Dinner is served, in a glistening, edible box.

six stuffed peppers with marinara sauce and mozzarella in a casserole dish

More healthy comfort food dinner ideas:

Turkey Parmesan Stuffed Peppers

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (22 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Dinner American
By Samantha Serves: 4
Prep Time: 35 minutes Cooking Time: 35 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Stuffed with well-seasoned ground turkey, marinara sauce, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, these melty mozzarella-topped peppers are perfect for making on Sunday to enjoy leftovers all week.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 lb ground turkey (preferably 85% lean, anything leaner will be drier so if that's all you can find, add more oil to the pan in step one)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste
  • 1 24-oz jar marinara sauce, divided
  • 1 ½ cups cooked rice or quinoa (about ½ cup dry, or use microwave rice here- it works in a pinch!)
  • 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded, torn, or sliced

Instructions

1

First off, prep all ingredients before getting started. It will make the cooking process a lot smoother.

2

Heat a large skillet on medium-low. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and onion and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute or so, until fragrant. Add ground turkey, increase heat to medium, and use the back of a spoon to smash it into large pieces. Cook without stirring until lightly browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, granulated garlic, oregano, parsley, and continue to cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces until mostly cooked through, 1-2 minutes more.

3

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400°F. Season bell peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the red wine vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread all but 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Arrange bell peppers on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Add to the oven while it heats so that the peppers have a head-start on cooking, at least 10 minutes.

4

Add remaining 1 ½ cups marinara sauce to the turkey mixture and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the turkey is completely cooked through. Turn off heat, stir in cooked rice and Parmesan. Taste, add more salt if needed. Generously spoon the turkey mixture into each pepper half and top with mozzarella cheese.

5

Cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil (you can spray the underside of the foil with nonstick cooking spray so the cheese doesn't stick to it) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly, the cheese has melted and the peppers are tender. Uncover, increase heat to 425°F, and continue to cook until the cheese has lightly browned, 5-10 minutes more.

Nutrition

  • 651 Calories
  • 40g Carbohydrates
  • 35g Fat
  • 6g Fiber
  • 43g Protein
  • 14g Saturated fat
  • 1317mg Sodium
  • 15g Sugar

Notes

I would suggest a red wine with ripe fruit flavors such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Zinfandel. These types of wines will pair nicely with the bell pepper’s subtle tang and earthiness and the stuffing’s savory richness.

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    chefboyrdee
    October 3, 2018 at 9:11 am

    5 stars
    OMG, I love this. Haven’t had a good one since I was a kid

  • Reply
    Harold
    October 3, 2018 at 10:09 am

    5 stars
    These look so good, I can’t wait to make them. The photos are amazing!

  • Reply
    Linda
    October 3, 2018 at 10:44 am

    5 stars
    I only have 3 letters for this gloriously simple meal: WOW.

  • Reply
    Donna
    November 11, 2021 at 10:15 am

    I like to blanch the peppers first in salted boiling water for about 30 seconds. Makes the peppers super sweet and tender. I also add either onion powder or sautéed onions

    • Reply
      Samantha
      November 17, 2021 at 7:19 am

      That’s a great idea, thanks Donna!

    • Reply
      Virginia
      May 28, 2022 at 6:32 pm

      I agree on boiling the peppers 30 sec to tenderize because all the other ingredients are cooked. Use tongs to carefully lift out to stuff. This is a great recipe. But I will use ground beef. Thanks

  • Reply
    Cynthia Zanardi
    May 15, 2022 at 10:33 am

    Super delicious , the first time I make a recipe, I typically follow it exactly but as soon as I read this recipe I knew I could morph it some & it would be good. I had some non meat eater friends so I made a batch with mushrooms, spinach, in stead of the ground turkey. We are trying to be Keto friendly so I used cooked Caulflower rice & not only did I stuff in peppers but I also stuffed in partially grilled zucchini & squash boats (pre-grilling to remove moisture) & then baked with the peppers. The orange & red peppers with the green zucchini & yellow squash looked so festive in my clear baking dish. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Samantha
      May 15, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      That all sounds delicious! I will definitely have to try the mushroom and spinach filling.

  • Reply
    Sarah J
    November 10, 2022 at 5:42 pm

    This is my go to recipe!
    My family loves it. Weather it’s for dinner night or to wow my friends at Friendsgiving, this recipe is always my number one!

    • Reply
      Samantha
      November 11, 2022 at 6:24 am

      Yay! That makes me so happy to hear 🙂

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