Growing up, there was so much excitement surrounding Halloween. Figuring out my costume and the best route for trick-or-treating consumed the weeks before October 31.
Now, I prefer to spend my time crafting a festive menu to celebrate. And these Halloween Stuffed Peppers are the perfect dinner before the trick-or-treaters arrive.
My all-time favorite costume as a kid was dressing up as a picnic. It figures that it was centered around food!
I hung a plastic red checkered tablecloth from two dowel rods across my shoulders, and hot glued paper plates and plastic food to the front. I affixed a few plastic ants near the food, and carried a picnic basket to collect candy.
As I went from house to house, there were several women who exclaimed in delight at my creativity and made me pose for a photo. I might have gotten a little extra candy out of them, too!
My brother and I always ate dinner before trick-or-treating. I’m guessing my mom was trying to fill us up so we wouldn’t eat too much candy afterward. These Halloween Stuffed Peppers are the perfect meal to feed hungry kiddos (and adults) before the fun begins.
- You’ll need 4 large orange bell peppers. Purchase peppers that sit nicely on a countertop, otherwise you can trim a little off the bottom to get a flat surface.
- Ground turkey adds lots of protein. You can use dark or light meat ground turkey.
- The base of the stuffing is rice and corn. Any long grain white rice works well.
- Onion, salsa, jalapeño, and cumin add flavor to the stuffing mixture.
- A Mexican blend cheese completes the peppers.
How to carve jack o’lanterns into bell peppers
You’ll want to carve the peppers before cooking, and even before cutting the top off. Otherwise, they’ll be too soft or flimsy.
I used my sharpest paring knife and it took about 15 minutes to carve four peppers once I had the technique down.
To carve the peppers, use a pen to draw your desired shapes onto the bell peppers. Then, use a paring knife to carve on the outside of the pen markings.
Or if you’re really talented, you could just carve them freehand!
Discard the pieces that you’ve cut out, and the peppers are ready for stuffing!
Cooking the peppers
Place the carved peppers in a microwave safe dish and fill the bottom with a thin layer of water. The water will help the peppers steam—no need to put a lid on the dish.
Microwave the peppers for 4–5 minutes, or until nearly soft. The peppers will lose a little bit of their vibrant color, but that’s ok—they will still be orange!
Filling the peppers
1. While you are carving the peppers, cook the rice according to package directions.
2. Sauté the onion and jalapeño in olive oil, then add the ground turkey and sauté until cooked through.
3. Add the cumin, salt, salsa, cooked rice, corn, and half of the cheese. Stir to combine.
4. Fill the peppers with the stuffing, dividing it evenly among the 4 peppers.
5. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, then bake for 5–7 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
Can I make these stuffed peppers vegetarian?
Yes! Instead of ground turkey, add one can of rinsed and drained black beans. They fit perfectly with the southwestern flavors. You could also just omit the ground turkey.
Can I make these with ground beef?
Yes! Use 1 pound of ground sirloin (90% lean) instead of the ground turkey.
For a side dish, this winter fruit salad is a great pairing for the peppers.
Jack O'Lantern Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
- 4 large orange bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ yellow onion chopped
- 1 lb ground turkey (OR one (15oz) can black beans, rinsed & drained)
- 1 jalapeño, diced
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling into peppers
- ⅔ cup salsa
- 1½ cups cooked rice (this is approximately ½ cup uncooked)
- ½ cup canned corn, drained
- 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
- To garnish: chopped cilantro
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Rinse and dry bell peppers. Carve jack o’lantern faces into each bell pepper using a sharp paring knife. I used a pen to draw the shapes first, and then cut on the outside of the markings with the paring knife. If you’re more talented than I am, you could also cut them freehand.
- Cut ½ to ¾ of an inch off the top of each bell pepper. Set aside the tops. Carefully clean the ribs and seeds out of each pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the peppers in a 8x8 inch glass baking dish and replace the top of each pepper. Put ½ inch of water in the bottom of the baking dish and microwave on high for 4–5 minutes, until the peppers are almost tender.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeño, and turkey (or black beans). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the turkey is cooked through, about 6–7 minutes.
- Add the cumin, salt, salsa, cooked rice, corn, and half of the cheese. Stir to combine. Cook for 2–3 minutes, or until the mixture is hot throughout.
- Drain the water from the dish with the bell peppers. Divide the rice mixture evenly among the bell peppers. Divide the remaining ½ cup cheese between the tops of the peppers.
- Bake for 5–7 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the peppers are warm throughout. Replace the top on each pepper, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.
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