Taco Pepper Cups are a handy, vegetarian treat

Economical and homey, these stuffed favorites are lower in salt and cholesterol.

Updated: 2013-01-16T06:35:48Z


The Kansas City Star

Stuffed peppers show up in most cuisines of the world.

Sure, you can also stuff a zucchini, eggplant or mushroom, but the bottom “cup” of a bell pepper is the easiest to fill and one of the most nutritious, too.

Taco-seasoned fillings are common. Most recipes call for stuffing the pepper with a beef mixture, then topping it with a sauce and cheese, but The Star’s Taco Pepper Cups are vegetarian. Instead of ground beef, we use brown rice. It takes slightly longer to cook, but it is also a whole grain. Instead of a cream-based sauce we opted for salsa, which contains no fat or cholesterol.

“Stuffed food is downtown food,” cookbook author Lora Brody writes in the intro to “Stuff It!” (William & Morrow; 1998), a collaboration with her son, Max Brody, then an aspiring culinary student. “It’s homey, old-fashioned food that anyone can make. It’s economical, made with inexpensive ingredients and leftovers. It’s quick … and it’s versatile.”

•  Shopping tip: The sodium content of salsa varies. Be sure to read the labels closely and choose one that is lower in sodium. We tested this recipe using Jose Pepper’s salsa. A 2 tablespoon serving lists 10 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 70 milligrams sodium, 2 grams total carbohydrates and 0 grams protein.

Taco Pepper Cups

Makes 6 servings

1/4 cup brown rice

3/4 cup water

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup frozen corn

1/3 cup salsa

3 red or green bell peppers

6 tablespoons Mexican blend low-fat cheese

Toppings: Minced cilantro, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Combine brown rice and water in a small saucepan. Cover and heat over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in seasonings, corn and salsa. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cut peppers in half lengthwise; scoop out and discard seeds. Trim off stem if desired, leaving as much of the pepper intact as possible. In a large saucepan, add water deep enough to cover peppers. Cover and heat to boiling over medium-high heat.

Using tongs, slip pepper halves into boiling water, pushing down gently to submerge. Return to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Using tongs, lift the pepper halves from the boiling water and drain well. Arrange cut side up in prepared baking dish.

Fill each pepper with 3 to 4 tablespoons rice mixture. Cover and bake 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cheese. Bake, uncovered, 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top each, as desired, with minced cilantro, lettuce and tomatoes.

Variation: Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 3 cups baked tortilla chips in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped and drained, over the chips. Top with rice and corn mixture. Bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 3 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted. Top with cilantro, lettuce and tomatoes, as desired.

Per serving: 94 calories (19 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 111 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Recipe developed exclusively for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss. To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, The Star’s food editor and restaurant critic, call 816-234-4347, send email to or follow her on Facebook.

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