This is a family favorite and I am happy to say a (somewhat) toddler approved meal. I started making this at least five years ago, and have lost the original recipe. Regardless, I've made many changes over the years. The current version has to be the most satisfying, and its very busy-mom/OAMC/freezer friendly!
When I first started making this recipe, I cut the bell peppers length wise, and made little boats. I baked them in a casserole dish. Later I begun doubling our recipe, and freezing a second tray. More recently I discovered that it was possible to make these in the crock pot! Not only does this require significantly less active cooking time, it requires quite a bit less prep. The recipe below makes approximately 10 peppers. I cooked 5 the other day (enough for dinner and left overs) and then froze the remaining peppers. As they are individually freezable, you can choose how many you want to freeze and/or cook in the future. Lastly, I included some suggestions, these are quite customizable to your taste.
Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
- 1 med onion, chopped
- 1 can black beans*
- 1 can pinto beans*
- 2 packages taco seasoning**
- 1/2 cup water (per taco seasoning directions)
- 10 bell peppers
- 1/2 cup salsa (or Rotel)
- 1 block cream cheese
- 1 cup shredded Mexican/taco cheese
Optional ingredients & toppings
- additional shredded Mexican/taco cheese
- sour cream
- hot sauce
- crushed tortilla chips
*You can substitute cooked dry beans, I just didn't know how to make them until recently. Check out Mary's post for more info.
**I purchase this ingredient in bulk at Costco. I know some people make their own. (Another project for the future!). Use enough seasoning for 2-2.5 lbs worth of meat.
- Drain and rinse beans. Set aside.
- Brown the ground beef.
- Add onions, beans, taco seasoning, and water to the pan.
- Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften (approx 5 minutes)
- This is a good time to cut the tops off the bell peppers, and clean out the seeds/insides. Set aside for later.
- Stir in 1/4 C salsa or Rotel
- Add in cream cheese - I slice mine up into chunks to make it easier to blend
- Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese based on your preferences
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Scoop the mixture into the bell peppers. Top with shredded cheese
To Freeze: Place peppers upright on a pan or plate. Freeze over night. Wrap individually or put in bag or container.
To Cook (in slow cooker) Place peppers in slow cooker with 1/4 C salsa + 1/4 C water. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. You can also use taco sauce in the slow cooker instead of salsa and water.
To cook (in oven): This requires an additional step. Before stuffing, boil bell peppers for approximately 5 minutes to soften and start the cooking process. Then follow the steps listed above. When complete, cover the bottom of a casserole dish with salsa, or taco sauce, place peppers and bake covered for 20 minutes at 350. When cooking this way, I slice the tops of the peppers, then length wise to make boats, so a cover can fit on my dish. You can fit 4 upright peppers in a square casserole dish, or 4 pepper boats (2 whole peppers). They could be frozen this way as well.
To Serve: Eat each pepper as is or topped with crushed tortilla chips, hot sauce, jalapenos, or whatever other topping you may enjoy.
Variations & notes:
- While it was not part of the first recipe I used, many versions of this include cooked rice. I've never made it with rice, but you could add it. In addition to onions, you can add bell pepper (I was left with an entire bowl of diced bell pepper from the tops), mushrooms, or other veggies (like corn).
- We used salsa since my toddler cannot eat spicy foods, but prior we usually used Rotel. I'd probably add some chipotle peppers in adobo if we could eat spicy now.
- I like this combo of beans and meat, but you could double the meat, or use only one type of beans, or do all beans or beans and rice for a vegetarian version. I've never tried it, but I bet this would taste good with chicken or pork also.
- I've seen versions of this made with raw meat. As 6 hours on low in a slow cooker is more than enough time to cook raw ground beef, this would cut way down on prep time, but I'm not sure how mixing all the ingredients (spices) together raw would work.
- Finally, we've used pretty much this same filling with some additional taco sauce to make taco stuffed pasta shells.... another recipe which is delicious as well as easily prepared and frozen.