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Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers with Vegan Cream Sauce

These stuffed peppers make a delicious, filling, plant-based meal. They can be stuffed ahead and baked right before eating, or just re-heat leftovers the next day. 
You will need to plan ahead to soak the cashews for the cream sauce, but I also have a shortcut for you if you forgot.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: stuffed peppers, vegan, vegetarian
Author: Kiki Simpson, Healthy Sexy Kitchen

Ingredients

Tomato and Red Chile Sauce

  • 12 New Mexican red chile pods dried
  • 1 1/2 cups water or reserved chile water from soaking
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes 15 ounce
  • 1/4 large onion roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar of choice to taste, optional

Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 large bell peppers any color
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 serrano pepper minced (optional) - remove seeds and membranes if you don't like it too hot
  • 1 cup sweet potato diced
  • 1.5 cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 cups cooked rice I used brown rice
  • 1 cup frozen corn thawed
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
  • 2 ounces cotija cheese optional - if you can't find cotija, use any crumbly cheese you like
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro or parsley, chopped, for serving

Vegan Cream Sauce

  • 1.5 cups raw cashews soaked (see recipe notes)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

Tomato and Red Chile Sauce

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Using scissors, snip off and discard the stem end of dried chiles and dump out the seeds. Place chiles on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes just to release the flavors in the dried chiles. 
  • Place the roasted chiles in a pot and cover with water.  Bring it to a simmer, then cover and turn it off to allow the chiles to hydrate, about 10 minutes. This can be done ahead.
  • Reserve 1 1/2 cups of chile water (if using) and drain the rest.  Add hydrated chiles to a blender along with the reserved chile water (or plain water) and the rest of the ingredients, except for the sugar. Blend until smooth. Taste and determine if you would like to add any sugar. I did not, but I like my sauce a bit on the bitter side. 

Stuffed Peppers

  • Get water boiling in a steamer pot. Cut the bell peppers in half length-wise and remove the seeds and membranes. Place peppers in steamer basket and steam for about 3 minutes. You don't want to cook them to be soft, just enough to get a head start so you don't have to bake them as long. Remove to clean towels and let cool as you prepare the filling.
  • Add olive oil to a skillet and saute onions, garlic, serrano and sweet potatoes until just tender, about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl to cool slightly.
  • Add cooked rice and beans, corn and spices to the vegetable saute and mix well. 
  • Place half of the Tomato and Red Chile sauce (above) in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Generously stuff the pepper halves with filling mixture and place in the dish.  Then drizzle the remaining tomato and red chile sauce over peppers. Sprinkle cotija cheese over the peppers, if using, cover with foil and bake in the 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. If you like, you can remove the cover and broil for a few minutes at the end to make the tops bubbly, but I didn't do that!
  • While peppers are baking, make the Vegan Cream Sauce (below)
  • Serve drizzled with Vegan Cream Sauce and cilantro leaves.

Vegan Cream Sauce

  • To soak cashews, add them to a bowl or jar with enough water to cover by an inch or two. Soak at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight. For a quick option, cover cashews with 3 cups of boiling water and let sit 20 minutes.
  • After soaking, drain cashews and add to a high-speed blender along with 1 1/4 cup fresh water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 garlic cloves, nutritional yeast (optional) and salt. Blend until very creamy. Add more water if needed to get to desired (pourable) consistency. 

Notes

  1. If you don't want to make your own tomato chile sauce, feel free to substitute a can of enchilada sauce blended with a can of tomatoes.
  2. To make this vegan, just eliminate the cotija cheese.
  3. Feel free to substitute quinoa or any other grain of your choice for the rice.
  4.