The BEST Pumpkin Peppers for Halloween. Stuffed Peppers with cute Jack O’ Lantern faces filled with perfectly seasoned, healthy rice, veggies and cheese. Gluten Free. Optional Dairy Free. Optional Vegan.
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Pumpkin Peppers – Stuffed Peppers with a Halloween twist
I’ve been coveting Pumpkin Peppers for years, but have only just got round to making them. We often have Roasted Stuffed Peppers as a meal at GFHQ, but turning them into Halloween Peppers is much more fun. Super-tasty. And also, a great way for getting the kids involved in the kitchen, cooking something healthy and good for them. How could anyone, big or small refuse such a cute, tasty and tempting offering?
Choosing the best peppers for Halloween Pumpkins
Okay… confession time. I spent AGES in the grocers choosing the ‘right’ fruit for making Pumpkin Peppers. Why? Because to make the BESTJack O’ Lantern faces, they need to meet specific criteria. Sure, you can carve cute little faces on any bell pepper. But for Pumpkin Peppers that really shout Halloween they need to…
- Be orange in colour (or failing that yellow). After all, a traditional carved pumpkin is usually of the orange variety.
- Have a flat or flatish base. The last thing you want is a Pumpkin Pepper that keels over and spills. (Although to be fair, once the pepper has cooked and softened, it is more malleable and can be squished down a little).
- To be reasonably large and with at least one fairly flat side. Think ‘carving canvas’! And ask yourself ‘will I be able to carve a good face in the space available?’
What are Pumpkin Peppers stuffed with?
The recipe shared here for Pumpkin Peppers is a traditional rice stuffing. It’s full of good, healthy stuff… Carefully chosen and paired veggies for the best flavour and colour additions. And a tasted and tested balance of seasoning and spice for depth and interest.
So, what’s inside?
In addition to the rice, there’s onion, garlic, mushrooms and courgette (zucchini)… They also draw flavour from the richness of sun-dried tomatoes… both paste and chopped. There’s the usual salt and pepper, but also a little sweet paprika… which not only tastes amazing, but helps (alongside the sun-dried tomato paste) to provide a beautiful red hue to the stuffing. Last but not least, these Pumpkin Peppers contain toasted pine nuts and pumpkin seeds for nuttiness, as well as some extra Cheddar cheese mixed in. (There’s something quite delicious about the rich and slightly salty stickiness it offers)…
Of course, if some of the stuffing ingredients don’t work for your own palate, that’s fine. Just sub with your favourite tasty veggie alternatives (chopped small). And if you fancy trying my epic Quinoa Stuffed Peppers stuffing, click the link.
Are these stuffed Pumpkin Peppers Gluten Free and Vegan and safe for Coeliacs (Celiacs)?
There are no gluten ingredients at all in these Stuffed Pumpkin Peppers, which makes them completely safe for anyone with Coeliac Disease (Celiac Disease). The usual rules of course, apply… So be sure to check labels on pre-prepared ingredients (particularly the seasoning and sun-dried tomato paste) for any ‘may contain’ warnings or hidden gluten/allergens. The sun-dried tomato paste found in supermarkets seems to vary from brand to brand in terms of cross-contamination risk (mainly for nuts and dairy). I usually use either Sacla or Tesco’s own brand, both of which are good and safe.
The recipe shared below does contain cheese. But if needing to make Halloween Pumpkin Peppers for either a dairy free or vegan diet, then it’s a simple sub with a dairy free/vegan cheese alternative. Or, just leave out the cheese altogether.
In fact… Unless you have an allergy or intolerance to peppers, this recipe can be made to fit any and all dietary needs. Just remove or sub anything that doesn’t work for you. Even the rice can be switched for Buckwheat or Quinoa!
How to prepare and carve Halloween Jack O’ Lantern Peppers
Preparing and carving Pumpkin Peppers is a whole lot easier than carving pumpkins. They may be smaller and a little fiddly, but (apart from removing the seeds and main pith), there is no scraping to do and the skin is light and easy to work with. So, what do you need to know?
- Slice off the top from each pepper, remembering to leave enough room to fill and carve.
- Set the top aside, keeping the stalk (even if it has become detached), so that you can return it to the top of the pepper after filling.
- Carefully remove and discard the pith and seeds, using a sharp vegetable knife to dislodge as required.
- Use a small, sharp vegetable knife to carefully cut the Halloween Pumpkin faces from the outside of each pepper. Push the cut pepper pieces inward, so that they drop inside the pepper. Tip them out when done. Save the ‘off cuts’ and add to the rice stuffing.
Tips for cooking the BEST stuffed Pumpkin Peppers
There are probably loads of ways to cook stuffed peppers. However, I think some ways are better than others… both for the flavour and richness of the filling and for the texture and softness of the peppers. So… Be sure to follow the method instructions as given, to get the best from the recipe. In the meantime, here’s my top tips…
- Toast the pumpkin seeds and pine nuts ahead of time, so that they are ready when you need them.
- Cut the veg small and fry in the pan first to soften and draw out the flavours.
- Add each ingredient in turn to the pan in the order it takes to cook… Starting with the onion, then garlic, followed by courgette and mushrooms and then the sun-dried tomatoes.
- Fry-off the rice a little with the veg, before adding the sun-dried tomato paste. This toasts the grains a little, improving the flavour, but also helping them to separate.
- Only then add the water.
- The rice is cooked up in the pan with the veg and tomato paste, so that it takes on the best depth of flavour.
- Adjust the seasoning after the rice has cooked, being sure to taste for perfection.
- Stir through the cheese and pine nuts last of all, just before stuffing the peppers. This will keep the cheese from melting too soon (avoiding oiliness) and the seeds nice and crunchy.
- If not planning to cook the peppers immediately, allow the rice to cool a little before adding cheese and seeds, to avoid ‘sweating’.
Have you made Halloween Pumpkin Peppers?
I hope you enjoy making these Halloween Pumpkin Peppers. And that you enjoy eating them. Let me know what you think of my stuffing recipe too… I am always open to ideas to tweak recipes for new flavour combos.
If you have any questions, just contact me via the comments (below), email or social media. And don’t forget to share your photos of super-cute Halloween Peppers! Remember to tag me #glutenfreealchemist (@glutenfreealchemist) – on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
And for lots of other gluten free recipe inspiration, check out our huge Recipe Book Index… It’s all FREE for you to use.
Thank you as always, for using Gluten Free Alchemist. Happy Halloween 🎃
Other yummy Halloween recipes on the blog
Pumpkin Peppers – Stuffed Peppers with a Halloween Twist
- chopping board
- sharp vegetable knife
- oven + hob
- roasting tin
- large saucepan with lid
- 5 large orange peppers
- 200 g basmati rice 1 cup – washed and drained
- 1 tbsp olive oil approx
- 1 medium onion peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed or chopped
- 1 small courgette (zucchini) chopped into very small cubes
- 60 g mushrooms chopped
- 4 large sun-dried tomatoes chopped
- 3 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp sweet paprika (this is not the hot variety)
- 460 ml boiling water (=2 x the volume of the rice)
- 75 g Cheddar cheese or alternative hard cheese (grated) – Use a dairy free/vegan cheese as required or omit, if preferred.
- 30 g mixed pumpkin seeds and pine nuts toasted for 10 minutes in hot oven
- a little extra cheese to sprinkle on top
Prepare the peppers
- Slice off the top from each pepper, remembering to leave enough room to fill and carve. (Set the top aside, keeping the stalk (even if it has become detached) so that you can return it back to the pepper after filling.)
- Carefully remove and discard the pith and seeds from inside the peppers, using a small, sharp vegetable knife to dislodge as required.
- Use a small, sharp vegetable knife to carefully cut the Halloween Pumpkin faces from the outside of each pepper. Push the cut pepper pieces inward so that they drop inside the pepper and then tip out when done. Save the ‘off cuts’ and add to the rice stuffing in the pan.
- Set the prepared peppers aside while making the stuffing.
- Toast the pumpkin seeds and pine nuts by spreading on a baking tray and roasting in a hot oven (200 C/400 F/Gas 6) for 10 minutes, turning intermittently to prevent burning.
- Wash and drain the rice.
- Pre-prepare the vegetables, chopping as instructed in the ingredients list and grate the cheese.
Making the Stuffing
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the chopped onion until translucent.
- Add the crushed/chopped garlic and fry-off.
- Next, add the chopped courgette and mushrooms and continue to fry over a low heat until softened.
- Add the chopped sun-dried tomato and stir through in the pan.
- Now add the rice and fry, stirring frequently, over a low to medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the sun-dried tomato paste and seasoning to the pan and stir well, cooking through for a further minute.
- Now add boiling water to the pan and bring back to the boil, stirring.
- Turn down the heat and simmer (with the lid on) for about 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. (Check and taste at about 8 minutes)
- Once cooked, turn off the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little more salt/pepper/sweet paprika as desired.
- Finally add and stir through the cheese and toasted pine nuts/pumpkin seeds. If not planning to cook the peppers immediately, allow the rice to cool a little before adding cheese and seeds.
Filling and Roasting the Peppers
- Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
- Carefully pack each pepper with stuffing.
- Top with a sprinkle of extra cheese before replacing the sliced top section and the stalk.
- Arrange the peppers in an oven-proof roasting dish (at least 3 inches deep).
- Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons water into the base of the dish around the peppers.
- Cover the peppers and the top of the dish with foil.
- Roast for 35 minutes, covered.
- Remove the foil, but continue to roast for a further 10 to 15 minutes uncovered.
- Serve. Can be re-heated in a hot oven (in foil) for 15-20 minutes. Or, in the microwave (2 to 3 minutes high) as preferred.
© 2019-2022 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist