Why cook the Best Romanian Stuffed Peppers (Ardei umpluti in Romanian)? Because they are one of the most popular dishes in the world and they are DELICIOUS!
Origin of Romanian stuffed peppers
As I already told you in a previous post, hundreds of years ago, the Ottoman Empire brought new dishes to the Romanian table. Eggplant and bell peppers, as well as various meats have been cooked Turkish style since then in Romania. Chiftele (fried meatballs), mici (grilled sausages without casings), iahnie de fasole (beans), ardei umpluti (stuffed peppers), and sarmale (rolled cabbage) come from Turkish cuisine and they are probably in the top 20 most popular dishes in Romania.
Types of stuffed peppers around the world
Stuffed peppers are, in fact, very popular all around the world.
In India, Bharvan Mirch is bell peppers with cooked meat, potatoes, and onion filling, seasoned with chili, turmeric, coriander and lemon juice. The peppers are either browned in a “tava” (frying pan, we have the same word in Romanian) or baked in the oven. Some other fried variations are popular in the West and South of India.
Tolma (dolma) is a popular dish in the Balkans, Central Asia and Middle East, in countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Serbia, Slovakia, and of course, Turkey. In Greek, the name is gemista while in Egypt and the Sudan, it is Filfil Mahshi.
In Spain, pimientos rellenos contain a cheese, chicken, or cod in a red sauce or chicken filling (the most popular).
In Scandinavian and Baltic countries the stuffed peppers are also present. “Stuffed peppers” in Danish is Fyldte peberfrugter, Täytetyt paprikat in Finnish, Fylltar paprikur in Icelandic, Fylt paprika in Norwegian, Fyllda paprikor in Swedish, Kimšti pipirai in Lithuanian (ground beef or pork, rice, various vegetables and spices); Pildīti pipari in Latvian and Täidisega paprika in Estonian.
In American cuisine bell peppers typically have ground beef filling mixed with bread crumbs or cooked rice, eggs, herbs, and spices (especially paprika and parsley) and cheese. You hollow the peppers, stuff, boil them, cover them with cheese, and bake or cook them on the stove top at a slow simmer in canned tomato sauce until soft.
In Chile, rellenos, literally “stuffed peppers”, consist of roasted green peppers stuffed with cheese, and/or (occasionally) minced meat, covered in egg batter, and fried.
For more Romanian recipes, please visit our ROMANIAN DISHES category.
Here are a few examples:
Before we go to the actual Best Romanian Stuffed Peppers (ardei umpluti) recipe, allow me to give you some advice:
- Use short peppers
- Use sweet yellow peppers
- Bake them until they literally break in the baking pot
- Replenish with water while baking
Best Romanian Stuffed Peppers (ardei umpluti)Course: MainsCuisine: RomanianDifficulty: Medium
Probably one of the most popular Romanian dishes borrowed from Turkish cuisine.
700 g fat minced pork + optional beef
6 short, large sweet yellow peppers (or red bell peppers)
1 large juicy tomato
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1/3 – 1/2 cup rice uncooked
2 cups tomato juice or more
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup dill, finely chopped
2-3 bay leaves (I used a few curry leaves this time)
2-3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil to mix with the meat
5-7 tbsp vegetable or olive oil for cooking
Minimum 3 cups water
Salt, pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
- Add 3 tbsp oil to the meat and knead a bit. Set aside.
- Clean peppers in cold water and core. Cut off the tops with a knife, remove seeds and veins inside. Be as thorough as possible. Set aside the pepper tops, don’t discard them.
- Clean and chop the onion
- Shred onion using food processor (or finely chop by hand)
- Clean carrot in cold water and chop. Finely chop by hand or in food processor.
- In a large heavy bottom nonstick frying pan, cook the cored peppers in olive oil for 3 minutes over medium heat. Not longer, as they may become too soft and break. Give them quarter turns. Remove from heat.
- Place the peppers opening up in a deep medium size cooking pot (first see if all 6 peppers fit inside, with a little space between them)
- Add the oil you used to cook the peppers to the bottom of the cooking pot
- Cook the chopped onion in the same frying pan in 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil for 3 minutes or until golden
- Add the chopped carrot. Cook together for 2 minutes. If the mix is dry, add a tbsp oil. Stir gently.
- Add the rice. Stir.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir gently.
- Add the minced meat. Stir and cook for 3 minutes.
- Turn off heat. Add parsley and dill. Stir well.
- Go back to the cooking pot and add bay/curry leaves (not inside the peppers)
- Stuff each pepper gently with the meat mix. Leave a bit of room at the top to fit the pepper tops.
- Remove the top seeds and chop the pepper tops flat so that they fit as nice pepper covers. Place the pepper tops back on top of the peppers to form full sized peppers.
- Cut the tomato in quarters
- Fry the tomato in olive oil for 3 minutes or until browned
- Place the tomato quarters in the cooking pot to prop the peppers nicely
- Add the tomato juice and 1 cup water over the peppers. Make sure the sauce level is pepper top high.
- Bake for 1 hour covered. When needed, replenish with water. Uncover and cook another hour.
- The stuffed peppers are done when the sauce is thick, the peppers are soft and much larger, and the stuffing is fluffy. Insert a fork in a pepper and if it goes easy through the skin and meat, the stuffed peppers are ready.
- Serve hot with loads of sour cream
- Do not forget to try and fit the peppers in your cooking pot first, just to make sure there is enough room for all of them.
- Make sure the peppers are covered in tomato sauce at all times while baking.
- Use short peppers. As you can see in our video recipe, we had to compromise and we used 2 tall peppers. We had to use them as we ended up with too much stuffing. Initially, we planned to stuff 4 green peppers, but we ended up needing 6. In conclusion, the recipe uses 6 peppers.
- Although our recipe directs you to cook the onion, carrot, rice and meat first, the classic Romanian recipe says that you just need to mix all the raw ingredients and stuff the peppers. However, the flavor is so much better and the taste richer if you fry the onion, carrot, rice and meat first, like we recommend.
Here are some more photos of the ingredients and final product:
Do you have any easy recipe suggestions? Send me a message!