If you thought Halloween dinner couldn't be fun, festive and low calorie, these jack-o-lantern stuffed peppers are the answer to your Halloween night needs. Halloween Stuffed Peppers look like little Jack-o-Lantern faces and prove you can have it all without any guilt.
They are taco stuffed peppers full of lean, flavorful ingredients in orange bell peppers. They make for a scary good dinner AND you can eat them any time of the year.
Is there anything better than bell pepper jack o'lanterns? Everyone gets their own (always a favorite) and they are so festive for Halloween gatherings, harvest parties and fun family meals. It's fun to carve funny faces on the pepper jack-o-lanterns to serve at a Halloween party (even picky eaters love them).
The edible jack-o-lanterns are filling, satisfying and easy to make with simple ingredients. Serve it up with our healthy Halloween fruit platter, Halloween veggie tray and Halloween Margaritas for a great happy Halloween meal the whole family will love.
What makes this skinny?
- Using extra lean ground turkey instead of ground beef which is more typical in stuffed peppers. Using lean ground turkey saves half the calories instead of lean ground beef. Ground chicken can also be used.
- Paring down the amount of rice (stuffed peppers usually have a few cups of rice; ours has ¾ cup)
- Adding more vegetables and black beans. In addition to adding volume with lower calories the beans provide more protein (keeps you full longer and helps prevent lean muscle mass loss when on a reduced calorie eating plan) and fiber (great for healthy digestion).
- A lesser amount of cheese is used and reduced fat cheese is substituted
Recipe Ingredients Notes
Orange bell peppers. You'll need 6 medium size orange peppers. Choose peppers that are similar in size and shape without any blemishes.
Yellow onion. Use one medium size yellow onion peeled and chopped. It should yield about 1 ½ cups.
Ground turkey. We used 99% lean ground turkey. Because the turkey is mixed with other moist ingredients we are able to keep the fat content low and the turkey moist at this ultra lean fat content.
Taco seasoning. To keep it easy we add mild taco seasoning. You can use store bought seasoning or our homemade taco seasoning. If you like it spicier use our all purpose Mexican seasoning (start with1 tablespoon, taste and add more if desired).
Cumin. We bumped the southwestern flavor further with some ground cumin.
Black beans. Canned (drained and rinsed) or homemade black beans are added for texture and plant protein. You'll use ¾ cup.
Rice. Any type of cooked rice can be used (white rice or brown rice). We used long grain white rice. You'll use ¾ cup. The rice should be prepared before starting the recipe (great use for leftover rice)!
Tomato sauce. You'll use 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce (not pasta sauce).
Reduced fat shredded cheese. For a touch of cheesy flavor we add some reduced fat shredded Mexican blend cheese on the top of the easy stuffed peppers at the end of cooking.
Small paring knife. You'll need a small sharp knife or an extra small vegetable caring knife to cut the faces on the bell pepper jack o'lanterns.
How to make Halloween Stuffed Peppers
STEP 1. Preparation
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut the top of the peppers off just underneath the stem and save the tops. With fingers or a paring knife remove and discard the inner membrane and seeds. Using a sharp small paring knife cut out jack o'lantern face on one side of each pepper (photo 1).
STEP 2. Blanch the bell peppers
Heat a large pot of boiling water. Prepare an ice bath by combining cold water and lots of ice in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 or 2 peppers to the boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer immediately to the ice bath for a few minutes until cool to the touch.
Remove and place upside down (cut side down) on layers of paper towels. Repeat with the remaining peppers.
STEP 3. Make the filling
In a non-stick large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until transparent and softened (about 5 minutes) (photo 2).
Add the garlic and the ground turkey. Cook stirring with a wooden spoon or firm spatula to break turkey into small pieces until the turkey is cooked and no pink remains (photo 3).
Add the tomato sauce, zucchini, taco seasoning, cumin, oregano, salt, black pepper, black beans and rice (photo 4). Stir and simmer until ingredients are combined and the liquid from the tomato sauce has begun to absorb into the other ingredients (about 5 minutes).
STEP 4. Stuff peppers + Bake
Place the carved peppers in a medium baking dish (enough room for them all to fit easily and if possible rest against each other which helps if the bottom of the peppers is uneven). Evenly divide the filling into each pepper (photo 5).
NOTE: it may sit higher than the top of the pepper and that's ok as it will shrink some when cooking.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove and add 1 ½ tablespoons shredded reduced fat Mexican cheese blend on top of each pepper (photo 6). Return to oven and bake 5 more minutes until the cheese has melted.
Remove from oven, allow to rest a few minutes before serving.
Making these other times of the year. When not making these for Halloween skip carving the faced of jack o' lanterns and make the recipe as described. You can use different color peppers too.
Use another grain. Instead of rice you can use another grain like quinoa or a blend of rice and quinoa.
Add more vegetables. You can skip the beans and replace them with more vegetables of your choosing (chopped fresh tomatoes, canned fire-roasted tomatoes, corn, more chopped bell pepper, mushrooms). Be sure to sauté them before baking the peppers. We don't suggest substituting the rice as that holds the filling together.
Make it spicy. Using mild taco seasoning accommodates the heat tolerance of a wider range of diners but if you want the little jack o' lanterns to be spicier you can add some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to the filling before stuffing the peppers. Another option is adding hot sauce or salsa when serving.
Swapping in riced cauliflower. You can use cooked cauliflower rice instead of regular rice although it does not have the same absorbency and won't hold it's texture. If substituting add 1 cup instead of the ¾ cup of regular cooked rice.
How to store
Store any leftover stuffed Halloween stuffed peppers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Frequently asked questions
This does two things. First is gives the peppers a head start on cooking so once they bake they are cooked through. They'll still have structure but won't be as crisp. Secondly it removes some of the bitterness peppers can have.