These slow cooker Italian stuffed peppers are my go-to recipe for feeding a crowd. Sweet bell peppers are packed with a hearty filling of rice, Italian sausage, veggies, gooey cheese, and more.
Okay, okay… we can all be honest here…stuffed peppers aren’t exactly bringing sexy back and they probably won’t be winning any contests for prettiest food.
BUT, at the end of the day, what really matters is flavor. And these slow cooker Italian stuffed peppers are the perfect example of “beauty is in the eye of your tastebuds”, or however the saying goes.
Forget plating. Forget garnish. Forget about sexy food. Forget about your inner perfectionist. Because these stuffed peppers are for your tastebuds; and your tastebuds aren’t judging based on looks.
What you need to make this recipe
For this Italian stuffed peppers recipe, you will need:
- Olive Oil
- Tomato Paste
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Bell Peppers – look for peppers that are rounder as opposed to longer so they’re easier to stuff.
- White Bread – you can use a regular loaf of white bread but I recommend using Italian-style or French bread for better texture.
- Whole Milk
- Italian Sausage – you can purchase already made Italian sausage at your local grocery store or make your own using this Italian style sausage recipe.
- Zucchini – cut into ¼-inch pieces to incorporate into the filling.
- Monterey Jack Cheese
- Cooked Rice – make sure to cook your rice al dente so it doesn’t become mushy in the slow cooker.
- Grated Parmesan
- Salt and Pepper
- Fresh Basil – for garnish.
How to make slow cooker Italian stuffed peppers
Since this is a slow cooker recipe, the most labor-intensive part is getting everything prepped…and that only takes 20 minutes.
You’ll start by microwaving the minced onion, oil, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes for about 5 minutes.
Cut about ½-inch off the top of each pepper, removing the seeds, then chop the tops up into small pieces to reserve for later.
In a large bowl, mash together the bread and milk until combined, then mix in the onion mixture and chopped pepper tops.
Add in sausage, zucchini, cheeses, and rice, then season with salt and pepper. Mix well by hand, then pack the mixture into the cored peppers.
Pour ⅓ cup water into your crockpot, then arrange the stuffed peppers upright. Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low.
Once the peppers are tender, remove with tongs, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. Slice the peppers in half to serve.
Do you have to cook meat before stuffing peppers?
Nope. Since this is a slow cooker recipe, the meat has plenty of time to come to a safe temperature without any pre-cooking.
Tips, tricks, and notes for this recipe:
I recommend using orange, yellow, and red peppers since they have a sweeter flavor but if green peppers are your thing, feel free to use those instead.
Don’t forget to remove the spongy pith and seeds from the peppers before you stuff them. They tend to add bitter flavor notes you can do without.
You can use any ground meat for this recipe, such as ground turkey, beef, chicken, or taco meat/chorizo for a Mexican-style twist. Keep in mind that any of these, with the exception of the taco meat and chorizo, may require you to add seasonings since Italian sausage gives the filling a ton of flavor.
If you’re going full Italian with the peppers, I recommend using Arborio rice. The extra starch helps thicken the filling by mixing with the juices of the meat. However, you can really use whatever rice you have on hand. This recipe also works with farro, quinoa, or even cauliflower rice for a low-carb version.
Cook the rice so it’s slightly underdone. That way it doesn’t become mushy in the slow cooker.
If you only have a plain white loaf of bread handy that will work fine, but if you can get Italian-style bread or a French baguette, more power to you. Those shred nicely and have more chew to them which helps bind everything together better.
Can Italian stuffed peppers be made ahead of time?
Yes. To prep these ahead of time, I recommend assembling the peppers as directed, then placing them in an airtight container and storing them in the fridge or freezer.
When you’re ready to cook, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then follow the crockpot instructions as listed.
How to store
Cooked stuffed peppers will last in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can microwave or warm in the oven until heated through to enjoy again. Be sure to thaw them overnight in the fridge if they’re frozen.
Other stuffed pepper recipes to try
If you love these Italian-style stuffed peppers, then you will definitely love these other meaty, peppery dishes:
- Mac and cheese stuffed peppers
- Enchilada Stuffed Smoked Poblanos
- Turkish lamb stuffed peppers
- Chicken Tinga Stuffed Peppers
- Pulled pork stuffed peppers
If you’ve tried my Slow Cooker Italian Stuffed Peppers recipe or any other recipe on GirlCarnivore.com please don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know where you found it in the comments below. I get inspired by your feedback and comments! You can also FOLLOW ME on Instagram @girlcarnivore as well as on Twitter and Facebook.
Slow Cooker Italian Stuffed Peppers
- 1 onion minced
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 teas red pepper flakes
- 4 peppers large and varied – yellow, orange, red
- 1 slice good white bread torn into pieces
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 12 oz Italian sausage removed from casing
- 1 small zucchini seeded and cut into 1/4″ pieces
- 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 3/4 cup cooked rice
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh basil minced
Prep the Onion
- In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the onion, oil, tomato paste and red pepper flakes, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Prep the Peppers
- Cut 1/2″ top off each pepper, removing the seeds and stems. Chop the tops up fine and reserve.
Assemble the Filling & Stuff the Peppers
- In a large bowl, mash the bread with the milk and the back of a fork until combined. Mix in the onion mixture and chipped pepper tops.
- Add the sausage, zucchini, Monterey Jack cheese, rice, Parmesan, and season well with salt and pepper. Mix the filling well by hand and pack into the cored peppers.
Cook in Slow Cooker
- Pour 1/3 cup water into your slow cooker and arrange the stuffed peppers upright so that they will remain standing while cooking.
- Cover and cook about 4 to 6 hours on low, until the peppers are tender.
Garnish and Serve
- Pick up the peppers carefully with tongs, and use a slotted spoon underneath to transfer to plates.
- Let them cool for 5 or so minutes and then slice in half to serve.
- Serve with fresh Parmesan cheese and basil on top.