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Instant Pot Unstuffed Peppers

Stuffed bell peppers get a makeover in this unstuffed pepper casserole! Lentils, rice and a generous helping of vegetables get mixed together with tomato sauce to make this delicious and nourishing dinner. Ready in a flash thanks to the Instant Pot, Meatless Monday dinners don't get much better than this!

Thursday July 16, 2020

(3.67 stars from 3 reviews)

Carrots Celery Chili Powder Garlic Italian Spice Lentils Mozzarella Olive Oil Onions Peppers Rice Spinach

Instant Pot Unstuffed Peppers

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Can I add meat to this dish?

If you want to add meat I would suggest adding a pound of either ground turkey or beef. You would simply add it in after the onion and garlic mixture has been cooked and brown it on the bottom of the pot, then continue with the rest of the steps. I'd suggest adding it in place of the lentils - but feel free to use both.

Why do people love the instant pot?

I can't speak for all people, of course, but I love my instant pot for many things for many reasons:

  •  The main thing I love about it would have to be how hands-off it is. Once you have the ingredients in the pot, you are free to make side dishes, tidy the kitchen, or best of all - relax and wait for dinner to be ready!
  •  It also produces amazing results very quickly. I can't count the number of times I have forgotten to prep for dinner and just whipped something (usually this casserole) up in a flash!
  • I also like the versatility. I can cook anything from mashed potatoes to soup to casseroles in this electric pressure cooker?

Is it worth getting an instant pot?

Absolutely yes! I am living proof of this. My husband is the one who wanted to get an instant pot about 5 years ago now. I literally told him not to get it, and that I wouldn't use it. Long story short, he got it anyway and we love it so much we now have two (and there are times I would like even more!).

Is an instant pot worth it for a vegetarian?

I was initially a bit hesitant because we eat a lot of vegan and vegetarian foods in our house, and I didn't know how good it would be for that type of cooking. As it turns out, it is phenomenal at steaming vegetables, making rice, and doing lots of bean-based meals. So yes, if you are vegetarian and on the fence about the Instant Pot I definitely recommend it!

a spoonful of stuffed pepper casserole is shown

Can you leave an instant pot unattended?

Yes - this is one of my favorite things about the Instant Pot! I can set it to cook and then walk away. There are lots of built in safety features that makes it so that I feel comfortable with this - it is meant to cook your food for you!

When is it safe to open an instant pot?

You should never attempt to open up an Instant Pot that is actively cooking food. It is only safe to open when the steam has all been vented, and the safety valve has dropped

Are Instant Pot unstuffed peppers healthy?

Not all one pot stuffed pepper casseroles are healthy, but this one actually is very healthy! Brown rice, lentils, and lots of veggies make this dish hearty and nourishing, without skimping on flavor. I also find it keeps me full for a long time!

What are the ingredients in this pepper casserole recipe?

It looks like a lot of ingredients - but I promise it's worth it:

a top down view of all the ingredients needed to make instant pot stuffed pepper casserole
  • olive oil - to fry the onion and garlic. Feel free to use your favorite cooking oil, or even butter makes a tasty addition!
  • aromatics - onions and garlic for flavor
  • veggies - celery, carrots, peppers, spinach such a delicious combination of veggies for this Italian dish
  • lentils - this is the protein of the dish, I absolutely love substituting lentils in place of ground meats in casserole dishes
  • spices - Italian spice, chili powder, salt and pepper to give it a bit of spice and lots of flavor
  • brown rice - I prefer brown rice to white in this dish, always uncooked
  • water - to add enough liquid to cook the rice, you can also use veggie broth for added flavor if you prefer
  • hot sauce - I like to use Frank's Red Hot Sauce, this doesn't make it terribly spicy but just adds a small kick of flavor.
  • tomato sauce - I use my homemade tomato sauce, but you can use your favorite tomato sauce
  • mozzarella cheese - added at the end as the topping
  • fresh basil - optional garnish, but it is pretty and adds a nice subtle flavor

How do I make these instant pot stuffed peppers?

There are only a few simple steps to follow to make this Instant Pot stuffed bell pepper casserole:

Step one: Set Instant Pot to Saute mode, then add olive oil, followed by onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, or until onion is translucent and veggies are starting to soften.

a collage of the steps to make instant pot unstuffed peppers

Step two: Add then Italian spice, chili powder, rice, lentils, peppers, and water, and hot sauce and stir well, then layer on the tomato sauce and spinach, but do not stir. Tomatoes have a tendency to burn to the bottom of the pot, and so to prevent this it is important not to stir!

Step three: Put lid on instant pot, set valve to sealing, and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes, with a 10 minute natural pressure release. 

a collage of steps to make instant pot unstuffed peppers

Step four: Remove lid and stir, the dish may seem quite saucy, but it will thicken as it cools and the rice absorbs more liquid. transfer to a casserole dish and top with cheese, then broil for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly

a collage of steps showing the transfer to a casserole dish and addition of cheese

Inside out peppers, unstuffed peppers, lazy stuffed peppers - call it what you want; these Instant Pot unstuffed peppers are the absolute best version of the classic stuffed pepper comfort food. As a bonus, this version happens to be vegetarian and healthy, but you'd never know it! I absolutely love using my instant pot to whip together some healthy weeknight dinners, and this one is no exception! Veggies, lentils and brown rice are smothered in an ever-so-slightly-spicy tomato sauce, and then topped with a generous amount of cheese just before serving. I love stuffed peppers, but I don't love all the prep that goes into them. Instant Pot stuffed pepper recipes are one of my favorite kinds of instant pot recipes because they honestly cut the time and effort in half!

Unstuffed peppers in a bowl garnished with basil

Can I use white rice instead of brown rice?

You can - in fact this is how I originally developed this recipe. After using brown rice though I much prefer it because it holds its shape better and adds a bit more texture than white rice. Even if you don't normally like brown rice I would still encourage you to try it! If you absolutely want to use white rice, then it is easy enough to substitute:

  • The recipe would be done in the exact same way - white rice can be substituted 1:1 for brown rice in this recipe so you would simply use one cup of white rice in place of the brown
  • Chop your veggies finer, but follow the same method for cooking, except you only want to cook white rice for 5 minutes at high pressure (not 15)
a top down view of the finished dish with slices of bread nearby

Can stuffed peppers/stuffed pepper casserole be frozen?

 Yes! I regularly freeze the leftovers from this casserole and I find they reheat really well. I usually just end up using the microwave to defrost for a quick lunch or dinner. If I'm feeling fancy I may top with extra cheese and let it bake again - but usually I don't have time or energy to do that!

Other great vegetarian instant pot recipes you may enjoy:


Instant Pot Unstuffed Peppers

Instant Pot Unstuffed Peppers

(3.67 stars from 3 reviews)

1 5
By:
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped large
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian spice
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I use Frank's Red Hot Sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. Set Instant Pot to Saute mode. Add olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onion is translucent and veggies are starting to soften.
  2. Add Italian spice, chili powder, rice, lentils, peppers, and water, and hot sauce and stir well.
  3. Pour in tomato sauce, and then top with spinach - DO NOT STIR! 
  4. Put lid on instant pot, set valve to sealing, and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes, with a 10 minute natural pressure release.
  5. Release remaining pressure, remove lid, and transfer to a casserole dish. Spread cheese on top and broil 2-3 minutes, or until bubbly and browned. Top with basil if using, serve warm.

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What Others Have Said


Brenda Damore
Sunday April 25, 2021

Definitely my go to recipe when I want something quick, delicious and healthy! Easy to follow instructions will get you a perfect meal everytime. A must try !

Natalie
Sunday April 25, 2021

I’m so glad you like it!! It’s also a go-to here


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Kelsey Davis
Sunday April 25, 2021

Love this recipe! Followed it to a tee and turned out amazing! The whole family ate it up!! Great healthy and quick meal!

Natalie
Sunday April 25, 2021

Yay!! I’m so glad you liked it!!!


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Mary Wilson
Sunday April 25, 2021

15 minutes for spinach seems like an awful lot. Spinach wilts in seconds under most circumstances. I would think you would add the spinach AFTER cooking for 15 minutes.

Natalie
Sunday April 25, 2021

Thanks for your comment! Of course the spinach does wilt quite a bit - however I like that it breaks up and really combines with the dish. What you suggested would work as well if you prefer to do it that way!


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Natalie Kollee

Hi I’m Natalie. I live in Ontario, Canada with my husband, daughter and our cat. Since I was little, I have always enjoyed discovering new recipes and sharing food with loved ones. When I’m not in the kitchen you’ll probably find me crocheting, reading, or crafting.


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