Vegetarian Yemista are Greek stuffed tomatoes and peppers bursting with the flavors of rice and herbs. A perfect satisfying and healthy meal!
This recipe is a great meal for meatless Monday. You can also prep it ahead and bake when you're ready to eat!
This post was originally published on July 22, 2018.
Traditionally, Yemista can be filled with meat or rice. Both are common but we love the rice version as it's vegetarian and super flavorful.
Here is what you need to make these Greek stuffed vegetables. I added some finely chopped kale for greens and currants for a twist on the original. Both are fully optional! (See below for more flavor variations.)
How to Make Yemista
These Greek stuffed tomatoes and peppers are a great healthy choice for dinner! Follow these steps to get them just right every time:
- Cut the tops off of the tomatoes and peppers and remove the insides, keeping the tops reserved.
- Chop the tomato pulp well, take out half, and set aside for later.
- Mix in the kale, parsley and mint.
- Sauté the chopped onions until transparent and mix in the rice.
- Add broth, cover, and simmer.
- Stir in the tomato mixture, as well as the pine nuts, currants (if using), salt and pepper.
- Place the tomatoes and peppers in a baking dish, stuff, and cover with the tops.
- Arrange peeled and cut potatoes between them.
- Sprinkle the remaining chopped tomato pulp over the potatoes and drizzle with oil.
- Bake and enjoy!
Greek stuffed peppers and tomatoes can be customized in so many ways! Add in or swap out any of the following ideas:
- Spices and herbs: oregano, dill, basil, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cumin.
- Cous cous
- Cheese - try feta, goat cheese, or mozzarella. Make it vegan by using dairy free cheese.
- Meat - if you don't need this recipe to be vegetarian feel free to mix in lamb, beef, or a combination of both.
What to Serve With Yemista
Serve Yemista at either room temperature or chilled, on its own or with more tasty dishes and sauces! They make a refreshing dish for picnics, potlucks, or as part of a mezze platter.
Try pairing this recipe with any of these:
Although this recipe is really quite simple, it can get tricky when getting everything baked just right. I am not a fan of mushy rice, we like al dente all the way. Make sure to follow each step carefully so you end up with perfectly cooked Greek yemista!
- When you remove the insides of the tomatoes, make sure not to scrape too much out or they will collapse when baking from being too thin. You also need to get enough out so you can fill it.
- I like to chop the tomato pulp with a food processor. It gives you a small even chunkiness and releases the right amount of juices. You can also chop the kale and herbs in with it for the perfect texture.
- When precooking the rice, you want the end result to be cooked half way.
- This is the right amount so that it doesn't underbake in the oven.
- If you don't precook the rice enough, then you have to bake the stuffed peppers and tomatoes really long which yields overly soft tomatoes and peppers. You want them to keep their structure a bit, not be overly mushy.
- If you pre cook the rice too much, you get mush. Yuck.
- Speaking of rice, the recipe is written using a long grain rice like jasmine. If you use long grain brown rice, you will need to add more water when precooking and keep adding until you taste the rice and it is perfectly cooked half way.
- Long grain rice is sturdier and gives a more al dente texture.
- Short grain rice is chewier and not the best choice here unless that's what you want.
- While baking, check periodically to see if more liquid is needed.
- If you need to add broth, make sure you heat it first (you can use the microwave or pot on the stove).
- Taste as you go to check the rice, if the rice is cooked then pull them out of the oven.
Meal Prep and Storage Tips
This recipe for Greek stuffed peppers can be prepared partially or completely ahead of time, and leftovers can easily be stored for later!
- To prep ahead:
- Deseed the peppers and scrape out the tomatoes.
- Prepare the filling.
- Store separately, or assemble and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.
- To store:
- Seal the stuffed vegetables in airtight containers or bags, you can even wrap each one in plastic wrap. (Do this before baking for best results.)
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
- To reheat:
- If frozen, allow the Yemista to defrost before baking.
- Follow baking instructions in the recipe card.
- If the stuffed pepper and tomatoes are already baked you can warm them in the oven for less time, or microwave until heated through.
Yemista (or gemista) (pronounced yeh-MEE-stah) is a traditional Greek dish consisting of peppers and tomatoes stuffed with rice and other herbs and spices. The word "yemista" translates to "stuffed" or "filled with" in Greek. This dish is popular in Mediterranean cuisine and is often served as a main course or as part of a mezze (appetizer) spread.
Yes, Yemista can be prepared in advance. You can stuff the vegetables and refrigerate them before baking. When you're ready to serve, simply bake them in the oven according to the recipe instructions. See above for more details on how to prep Yemista ahead of time.
The traditional vegetables used for Yemista are tomatoes and bell peppers. However, other vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and even onions or cabbage leaves can also be stuffed and used.
Yes, Greek stuffed vegetables can be frozen, but it's recommended to freeze before baking. See above for more tips on how to freeze Yemista.
Absolutely! This Yemista recipe is already vegetarian and vegan as written. Make sure to leave out any meat and dairy products to keep it plant based.
Vegan Main Dishes
Greek Vegetarian Yemista
- 4 large ripe tomatoes
- 4 large red, yellow, green, or orange peppers
- ¾ cup long grain Jasmine rice , see note
- 1 large sweet onion , finely chopped
- 4-6 leaves kale , finely chopped (optional, see note)
- ½ cup parsley , chopped
- 3 tablespoons mint , optional
- ½ cup pine nuts , see note
- ½ cup currants , optional
- ½ cup veggie broth , low sodium if needed (see note)
- 2 large potatoes , peeled and cut into two inches pieces
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt , plus a few pinches (see note)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper , plus a few pinches
- ¼ cup olive oil , or use ½ cup broth or water to keep oil free
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
- Cut the tops off of the tomatoes and peppers and remove the insides. Save all of the tops to cover them later, but discard the inside of the peppers and keep the inside of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cavity of the tomatoes and peppers with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Chop the tomato pulp well, I like to use a food processor but you can use a knife if you prefer. Take out half and set aside for later.
- Add the kale, parsley and mint (if using) into the processor. Chop again until everything is mixed well. You can also chop these on your cutting board.
- In a pot, pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil (or ¼ cup broth if not using oil) and sauté the chopped onions on medium heat. You may need to add more broth/water if not using oil.
- When the onions look transparent, add the rice. Mix with the onion.
- Add ⅓ cup broth (use ⅔ cup if using long grain brown rice), cover and simmer over low heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 5-7 minutes. This may take longer with brown rice.
- Add the chopped tomato pulp that has been mixed with the kale, parsley, and mint. Add pine nuts, currants (if using), ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
- Let it simmer until most of the liquids have evaporated, about 3 minutes. Taste and make sure the rice is half cooked, and add more broth if needed and cook longer if it is not half cooked.
- In the meantime, peel the potatoes, cut them into 2 inch pieces, and sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Arrange the tomatoes and peppers in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Stuff them with the half cooked rice mixture until they are ¾ of the way full. Cover them with the saved tops and brush the top with olive oil if using oil.
- Arrange the potatoes between them. Sprinkle the remaining chopped tomato pulp over the potatoes. Drizzle with the leftover olive oil if using.
- Make sure there is enough liquid from the chopped tomatoes to cover the bottom of the pan, add the leftover broth if needed.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes, checking periodically to see if more liquid is needed, you don’t want the bottoms to burn. If you need to add broth, make sure you heat it first (you can use the microwave or pot on the stove). Taste as you go to check the rice, if the rice is cooked then pull them out of the oven. If using brown rice you may need to cook it longer.
- The kale, mint and currants are optional but I love the added flavors and greens they give.
- You can use long grain brown rice instead, but you will need to pre-cook it longer with more broth or water (about double). Keep cooking and adding liquid until you achieve a half cooked texture.
- Kale is the best leafy green to use as it is the sturdiest. Chard could also be used as a second choice but beware of spinach as it will melt into the rice.
- Sub chopped blanched almonds if you don’t have or want to use pine nuts.
- You can use water instead of broth but broth will give more flavor, adjust your amount of salt if you don't use broth.
Recipe by Veggies Don’t Bite, visit our site for more great plant-based recipes.