Yemista Greek stuffed peppers and tomatoes

Yemista Greek stuffed peppers and tomatoes

yemista close up

Preparing stuffed vegetables has a long tradition in almost all of the Mediterranean countries. If you’ve ever been to Greece, I’m sure the Greeks did not let you leave without trying yemista or dolmades first 😉 . They are hospitable like that! Yemista (pronounced ‘gemista’) is a classic dish of summer vegetables stuffed with rice. Tomatoes and peppers are probably the most popular and while this dish is often vegetarian, it’s rarely vegan as there is kefalograviera cheese in the filling.

That’s why I make my own yemista, which is a lot of fun and not that difficult at all. The rice does not require pre-cooking as it has plenty of time (and moisture) to get cooked through while yemista is in the oven, so it’s really a straightforward kind of dish.

At first glance, you may think that I have gone a bit crazy when it comes to seasonings, but trust me on this! While I love yemista, it does have a propensity for blandness and I have had way too many bland versions to be shy about salt, garlic, capers, sultanas, toasted almonds, herbs, chilli (which isn’t traditionally added, but I like a subtle kick) – all the things that impart flavour.

Apart from adding a touch of spice, I also made some other changes to the traditional vegetarian filling in order to compensate for the lack of cheese and to give it my twist, if you like. I used pan-toasted almonds (rather than pine nuts as they cost a small fortune) and a healthy dose of salty capers, which improve the flavour of almost every dish!

I also went a bit easy on the olive oil. A Greek yiayia (grandma) would typically use about 1-1½ cups of oil in a similar recipe. While I have nothing against olive oil, I feel that it should still be eaten in moderation. So I went for a meagre ¼ cup for the filling and ¼ cup for the sauce and I feel like that’s plenty. Feel free to override me, of course! And don’t tell any Greek yiayias as I have a feeling that I would get my wrists slapped 😉 .

This beautiful dish is one of those that tastes best the day after it has been made. It is eaten at room temperature (rather than steaming hot) and a glass of chilled white wine goes superbly well with it. Also, if you are feeling like some extra carbs, cut up some potatoes and place them in the sauce, they will give you more ‘carbage’ as Duncan calls it 😉 .

yemista stuffing vegetables

yemista side on

yemista vegan

yemista portion

yemista tomato

makes
10
PREP
45 min
COOKING
90 min
makes
10
PREPARATION
45 min
COOKING
90 min
INGREDIENTS
  • 5 large bell peppers
  • 5 medium-large and firm tomatoes
  • 200 g / 1 rounded cup medium grain rice*
  • ¼ cup (packed) fresh mint, chopped
  • ¼ cup (packed) fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup capers (in salt not vinegar), roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup sultanas or raisins, roughly chopped
  • 6 tbsp almonds, chopped and toasted
  • ¼ cup / 60 ml / 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, very finely diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt (more if skipping capers)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½-¾ tsp hot chilli flakes

SAUCE

  • ¼ cup / 60 ml / 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups peeled and finely diced tomatoes (2 large tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼-½ tsp hot chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • a generous grind of black pepper
METHOD
  1. Set the oven to 180° C.
  2. Wash tomatoes and peppers well. Cut about 1-2 cm off each pepper and tomato and set the tops aside. Make sure you don’t cut the peppers too close to the base of the stalk as it may come loose and you want the tops left intact to keep the filling nice and moist.
  3. Using a sharp-edged spoon, scoop the inside of the tomatoes, leaving the outer walls intact. Save the scooped-out tomato flesh.
  4. Deseed the peppers, breaking the white membranes with your fingers or a small knife.
  5. Arrange the hollowed-out tomatoes and peppers snugly on a baking tray (or trays, I had to use two to fit them all in).
  6. Season the inside of each vegetable with a pinch of salt, sugar and pepper.
  7. Blend or finely dice the insides of the tomatoes to add them to the rice filling.
  8. Mix all of the filling ingredients together with the blended tomato flesh and olive oil.
  9. Spoon the filling into the vegetables, but be sure not to overfill – the mixture should be roughly level with the cut so that there is room for expansion under the tops. Give the mixture a good stir between filling each vegetable so that you distribute the liquid that drops to the bottom evenly between all vegetables. Put the tops back on.
  10. In a mixing jug, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce. Pour the sauce on the bottom of the tray, in amongst the stuffed vegetables.
  11. Put the baking tray (or trays) into an oven. After about 1 hour, protect the tops from burning by wrapping a piece of aluminium foil over them. Continue baking for another 30 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. If the rice is still a little hard at the end of the cooking time, leave the veggies in a warm (switched off) oven for another 30 minutes to finish off cooking.
  12. Traditionally, yemista is served at room temperature rather than warm, so allow it to cool down before eating. They’re best enjoyed with a simple green salad (I use Romaine lettuce, spring onions and cucumber) and some crusty bread.

NOTES
*I used Blue Rose rice – a variety of rice that is available in Greek shops that is specifically recommended for this dish. It’s a medium grain rice so feel free to substitute for another medium grain variety.

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NUTRITIONAL INFO
calories
221
11%
sugars
9 g
10%
fats
10 g
14%
saturates
1 g
6%
proteins
6 g
11%
carbs
31 g
12%
*per pepper
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5.0
9 reviews, 27 comments
REVIEWS & QUESTIONS
Sam Huang:
I can't wait to make these!
A Greek friend's Mum introduced me to Gemistas and suggested I try and make them myself!
I've never heard of them before so I was intrigued and decided to try them at a Greek restaurant so now I am inspired to try and make them at home!
How could I adjust the recipe so it's only stuffed peppers instead of also doing stuffed tomatoes?
Not keen to do stuffed tomatoes, just stuffed peppers
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Sam,
    Yes, absolutely you can do just peppers, but you'll still need some tomato flesh for the filling. Hope you'll enjoy these. x Ania
Rowan Thorsby:
I LOVE THIS RECIPE! The combination of flavours is great! The sweetness from the sultanas, peppers and tomatoes combined with the salty capers. The almonds are a great touch, I'm loving the occasional crunch. I made these for a dinner party, I love how I could make them early in the day and just relax and wait for my guests. I also added Oregano and Basil because I LOVE a bit of extra herbage ♥️will definitely bake again❤️
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much for your kind words, Rowan! I'm delighted to hear that it was a hit and that you intend to make it again. And thank you for taking the time to let me and my readers know that you are pleased with the outcome of this recipe - much appreciated! Ania
Lori:
Hi would it be ok to leave out the yeast? Not sure what it’s purpose is and I don’t have any on hand
Thank!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Lori,
    Sure thing. It simply adds flavour (it's nutritional yeast not baker's yeast, btw), but there is plenty of other flavours here so you are fine to skip. Hope that helps! Ania
Dana:
So delicious. Beautiful blend of flavours. Thank you so much for such a great recipe. I love Greek food and stuffed peppers were always my favourite. We go to Greece Every year so I had lots of yemistas over the years and I have to say this one is possibly The Best. Love the combination of capers and raisins . I didn’t have any mint so used dry oregano and flat parsley and it worked well too. Was not sure whether to use cooked or uncooked rice but as I had underdone rice in stuffed peppers served in restaurants on few occasions I decided to cook my cook my rice and cool it down before mixing with the other ingredients. Can’t wait to make eat them again.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, Dana, for your kind words. I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed them and thank you for taking the time to let me know too! I use uncooked rice in these, but glad it worked well with parboiled rice also! x Ania
kathie drinan:
Thanks Ania,
My guests last night were Greeks (we live on Crete), initially they found the chilli a bit of a surprise, but they also loved them too, I made loads so I've even got some leftover for tonight's supper too! Result!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Wow, that's brave of you to serve a traditional Greek dish to the Greeks :) Not surprised to hear about the chilli - they don't really use it in their traditional cooking. Glad to hear that it was enjoyed by all! Ania
Kathie:
Hi, I found it a bit time consuming to make and vowed not to make it again....... that is until I tasted it it! Wow wow wow, fabulous. So worth the time. Making it again tonight for guests who are coming for dinner. Thanks tons!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hahahaha, I know, they do take a bit of effort and they disappear so quickly that I am always like 'I should have made something simpler' until I realise how much everyone is enjoying them. So glad the flavours made it worthwhile for you! Thank you for trusting my recipe and for leaving such a lovely feedback - made my Friday!! Ania
Alison:
Love this recipe. New favourite dish.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much, Alison! I'm delighted to hear that! Ania
Sherron:
Hi there! I am planning on making these for an Easter Lunch and I was going to prepare everything the day before and then just have to bake day of. Do you think this would work?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Sherron,
    Yes, it will, absolutely. Just don't fill the veggies until just before baking would be my tip or else they will get all soggy. Ania
Vesta:
Hey, it's me again :)) Just found your blog and can't get over it. Is it possible to replace rice with quinoa in this recipe? If yes, should I stick to the same quantity?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Vesta,
    Thank you, that's nice to hear that the blog has caught your interest :). As for your question, I *think* that it should be fine to substitute based on the fact that when I cook quinoa by absorption method, I use exactly the same ratios as for rice (1 volume grain : 1.5 volume water), however, I have not tested this myself so I cannot guarantee it will come out perfect. I would use the same volume (heaped cup) of quinoa and be careful to use exactly the same amount of moisture in the dish (i.e. tomato flesh and olive oil in the stuffing) so that there is enough liquid for the quinoa to absorb. Hope that helps and I would love to know how it came out. Ania
      Vesta:
      One more question I have - is it ok to make those without a sauce? Would it change the way peppers and tomatoes cooks "through"?
        Ania
        Ania:
        Hmm, I'm not sure. I've never made them without the sauce. Sorry I cannot help! Ania
          Vesta:
          I did it with quinoa - it was amazing! Didn't risk making it without sauce though :)
          Ania
          Ania:
          That's great to hear, thanks for letting me know! :) Ania
Monika McIntosh:
Ania,
I just stumbled over your website, and I love all of your recipes. I made stuffed peppers yesterday and they were delicious. My 2 years old loves them as well.
PS. Are you happen to be Polish?
Pozdrowionka z Oregonu,
Monika
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks, Monika, that's lovely to hear, especial that 2 year olds are often the hardest to please ;) Yes, indeed, I am Polish. Pozdrawiam również! Ania
Till:
I would recommend pre-cooking the rice. I did not and after 2 hours in the oven it still wasn't done at all.
Smells great though, so I'm sure it would taste good, too.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Till,
    I guess it very much depends on the type of the rice used as mine was fully cooked after 90 minutes. You don't want to turn it into mash either so I would perhaps suggest soaking in water prior to cooking in the vegetables rather then parboiling to ensure it's not overcooked. Also, for the rice to cook it needs the right amount of moisture in the filling so if you make any changes to the recipe (use less oil, use fewer tomatoes and more peppers for example) it will affect the end result so it's worth bearing that in mind and compensating with some extra liquid (stock, wine or tomato puree). Hope it works out well, in the end. Ania
Iwona:
Aniu, absolutely mouth watering just looking at the photo, definitely going to try this one. Just wonder if I can use also eggplant for this? Nutritional yeast, never used before, great idea. Dziękuje 🌺
    Ania
    Ania:
    Dziękuję pięknie :) An eggplant should work but I do wonder whether its cooking time will be the same as the others, plus you might have trouble finding one that will stand up like this...Worth trying for sure. Ania
Julie:
Oh thank you for this recipe! Dr. told me this morning , no raw food for next 60 days. Been to farmer's market over this last weekend and was wondering what to do with the tomatoes, peppers and onions I'd just bought. What great timing!
Sad about the raw thing though...
:-)
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Julie,
    Glad to hear that this recipe has been so well timed. Sorry to hear about your new regimen and I hope you'll get used to it in no time. All the best! Ania
Mary Syrenne:
I love your blog and also just nominated you. I'll be making Yemista soon. Thanks for another delicious recipe!
Mary
    Ania
    Ania:
    Aw, thanks so much, Mary. I'm blown away with all the lovely comments and votes I received in the last few days. Thank you for your support, it means a lot! And I hope you'll like my yemista! :) Ania
Erin Woodward:
Nominated you for the Saveur awards - well deserved! Love your recipes - am going to make this one next - can't wait to eat! : )
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much, Erin! We really appreciate your support!! I really hope this dish will go down well with you and your family! :) Ania
Judy:
This dish looks just wonderful, and it also looks easy to prepare (my favorite kind of recipe). I love the addition of the raisins! Thank you for once again finding a way to add flavor and interest to a favorite dish. Just one more reason to keep piling on the votes for your blog at the Saveur Blog Awards site! I know what dish I'll be making this weekend!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Aw, thanks so much, Judy! That's so lovely to hear. Thank you for supporting our little corner of the Internet and for your vote! Much appreciated!! And I hope the recipe will be well received with you and your family! Ania
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