These barley stuffed peppers are so delicious and a healthier version of the classic stuffed pepper recipe. This recipe includes a one-pot savory barley stew that's filled with amazing flavors, sweet and juicy colorful peppers and a simple creamy balsamic drizzle. Great family dinner everyone will love and very versatile. 100% vegan.
Here is a fantastic vegan comfort food recipe I am sure you will love: Barley stuffed peppers!
I grew up eating stuffed peppers made with ground beef and cheese, but did you know that they are also easy to make meatless and completely dairy-free?
There's just something so satisfying and cozy about stuffed peppers. We have made vegan stuffed peppers so many times, especially at the end of the summer when bell peppers are everywhere and more budget-friendly.
And I was happy to try a new way to stuff peppers using pearl barley instead of the usual brown rice. The result was amazing!
We love barley for all the amazing nutrition it offers: it is a whole grain that's rich in fiber, but also loaded with other nutrients, such as folate, vitamin B-6, potassium, iron and even some plant-based protein. It is also nutty and chewy, giving such an incredible texture to your recipes. We love it for making barley soups, but one of my favorite ways to use barley is shown in this barley breakfast bowl with fruit, you should check it out!
In this recipe, the barley cooks right in the pan with the veggie broth and the vegetables (such as onion, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes). This makes the recipe so easy and convenient, but it also gives the stew a creamier and richer result, thanks to the starchy barley.
The filling mixture is unbelievably delicious, you will want to eat it all right in the pan! The combination of chewy barley with sweet cherry tomatoes and umami mushrooms makes for such a perfect match.
There are also some white beans included in the filling mixture to make this recipe more filling and substantial, plus it will give a nice hearty bite to your meal.
As seen in the pictures, I highly recommend drizzling this tahini balsamic sauce over the peppers once they are done baking. This sauce is flavor-packed, so easy and done in 2 min, ultra creamy and has a nice hint of cheesy taste that complements well with the Italian-style peppers.
You will love how this recipe is versatile and easy to customize to what you already have and you can also make them ahead if you love to meal prep on the weekend.
Hope you give them a try! ❤️
Why you will love this recipe
- Easy to make and can be customized
- Mouthwatering flavors
- Creamy and rich consistency filled with chewy and nutty barley
- Healthy and packed with fiber, plant-based protein and vitamin C
- Great for meal-prep
- Makes for a tasty meatless dinner your whole family will love and perfect for feeding a crowd
- Vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free
What you will need
- Bell peppers: You will need 3 large bell peppers for this recipe (choose any colors). I like red, orange or yellow bell peppers since they are harvested when ripe, meaning that they are sweeter. But, green bell peppers also are great for stuffing (they are picked while unripe, which gives them a mildly bitter flavor). If you can, use a mix of different colored peppers for a nice look!
- Barley: both pearl and Italian barley will work for this recipe. If you only have hulled barley, then you can use it, although you will need to add more broth and cook the stew for longer (hulled barley is less processed than pearl barley). There is also a quick-cooking barley that you might find at the grocery store. I would avoid this kind for nutrition reasons, but if that is all you have then be sure to adjust the amount of broth accordingly.
- Onion: you will need one yellow onion for this recipe, although red onion or sweet onion is fine.
- Garlic: The barley stew is great with lots of garlic flavor. I used 3 large cloves of garlic, but you can add more if you want.
- Mushrooms: add a great umami flavor, but also a nice texture. Cremini mushrooms or regular white button mushrooms work well.
- Tomatoes: I used cherry tomatoes for their sweeter flavor, but one large tomato works well too.
- Spices: feel free to use your favorite dried herbs and spices for this recipe. I used a combination of smoked paprika, dried barley, dried thyme and dried basil, but chili powder, sweet paprika, Italian seasoning and dried rosemary would be great. I like smoked paprika for this recipe since it adds a nice smoky flavor to the stew.
- Veggie broth: I made my own broth from a vegetable broth concentrate. This is more budget-friendly than boxed broth and I always have some in the pantry.
- White beans: I included cannellini beans, but navy beans, chickpeas or butter beans are great choices too.
How to make barley stuffed peppers
From start to finish, this recipe will take a little over an hour to prepare. That being said, there's plenty of hands-off cooking involved, like letting the barley simmer until tender and allowing the peppers to bake for about 40-45 minutes without constant attention.
Make the barley filling
Warm up a large skillet (I used my cast-iron pan, but a non-stick pan works too) with a little oil (olive oil or cooking spray). Then, add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook for 5-7 minutes stirring often on medium-high heat or until tender and slightly golden brown.
Then, add the mushrooms, garlic and dried herbs + spices (oregano, smoked paprika, basil and thyme). Stir to combine and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the barley and stir. Let it cook or toast for 1-2 minutes.
Pour the vegetable broth over, stir and bring to a simmer. Once it starts to simmer, turn the heat down to medium and cover. Keep cooking on a low simmer covered for about 15 minutes. Check on it and stir once in a while to ensure it does not stick to the bottom.
Then, uncover, add the chopped cherry tomatoes and white beans and stir to combine. Cook for another 10 minutes (keep uncovered this time) or until the barley is tender and the stew has reached the desired consistency (let it cook until the excess liquid is absorbed or evaporated).
Prepare the peppers
While the stew is cooking, then prepare the peppers.
Clean the peppers and pat them dry. Then, slice them in half lengthwise going through their apex. Remove any white parts and seeds.
Place the pepper halves in a baking dish with their opening facing up.
Stuff the peppers and bake
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Once the stew is done, then spoon the barley mixture in the pepper cavities all the way to the top (it is ok if it overflows, you want to add as much of the mixture as you can!).
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until the peppers are tender and juicy.
Garnish and serve
While the peppers are baking, then make the sauce to serve them with. The tahini balsamic dressing is on my blog and should be done within 5 minutes!
Once out of the oven, then generously drizzle the peppers with the tahini dressing and sprinkle some fresh herbs over, such as parsley or basil.
Serve and enjoy right away while still hot!
- If you want a more classic stuffed pepper recipe, then feel free to garnish them with vegan mozzarella cheese before baking and omit the tahini balsamic sauce.
- When slicing the peppers, take a moment to assess their shape and cut them in a way that makes sure both halves will stand well at the bottom of the dish without tilting too easily. Otherwise, once they are filled and heavier, they might be harder to keep straight up!
- To save some oven-baking time, you can blanch the peppers in boiling water for about 5 minutes (then cool them down right away in cold water) while the barley is cooking. Then slice them and prep them as described. In this case, they should be done baking after 20 minutes in the oven.
- This recipe works better with large peppers. If they are too small, then you won't have enough of an empty space to fill them up.
- When you fill them up, be sure to gently press on them so the filling finds its way all the way to the corners.
These cheese-free baked peppers are absolutely amazing served with the creamy tahini balsamic sauce as seen in the pictures. The cheesy flavor from the nutritional yeast and the tangy balsamic vinegar complement so well the other Italian flavors of the dish.
We also like to sprinkle with some fresh parsley (or fresh basil) to brighten up the meal and add some red pepper flakes for a little heat.
You can also try these sauces instead:
- Vegan cheese sauce
- Store-bought vegan cheese shreds (top the peppers before baking)
- Vegan tofu sour cream
- Vegan avocado lime crema
- Avocado green goddess dressing
- Vegan feta cheese
This meal is great served as a main course with a light green salad made with a basil balsamic vinaigrette and a side of crusty bread.
Variations to the recipe
This recipe is very versatile and can be adjusted with what you already have or prefer. Here are a few suggestions:
- Whole grains: you can swap the barley for other grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, farro, couscous, millet, etc. Each grain will cook differently, so be sure to adjust cooking times and broth quantity accordingly.
- Beans: feel free to use other beans instead of white beans. This recipe would go well with lentils, black beans or kidney beans.
- Vegetables: other vegetables that would work well in this recipe include broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, zucchini or leafy greens, such as baby spinach or kale (add the greens at the end).
- Spicy: add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the stew or serve with your favorite hot sauce. Something else you can try is to stuff poblano peppers instead of sweet bell peppers for added heat!
- Flavoring ingredients: other ways to add more flavor to the barley stew would be to include some balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, nutritional yeast, tomato paste or tomato puree or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Storage and reheating tips
Keep the leftover peppers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
The best way to reheat stuffed peppers is by using the oven: simply warm up for about 15 minutes (or until heated through at 350º, covered). A small toaster oven works well for that. If in a pinch, then simply use the microwave.
If you know you will have more than you need, then drizzle the tahini sauce only on the peppers that you will eat so it reheats better and the sauce feels fresh. Just keep the extra sauce in a small jar apart from the peppers.
Yes! Barley is naturally gluten-free as well as the other ingredients used in this recipe.
Yes, stuffed peppers freeze well! Keep them sealed in the freezer for up to 3 months and let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat in the oven for 15 minutes at 350º.
More vegan comfort food recipes you might like
- Vegan cauliflower bake
- Vegan lentil bechamel lasagna
- Eggplant rollatini
- Vegan manicotti
- Dairy-free white lasagna with zucchini
- Vegan lentil curry
- Vegan baked spaghetti
I hope you like this barley stuffed peppers recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Barley Stuffed Peppers (Easy Recipe)
- 3 large peppers - colors of your choice
- ¾ cup pearl barley (uncooked) - Italian barley works too
- 1 small yellow onion - diced
- 8 oz mushrooms - diced
- 3 cloves of garlic - crushed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes - halved or quatered
- 15 oz canned white beans (navy or cannellini) - rinsed and drained
- salt - to taste
- creamy tahini balsamic topping - follow this creamy balsamic tahini dressing recipe
- Warm up a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat with a little oil and then, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring often and then, add the mushrooms, garlic and spices (oregano, basil, thyme, paprika) Stir to combine and keep cooking for another 5-7 minutes.
- Add the barley, stir and toast for about 1-2 minutes.
- Then, pour the broth over, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Then, add the cherry tomatoes and white beans and keep cooking uncovered until the barley is tender, about 10 more minutes. Adjust salt to your taste. Remove from the heat when the barley is tender and the stew rich and thick (but not dry).
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375º. Also, slice the peppers in half lengthwise and remove any white parts and the seeds. Place the halved peppers in the bottom of a baking dish facing up.
- Once the barley stew mixture is done cooking, then scoop the mixture into the opened peppers in their cavities all the way to the top. Cover with foil and bake until the peppers are tender, about 35-45 minutes (you can poke them to check for doneness).
- While the peppers are baking, then make the quick tahini sauce. Set aside.
- For serving, drizzle the creamy tahini balsamic sauce over the warm peppers and sprinkle some fresh herbs, then enjoy!
- Storage: keep the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Reheat using the oven or the microwave. You can also freeze the stuffed peppers!
- If you prefer, you can top the stuffed peppers with some vegan mozzarella cheese before baking and omit the tahini sauce altogether.
- This recipe is super versatile and can easily be customized with different ingredients that you have, such as carrots, celery, Italian seasonings, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, etc. Check the blog post for more ideas!