Stuffed Red Peppers in Tomato Sauce – Food for Thought Syria

Syrian Stuffed Red Peppers in Tomato Sauce (koosa mahshi)

This recipe for a vegetarian version of Syrian stuffed red peppers in tomato sauce is the next in my Flavours of the Middle East series. In some small way, it’s an acknowledgment that there is a lot more to Syria than the dreadful civil war that’s been raging there for far too long. I’m a food blogger, so it’s the delicious Syrian cuisine I’ve chosen to highlight.

Stuffed Red Peppers

When I was a student in Lyon, I had a Syrian boyfriend. He was a brilliant cook and in his small room in the halls of residence, he used to cook up veritable feasts for me and all his friends. I don’t ever remember him cooking stuffed red peppers, but it was a long time ago and my memory for specifics is a little hazy.

This recipe for stuffed red peppers is Syrian in inspiration rather than actuality. It’s a vegan spin on koosa mahshi, stuffed Syrian summer squash. I’ve used small red adzuki beans to replace the traditional lamb mince in this particular version, but I often use lentils instead. Actually, if you look closely at the photos, you’ll see there aren’t any beans present at all. I forgot to add them and only noticed when the dish was cooked. I ended up scattering them over the contents of the pan and cooking it a little longer. Do as I say, not as I do!

Syrian Stuffed Red Peppers (koosa mahshi)

I cook these stuffed red peppers on the stove top for speed and saving pennies rather than in the oven. This is how food would have been traditionally prepared in the Middle East and I suspect still mostly is. They can, of course, be cooked in the oven if preferred. I’ve used romano red pepper rather than bell peppers as those are what I had in at the time, but either work well. I’ve also used red wine in this recipe, which is definitely not a Syrian thing to do. Traditionally, they add lemon juice. The sweet red peppers contrast well with the sharp tomato sauce and the spicy filling soaks everything up to make a most delicious and satisfying meal. Serve with your greens of choice. 

Food for Thought Syria

There are many terrible conflicts going on around the world. Most of us feel completely impotent to do anything about it. Mandy over at Sneaky Veg and Lisa from Lovely Appetite decided to do their bit – Food for Thought. Over the next few months, they are going to be posting recipes from various war-torn countries with a donation link to Médicins San Frontières (MSF). Anyone can join in and I’ve decided to do so this month with my stuffed red peppers.

Around 4.8 million have fled Syria since the civil war started in 2011 and another 6.5 million have been internally displaced. MSF operates medical facilities where it can in Syria and also supports many others. It also distributes food. Click on the Médecins Sans Frontières link to find out more about the crucial work they are doing in Syria.

If you’d like to donate, Mandy has set up a donation page here

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Syrian Stuffed Red Peppers in Tomato Sauce (koosa mahshi)
Syrian Stuffed Red Peppers in Tomato Sauce
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins

A delicious Syrian inspired dish of sweet red peppers stuffed with spiced rice and beans and cooked in a sharp tomato sauce. It's cooked on the stove top for speed, but could be done in the oven instead.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Servings: 4 people
Author: Choclette @ Tin and Thyme
  • 125 g brown basmati rice - soaked, washed and drained
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions - finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic - finely chopped
  • 200 g cooked adzuki beans or 1 400g tin - drained and rinsed
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • grating of nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp sea salt + a further pinch
  • good grinding of black pepper
  • a few sprigs parsley - finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs mint - finely chopped
  • 2 large romano red peppers - halved (in any way you like) and deseeded
  • 1 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • ½ tomato tin red wine
  • ½ tomato tin water
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  1. In a medium sized pan, fry 1 of the onions and 1 clove of garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil over a gently heat until translucent.
  2. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the ¼ tsp salt, pepper and all the spices, expect the paprika and stir.
  4. Cover the rice with twice it's volume of water. Bring to the boil and cover and simmer for 20 mins. Turn the heat off, add the beans and leave covered to steam for a further 10 minutes. Stir and fluff up with a fork.
  5. Pile the rice onto or into the peppers.
  6. In a large lidded frying pan, fry the remaining onion and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil over a gently heat until translucent.
  7. Add the tomatoes. Rinse the tin out with the wine and water and stir in with the paprika and pinch of salt.
  8. Lay the stuffed peppers on top. Bring the tomato mixture to a simmer then cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  9. Serve with any remaining rice mixture and greens of choice.
Recipe Notes

You can substitute bell peppers for Romano peppers.

Can be cooked in the oven rather than on the stove top if preferred.


Meat Free MondaysThese Syrian stuffed red peppers go to Jac at Tinned Tomatoes for Meat Free Mondays.


Other Syrian Food for Thought recipes you might like

Syrian Stuffed Red Peppers in Tomato Sauce. PIN IT.

Syrian Stuffed Red Peppers in Tomato Sauce


    • Leave a Reply

      11th May 2017

      Hi Angie. No, I’ve never seen red wine in a tine either. I meant 1/2 a tinned tomatoes tin – so 200ml (more or less). I’ll try and clarify.

  1. Leave a Reply

    11th May 2017

    It’s such a tragedy what is happening in Syria and brilliant that you are raising awareness for it. I love the idea of this stuffed pepper recipe full of so many lovely flavours and this is the perfect time of year to be enjoying it.

    • Leave a Reply

      11th May 2017

      Thanks Laura. Yes it is an absolute tragedy and hard to believe it can have been going on for so long.

  2. Leave a Reply

    Jacqueline Meldrum
    11th May 2017

    That sounds and looks absolutely delicious. It is so sad what the Syrians are going through at home and those travelling the world trying to put down roots. So sad. Shared.

    • Leave a Reply

      11th May 2017

      Thanks Jac. It’s just awful and I can’t believe it’s been going on for such a long time with no resolution.

  3. Leave a Reply

    11th May 2017

    Thanks so much for joining in with Food for Thought – it means a lot to us! Your recipe looks absolutely delicious. Always on the look out for new vegan meals so will add this to the meal plan.

    • Leave a Reply

      11th May 2017

      Thanks Mandy, you’re doing a really good thing. Do let me know when your next country is up.

    • Leave a Reply

      15th May 2017

      Thanks Amber. I have a passion for stuffed vegetables, but rarely make them, so this was a good excuse to pull my finger out.

  4. Leave a Reply

    15th May 2017

    These stuffed pepper sounds amazing and full of flavour. So impressed that you are highlighting the Syrian situation.

    • Leave a Reply

      15th May 2017

      I do love stuffed vegetables and these are rather good ones, even though I did leave out the beans – oops!

  5. Leave a Reply

    18th May 2017

    I think Cous Cous instead of rice might be nice.

    • Leave a Reply

      22nd May 2017

      I think it would be delicious with couscous and it would cut down the cooking time too.

  6. Leave a Reply

    Asan Khana Pakana
    18th May 2017

    Very informative recipe form me. I never seen such things in my life like stuffed red peppers but we have tried so many recipes of green peppers. It’s new for me.

    • Leave a Reply

      22nd May 2017

      Thank you, but I find it very hard to imagine you’ve not come across stuffed red peppers before.

  7. Leave a Reply

    Nico @ yumsome
    19th May 2017

    Smashing recipe, Choclette – I do love stuffed peppers… especially Romano peppers.

    I also love using food to raise awareness of people living in and fleeing from conflict zones around the world – it puts such a human face on things, doesn’t it? I’m a firm believer in the more people know and understand, the less likely they are to be prejudiced against others (although this doesn’t hold true for everyone, of course).

    Because I’ve been sick for so long, I feel completely out of the loop with my fellow bloggers but as soon as I’m able to, I’ll be joining in with Food For Thought. Not least because one of my uncle’s friends is a doctor with MSF, and I know not only what he has to deal with in terms of his patients but also in terms of threats upon his and his colleagues’ lives.

    If we all do even just a little bit, I truly believe we can make a difference to many, so I am more than happy to support this initiative! And thank you for bringing this to people’s attention! xx

    • Leave a Reply

      22nd May 2017

      Thanks Nico, it’s a gentle initiative that seems appropriate for food bloggers. And I absolutely agree with you, keep raising that awareness. I’m so full of admiration for those working for MSF and similar organisations and it’s just terrible that they are threatened when they are there purely to help.

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