Mexican Stuffed Peppers for Cinco de Mayo
For many New Englanders the month of March brings one of the tastiest days of the year, when St. Patrick’s Day menus across the region fill hungry mouths with corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, and lots of green beer and thick, foamy pints of Guinness. I like St. Patrick’s Day, but truth be told, I get more excited two months later in May, when Cinco de Mayo rolls around with the forsythia and gives me a reason to stuff myself with breakfast chilaquiles, crispy tacos, salty tortilla chips, spicy pico de gallo, and a new favorite — Mexican Stuffed Peppers loaded with hearty brown rice, beans, veggies, spices, and melty cheese.
And yes, I also look forward to a Mexican beer or margarita.
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is held on May 5 throughout the U.S. and regionally in Mexico. It is not a day commemorating Mexican independence (as is commonly assumed) but instead marks the day Mexican forces were victorious over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. “Cinco de Mayo” as a holiday originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to honor the cause of freedom and democracy during the early years of the American Civil War, and today we mark Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.
This, of course, includes tasty Mexican-American food, so let’s make Mexican Stuffed Peppers!
To begin, not all peppers are created equal. For a sweeter flavor stick with red, yellow, and orange peppers. They’re a little pricier, but I think they’re’ worth the extra change. It’s also important to blanch the peppers before stuffing and baking them so they’ll be perfectly tender when it’s time to dig in. This is done by putting the peppers in boiling water for 2-3 minutes before plunging them into a bath of icy water to stop the cooking process.
Then it’s onto the filling. I keep my filling meatless, but you could certainly add in ground hamburg, turkey, or even sausage. In my version brown rice, black beans, corn, onions, and mushrooms are mixed together and perfectly flavored with seasoning, hot sauce, and generous handful of fresh cilantro.
Fit the peppers snugly into a deep baking dish to keep them upright, then spoon in the filling. If you’re not ready to eat right away you can always stick them in the fridge for a few hours.
Freshly grated Vermont cheddar topped my peppers before and during the baking process, but you can swap the cheddar out for any cheese you like. Opt for mozzarella if you want a pizza-like experience, or pepper jack for some added heat.
And finally, if I may make a suggestion — while you’re waiting for your Mexican stuffed peppers to bake, throw together a batch of homemade pico de gallo, crack open a tasty Mexican beer, and put on your favorite salsa music. It’ll have you thinking Mexico in no time.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
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