Gemista are Greek Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes (and other vegetables) that are filled with rice and fresh herbs and baked in a tomato sauce. This classic Greek dish can be made with ground meat or without for a vegan option.
Visit any Greek restaurant whether in Greece or abroad, and you are sure to find gemista on the menu. This traditional dish is easily one of the most popular Greek meals and it comes as no surprise. Who can resist plump, fresh vegetables stuffed with an herby rice filling?
“Gemista” means “filled with” in Greek as that is exactly what these are. They are packed with flavour.
The beauty of this dish comes from its simple, but fresh ingredients. While the recipe takes some time to bake in the oven, it is pretty easy to make and most of the recipe time is hands-off.
Growing up, gemista was something my mom made often. It’s a dish that was on regular rotation, eaten throughout all the seasons. In the winter, the hearty dish was comforting, warming us up like a hug from the inside. I especially loved eating gemista in the summertime when the garden was producing loads of vegetables for us to stuff!
While tomatoes and peppers are staples when making gemista and are what I used in this recipe, we also used other veggies like eggplant and zucchini. Feel free to adapt this recipe and use up all of your favourite veggies!
Why you should make Greek Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes:
- It’s delicious!
- This recipe is easy to make!
- It is a complete meal in one pan.
- It’s a healthy, hearty meal.
- You can make this recipe for meal prep.
- It’s a great freezer meal (see below for freezing instructions).
Ingredients in Gemista
- Veggies for stuffing: Bell peppers and tomatoes are the most popular veggies used for gemista but you can also use zucchini and eggplant.
- Other veggies: Potatoes, onions and garlic. Onions and garlic add flavour to the filling. Potatoes are arranged in the pan to cook alongside the stuffed vegetables for a complete, all-in-one meal.
- Olive oil: Use good quality olive oil.
- Ground beef: You can omit this to make this a vegan recipe.
- Rice: long grain rice is preferable but any white rice works for this recipe. You can also make this recipe with brown rice but if you do, I recommend par-boiling it first as brown rice takes longer to cook.
- Tomato sauce
- Seasoning: Salt, pepper and herbs including parsley, basil, mint and dried oregano
Note: For ingredient quantities and full instructions, go to the recipe card at the end of the post.
How to make Gemista
1. Prepare the vegetables by cutting off the tops and scooping out the insides of the tomatoes with a spoon. Remove the seeds from the inside of peppers.
2. Season the potatoes with salt, pepper and oregano and toss together. Arrange the potato wedges around the vegetables.
3. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Saute until they begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so.
4. Add the ground beef and brown it, breaking up any large pieces as it cooks.
5. Once the meat is browned, add the fresh herbs, rice, and half of the tomato sauce and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
6. Scoop the filling into the vegetables and place the vegetable tops back on top.
7. Drizzle the vegetables with more olive oil (optional) and season the outsides with salt and pepper. Add the remaining tomato sauce.
8. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the vegetables have softened the rice filling is cooked.
Can you make gemista in advance?
Gemista can be made in advance, meaning you can make this recipe for meal prep! You can either assemble the gemista completely and then store it in the fridge (unbaked and covered with plastic food wrap). When you are ready to bake later that day or the next day, its already assembled for you.
I personally think gemista taste better the next day so I recommend baking the whole recipe in advance and then storing it in the fridge for the next day. That means all you have to do is heat up as much as you need for dinner (and its actually tastier, I think)!
How to store and reheat Gemista
Once cooled, leftover gemista can be placed in an airtight container and stored in the fridge for a few days. To reheat, place them in a pan with a few tablespoons of water. Cover the pan with foil and reheat in the oven at 350F until warmed through. Reheating in the oven is the best method but, if you are in a rush, you can microwave them as well, though they do become considerably softer with this method.
Can you freeze Gemista?
Gemista can be made in advance and stored in the freezer for a few months. Ensure they are stored in an airtight container to prevent freezer burn. To reheat them, allow the gemista to thaw in the fridge overnight. Then use the method described above to reheat them in the oven.
What to serve with Gemista
Gemista is a delicious, hearty meal eaten on its own or you can serve it up with a nice salad like a Greek Salad, Radish Cucumber Salad, or Cucumber Feta Salad.
Gemista is also great served alongside feta cheese and a nice, crusty bread.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!
You may also like:
Papoutsakia (Greek Stuffed Eggplant)
Dolmades (Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Gemista (Greek Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes)
- 8 bell peppers and/or tomatoes
- 2-4 potatoes cut into wedges (use as many potatoes as you can fit in your pan around the vegetables)
- 1/4 cup olive oil + more for drizzling over dish before it bakes
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb ground beef (omit to make this a vegan recipe)
- 1 cup rice uncooked and rinsed
- 1 jar tomato sauce divided
- salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup mint
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley and basil
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Prepare the vegetables by cutting off the tops and scooping out the insides of the tomatoes with a spoon. Remove the seeds from the inside of peppers.
- Season the potatoes with salt, pepper and oregano and toss together. Arrange the potato wedges around the vegetables.
- In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Saute until they begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so.
- Add the ground beef and brown it, breaking up any large pieces as it cooks.
- Once the meat is browned, add the fresh herbs, rice, and half of the tomato sauce and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Scoop the filling into the vegetables and place the vegetable tops back on top.
- Drizzle the vegetables with more olive oil (optional) and season the outsides with salt and pepper. Add the remaining tomato sauce.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the vegetables have softened the rice filling is cooked.
I tried to follow this to the letter BUT couldn’t find my Italian Oregano! I have several wheeled 3 tier carts full, came across my Mexican Oregano, used a similar amount to season the potatoes (mini Gold ) only and the result was fantastic. My Greek wife of 43 years said her late mom made gemista but NOT LIKE THIS!!!
Thanks , I put your recipe in my NY TIMES COOKING recipe library which you should consider a compliment.
I forgot one other slight variation. I used a Spanish Yellow rice which I cooked in a steamer then added to the mix for 10 min, then baked 1 hour only because of the raw peppers and raw mini gold seasoned potatoes needed only that time. The consistency of the rice was perfect so you might consider this for any rice choice you have at hand that is organic or whole grain for better control of result