weeknight vegan pepper dolma

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for the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked medium grain rice (e.g., Calrose)
  • 8-ounce container mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup whole walnuts
  • 1 medium bunch parsley *
  • 1 medium bunch cilantro
  • 1 medium bunch dill
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium bunch green onions
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

for the stuffing and cooking liquid:

  • 2 pounds 9 ounces poblano or cubanelle peppers (about 12 peppers) ***
  • 2 cups vegetable juice ****
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste †


  1. To make the filling: Soak the rice for 10 minutes, and then rinse and strain it. Add it to a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Heat a medium-large dutch oven over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. While you’re waiting, pulse the mushrooms in a food processor to finely chop them (but then don’t wash the food processor until otherwise noted!).
  3. Add the 1 teaspoon olive oil to the pot, followed by the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste), and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, until the juices evaporate and the mushrooms brown a bit. Remove the pot from heat and add the mushrooms to the mixing bowl (but then don’t wash the dutch oven).
  4. In the same food processor, pulse the walnuts until they’re finely chopped,** then add them to the mixing bowl. Do the same with the parsley, cilantro, and dill (you should end up with about 2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped herbs), and add to the mixing bowl. Next mince the garlic in the food processor, and add the green onions right on top of the minced garlic, pulsing it to chop (you should end up with about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of chopped green onion), and add to the mixing bowl. (Now you can wash the food processor.)
  5. Add the tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste), black pepper, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and tomato paste to the mixing bowl. Stir everything together until it’s completely mixed.
  6. To stuff and simmer the peppers: Trim and discard the stems off the peppers, and then cut the tops off (save them). Use a paring knife or zucchini corer to get rid of the seeds and (optionally) some or all of the pith (the more pith you get rid of the less spicy they will be).
  7. Stuff the peppers with the filling, being careful not to over-stuff them (the rice needs room to expand). There shouldn’t be any large gaps, but they shouldn’t be absolutely packed in and stuffed to the brim.
  8. Place the pepper tops sort of halfway over the tops (they’ll kind of awkwardly stick out, which is totally fine). Use your tetris skills to fit one layer of the peppers in the bottom of the mushroomy dutch oven (they should be on their sides). Add on one or two more layers, trying to create a snug fit.
  9. Pour the vegetable juice, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil over the tops of the stuffed peppers. Place a heavy heat-proof plate face-down over the center of the peppers. Bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat, and keep an eye on it while it heats. Once it reaches a gentle boil (a few big bubbles breaking the surface, but not a rapid boil), cover the pot (with the plate and lid) and reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle boil.
  10. Cook this way for about 35 minutes. Check on it intermittently to make sure it’s at a gentle boil, and adjust the heat as necessary. Don’t open the lid too often, or the top layer won’t cook through enough. Once it’s done, keep the lid on and let it rest for about 15 minutes, undisturbed.


* All the herbs need to be washed and dried well, and their stems need to be removed. But don’t spend too much time on it for this recipe. Just rip the top of the bunch off with one twist, and sort through them to remove any big stems, then wash and dry them. They don’t need to be perfect, since the stems will totally soften as they cook. But please don’t tell my grandmother (if you’re reading this, sorry Nana! <3)”

** A reader notes below that this is really delicious with more coarsely chopped walnuts, which I love the sound of! Dolma is a very soft food in general, especially vegan dolma, and it’s nice to introduce something a little crunchier.

*** Find the biggest peppers you can, and look for ones that aren’t crooked. This will make stuffing quick. Poblanos are pictured here, but cubanelles work great too, and are much less spicy. If you plan to carefully remove the pith from the poblanos to make sure they’re not too spicy, just go with the cubanelles, which you won’t have to be as careful with.

**** I use V8, and 2 cups is conveniently just about 3 15.5-ounce cans.

† Many vegetable juices already have a lot of sodium (e.g., V8). If yours is low sodium, you should season it with some salt. I don’t add salt to the vegetable juice if it’s already seasoned.