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Recipe: Dolmeh Felfel – Persian Stuffed Bell Peppers

This post originally appeared January 2013 and was updated in April 2016. Nooshejan (enjoy)!

Dolmeh Felfel is one of those labor-of-love dishes that takes half a day to make but is so worth it. At the end you have 6 pre-packaged little meals that smell and taste amazing – the the gift that keeps on giving all week! For many Iranians this dish evokes the true meaning of ‘comfort’… Childhood memories of the dolmeh simmering for hours and the scents wrapping around the house. In case you’re wondering what does dolmeh mean – dolmeh means anything that’s stuffed in Farsi! So as you can imagine, there are many variations of this dish – you can use almost any vegetable as the ‘shell’. For me, bell pepper is the classic.

Dolmeh Felfel, Persian Stuffed bell peppers

Dolmeh Felfel, Persian Stuffed bell peppers with meat, rice, lentils or split peas and tons of herbs!

Even though this dish takes longer than the average, there is something so satisfying about working on it for the entire afternoon – and at the end you are rewarded with an incredible meal. And don’t be intimidated by the number of steps! It is not complicated – and the dish is just as tasty no matter how imperfect. See below for a step-by-step photo guide to stuffing the peppers, and note I’ve ‘colored outside the lines’. It’s all good because the herbalicious filling that spilled out will mix with the tangy sauce and create lots of yumminess!

Dolmeh Felfel Persian Stuffed Bell Peppers Step by Step Instructions

Dolmeh Felfel Persian Stuffed Bell Peppers Step by Step!

My recipe for Dolmeh Felfel is adapted from Najmieh Batmanglij’s Food of Life, which is pretty much the bible of Persian food and recipes. If you have any interest in Persian cuisine whatsoever (which I assume you do if you’re reading this!), do yourself a favor and get this book…. and make this recipe! 🙂

Dolmeh Felfel, Persian Stuffed bell peppers

Dolmeh Felfel, Persian Stuffed bell peppers with meat, rice, lentils or split peas and tons of herbs!

Dolmeh Felfel (Persian Stuffed Bell peppers) – a traditional dish of rice, herbs and meat stuffed into bell peppers and slow-cooked with spices to form a fragrant, delicious meal.

Recipe: Dolmeh Felfel - Persian Stuffed Bell Peppers
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Persian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Dolmeh Felfel (Persian Stuffed Bell peppers) - a traditional dish of rice, herbs and meat stuffed into bell peppers and slow-cooked with spices to form a fragrant, delicious meal.
Ingredients
  • 6 bell peppers (I like green, try to find ones that are sturdy)
  • ¼ cup rice (long-grain basmati rice is the best for Persian cuisine)
  • ¼ cup yellow split peas or lentils
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh scallions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Instructions
  1. Soak your rice in water (minimum 30 minutes, best overnight).
  2. Simmer the rice and lentils/peas for 30 minutes in 2 cups of water and ⅓ teaspoon salt then drain. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t stick to the pot.
  3. While the rice and beans are cooking, wash and dry your bell peppers. Cut the tops off, scoop out the insides and set aside.
  4. In a non-stick skillet, saute your onion in 2 tablespoons of oil for about 3 minutes. Add the meat in and cook until brown, then add in 2 tablespoons tomato paste and mix until combined.
  5. Add the lentil and rice mixture to your meat mixture and combine. Toss in your chopped herbs and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. At this point you should have a really beautiful potpourri that will become your dolmeh filling.
  6. Arrange the bell peppers in a large, wide pot (you will probably have to jam them in, but no worries) and salt the inside of them. Fill up the bell peppers with your beautiful filling (again, don’t be shy to jam it in) and replace their lids. Good luck trying to match up the lids – remember that imperfection is still delicious.
  7. Mix the broth and tomato juice and pour around the dolmeh.
  8. Cover the pot and simmer for 45-60 minutes. The bell peppers should be very fragrant and semi-soft.
  9. Make the sauce for the dolmeh by combining 2 tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons oil, lime juice, sugar, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon salt and saffron water and bringing to a boil.
  10. Lift the lid, inhale then pour your sauce over the dolmeh.
  11. Let simmer for another 45-60 minutes until the dolmeh are nearly falling apart (and they probably will, when you try to scoop them out). Serve, pouring some of the juice onto each plate and enjoy!

Here are the photos from when I first posted this recipe in January 2013:

Dolmeh Felfel - Persian Stuffed Bellpeppers

Dolmeh Felfel: Who doesn’t love a pre packaged meal!

Ahu Eats: Dolmeh Felfel

Dolmeh Felfel – Persian Stuffed Bellpeppers

Ahu Eats: Dolmeh Felfel Persian Stuffed Bellpeppers

Dolmeh Felfel – Stuffed!

Ahu Eats Dolmeh Felfel Persian Stuffed Bellpeppers

Dolmeh Felfel: There’s a lid for every pot, if not, just jam it in!

Ahu Eats: Dolmeh Felfel Persian Stuffed Bellpeppers

Dolmeh Felfel: Persian Stuffed Bellpeppers

 

Dolmeh Felfel Persian Stuffed Bell Peppers
{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Dining Alone January 20, 2013, 2:09 pm

    I grew up eating a very similar dish but with different spices and seasonings, it was one of my favorites. I will have to try this version, I love cinnamon in savory dishes.

    • ahu January 21, 2013, 2:20 pm

      I think every culture has some variation! I sometimes add turmeric to this dish too… so tasty.

  • Cocoa and Lavender January 20, 2013, 7:27 pm

    Ahu – this sounds wonderful, and I think will be the perfect meal for a cold winter night. Maybe it can start with the pistachio soup? It sounds so good – and I was surprised to see no garlic! WooHoo! ~ David

    • ahu January 21, 2013, 2:20 pm

      Thanks David! I think it would go perfectly with pistachio soup for a wonderfully garlic-free meal! 🙂

  • Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy January 20, 2013, 8:00 pm

    This looks delicious! I would be happy to take half a day to lovingly prepare this!

    • ahu January 21, 2013, 2:20 pm

      Thanks Anna! It’s definitely worth it 🙂

  • Angie's Recipes January 21, 2013, 3:08 pm

    I adore the stuffed bell peppers. These look hearty and flavoursome.

    • ahu January 22, 2013, 12:35 pm

      They definitely are! Thanks for stopping by!

  • susaneatslondon.com January 21, 2013, 7:39 pm

    This sounds wonderful! I’ve been searching for a good Persian cookbook. Thank you for the recommendation! I’ll look for it.

    • ahu January 22, 2013, 12:36 pm

      Thanks Susan! New Food of Life is the best and Sofreh is also excellent. Let me know if you get one and how you like it 🙂

  • Sara - Belly Rumbles January 23, 2013, 4:13 am

    Looks absolutely divine. My mother use to make something similar but there wasn’t any rice in it, she did serve the stuffed pepper on rice though.

    • ahu February 14, 2013, 1:56 pm

      Thanks Sara! I think every culture has some variation of this dish. Love the idea of serving it on a bed of rice! 🙂

  • Anonymous January 23, 2013, 8:22 pm

    I love matching the lids. Such a fun thing to do!!

    PJJ
    F36 wannabe

  • Paula @ Vintage Kitchen January 27, 2013, 7:31 pm

    I grew up eating ground meat stuffed round zucchini, the most common variety here, and my grandfather loved stuffed peppers. These are very similar and they look wonderful! I love the addition of lentils and so many herbs and spices.

    • ahu February 14, 2013, 1:57 pm

      Zucchini – that sounds great! Will have to try that – for me the heartier veggies seem to work better else everything just falls apart.

  • Anonymous February 8, 2013, 7:53 am

    Every day that I don’t see a new blog post from you is a day that I sob, and eat chocolates

    :'( :'(

    PJJ, F36-in-the-making

  • Anonymous February 10, 2013, 3:24 pm

    I wonder if you got my nudge to write more? I have tried all your recipes … I need more!! :””(

    PJJ, almost-F36

  • Nirmal Singh March 1, 2013, 1:55 am

    my grandfather’s mum was indian, his dad was white. im indian asian n european mix, and i swang between indian food, making my own asian stuff, and european stuff growing p. my grandmum made stuffed peppers but not this good!

    • ahu March 4, 2013, 10:08 pm

      wow, interesting combo! i bet you got a wide range of food growing up!

  • laurasmess.me April 14, 2013, 6:34 pm

    Hello there Ahu! Love your site… I found you via Azita over at Fig & Quince, and it’s exciting to be able to read another Persian food blog! I love both Persian and Iranian food (all Middle Eastern food, actually) and I’ll definitely be trying some of your recipes. Love the idea of this stuffed pepper dish. Yum! Thanks xx

    • ahu April 20, 2013, 9:27 am

      Hi Laura – thanks for visiting and for the nice note! I look forward to visiting your site as well! 🙂

  • David April 16, 2016, 10:44 am

    These look amazing, Ahu! So much more interesting than our standard American stuffed bell peppers. Mark will love these.

    • Ahu Shahrabani April 24, 2016, 3:51 pm

      Thank you David! Most cultures have some version of stuffed peppers but I found ours to be distinct with the saffron, lime, cinnamon and signature mix of herbs. 🙂

  • Suzanne April 16, 2016, 9:32 pm

    I love stuffed peppers but never had them prepared the Persian way. It sounds amazing. I have had stuffed Quince though and it was delicious. It is such a neat and tidy dish, perfectly portioned. So wonderful!!

    • Ahu Shahrabani April 24, 2016, 5:19 pm

      Wow, stuffed quince!!! How lucky for you – I love quince. I’ve never made dolmeh from them but I know that is also a popular Persian dish. I’ll have to try it next time quince season rolls around. 🙂

  • Rachel June 6, 2016, 2:37 pm

    This sounds delicious! One of my husbands favorite meals I make is stuffed peppers so this is right up his alley! The small differences would make a great change for next time I decide to make them! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Ahu Shahrabani June 7, 2016, 6:59 am

      Wonderful, I hope you give it a try and I hope you all like it! Please report back if you do!

  • Susan Proctor November 18, 2017, 2:56 pm

    For a delicious Vegan version of Dolmeh, replace mince meat with chopped mushrooms, and use vegetable stock instead of beef.
    Most Persian dishes can be made Vegan very easily, by omitting the meat, or replacing meat with mushroons, textured soja, etc.

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