Gemista Recipe: Traditional Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers

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Gemista Recipe: Traditional Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers

Recipe by GreekFood
Course: MainCuisine: GreekDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time





Gemista (γεμιστά) is a traditional Greek dish of stuffed vegetables. It is a popular dish throughout Greece and is often served as a main course. The word “gemista” means “filled” in Greek, and the dish is typically made with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, or eggplants that are stuffed with a mixture of rice, herbs, and spices.


  • Tomatoes (medium-sized)

  • Bell peppers

  • Olive oil

  • Onion, finely chopped

  • Garlic cloves, minced

  • Medium-grain rice

  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped

  • Fresh mint, finely chopped

  • Tomato paste

  • Salt and pepper

  • Water or vegetable broth

  • Potatoes (optional, for serving alongside)


  • Preparation: Preheat your oven to 180°C (356°F). Slice off the top of the tomatoes and bell peppers, keeping the tops. Carefully scoop out the pulp of the tomatoes and save it. Remove the seeds and membranes from the peppers.
  • Make Filling: In a large pan, heat some olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Then, add the rice, stirring to coat it in oil. Add the tomato pulp, tomato paste, parsley, mint, salt, and pepper. Pour in a little water or vegetable broth and simmer until the rice is partly cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
  • Stuff Vegetables: Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes and peppers. Don’t overfill; the rice will expand as it cooks. Replace the tops of the tomatoes and peppers.
  • Bake: Place the stuffed vegetables in a baking dish. If you like, add potato wedges around the vegetables. Drizzle everything generously with olive oil and add a little water to the bottom of the dish.
  • Cooking: Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until the vegetables are soft and the rice is fully cooked. Baste occasionally with the pan juices.
  • Serve: Let the gemista cool slightly before serving. They can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature.

Recipe Video

Pro Tips

Here are some tips to perfect your gemista, enhancing the flavor and ensuring a delicious outcome:

  1. Choosing Vegetables: Select ripe but firm tomatoes and bell peppers. The vegetables should be large enough to hold a decent amount of filling. Consistency in size helps them cook evenly.
  2. Pulp Usage: Don’t waste the tomato pulp. Blend it and use it in the rice mixture for added flavor and moisture.
  3. Rice Selection: Use medium-grain rice as it absorbs flavors well and becomes tender without getting mushy. If you prefer a different texture, experiment with long-grain varieties.
  4. Herbs and Spices: Fresh herbs are key. Parsley and mint are traditional, but you can also try basil or dill for a different flavor profile. Also, season generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Oil Quality: Use good quality extra-virgin olive oil for a richer taste. It makes a significant difference in dishes like gemista.
  6. Baking Time and Temperature: Monitor your oven as temperatures can vary. The vegetables should be tender and the rice fully cooked, but not overdone.
  7. Resting Time: Let the gemista rest for a few minutes after baking. This allows the flavors to settle and makes them easier to handle.
  8. Serving Suggestions: Serve with a side of Greek yogurt or a sprinkle of feta cheese for added creaminess. Adding lemon wedges can also enhance the flavors with a bit of acidity.
  9. Storage and Reheating: Gemista can be stored in the refrigerator and tastes even better the next day. Reheat in the oven or microwave.
  10. Experiment with Fillings: You can add minced meat (like beef or lamb) to the rice mixture for a non-vegetarian version. Additionally, try different vegetables like zucchini or eggplants for stuffing.

Remember, the best part about cooking traditional dishes like gemista is making them your own, so feel free to experiment with flavors and ingredients that you enjoy!

What to serve with Gemista?

Serving gemista, you have a range of delightful options to complement its flavors and textures. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Greek Salad: A classic Greek salad made with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese, dressed in olive oil and lemon juice, pairs wonderfully with gemista.
  2. Crusty Bread: Fresh, crusty bread is perfect for soaking up the delicious juices from the gemista.
  3. Tzatziki Sauce: A refreshing Greek yogurt-based sauce with cucumber, garlic, and dill can add a creamy, tangy element to the meal.
  4. Feta Cheese: Serve a side of feta cheese for guests to crumble over their gemista for added richness and a salty kick.
  5. Lemon Roasted Potatoes: Potatoes roasted with lemon, olive oil, and herbs complement the flavors of the stuffed vegetables nicely.
  6. Grilled Meats: For a heartier meal, serve gemista with grilled chicken, lamb, or fish.
  7. Rice Pilaf: If your gemista is vegetarian, a side of flavorful rice pilaf can add substance to the meal.
  8. Steamed or Grilled Vegetables: Simple steamed or grilled vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, or eggplant offer a light and healthy side option.
  9. Greek Lentil Salad: A salad made with lentils, herbs, and a light vinaigrette can be a nutritious and filling side dish.
  10. Wine Pairing: A glass of crisp white wine, like Assyrtiko or a light red wine, complements the flavors of gemista beautifully.

The beauty of gemista is its versatility – it can be paired with a variety of side dishes to suit different tastes and dietary preferences. Whether you opt for something light like a salad or a heartier accompaniment like grilled meats, these sides are sure to enhance your gemista experience.


Gemista is a nutritionally balanced dish, offering a variety of health benefits:

  1. Vegetables: The tomatoes and bell peppers are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber and antioxidants. These nutrients support immune health, vision, and skin health.
  2. Rice: As a source of carbohydrates, rice provides energy. Opting for brown rice can increase the fiber and nutrient content.
  3. Herbs: Fresh herbs like parsley and mint not only add flavor but also contribute vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  4. Olive Oil: A key ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil is a healthy fat rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, supporting heart health.
  5. Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: This dish is naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it heart-friendly.
  6. Customizable: You can boost the protein content by adding minced meat or increase the fiber and nutrient density by including more vegetables or legumes.


Here’s the basic equipment you’ll need to prepare gemista:

  1. Sharp Knife: For slicing the tops off the vegetables and chopping herbs and garlic.
  2. Spoon or Melon Baller: Useful for scooping out the insides of the tomatoes and peppers.
  3. Blender or Food Processor: Optional, for processing the tomato pulp.
  4. Large Skillet or Frying Pan: For sautéing the onions, garlic, and pre-cooking the rice mixture.
  5. Measuring Cups and Spoons: For accurately measuring ingredients like rice, olive oil, and herbs.
  6. Mixing Bowl: To mix the rice filling and herbs.
  7. Baking Dish: Appropriately sized to fit all your stuffed vegetables in a single layer.
  8. Aluminum Foil or Baking Paper: Useful for covering the dish if the vegetables are browning too quickly.
  9. Oven: For baking the dish.
  10. Serving Utensils: To serve the gemista once cooked.

By ensuring you have the right equipment and understanding the nutritional benefits, you can enjoy making and eating gemista even more! Remember, the quality of ingredients plays a significant role in the final taste and healthfulness of the dish.

Servings, Prep time, Cooking time & Calories

For a traditional recipe of gemista, the serving size, preparation time, cooking time, and approximate calorie count can be outlined as follows:


  • Standard Recipe: Typically, a traditional gemista recipe can serve around 4 to 6 people, depending on the size of the vegetables and the appetite of the diners.

Preparation Time

  • Prep Time: The preparation time, which includes washing and preparing the vegetables, making the filling, and stuffing the vegetables, usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Cooking Time

  • Cook Time: The baking time for gemista is generally around 1 hour, but it can vary slightly based on the size of the vegetables and the type of oven.


  • Caloric Content: The calorie count for gemista can vary significantly based on the ingredients used. However, a single serving of vegetarian gemista (without added meats or cheeses) typically contains approximately 150 to 250 calories. This estimate includes the stuffed vegetable and the filling of rice, herbs, and a generous amount of olive oil. Additional ingredients like feta cheese, meats, or extra olive oil will increase the calorie count.

It’s important to note that these are approximate values, and the actual numbers can vary based on the specific ingredients and their quantities used in the recipe. For more accurate nutritional information, it’s advisable to calculate based on the exact ingredients and amounts used in your specific recipe.