Want a simple way to turn a humble vegetable into nearly a complete, filling meal? Stuff those tomatoes, squash, or eggplant with meats, cheeses, and, hey, more vegetables. After a stay in the oven (or on the grill) to warm their contents through and melt those layers of cheese into a delightfully gooey topping, they'll be transformed into the perfect dinner for chilly fall nights, loaded with all the diverse flavors and textures you can pack into them. And they don't have to be baked or roasted, of course: Raw cherry tomatoes and piquillo peppers, crammed with bacon and Parmesan or tuna and allioli, make addictive appetizers, and if you're feeling especially frisky, you can even try your hand at frying bite-size tomatoes filled with mozzarella.
Part of the beauty of stuffed vegetables is that they're easily adapted to the ingredients you have on hand. To get you started, though, we've assembled a collection of 13 of our best recipes, from mushrooms filled with crabmeat and Fontina to Poblanos with a spicy mixture of chorizo and rice.
Fried Caprese Bombs
These aren't your mother's stuffed tomatoes: They're golf-ball-size specimens, hollowed out and filled with small ciliegine of fresh mozzarella, then breaded and shallow-fried. A double coating of seasoned bread crumbs helps keep the cheese from escaping its confines. Serve these decidedly un-light Caprese/mozzarella stick hybrids with fresh basil leaves and a honey-sweetened balsamic reduction.
Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes With Bacon, Parmesan, and Parsley
The most laborious part of making this version of an old-school appetizer is prepping the tomatoes, which requires scooping out their juicy seeds and letting them drain for an hour . But once that's done, it's a snap to fill them with a creamy, flavorful mixture of mayo, Parmesan, finely chopped bacon, minced shallot, and parsley. After an hour in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld, they'll be ready to serve.
Spanish Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers (Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Atún)
The Spanish are masters of packing all manner of tasty treats into cans and jars, and this tapa recipe calls for two different such specialties: bright, sweet piquillo peppers and meaty oil-packed tuna. With good-quality versions of those ingredients, you won't need to dress them with much: Just combine the tuna with shallots, lemon juice, capers, parsley, olive oil, and an easy homemade allioli; cram it all into the peppers; and top them with a dollop more allioli and a bit of parsley, olive oil, and flaky sea salt.
Grilled Cremini Mushrooms Stuffed With Basil and Parmesan Mayo
It's hard to look at a fat little mushroom cap and not consider that it was made for stuffing, right? When they're grilled, earthy mushrooms take on a smoky char and a slight chew that are ideal for contrasting with soft, creamy fillings. This recipe keeps things simple, adding just a spoonful of bright, herbal homemade basil and Parmesan mayonnaise to each grilled cap.
Grilled Crab- and Fontina-Stuffed Mushrooms
Unlike in the previous recipe, these mushrooms are stuffed first and then grilled, giving the cheese a chance to melt and lightly brown. While many crab-stuffed mushrooms are filled with mostly cream cheese and bread crumbs, and very little crab, we go the opposite route: heavy on the sweet, tender shellfish, which we mix with nutty Italian Fontina and just enough panko to bind with the other ingredients.
Baked Stuffed Tomatoes With Feta and Roasted Peppers
Inspired by the Greek dip tyrokafteri, this recipe stuffs hollowed-out tomatoes loosely with a chopped mixture of sweet roasted bell peppers, pickled banana peppers, tangy feta, and garlic. Twenty-five minutes in the oven is enough to get the filling warm and melty and the tomatoes tender. Look for tomatoes that aren't too ripe—they should be firm enough to hold their shape in the oven.
Grilled Chorizo-Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Jammed with rice, Cotija cheese, pepper Jack, crema, and spicy Mexican chorizo (homemade, if you like), these big stuffed peppers are practically a meal unto themselves. Diced Roma tomatoes and chopped cilantro add a little freshness; the pepper Jack is used as a topping, melting into a cheesy blanket during grilling.
Cheesy Stuffed Mexican Peppers With Red Chili Sauce
We add two cheeses to the rice-and-ground-beef filling in these stuffed bell peppers: cheddar for its superior flavor, and American for its incomparable creaminess and melting ability. Before baking, the peppers are smothered with an enchilada-style sauce seasoned with a complex combination of cumin, Mexican oregano, ancho chili powder, and unsweetened cocoa powder.
Egg With Sausage-Stuffed Peppers
Here, we elevate the staple breakfast combo of sausage and eggs to fancy-brunch status by adding both to roasted red bell peppers. Each pepper half is stuffed with a mixture of crumbled sausage and chopped onions, then roasted until the filling has softened. To finish, just crack an egg over each one and send it back into the oven until the whites are set.
Stuffed Roasted Poblano Peppers With Cashew-Chipotle Sauce
Sweet raisins and briny capers add complexity to the rice filling for green chilies—Hatch or Poblano peppers work well—which we prep by charring them directly over a gas flame and peeling off their skins. They're baked in a smoky cashew salsa and topped with grated mozzarella or queso de Oaxaca, though, if you want to make a vegan version, the chicken stock is readily swapped for vegetable, and the cashew salsa is so creamy that you can easily omit the cheese.
Bratwurst-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Smoky Bacon-Tomato Sauce
Since I didn't attend nearly enough cookouts this summer, I'm on the lookout for ways to meet my brat-consumption quota for the year. These meaty, hearty cabbage rolls are a good place to start: We remove the bratwurst from its casing, mix it with rice, wrap the filling in cabbage leaves, and bake the rolls in a flavorful tomato sauce with bacon, beer, paprika, and ground caraway. This dish freezes and reheats wonderfully if you have any leftovers.
Baked Acorn Squash With Wild Rice, Pecan, and Cranberry Stuffing
A celebration of fall ingredients and flavors, this vegetarian recipe fills sweet acorn squash with nutty wild rice, toasty pecans, tart dried cranberries, and salty ricotta salata. One squash is more than enough for a hearty serving.
Dry Masala-Stuffed Eggplants
For this simple and delicious North Indian recipe, we split plump baby eggplants into quarters and stuff them with a fragrant spice paste, made with red chili powder, turmeric, cumin, and amchur, a tart spice made from green mangoes. Quickly pan-fry the eggplants, then turn down the heat to cook them until they're tender inside.