Gemista recipe (Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers with rice)

Gemista/ Yemista recipe (Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and peppers with rice)

Juicy, healthy and bursting with fresh and vibrant colors and flavours! Gemista or yemista (which in Greek means ‘filled with’) is a traditional recipe for Greek stuffed tomatoes and/or other vegetables that are baked, until soft and nicely browned. It is one of the most popular recipes in any Greek taverna and household, together of course with the traditional Greek Moussaka!

The traditional Greek recipe for Gemista can be either vegetarian (which in my opinion is the best!), where the Gemista are filled with rice, chopped vegetables and baked in a tomato based sauce, or they may contain minced beef or pork.

There are countless recipes for Greek stuffed tomatoes (Gemista), with almost every household having its own. So feel free to experiment with the stuffing, with different types of herbs and varying amount of spices. Your imagination is your limit with this amazing Greek dish!

How to make the perfect traditional Gemista / Yemista

This traditional Greek recipe for Gemista falls under the category of Greek dishes called “Ladera”, meaning Greek dishes prepared with olive oil. So make sure to use some good quality extra virgin olive oil, which will surely lift the flavor! Although the traditional Greek recipe for Gemista doesn’t call for any butter, a little secret is to add just a little bit inside the Gemista before adding the stuffing for some extra flavor.

As the peppers are not as juicy as the tomatoes the stuffing of the peppers always comes out a little dry. To avoid that, spoon some extra tomato juice over the peppers and they will become just amazing. When cooking the Gemista, make sure to cover them with aluminium foil as the steam allows the rice to cook and the vegetables to soften without them ending up being burnt. 

When tomatoes are in-season they are obviously the best choice to prepare this Greek dish, but for an all-year-round dish you can use eggplants and peppers or even courgettes!

What peppers should I choose to use?

If you like your Gemista to taste sweet use yellow, red or orange bell peppers. If you prefer a slight tang and bitterness, use green peppers. Why? Green bell peppers are bitter because they are simply unripe! So substituting them for a more colourful kind will make your Gemista deliciously sweet!

Serve these extra juicy, melt-in-the mouth Yemista (Greek stuffed tomatoes) with a block of salty feta cheese and lots of bread. Enjoy!

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Gemista/ Yemista recipe (Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and peppers with rice)

Gemista recipe (Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers with rice)

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  • Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
  • Prep Time: 45 min
  • Cook Time: 75 min
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 14 pieces 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Greek

Description

Looking for a traditional Greek Gemista/ Yemista recipe (stuffed tomatoes and peppers with rice)? Find out how to bake them to perfection with this locally sourced recipe and secret hints and tips!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 tomatoes
  • 4 green bell peppers (or orange, red or yellow if you prefer them sweet)
  • 12 eggplants
  • 56 potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 500g/ 18 oz. rice (for risotto)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • a small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • a small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsps tomato paste
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 2 tbsps of butter
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • 250 grams (8.8oz) beef mince (optional)


Instructions

  1. To prepare this delicious Greek stuffed tomatoes recipe, start by preparing your vegetables. Slice off the top of the tomatoes. Using a spoon remove the flesh of the tomatoes and keep it in a bowl. (The flesh of the tomatoes will be the base for the tomato sauce for the Gemista.) Slice off the top of the eggplants and remove the flesh, using a spoon. Cut the flesh of the eggplants in small cubes and set aside, as you will use them later for the filling of the Gemista. Slice off the top of the peppers and remove the seeds and white parts from the inside.
  2. Place the empty vegetables on a large baking tray. Try to leave the vegetables with as little flesh as possible, but be careful not to poke through their skin. Season the empty vegetables with a pinch of salt and sugar and add a little butter on the bottom of each one.
  3. Prepare the sauce for the Gemista. In a blender add the flesh of the tomatoes, 5-6 tbsps olive oil, the tomato paste, sugar, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the filling for the Gemista. In a saucepan add some olive oil and sauté the onions, until translucent. Chop the zucchini in small cubes, add in the saucepan and sauté for one more minute. At the end add the flesh of the eggplants (chopped) and the chopped garlic and sauté, until softened. Add the rice and continue sautéing, unit it becomes transculent. Pour in 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of water and season with salt and pepper. Let the filling come to a boil. After 5 minutes the stuffing is ready. It doesn’t need to cook throughout as it will continue cooking in the oven. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the fresh herbs and taste and season with some more salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Meat Variation: If you prefer your gemista spiced up with some meat, try sizzling 250grams (8.8oz) of ground beef with the onions in the step above. Once the beef juices have been absorbed and the meat is done, chop the zucchini in small cubes, add in the saucepan and sauté for one more minute. At the end add the flesh of the eggplants (chopped) and the chopped garlic and sauté, until softened. Add the rice and continue sautéing, until it becomes transculent. Pour in 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of water and season with salt and pepper. Let the filling come to a boil. After 5 minutes the stuffing is ready. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the fresh herbs and taste and season with some more salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Peel and chop your potatoes in bite-sized chunks.
  7. Assemble the Gemista. Spoon the filling inside the empty vegetables, filling them up by about 2/3rds of the way up. The filling will expand a bit when cooking! Add your potatoes, spreading them out in between the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Finally spoon the filling liquids inside the vegetables until full and the remaining in the baking tray. Cover the vegetables with their lids and add 3 cups of water in your baking tray
  8. Cover the Gemista with aluminium foil and bake in preheated oven at 180C / 350F for 60-75 minutes. Halfway through cooking time, remove the aluminium foil and bake until nicely coloured.
  9. The Gemista are equally delicious, served either warm or even straight out of the fridge. Just pair them with some salty feta cheese and enjoy!


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 pieces
  • Calories: 493kcal
  • Sugar: 19.6g
  • Sodium: 481.7mg
  • Fat: 20.6g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.6g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 15g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 73.8g
  • Fiber: 13.8g
  • Protein: 9.7g
  • Cholesterol: 8.7mg

Keywords: Gemista recipe, Greek stuffed Tomatoes with rice, Greek Yemista

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29 Comments

  1. claudia Howard

    These are great with minced lamb and beef

  2. In step 2. we are preparing the sauce.. in further steps I don’t see where you use it..

  3. 🙂 Thanks Eli, I thought that but wasn’t sure

  4. Hi there,
    I’m loving this dish and I’d like to include it in a post I’m doing about Greek food, it’s history and origins. Of course, I would give all credit and links back to you and would not print the recipe. Could you let me know if I have your permission, please? Thanks so much.

    • Hi Robyn

      I would be honoured!

      Love

      Eli

      • Patti Masouridis

        Eli, nothing like good Greek food. I love stuffed tomatoes and peppers. But here is something I have found to cut the cooking time for the peppers to 40-45 minutes. I microwave them first until they are soft but still on the firm side (4-7 minutes depending on the size) but not the tomatoes. My husband’s garden produces many tomatoes, green, yellow and red peppers. So I am in the kitchen a lot. Try them Patti

      • That is a really good idea, that would help soften the peppers up as tomatoes and aubergines cook faster than the peppers! Sometimes I parboil the potatoes for about 10 minutes to further cut down the cooking time, something else to give a try to 🙂

        Love

        Eli

  5. It does not say to cook the rice or not before stuffing

  6. Dear Kathie,its said”make sure to cover them with aluminium foil as the steam allows the rice to cook”, so there is no need to cook the rice.

  7. Looks incredibly delicious. Just try!

  8. How much time does it take to make it?

  9. Loved this the first time I made it, it’s a bit different from my Mum’s recipe, but since she refuses to share… I looked this up again so I can make it for dinner tomorrow night 🙂

  10. how much is a tin of tomatoes?

  11. Harikleia

    My yiayia sometimes uses eggplant in her gemista, and while she doesn’t use butter in this recipe, she uses it in many others. It might not be traditional in your family, but it obviously is in someone else’s.

  12. Francis & Joanne

    Thank you for your email on Easter recipes.
    My wife loves gemista and I cooked for her your recipe for Easter we both love it. As I have cooked gemista many times over in my life I found your secrets really did make a deference in the cooking. The butter and the risotto rice it worked wonders.

  13. Albanian Eagle

    Well said Alexandros. Even in Albania where we make the same dish, we don’t use butter, but rather healthy extra virgin olive oil. I know what you are saying because I grew up in Athens and New York, and when we talk about traditional food of our area we use healthy olive oil and not butter for these dishes. Also stuffed eggplant is another dish

  14. Better fix the 180 deg, baking temperature. I’.m cooking the meal now with a meat addition and after 40 minutes at 180 deg. all I’ve done is warm up the pan. Love the technique and once finished this looks like a winner recipe.

  15. Julie Cameron

    What size tin of tomatoes?

  16. Christine

    Can you prepare these ahead?

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      Of course you can. Prepare the filling and stuff them but don’t bake them. Cover in cling film and put in the fridge. They will keep for a day or so before needing to be baked. After baking they keep for up to 2 days in the fridge. Just make sure to re-heat them thoroughly before serving.

  17. Hi Eli, thanks for this recipe which I am in the middle of preparing. In previous attempts at gemista the green peppers come out extremely bitter, to be honest I never used sugar and I’m hoping that will soften the bitterness but are there other notes you can give me on this issue?
    Thank you from Spetses

    • Eli K. Giannopoulos

      Hi Philip,

      Fun fact – actually green peppers have a slight bitterness to them simply because they are unripe! So if you want them to taste sweet simply swap them for yellow, orange or red peppers!

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