Pimientos rellenos are a beloved Spanish tapa featuring roasted red peppers stuffed with a creamy rice filling studded with smoky chorizo, onions, tomatoes and olives. This classic appetizer may seem fancy, but it’s easy to recreate at home for an authentic taste of Spain.
In this extensive recipe post, we’ll cover everything you need to know to master pimientos rellenos. You’ll learn all about:
Table of Contents
With this guide, you’ll gain the skill to impress guests with a beloved Spanish tapa made completely from scratch. Let’s get started!
A Brief History of Pimientos Rellenos in Spanish Cuisine
In Spanish, “pimientos rellenos” translates to stuffed peppers. They originated as a tapa – a small plate or appetizer served in bars and restaurants across Spain.
Tapas showcased the regional ingredients and flavors of Spanish cuisine in bite-sized portions. Common tapas dishes include pintxos, patatas bravas, tortilla Española, gambas al ajillo and of course, pimientos rellenos.
Tapas culture arose in Andalusia, located in southern Spain. The word “tapa” means lid or cover. According to legend, tapas were created when sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns would request a small morsel or “cover” to place over their glasses between sips. This helped keep fruit flies out of the sherry while they enjoyed their leisurely chats and drinks.
Over time, the “covers” evolved into a wide array of hot and cold appetizer dishes served communally along with drinks. Tapas culture encourages convivial socializing while grazing on several different small plates over the course of an evening.
Pimientos de Padrón – blistered Shishito-like green peppers – rank among the most iconic tapas. It seems natural that their heartier red bell pepper cousins would join the lineup.
The Basque region claims to have invented stuffed peppers, using onion, tomato and cod. But pimientos rellenos became widespread as tapas establishments looked for ways to utilize seasonal red bell peppers.
Stuffing supple roasted peppers allowed their sweet flesh to be incorporated twice. The rice filling extended the vegetable and added satisfying substance. Inexpensive ingredients like tomatoes, onions and chorizo made pimientos rellenos easily accessible.
The tapa spread from Andalusia and Basque country across all of Spain. It is now common to find pimientos rellenos in tapas bars from Barcelona to Madrid. They encapsulate the classic Spanish flavors of olive oil, peppers, tomatoes, chorizo and short grain rice.
While tradition dictates enjoying them with a glass of fino sherry, pimientos rellenos also pair beautifully with Spanish rioja, tempranillo, or a crisp light beer like Estrella Damm.
Now you know the storied history of how this iconic dish evolved. Next we’ll break down the components and process for recreating pimientos rellenos at home.
Pimientos Rellenos Ingredients and Equipment
Part of pimientos rellenos appeal lies in how simple they are to prepare. With just a few easy-to-find ingredients, you can craft an incredible Spanish appetizer from scratch.
Pimientos Rellenos RecipeCourse: CookbookCuisine: SpanishDifficulty: Easy
Here’s what you’ll need:
- For the filling:
4 large red bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked short grain white rice
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1⁄4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional garnishes:
Chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
Crumbled queso fresco or feta
Red pepper flakes
Sherry vinegar or good quality olive oil for drizzling
How to Make Pimientos Rellenos – Step-by-Step Instructions
- Roast the Peppers
- Preheat your oven’s broiler on high heat. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Place the bell peppers directly on the baking sheet without overcrowding. Broil about 4 inches from the heating element, turning occasionally with tongs.
- Roast peppers until the skins are entirely charred and blackened, about 15-20 minutes total.
- Transfer charred peppers to a heatproof bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes. This steams the peppers further, making peeling easier.
- Prep the Peppers
- Once cool enough to handle, use your fingers to peel away and discard all the charred skin from each pepper. Don’t miss any patches!
- Cut a slit down one side of the pepper and gently remove the core and seeds. Leave the stem on for presentation if desired.
- Using kitchen shears, trim away any remaining ribs and flatten the pepper open into a rectangle shape.
- Make the Filling
- Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes until translucent.
- Add the chorizo and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the cooked rice, tomato, olives, parsley, smoked paprika and oregano. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until warmed through.
- Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Stuff and Bake the Peppers
- Divide the filling evenly among the pepper cavities, pressing lightly to fill all the space inside. Don’t overstuff.
- Arrange stuffed peppers on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 ̊F until heated through.
- Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley, cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil if desired. Enjoy!
- This recipe brings the taste of Spain home to your kitchen!
And that’s all there is to it! With these simple yet thoughtful steps, you’ll achieve tender roasted peppers encasing the classic Spanish filling.
It does take some time between roasting, peeling, filling and baking. But the active effort is minimal, so make this when you can spend relaxing time at home.
- Choose large, straight bell peppers for easier stuffing. Any color works!
- Spanish chorizo provides authentic smoky flavor, but Portuguese or Mexican can substitute.
- Roast peppers thoroughly so skins peel off easily.
- Overstuffed peppers will be prone to tearing – pack the filling lightly.
- Bake just to heat through – no need to cook filling twice.
4 servings per container
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Fat
- Sodium 580mg 25%
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Carbohydrate
- Protein 15g 30%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Helpful Tips for Making Pimientos Rellenos Like a Pro
With practice, you’ll develop a feel for that ideal texture and flavor balance. In the meantime, these pro tips will help avoid common pitfalls:
- Select large, evenly-shaped peppers – The filling depends on the walls of the peppers being strong enough to support it without tearing. Size matters!
- Give peppers space to roast – Avoid cramming them on the baking sheet. Air circulation ensures even charring.
- Rotate peppers while broiling – The tops will char first since they’re closest to the heat source. Turning prevents just one side from burning.
- Steam peppers immediately after broiling – Trapping the heat helps separate the skins. Don’t skip this step!
- Remove all charred skin – It should slip off easily after steaming. Any remaining black bits taste unpleasantly bitter.
- Trim away interior ribs – Slices of filling can get caught on the interior ribbed walls. Kitchen shears make quick work of removing.
- Stuff peppers gently – Compact the filling without over-packing. Too much can cause tearing and leaks.
- Save excess filling – Leftover filling makes an excellent potato topper or tapas spread. Never discard extra!
- Stand peppers upright on the baking sheet – Leaning them against each other prevents spillage while baking.
- Rest stuffed peppers before serving – Letting them sit 5 minutes allows flavors to meld and textures to settle.
With the proper care at each stage, you’ll achieve balanced, nuanced flavors encased in tender yet firm peppers ready to impress guests. Now let’s explore some serving suggestions.
How to Serve and Savor Pimientos Rellenos
Traditionally, pimientos rellenos are enjoyed as starters before a larger meal. But these stuffed beauties pair so nicely with salads, rice or grains that they can also accompany main dishes or even stand alone.
Here are some ideas for how to incorporate pimientos rellenos into tapas spreads, everyday meals and even parties:
- As an appetizer – Serve 2-3 mini peppers per person before dinner along with olives, nuts and cured meats
- On a tapas spread – Prepare several classic tapas like patatas bravas, tortilla and gambas al ajillo for a Spanish-style happy hour
- With salads – The freshness balances the richness. Enjoy over a bed of peppery arugula dressed with lemon and olive oil
- With rice or grains – The chorizo filling pairs perfectly with bites of fluffy rice or farro. Scatter leftovers on top.
- As a light main – For a meatless dinner, serve 4 stuffed peppers with salad and crusty bread
- For a crowd – Roast extra peppers and prepare multiple batches of filling. Build your own tapas bar!
- For a luncheon – A unique brunch dish served with a stack of Spanish tortillas
- As passed appetizers – Cut into bite-sized pieces and hand guests these flavor-packed nibbles
However you choose to incorporate them, pimientos rellenos bring a taste of Spain to every occasion. Now let’s go over some FAQs.
Pimientos Rellenos Recipe FAQs:
What type of rice works best for the filling?
Short grain Spanish rice like bomba or Calasparra holds its shape and absorbs flavors nicely. Arborio also works well.
Can I prepare the filling ahead of time?
Absolutely! Make it up to 2 days in advance, then just stuff and bake peppers right before serving.
What’s the best way to prevent peppers from tearing?
Gently stuff, don’t overfill, and handle peppers carefully when baking. Choose large, sturdy peppers with even shape.
Do the peppers need to be roasted? Can I use raw?
Roasting is ideal for flavor, but raw peppers should work fine. They may need a few extra minutes of baking time.
What beverages pair well with pimientos rellenos?
In Spain, dry sherry is classic! Otherwise, try Rioja, Spanish rosé, cava, light beer, or sangria.
Can I make mini pimientos rellenos for appetizers?
Certainly! Stuff and bake bite-sized peppers for easy finger food. Adjust baking time down.
How can I turn leftovers into a meal?
Chop peppers into pieces and toss with rice, greens and sherry vinaigrette. Top salad with Manchego!
What proteins other than chorizo work in the filling?
Ground pork, shredded chicken, canned tuna, canned crab meat or cooked lentils would all taste great.
How do I make a vegetarian version?
Substitute diced mushrooms for the chorizo. Add a squirt of smoked paprika for meaty flavor.
Got another question? Feel free to reach out! I’m happy to help troubleshoot.
Enjoy an Iconic Spanish Appetizer at Home
Now you’re fully prepared to tackle this Spanish favorite at home – from charring those peppers, to gently stuffing, to savoring the smoky chorizo rice filling in each perfect bite.
Pimientos rellenos may take some time from start to finish, but the flavor payoff is immense. Impress guests or treat yourself to a taste of Madrid without the airfare!
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