These freezer-friendly Cheesy Beef-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Easy Roasted Tomato Chili Sauce is full of Tex-Mex flavors without too much spicy heat; it’s a real crowd-pleaser!
When I was in law school I fell into a weekly Tex-Mex routine with few friends. We’d meet at a local dive on Thursday evenings and order a bunch of different dishes to eat family-style. In addition to the food being great (because we all know sometimes the shadiest dives have the best food), the atmosphere was so much fun: lively with music, bright-colored décor, and lots of laughter. I remember one particularly crazy night that involved an extremely large sombrero, and I’m sad to say I can’t find those pictures anywhere! Anyway, that Tex-Mex tradition was something we all looked forward to.
I’ve been craving Tex-Mex flavors something fierce lately and one day when I spotted Mexican Cotija cheese at Costo I couldn’t resist picking it up. I was in the mood for Chilies Rellenos (because yum), but I wanted to avoid the battered-and-fried aspect of that recipe. I came up with this casserole, which is every bit as delicious, but easier to make and a bit healthier as well. Winning on all levels, right?
I whipped up an easy sauce for this to simulate enchilada sauce. You can use your favorite kind of store-bought sauce if you prefer, but I have trouble finding a store-bought sauce I like that’s a) really good, and b) full of clean ingredients and free of things like gluten and sugar. The nice thing is, you’ll use the entire batch of sauce to make these stuffed peppers. If you like, you can even make a double batch of the sauce and freeze it for next time!
The really great thing about this recipe is that it makes eight servings in two 9 by 13-inch casserole dishes. It’s perfect if you’re feeding a crowd or if you want to freeze one of the dishes for another meal; or you could pay it forward and surprise a lucky neighbor with dinner.
If you don’t like spicy food and you’re worried about the spice level here, I can assure you that it’s not spicy hot. It has a great balance of flavors and a nice complexity from the sauce, but even my mom who is the most spicy food-averse person I know (seriously…I’ve seen toddlers chow down on food that’s spicier than my mom can handle) went crazy for it.
I tried to keep this dish pretty low-carb too; not only did I skip the batter that’s normally on Chilies Rellenos, but there’s no rice in our stuffed pepper filling, and I didn’t even use beans either (which are of course healthy and delicious, but also tend to be a bit high in carbs). I promise though, you really won’t miss the carbs here.
Don’t be surprised when your family asks you to add this recipe to your regular dinner rotation!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 (14.5 oz/411 g) diced tomatoes, juices drained but reserved
- 1 medium-large onion, chopped into large chunks
- 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
- 5 teaspoons ground chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1.33 lbs (600 g) ground beef (I use organic 85% lean)
- 1 medium-large onion, diced
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 8 oz (230 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ cup (120 ml) Easy Roasted Tomato Chili Sauce (save the rest to pour in the bottom of the casserole dish)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 medium-large poblano peppers, halved and de-seeded
- 8 oz (230 g) cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 oz (60 g) Mexican Cotija cheese, crumbled (or substitute crumbled feta or goat cheese if you can’t find Cotija), for garnish
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
- For the sauce, preheat the oven to 450F. Stir together the oil, diced tomatoes, onion, and garlic and spread it out in a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Roast until the vegetables are starting to char in places, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Cool slightly and then transfer to a blender along with the reserved tomato juice and spices and process until smooth. Measure out ½ cup to use in the filling and set the rest aside for now.
- While the sauce roasts, make the filling. To do so, add the beef, onion, and garlic to a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Cook (uncovered) until the beef is browned and the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in all remaining ingredients; continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Pour the remaining Easy Roasted Tomato Chili Sauce into 2 (9 by 13-inch) casserole dishes and spread it out in an even layer. Spoon the beef filling into the poblano halves and arrange them in the bottom of the 2 casserole dishes. At this point, you can either bake or freeze the stuffed peppers.
- To bake the peppers, preheat the oven to 400F and bake (uncovered) until the peppers are softened, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the cheddar cheese and run it under the broiler until melted.
- Sprinkle on the Cotija and cilantro and serve.
Freezer-Friendly: Complete Steps 1 through 3; let the peppers cool completely and then wrap well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. To finish cooking, thaw the peppers in the fridge overnight and then continue with Steps 4 and 5.