Vegetarian Greek Stuffed Tomatoes (GF + Vegan Optional)

5 from 6 votes
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How to make delicious vegetarian Greek stuffed tomatoes with a tender, juicy onion and rice filling – perfect for enjoying the best of summer’s tomato bounty! Even better, these baked stuffed tomatoes are gluten-free and can be enjoyed vegetarian or vegan!

Stuffed tomatoes cooked in a pan

If you’re looking for a tomato recipe that is juicy, tender, and bursting with flavor, then you’ve found it with these Greek stuffed tomatoes (aka gemista/ yemista, which means “filled with”). During summer, I’ve taken full advantage of the bounty of flavor-packed ripe tomatoes with plenty of fresh dishes like heirloom tomato salad, Panzanella, and Caprese bruschetta. But now I want something a little cozier as the weather cools down. Like these healthy baked stuffed tomatoes with rice.

While there are tons of variations of Greek stuffed tomatoes, this recipe focuses on simple, hearty rice-stuffed tomatoes with an onion and tomato sauce. It’s then topped off with a spritz of fresh lemon juice and optionally pine nuts and some feta cheese (or dairy-free cheese for vegan baked stuffed tomatoes!). This filling is also super versatile – add in extra veggies, swap out the herbs, add protein, or even swap out the grain, for a dish that will never taste boring.

Best of all, these healthy stuffed tomatoes with rice make for a hearty, wholesome, and nutritious appetizer (alongside these stuffed grape leaves), side, or main. Enjoy alone, topped with tzatziki, or alongside some crusty bread or Greek pita (gyro bread), for mopping up the filling; and wait for the ooh’s and aah’s from everyone you serve these vegetarian stuffed tomatoes!

Stuffed tomatoes cooked in a pan

If it’s no longer tomato season, then don’t panic – head on over to my general stuffed veggies (gemista) post to enjoy stuffed peppers, eggplant, and more year-round! Plus, if you’re looking for more ways to enjoy the last of this summer’s tomato bounty, you might like this fire-roasted tomato salsa, Turkish menemen (tomato scrambled eggs), roasted cherry tomatoes, grilled peach burrata salad, or simple Maqluba (upside-down layered rice)!

The Ingredients

  • Tomatoes: during summer, make the most of the ripest large tomatoes that you can find. I used beefsteak heirloom tomatoes this time, but I’ve tried it with others (like hot-house tomatoes) with success, too. You can even use this method with other veggies (peppers, eggplant, etc.) when tomatoes aren’t in season!
  • Rice: I recommend using short or medium-grain rice. If you use long-grain rice (like basmati), you’ll need to increase the initial stovetop baking time to ensure it’s at least 90% cooked before going in the oven and may require more time in the oven, too.
  • Onion: you can use white or yellow onion.
  • Tomato paste: I used homemade tomato paste.
  • Herbs/Spices: these healthy rice-stuffed tomatoes use a simple combination of dried mint, salt, fresh oregano, or other herbs like parsley, mint, thyme, dill. It’s up to you.
  • Lemon: I use lemon zest and juice to garnish the baked stuffed tomatoes for extra “bright” flavor.
  • Olive oil: or another neutral cooking oil like avocado oil, though olive oil is the classic Greek stuffed tomatoes option and helps enhance the cooked tomato’s nutrients.
Ingredients for stuffed tomatoes

Optional add-ins and recipe variations:

  • Other vegetables: you can easily boost the nutrients, colors, and flavors in these rice-stuffed tomatoes with extra, finely diced veggies. Like peppers, spinach, carrot (grated), potatoes, zucchini, etc.
  • Other grains: you could experiment with making these Greek stuffed tomatoes with other grains like quinoa – follow the same method (cook 90% before stuffing and baking). Adjust the amount of liquid needed accordingly.
  • Other spices: feel free to experiment with the spices used in the rice stuffing: oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, allspice, etc. For a kick, you could add some chili/cayenne powder or finely diced chilies.
  • Pine Nuts: make for a great garnish. Lightly toast in a dry skillet for extra toasty flavor.
  • Raisins: you can use golden or dark raisins added into the rice mixture.
  • Protein: feel free to make a vegetarian “mince” filling by adding around 1lb of your favorite vegan mince (or soy protein). Pre-cook either on the stovetop.
  • Sugar: you may want to add a pinch (or more) of sugar to balance the tart flavor from the tomatoes. If your tomatoes aren’t as ripe as you’d like, rub a little sugar into the inside of the tomatoes before adding the stuffing.
  • Cheese: I recommend using feta cheese to crumble over the vegetarian stuffed tomatoes. For vegan stuffed tomatoes, use vegan feta cheese.
  • For stuffed peppers and tomatoes: the peppers will naturally be “drier” as they don’t become as juicy when baking. To combat this, spoon some of the juices from the baked tomatoes over the peppers before serving.
  • Tzatziki: you can optionally use tzatziki to drizzle (or dollop) over the vegetarian stuffed tomatoes.

How to Make Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

Step 1: Prepare the tomatoes

First, wash and pat the tomatoes dry. Then carefully core the tomatoes. To do this, I used a sharp knife to slice the top off of each tomato. Then use a spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving the outer wall intact. Transfer the tomato pulp to a small bowl for now.

Then, place the tomatoes on a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking tray and set aside.

Holding a cored tomato

Step 2: Sauté the ingredients

First, peel and dice the onion and rinse the rice until the water runs almost clear.

Then heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook for several minutes, stirring often, until translucent. Then add the tomato pulp, tomato paste, and salt (and pepper, if preferred).

Steps for cooking onion and tomatoes

Step 3: Par-cook the rice

Add the rice and water to the pan, stirring well. Then cover and cook until just below al dente (around 90% cooked). To do this, I recommend following the package instruction for the rice minus 2-3 minutes.

While it cooks, finely chop your herbs of choice, then add them to the pan at the end of the cooking process, mixing until well combined. Then remove the rice mixture from the heat.

Steps for cooking rice for stuffed tomatoes

Step 4: Bake the stuffed tomatoes

Using a spoon, scoop the rice mixture into your tomatoes (almost to the top) and cover with their “lids.” Then bake in a preheated oven for around 30 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC. When ready, the tomatoes should be soft and slightly “shriveled” looking, with a tender rice filling.

You can optionally broil the tomatoes for a short while at the end if you want a more blackened, slightly smoky “top” of the tomatoes.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, allow them to cool for just a few minutes. Then remove the lid and top with some lemon zest, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and optionally some feta cheese. For a truly delicious Greek stuffed tomato, I recommend serving with an extra glug of extra virgin olive oil – enjoy!

Steps for preparing stuffed tomatoes

How to Make Ahead and Store 

Make ahead: you can prepare these Greek stuffed tomatoes ahead by preparing the filling and stuffing them. Then cover them tightly in clingfilm for 1-2 days before baking. You can also freeze the unbaked stuffed tomatoes and bake from frozen. Add a few extra minutes to the cooking time (until bubbly and tender). Be warned, they likely won’t hold their shape well upon thawing. 

Store: once baked, allow the stuffed tomatoes to cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Reheat: you can reheat the baked stuffed tomatoes either in the microwave or in the oven, in a large baking pan filled with around a cup of water at 400ºF/200ºC, until fully warmed.

How to Serve Greek Rice Stuffed Tomatoes?

There are several ways you can enjoy these vegan stuffed tomatoes. Serve them alone as a hearty appetizer or turn them into a meal with the addition of a leafy green salad, some tzatziki, and some crusty bread (or Greek pita).

Plus, they taste even better on day two. And you can enjoy a Greek stuffed tomato chilled, at room temperature, or warmed up!

Cooked stuffed tomatoes

Recipe Notes and Top Tips

  • Leave to “marinate”: these stuffed tomatoes taste even better on the second day – cold or reheated.
  • If the tomatoes are browning too much: you can cover them in foil while they continue to bake. This will stop them from burning while also allowing the rice stuffing to steam and thoroughly cook.
  • To prevent mushy rice: you can sauté it for several minutes in a skillet until light golden. This helps to “seal” it and avoids mushiness when cooking.
  • Experiment with the filling: this rice filling is super adaptable and excellent for adding extra veggies, herbs, etc. Simply use what’s in season and that you have available.
  • To grill the stuffed tomatoes: if it’s still grilling weather, then no need to turn on the oven. Instead, use some yarn or cooking twine to tie the top and bottom of the filled tomatoes together. Then, brush with a bit of oil, wrap in tin foil, and then grill for 10-15 minutes, until tender with a fully cooked stuffing.
  • When using add-ins: note that adding protein or extra veggies will yield more overall “stuffing.” Feel free to save any leftovers for another batch of stuffed veggies. Alternatively, after filling the tomatoes, you can continue to cook the rice filling on the stovetop until fully cooked. Then use it as a side to other meals.
  • If your tomatoes aren’t very fleshy/juicy: you may need to add some extra tinned tomatoes for extra juice and flavor for these vegetarian stuffed tomatoes.
  • Don’t be stingy with the olive oil: for traditional Greek stuffed tomatoes, olive oil is used for more than just sauteing the ingredients – around 1/3 cup (total) can be used to drizzle over the stuffed tomatoes before and after baking. It will produce a super silky, melt-in-the-mouth consistency.

More Ways to Enjoy Tomatoes

If you try this healthy Greek stuffed tomatoes recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Vegetarian Greek Stuffed Tomatoes (GF + Vegan Optional)

5 from 6 votes
By: Samira
How to make delicious vegetarian Greek stuffed tomatoes with a tender, juicy onion and rice filling! Even better, these baked stuffed tomatoes are gluten-free and can be enjoyed vegetarian or vegan.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 4.4 lb large tomatoes heirloom or other ripe large tomatoes; I used 4 large beefsteak tomatoes
  • 2 cup rice short or mid-grain rice
  • 2 cup water
  • 7 oz onions 2 small; white or yellow
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme or oregano
  • 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs parsley, oregano, dill, etc, your favorite
  • 1 lemon zest and juice, optional, for serving

Instructions 

Step 1: Prepare the tomatoes

  • Wash and pat the tomatoes dry.
  • Carefully core the tomatoes. To do this, I used a sharp knife to slice the top off of each tomato, then used a spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving the outer wall intact. Transfer the tomato pulp to a small bowl for now.
  • Place the tomatoes on a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking tray and set aside.

Step 2: Sauté the ingredients

  • Peel and dice the onion. Rinse the rice until the water runs almost clear.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook for several minutes, stirring often, until translucent. Then add the tomato pulp, tomato paste, and salt (and pepper, if preferred).

Step 3: Par-cook the rice

  • Add the rice and water to the pan, stirring well, and then cover and cook until just below al dente (around 90% cooked). To do this, I recommend following the package instruction for the rice minus 2-3 minutes.
  • While it cooks, finely chop your herbs of choice, then add them to the pan at the end of the cooking process, mixing until well combined. Then remove the rice mixture from the heat.

Step 4: Bake the stuffed tomatoes

  • Using a spoon, scoop the rice mixture into your tomatoes (right to the top) and cover with their "lids."
  • Bake in a preheated oven for around 30 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC. When ready, the tomatoes should be soft and slightly "shriveled" looking, with a tender rice filling.
    You can optionally broil the tomatoes for a short while at the end if you want a more blackened, slightly smoky "top" of the tomatoes.
  • Remove the tomatoes from the oven, allow them to cool for just a few minutes, then remove the lid and top with some lemon zest, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and optionally some feta cheese. For a truly delicious Greek stuffed tomato, I recommend serving with an extra glug of extra virgin olive oil – enjoy!

How to Make Ahead and Store

  • Make ahead: you can prepare these Greek stuffed tomatoes ahead by preparing the filling and stuffing them but then covering them tightly in clingfilm for 1-2 days before baking. You can also freeze the unbaked stuffed tomatoes and bake from frozen. Add a few extra minutes to the cooking time (until bubbly and tender), though they won't hold their shape well upon thawing.
    Store: once baked, allow the stuffed tomatoes to cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. You may also be able to freeze the leftovers, though I never have. If you do, let me know in the comments how it went.
    Reheat: you can reheat the baked stuffed tomatoes either in the microwave or in the oven, in a large baking pan filled with around a cup of water at 400ºF/200ºC, until fully warmed.

Notes

  • Leave to “marinate”: these baked stuffed tomatoes taste even better on the second day, so feel free to leave leftovers or prepare them a day in advance and enjoy cold or reheated.
  • If the tomatoes are browning too much: you can cover them in foil while they continue to bake. This will stop them from burning while also allowing the rice stuffing to steam and thoroughly cook.
  • To prevent mushy rice: You can sauté it for several minutes in a skillet until lightly golden. This helps to “seal” it and avoids mushiness when cooking.
  • Experiment with the filling: this rice filling is super adaptable and excellent for adding extra veggies, herbs, etc. Simply use what’s in season and that you have available.
  • To grill the stuffed tomatoes: if it’s still grilling weather, then no need to turn on the oven. Instead, use some yarn or cooking twine to tie the top and bottom of the filled tomatoes together, brush with a bit of oil, wrap in tin foil, and then grill for 10-15 minutes, until tender with a fully cooked stuffing.
  • When using add-ins: note that adding protein or extra veggies will yield more overall “stuffing.” Feel free to save any leftovers for another batch of stuffed veggies. Alternatively, after filling the tomatoes, you can continue to cook the rice filling on the stovetop until fully cooked and then use it as a side to other meals.
  • If your tomatoes aren’t very fleshy/juicy: you may need to add some extra tinned tomatoes for extra juice and flavor.
  • Don’t be stingy with the olive oil: for traditional Greek stuffed tomatoes, olive oil is used for more than just sauteing the ingredients – around 1/3 cup (total) can be used to drizzle over the stuffed tomatoes before and after baking to produce a super silky, melt-in-the-mouth consistency.
Optional add-ins and recipe variations:
  • Other vegetables: you can easily boost the nutrients, colors, and flavors in these rice-stuffed tomatoes with extra, finely diced veggies, like peppers, spinach, carrot (grated), potatoes, zucchini, etc.
  • Other grains: you could experiment with making these stuffed tomatoes with other grains like quinoa – follow the same method (cook 90% before stuffing and baking). Adjust the amount of liquid needed accordingly.
  • Other spices: feel free to experiment with the spices used in the rice stuffing: oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, allspice, etc. For a kick, you could add some chili/cayenne powder or finely diced chilies.
  • Pine Nuts: make for a great garnish. Lightly toast in a dry skillet for extra toasty flavor.
  • Raisins: you can use golden or dark raisins added to the rice mixture.
  • Protein: feel free to make a vegetarian “mince” filling by adding around 1lb of your favorite vegan mince (or soy protein) of choice. Pre-cook on the stovetop.
  • Sugar: you may want to add a pinch (or more) of sugar to balance the tart flavor from the tomatoes. If your tomatoes aren’t as ripe as you’d like, you could rub a little sugar into the inside of the tomatoes before adding the rice stuffing.
  • Cheese: I recommend using feta cheese to crumble over the vegetarian stuffed tomatoes. For vegan stuffed tomatoes, use vegan feta cheese.
  • For stuffed peppers and tomatoes: the peppers will naturally be “drier” as they don’t become as juicy when baking. To combat this, spoon some of the juices from the baked tomatoes over the peppers before serving.
  • Tzatziki: you can optionally use tzatziki to drizzle (or dollop) over the vegetarian stuffed tomatoes.
 
Check the blog post for more tips and serving suggestions. 
Course: Appetizer, Main, Side
Cuisine: European, Greek
Shelf life: 5-7 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 301kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Sodium: 403mg, Potassium: 1345mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 22g, Vitamin A: 4395IU, Vitamin C: 90mg, Calcium: 90mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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