Felfel mehchi is a stuffed pepper dish from Tunisia made with bull’s horn bell peppers stuffed with ground beef, cheese, vegetables, and spices, and topped with a spicy red sauce. Many countries include traditional stuffed pepper dishes, but Tunisian felfel mehchi is singular in its use of spices such as chili powder and coriander and a spicy harissa and tomato-based sauce. A world of flavors!
Stuffed peppers are popular in many cuisines throughout the world, including throughout Central Europe, the Middle East, and even in Scandinavia. However, peppers themselves hail from Central and South American and have been cultivated for more than 9000 years. After Spanish and Portuguese colonialism, peppers were transported throughout the world and became staple foods in many dishes, including throughout Asia, Europe, and North Africa.
There are many different varieties of peppers and all range in color and degrees of heat. This traditional Tunisian felel mehchi stuffed pepper dish calls for long bell peppers, while are mild in taste and sometimes known as “bull’s horns”, and for a small spicy chili pepper. The beauty of bull’s horn bell peppers in a stuffed bell pepper recipe is they are long and thin in shape, which makes them prime peppers for stuffing. The end result is a long thin pepper stuffed with delicious spiced meat and cheese throughout every bite.
Tunisian felfel mehchi is a simple dish that comes together in under an hour with minimal prep and clean up. The bell peppers are stuffed with ground beef, cheese, onions, and spices and then topped with spicy harissa, tomato, and olive oil sauce and baked until soft and tender. Alternatively, another technique for making stuffed peppers is to first boil the peppers and cook the meat separately, and then stuff and finish in a hot oven. Either technique produces a delicious stuffed bell pepper dish.
Stuffed peppers are called by many names across the world and Tunisian felfel mehchi is just one version of the multicultural dish. In the Balkans, Central and Southern Europe, they are called punjena paprika in Croatia and Serbia, speca të mbushurin in Albania, filovana paprika in Bosnia-Herzegovina, faszerowana papryka in Poland, polnjena paprika in Slovenia, polneti piperki in Macedonia, plněná paprika in the Czech Republic, plnená paprika in Slovakia, töltött paprika in Hungary, ardei umpluţi in Romania, yemista in Greece, peperoni imbottiti in Italy, pimientos rellenos in Spain, gefüllte paprika in Germany and palneni chushki in Bulgaria.
In Scandinavia, they are called fyldte peberfrugter in Denmark, täytetyt paprikat in Finland, fylltar paprikur in Iceland, fylt paprika in Norway and fyllda paprikor in Sweden. In the Baltic countries, they are called kimšti pipirai in Lithuania, pildīti pipari in Latvia and täidisega paprika in Estonia. And don’t forget Mexican chile rellenos, a classic dish!
Stuffed peppers first showed up in United States cuisine in the early 1900s, with the first written record for the classic stuffed peppers recipe dating from 1896 in The Boston Cooking School Cookbook.
Tunisian felfel mehchi have many variations and can be stuffed with a variety of meats such as lamb and goat, as well as vegetables such as tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, and eggplant and can also be filled with grains such as rice and couscous. In Tunisia stuffed peppers are most often eaten as an appetizer but can easily be made into a full meal with the addition of a side item such as grilled potatoes and a fresh salad.
Loving this Tunisian fefel mehchi recipe? Try another of our favorite recipes from Tunisia, such as the baked egg and meat tajine maadnous, gnaouia, and finish with the sweet krima tounsiya. We hope you enjoy this Tunisian felfel mehchi, leave us a comment below if you try it!
- 6 long sweet peppers (bull's horns)
- ¾ lb ground beef
- 2 onions , finely grated
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 3 oz. grated cheese
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons water (cold)
- 2 eggs , slightly beaten
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 chili pepper
- 5 cloves garlic , pressed
- 2 tablespoons harissa
- 6 cups water
In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over low heat and sauté the tomato paste and harissa for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the garlic and the whole chili pepper. Add salt and pepper.
Add water, mix well and bring to a boil over high heat.
After one minute of boiling, lower the heat and simmer covered during the preparation of the stuffed peppers.
In a bowl, combine the meat, onions, parsley, grated cheese, grounds coriander, chilli powder, eggs and 2 tablespoons cold water. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix well and knead the meat for a few minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Remove the stems of the peppers, and using a fine and sharp knife, empty them of all the seeds and ribs.
Using a spoon or pastry bag, stuff each pepper with the minced meat.
Place the peppers in a large baking dish. Pour over the stewed sauce.
Bake for 45 minutes.
At the end of baking, using the blade of a thin knife, test the tenderness of the peppers and meat.
Continue baking for 15 minutes if necessary.