Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers (Koosa Mih-shee) is a Syrian traditional dinner recipe ideal for large families. Green bell peppers are stuffed with an authentic lamb and rice filling, then simmered in a tomato and pomegranate broth. This one pot dinner is easy to make and can be eaten as a full meal or with a Middle Eastern side salad.
Traditional Syrian (and most Middle Eastern) dinners are made with lamb meat as the star of the meal. Many of those recipes include stuffing nutritious vegetables with a basic lamb and rice mixture called Hash-weh.
These are some of my favorite Syrian meals and are the ones I grew up on during the holiday season and family parties.
This Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers (Koosa Mih-shee, or "mish wee") recipe has been passed down and perfected over many generations.
My Syrian grandmother and her family have a knack for cooking, one that they continue to pass on to the rest of us. They are a family of home-trained chefs who use traditional Middle Eastern methods of cooking, methods that have been passed on for generations.
This, combined with their intuitive cooking skills has created some of the most delicious Middle Eastern recipes.
They make you wonder. How can recipes with such few ingredients turn into such amazing, mouth-watering meals?
They can. And they are not complicated to replicate if you learn a few things about true Middle Eastern cooking.
Most important to know— Syrians cook with a lot of lamb. Lamb and garlic.
They use ground lamb, lamb chops, lamb roast, and all other lamb varieties to create fantastic, authentic meals.
While ground lamb is one of the most popular ways that Syrians use lamb, roasted lamb shanks is another favorite.
🥣 Cooking Tips
Before getting into how to recreate my grandmother's authentic Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers recipe, there are a few basics you'll need to know about Syrian cooking
For many years, it was a pain to get the exact recipes from my grandmother. Most Arabic-speaking grandma cooks add a pinch of this and a pinch of that.
While always very pleasing to the taste, ingredients were rarely measured. I find myself doing this often. It's a simple feeling of just knowing how much of an ingredient you need.
But it's frustrating when someone is trying to learn your recipe. So my family of "grandma cooks" put together a cookbook called "Cooking Good with Sitto".
First, there are a few basic recipes that every Middle Eastern cook needs to know. These recipes are used in many of the main dishes.
Two of the basic recipes most used by my family are:
- Pomegranate Juice Syrup (Dibs Ir-rim-man)
- Lamb and Rice Stuffing (Hash-weh)
Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers uses both of these basic recipes.
The pomegranate juice takes a little time to make, but it lasts indefinitely in the pantry. Make it once and use it in other Middle Eastern favorites, so it's not something you need to make every time you cook a Middle Eastern meal.
This juice to Arabic cooks is like oil to American cooks. You'll find it in every Syrian household.
If you don't have it or want to make it, see the variations below for replacements.
The basic lamb and rice stuffing is a combination of ground lamb, uncooked rice, water, allspice, and salt.
I will tell you how to make it in the recipe below, but the ratios to making Hash-weh are:
- 1 lb ground lamb
- ¾ cup uncooked rice
- ⅓ cup water
- 3 tsp allspice
- salt to taste
To make it, mix these ingredients thoroughly. Since it's not just for Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers, you can make a large amount and freeze the leftovers for use in other recipes.
Second, lamb is a little different than ground beef. It will feel stickier to the touch. It will feel very tacky when working with, but this is okay.
Lamb loves and needs moisture when cooking. This is why you'll see lots of water added to lamb recipes and mixes.
The lamb is going to stick to your hands. This is normal.
Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers uses the lamb and rice basic recipe and pomegranate syrup in addition to these ingredients:
- Green bell peppers
- Tomato sauce
- Dried mint
Syrians love garlic, and you'll find it in many recipes along with all spice and mint.
The first step is to make the Hash-weh (lamb and rice stuffing). Mix the lamb, rice, allspice, water, and salt.
The mixture will be very sticky, more so than a meatball or meatloaf mixture is when using ground beef.
Next, slice the tops off of the peppers and arrange in a large pot. Stuff them loosely with the lamb and rice mix.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomato sauce, pomegranate syrup, garlic, peppermint, salt, and pepper. Pour over the peppers to cover the tops. Make sure that broth fills inside the peppers too.
The peppers might float slightly. To keep them stable and under the broth, place a heavy plate on top.
If the peppers aren't covered completely with the plate, add more water until they are. Then cover and set on high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour.
You are now on your way to an authentic Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Pepper dinner!
Let the peppers cool slightly, then remove to a serving dish. Pour a little bit of sauce on them for serving. There will be a lot of extra sauce leftover, but you can save this for another recipe. The sauce freezes well for around 1 year.
Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers (Koosa Mih-shee)
- 6 green bell peppers
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- ⅔ cup pomegranate syrup
- 8 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 tbsp dried mint
- 2-3 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 lbs ground lamb or beef
- 1 ½ cups uncooked white rice
- ⅔ cup water
- 3 tsp allspice
- salt to taste
- Cut the tops off of the peppers and arrange in a large pot or dutch oven.
- Mix the stuffing ingredients together and pack loosely into peppers.
- In a large bowl, combine the water, tomato sauce, pomegranate syrup, garlic, mint, salt, and pepper. Stir well and pour over the peppers. Put a heavy plate on top of the peppers to hold them in place. Add water as needed if broth does not cover peppers completely.
- Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low heat and simmer 60 minutes.
- To serve, move peppers to a serving bowls and top with broth. Reserve extra broth for future use.
- You can replace the bell peppers in Koosa Mih-shee with other vegetables good for stuffing, such as:
- Red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
2. If you don't have ground lamb (not every store carries it), ground beef is a perfectly acceptable substitution. Follow the recipe steps exactly as written if using beef.
3. No pomegranate syrup? That's okay! While using the pomegranate syrup truly enhances the flavor and gives Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers their authentic taste, I realize that the average person may not be able to or want to make it. Use an extra 8 oz can of tomato sauce to replace every 3 tablespoons of pomegranate syrup.
🍲 Serving and Storing
Koosa Mih-shee makes a nutritious and hearty meal all on it's own, especially for large families or family gatherings.
My family eats this as is, but if you'd like to enjoy it along with a side dish, this light and refreshing Israeli salad is a great option.
If you loved learning about Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers and some of the traditional foods of the Syrian culture, let me know in the comments below.
I'd love to hear how your Koosa Mih-shee turned out!