There was one food that kept popping up on menus across Peru, and that was rocoto peppers, stuffed with meat, vegetables and topped with melted cheese. Not that I minded. Stuffed rocoto peppers are delicious, and I became a big fan.

Alas, I have never seen a rocoto pepper here in a U.S. super market. Their popularity in Peru can be attributed to their ability to grow at a cool, high altitudes, so perhaps someone in Colorado or Idaho may have tried to plant them. If anyone knows of a fresh source of whole rocotos, let me know. (FYI, you can get rocoto pepper sauce online here.

After a little research online, it turns out rocoto peppers (Capsicum pubescens) are slightly spicier than chile piquin, our local chile of choice here at the ranch. Their name comes from the native Quechua word rukutu, which is the name of the pepper. There is a mountain range in the Ancash region of Peru called Rocotopunta, and it makes me wonder if the pepper got it’s name from the mountain, or if the mountain got it’s name from the pepper.

I always believed that the hottest, driest regions produced the hottest chiles, so I found it remarkable that the mountain growing, cold loving rocoto actually ranked higher on the Scoville scale than the chile piquins that grow wild in my yard.

Oddly enough, the rocotos I ate didn’t seem all that spicy, but that might be attributed to the removal of all seeds before the peppers were filled. I also heard several recommendations of simmering the hollowed out rocotos in either salted or sugar sweetened water, discarding the water, and simmering twice again would lower the level of spiciness. I would compare what I ate to the heat level of a fresh poblano chile. But if you have any experience with chiles, you know that spiciness can vary greatly from crop to crop, or chile to chile.

Nonetheless, I tried to replicate a stuffed rocoto once I got home. I really like the chewy, salty topping of mixed fresh and aged cheeses, and the crisp plant-y flavor of the pepper. A red bell pepper is probably the best substitute, but why are red bell peppers grown so massively long and narrow? Argh, it was impossible to get them to sit on their bottom in a baking pan, so I sliced them vertically and baked them lying down (the peppers laid down while baking, not me.) Opening the pepper vertically allowed for more cheese topping. Every recipe should allow for more cheese topping.

To add some spiciness back to the rather neutral bell peppers, I added a slice of chile habanero to the ground meat mixture, and covered it with the cheese topping. My Peruvian guides advised me this was another way they controlled the heat in their peppers – Just remove the spicy slice of pepper before you enjoy your dish. A slice of pepper adds flavor, but it can be removed before you dig in.


Ground beef filling for stuffed peppers

I like to add the veggies after browning the meat so they don’t overcook

Bell Peppers can be different sizes

Hey pepper growing peeps, what the heck? Why are red bell pepper triple the length of green peppers? 

Bell Peppers with Seeds removed

This is where things went wrong in the test kitchen. I should have left on the tops. But make sure you get out the center core of seeds.

Fresh Latin American cheese

This is my favorite brand of fresh Latin American cheese. It crumbles dry, and has a great texture.

Crumbling Queso Fresco

Crumbling fresh cheese just requires a squeeze until it breaks apart.

Queso Fresco, grated parmesan, panko bread crumbs

Queso fresco, parm & panko

Stuffed Bell Pepper

I decided to stuff the green one, just as a comparison. Stingy amount of filling. Humph

Cheese topped stuffed peppers

Proof that I was correct to slice the peppers vertically. The green pepper is no where near the amount of cheese I wanted. Double humph.

Peruvian Rocoto Style Stuffed Peppers

I’m so sad I cut the top off of this pepper, as I think it would have looked prettier on. I’m sure I will return to happiness once we sit down to eat!

Peruvian Stuffed Rocoto Pepper

A stuffed rocoto in La PreFerida, a ceviche cafe in Lima, Peru

Peruvian Rocoto Stuffed Pepper

The first rocoto that I enjoyed. It was small, green and spicy, and I washed it down with a glass of chicha. 

Fresh Rocoto pepper

A fresh rocoto. I was so excited that I forgot to focus my camera. In Mexico, these are called “manzanos” as they look like apples.

Peruvian Rocoto Style Stuffed Peppers

Rocoto peppers are incredibly popular in Peru, and although we can’t get them in the U.S., we can recreate a similar version using bell peppers. Substitute ground chicken or turkey if you like!

  • Author: Melissa Guerra
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Cuisine: Peruvian


1 lb. ground beef (500gr)

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 large clove minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

4 oz queso fresco, crumbled (113gr)

½ cup grated parmesan cheese (50gr)

½ cup panko bread crumbs (62gr)

4 whole red bell peppers

1 cup frozen peas and carrots (110gr)

1 fresh chile habanero, seeds removed and sliced (optional)


Brown the ground beef and chopped onions in a covered 2 qt (2lt) saucepan over medium heat until complete cooked, about 10 minutes. Once cooked, add the minced garlic, and season with salt and pepper. (I cooked the ground beef the night before, cooled the pan completely – about an hour, and then stored in the refrigerator overnight. This shortened meal prep time the next day.)

Prepare the cheese topping by combine the crumbled queso fresco, the parmesan cheese and panko in a 1 qt. (1lt) bowl. Toss to combine well.

Heat your oven to 350°F (176°C)

Meanwhile, prepare the bell peppers by slicing vertically and scraping out the seeds. You can choose to leave on the tops or remove (I wish I had left the tops on for my food pic, but I had a styling malfunction. Oops.) Place the 8 halves of the peppers in an oven proof casserole.

Stir the frozen peas and carrots into the ground beef filling. Stuff the pepper halves with the ground meat and vegetable mixture. Top with a slice of chile habanero, if you wish. Cover with equal amounts of the cheese topping, and bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is slightly melted and toasted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Related BLOGS

Main Dishes

Classic Tortilla Soup

Grey Day at the Ranch Recently, the weather has been sloppy and cold, drizzling, freezing, and then drizzling again. I can’t recall such a miserable winter here at the ranch. But to be honest, I am never miserable, even in our worst weather. The colors around the ranch turn from iron oxide red to steely […]

Main Dishes

Roasted Poblano and Turkey Pot Pie

Next on my list is a new diet and exercise routine. But first, we have to deal with the left overs. Turkey always seems like a great idea for the armies of people that show up for meals here at the ranch. Inexpensive and plentiful, roasting a turkey over the holidays seems like a natural […]

Main Dishes

Pan Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Chives

Roasted Potatoes for the Non-Cooks For my buddies that don’t cook all that often (and, you know who you are…) my message to you in this post is that the biggest trick to good cooking is…good shopping. And I am not talking about packaged products.  When you find the right fresh produce, cooking from scratch […]