Stuffed; Never Stuffy

A good recipe is never fully finished, even if it’s tested, printed, and published. Rather than static pieces of history, indelible for generations to come, the most trustworthy formulas still evolve as they change hands. An overabundance of new recipes and effortless access to them through the internet has sadly degraded their value, but each recipe should be considered a living thing, needing care and attention, not to mention an occasional grooming.

One mere flicker of an idea is all it takes to start the wheels rolling, and in my case where the process often stalls. Idea overflow is a common, but happy problem to deal with, so flavor combinations or concepts are initially filed away into little text documents, sprinkled across two hard drives. If they survive long enough to be found again, and still resonate, only then do they have a fighting chance of being born. Thus, cleaning up the bulging recipe depository on a slow day, I came across the seeds for a promising recipe that just barely escaped oblivion. Tucked away in the dark for half a decade, it seemed that they might never be planted.

  • Quinoa
  • Peppers
  • Red Color
  • Spicy!

= Quinoa Diablo

A cryptic reminder that only I would understand, the tiny spark that could start a bonfire, this one wasn’t about to get away again.

Fleshing out the concept with black beans, roasted red peppers, and red beets for that vibrant hue, it began to grow, turning into the smoky, spicy, and brilliantly ruby red side dish I knew it could be. Though it can easily steal the spotlight on any dinner plate as is, the idea just didn’t seem complete yet. It still had more evolving to do.

When large, brawny beefsteak tomatoes went on sale the next day, I knew I had my answer. This quinoa pilaf was meant to be stuffing all along! After excavating the cores, those cooked pearly grains slipped right in; a perfect fit. Tucked in by a light, cobwebby blanket of shredded “mozzarella,” a kiss of heat from the oven finally brought everything together.

Tomatoes splitting down the seams but still holding strong, they were tender enough to cut with a fork. Quality, burstingly ripe tomatoes are what make all the difference here.

Though my itch to “finish” the recipe is satisfied at long last, I know that it’s no where near done yet… I can only wonder, what spin will the next hungry cook put on it?

Yield: Makes 4 – 6 Servings as an Entree; 8 – 12 as a Side

Quinoa Diablo Stuffed Tomatoes

Quinoa Diablo Stuffed Tomatoes

Quinoa mingles with black beans, roasted red peppers, and beets to create a smoky, spicy, and brilliantly ruby red filling for juicy fresh tomatoes. Melted vegan cheese tops everything off with a rich, gooey finish. You could very happily enjoy just the quinoa as a stand-alone side dish too.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


Quinoa Diablo:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Red Onion, Diced
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Light Agave Nectar
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Stock or Water
  • 1 Cup Dry Quinoa
  • 1 Medium Red Beet, Peeled and Diced
  • 1/3 Cup Sun-dried Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 – 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 15-Ounce Can Black Beans, Rinsed and Drained
  • 2 Medium Roasted Red Peppers (1 12-Ounce Jar,) Diced
  • Handful Fresh Basil, Thinly Sliced

To Assemble (Optional):

  • 4 – 6 Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Shredded Vegan Cheese


  1. First, caramelize onions by heating up the oil in a medium saucepan along with the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with agave. Keep the heat on medium-low, and stir periodically, until the onions become golden brown and aromatic. Be patient; this could take as long as 30 – 40 minutes, but adds the rich, flavorful backbone to the whole dish.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the stock or water in a separate medium or large saucepan over medium heat. When boiling, add in the quinoa, red beet, dried tomatoes, vinegar, and spices. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the beans and roasted peppers. When the onions are properly caramelized, mix them into the quinoa as well. Sprinkle with basil and add more salt to taste, if necessary. You could stop here and serve immediately while still hot, or…
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
    Use a sharp paring knife to remove the core from each tomato, and then dig out the watery seeds and guts with a grapefruit spoon. Turn the hollowed-out tomatoes upside down over a wire rack while you work on the rest, allowing any remaining liquid to drain out.
  5. Place the empty tomatoes on your prepared baking sheet, evenly spaced, and fill them to the top with the quinoa mixture. Pack it in lightly so that it there are no voids inside and all of the tomatoes bake evenly. Sprinkle your vegan cheese of choice over the tops, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are fork-tender, the skins are splitting, and the cheese has melted.
  6. Top with additional fresh basil and enjoy!

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 335mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 5gSugar: 6gProtein: 6g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

44 thoughts on “Stuffed; Never Stuffy

  1. I LOVE the idea of putting a recipe idea away, letting it sit for a while, and then coming back to it and seeing if it still appeals. I’ve felt that same way about getting a tattoo. If you don’t still want it in a year then you really shouldn’t get it! :P

    I love how this recipe grew from such a vague idea into something amazing!

  2. And look where the recipe-mind percolation swirled you away to! Hurrah! This is the kind of recipe I always have to remember that I *can* make now; I no longer live with my ma and her tomato allergies!

    I wonder if heirloom tomatoes will still be around in early October…

  3. Those bursting-at-the-seams baked tomatoes look positively luscious. I love your delightful musings about the birth, life, and evolution of recipes. You are so right that they are never static, but always changing; not only as they change hands but even over time in the care of the same cook, especially in the hands of their inventor.

  4. Yes to messing about with cooking! Of course every recipe gets tweaked–it’s the very nature of real food to be inexact, based on what you have at the time, &etc. I love the idea of stuffing this beautiful quinoa in tomatoes–so warming and beautiful. :)

  5. I would like the opportunity to actually GET a recipe first! I accidentally bought a copy of your book Vegan Desserts instead of My Sweet Vegan from Amazon…I have been waiting 2 months for the wrong book to come and yesterday they told me that they couldn’t even send the wrong book because they were sold out AND (get this…) they couldn’t get hold of any more of these wonderful books in the near future so they figured that they might just cancel my order! Bollocks to Amazon…I am off to The Book Depository (my old friends) where I am getting BOTH My Sweet Vegan AND Vegan Desserts! I am getting the feeling that these books must be pretty special because I have NEVER had “SOLD OUT” bounce back at me so many times! What is in these hallowed pages Hannah…Alchemy?! Pure vegan gold! (Lucky Steve is a pirate ;) )

  6. Wow, wow, wow! This looks utterly tremendous. I’m (unfortunately) allergic to beets, so I’d have to leave them out; other than that, I find myself really wanting to try this out. But, I guess that could be said for all of your recipes.. ;)

  7. I usually write the ideas down on some paper i can never find or in draft posts.. the stars have to align for me to find them and work them out:)
    i love love the beety red quinoa and the plump stuffed tomatoes!

  8. Most of the time, I never make anything the very same way again. Either because I lost the recipe, and fail to remember correctly, or I am too lasy to look up, or I just decide to try differently. Anyway, who is to say, what is a correct version of a recipe?

  9. oh my god yummy….i am hungry now…yummy tomatoes… thank u so much for the recipe..I will surely prepare this dishes..and serve it in my hotel..its really interesting.

  10. I love the idea that each and every recipe is living and evolving — no matter if it’s tested and published or not! So true. I love how this particular (delicious looking!) dish came to be…I have recipe ideas tucked into the strangest places, lol. I need to go through everything because I might be missing out! :)

  11. anything stuffed looks so cool and tastes 10 times better than a serving in a plate!
    you can’t even begin to imagine how much your pictures have made me hungry…lol

  12. Can you believe that I yet have to stuff tomatoes…this looks so pretty, the vibrant red color of the quinoa from the beets…as always wonderful recipe Hannah.
    Hope you are having an enjoyable week :)

  13. Love how you talk about recipe as a living true! I want to try cooking with quinoa. Have no idea where to get it though. Any advice?

    those stuffed tomatoes look so vibrant and lively! I love how you capture them!

  14. Your photos are STUNNING as always. OK. I have 2007 model Canon powershot camera. :-(( I NEED A DSLR. I’m planning to enroll for classes in the near future!! I have chosen the T3i model. Now, it comes with body only or 18-55 mm lens or 18-135 mm lens. (I don’t even know the differences) Some people recommend 50 mm f/1.8 lens. WHICH LENS do I get? Will be using it for regular family outings photos or home photos or some reguar food photography since I’m a beginner baker trying to build a profile for my future career. PLEASE HELP.

    1. Good choice so far, you really can’t go wrong with a Canon DSLR in my opinion. The kit lenses are really junk, so I’d definitely skip the bundle and save some money to put towards something better. 50mm is the way to go, but the standard 50mm f/1.8 isn’t much to write home about. On the other hand, my primary lens (and the one that I use for 95% of the photos on my blog is the EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM. It’s pricy, no two ways around it, but you absolutely get what you pay for. It really is an investment in your future if you’re hoping to make a career out of it, and if you start out with something cheaper, you’ll only end up paying more to get the better lenses later. Spare yourself that pain!

      1. Yes Hannah. I did read your post on photo gear before posting the question. 50 mm f/1.2 is OUT OF MY BUDGET. And so is the f/1.4. I want a good zoom lens (my current powershot has 6x optical zoom which I believe no other point-shoots offer.) So, if I go with the kit lens, which one shall I choose? 55-250 mm or 75-300 mm both f/4-5.6. Huge confusion. Can u help?

      2. Well, since I haven’t personally used either of those particular lenses, I can’t give you a definitive answer. The biggest difference between the two is focal length, as the designations indicate; the 55 – 250mm will focus on objects that are closer, which the 75 – 300mm will focus on those that are farther away from the camera. It depends on how far you want to stand from your subject.

  15. OMG. That first shot of the quinoa looks so amazing! That color!! I can almost taste it by just looking at it and you’re right putting that goodness in a big tomato sounds just about perfect. I’m definitely gonna make that. Big quinoa fan anyway…

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love quinoa and these flavors are just too tantalizing to resist! I spotted some purple tomatoes (yes, purple!) at the farmers market last week. If I can find them again, I think it would be fun to try your recipe with them. Or maybe yellow tomatoes. Oh, but the red look just so delicious…maybe I will do a quinoa tomato rainbow! Cheers!

  17. Reblogged this on Zen and Genki and commented:
    I see a lot – I mean A LOT – of good photographs in my line of blog. And great recipes too. But this one…this one was so colourful, so gorgeous and drool-worthy that I was compelled to share. It’s got tomatoes. And quinoa. And a beet! Oh yeah, it’s got my most favourite purple root veggie! And smoked paprika to boot (the Hungarian in me curtsies deeply). It’s pretty much a perfect – and pretty! – recipe. So to celebrate autumn in all of it’s bright, beautiful glory, I am pleased to share BitterSweet’s Quinoa Diablo Stuffed Tomatoes. Can’t wait to hear what you think! Bon appetit!

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