Yemista

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Yemista

Vegan stuffed vegetables. A recipe featuring a filling of rice, vegetables and herbs for a classic Greek meal of yemista. 

Recipe was updated August 2021, to make it even more delicious.

The English translation of yemista is stuffed, and that is exactly what this recipe asks you to do.  This meal involves stuffing vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplants with rice-based deliciousness, baking them for hours, and then feasting until you too, are stuffed.

There is more than one way to stuff a vegetable and many variations of yemista include minced meats or cheese and different kinds of grains.  Our parents typically choose to prepare a rice and vegetable based filling, making their yemista an incredibly satisfying, vegan meal.

Yemista

In order to cook yemista you need a pretty hot oven and a few hours.  As a result, in Greece it is not uncommon for families to deliver an unbaked pan of yemista to the local baker on their way to the beach.  They pay a nominal sum to have it cooked and then, on their way home, they pick it up and it’s ready to eat.  You likely won’t be able to do the same where you are (or maybe you can…in which case…we want to visit!), but you can pop your roasting pan into the oven, put your feet up for a couple of hours, and take comfort in knowing that you are going to be serving up a meal which is nutritious, delicious, and pretty darn impressive.

Vegan Yemista, Stuffed Vegetables

Helpful hints

Yemista are delicious both hot from the oven, at room temperature (the way we prefer them) and slightly chilled. This makes them great for leftovers and perfect for a make-ahead meal when you are hosting, or contributing to a potluck.

Our favourite way to eat yemista is with a nice big hunk of feta cheese on the side. This will re-categorize this as a vegetarian meal versus a vegan one, but if you are okay with that, do it.  It’s so good.

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The most challenging part of this recipe will be preparing the vegetables, as some are more amendable to hollowing out than others.  Tomatoes and peppers are easy, zucchini and eggplant slightly less so.  In order to tackle these more difficult vegetables, it is handy to have a long handled spoon.  This is particularly useful if you are going to be stuffing long slender zucchini. Although, if you are trying this meal for the first time, choose the shorter, typically pale green zucchinis versus the longer, darker ones; the former will be easier to deal with. You can also carefully insert a knife into the zucchini and eggplant and gently twist it around to mush up the vegetable innards. You can then insert a spoon and scoop out the inside of the veggies.

Vegan Yemista. Greek stuffed vegetables
Vegan Yemista. Greek stuffed vegetables

When we make yemista we tend to stuff tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and peppers (both bell and the longer ones pictured above…what are those called?).  Every vegetable tastes different and we each have our favourites.  If you opt not to stuff zucchini and eggplant, you will still need to incorporate them into your filling.

Making yemista is a bit of a commitment.  It will take about an hour to prepare them,  and another 2 hours or so for them to bake.  You can prepare your filling and stuff your vegetables on one day, refrigerate it all, and then bake it the following day.

We suggest that if you are going to decide to make yemista, you make a big batch. They keep well, baked,  in the fridge for several days and make a perfect take-along lunch.  Because every vegetable tastes differently, you won’t feel as though you are eating the same thing every day.

The ingredients used in yemista are very simple.  For this reason it is important to use the freshest and best quality ingredients possible.

Version 2
Vegan Yemista. Greek stuffed vegetables
Vegan Yemista. Greek stuffed vegetables

The following recipe will make enough filling to stuff 12-15 medium sized vegetables.  It can easily be doubled, or halved.

Yemista
Yemista
Yemista
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5 from 2 votes

Yemista

A traditional Greek meal of stuffed vegetables
Prep Time1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: #greeklentenrecipes, vegan, stuffed vegetables, yemista
Author: Mia Kouppa

Equipment

  • Roasting pan

Ingredients

  • 12-15 vegetables to stuff assortment of peppers, tomatoes, small eggplants, zucchini

For Filling

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions (both white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or you can replace by chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 cups mixed shredded zucchini, and carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) tomato sauce
  • 2 cups uncooked medium grain rice
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • sugar

For the baking:

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) reserved tomato pulp
  • tomato sauce if needed
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Potatoes optional
  • water if needed

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Start by washing and preparing your vegetables
  • Hollow out your peppers by removing seeds and ribbing.  Keep lids to the side. Place peppers and lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water for approximately 10 minutes.  This will help soften the vegetables. Drain after 10 minutes, and rinse with cold water.
  • Prepare tomatoes by cutting off lids and scooping out the insides.  Remove as many as the seeds as possible, and blend the tomato pulp you have scooped out, measure, and set aside.  Add enough tomato sauce, if necessary, to make 1 1/2 cups.
  • Prepare zucchini.  Cut off the stem ends and then with a small pairing knife cut out a pyramid shaped piece of zucchini.  These will act as “stoppers” to keep the filling from falling out.  Set aside.  With a spoon or butter knife or apple corer, begin to carefully cut through the zucchini, being careful not to pierce and break the skin.  (If you do…it’s really not the end of the world).  Follow the same procedure for the eggplant.  Place the zucchini and eggplant shells in a bowl, cover with boiling water for approximately 10 minutes.  Drain, then rinse with cold water.
  • Finely chop the zucchini innards, and place in a bowl. Grate 1 medium size carrot, add to the bowl and measure everything.  You will need a total of 2 cups.  If you fall short (which you likely will), shred some zucchini and carrots until you reach the desired amount of 2 cups.
  • To prepare filling, heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large pot and add onion.  Cook over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes and until the onion is softened, being careful not to burn it.
  • Combine the parsley, garlic, green onions, dill, paprika, shredded and chopped zucchini/carrots, tomato sauce, rice, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir well to combine, add to the pot with onions and cook until just heated through.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Begin stuffing vegetables with filling. Be careful not to pack the filling in too tightly or to the top, and ensure that there is some liquid from the filling added to each vegetable stuffed.  When stuffing tomatoes, add 1/2 teaspoon white sugar to the bottom of each tomato shell before stuffing it.  According to our folks, this is essential, especially, when the tomatoes are not fresh from the garden.
  • Once the vegetables are stuffed, top them with their lids and stoppers.  Place vegetables in a roasting pan. If you find that you have extra space between vegetables, fill it with potatoes that you have peeled and cut into thick chunks.
  • Mix the reserved 1 1/2 cups of tomato pulp with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, add the 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pour into roasting pan. We use a 15 inch round roasting pan.  
  • Bake in a 375 degree oven for about two hours. If you find that the liquid in your pan has evaporated during the cooking process, add some water.
  • Let cool and serve.
  • Enjoy.

Notes

When placing long veggies (like long peppers/zucchinis or eggplants) in the pan, ensure that they are not lying flat; prop them up with a potato; this prevents them from losing their liquid, and the rice from cooking well.
We enjoy yemista most when it's at room temperature.
If you don't have enough pulp from the tomatoes to get 1 1/2 cups, add tomato sauce.  
When you're stuffing your vegetables,  if you find that the filling is not liquidy enough... add more tomato sauce or water.

20 thoughts on “Yemista

  1. I have tried making so many different recipes for Yemista and they never come out the same as the ones I ate in Greece – this is by far the best recipe I’ve tried yet. I also used another recipe of yours to make fried zucchini yesterday – delicious! My Papou is the same – he never measures anything and it is really hard to follow his “recipes.” I really appreciate the work you’ve put into this site – I can’t wait to try more recipes!

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for your comment Nicole; it has really made us so happy. We work hard to provide you guys with recipes that you can easily recreate and we’re so happy that you are enjoying them. Please do let us know what you think of other recipes you try 🙂 And we’ll keep posting new ones!!! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to reach out!

  2. You can stuff also vine leaves with the same stuffing and add them in the pan .Also if you have surplus of stuffing just throw it “loose” on the pan.

    1. This recipe was truly a labor of love. Not wanting to buy rice just for this recipe, I used the converted long grain rice I had in my pantry. The stuffing really overflowed the veggies and I had to add water multiple times to ensure that the rice was cooked through. My mistake. But I think I would use that rice again, just that I would use 1 cup instead of 2 cups. The rest of the food was just perfect. My grandmother used to make her yemista with meat but I never got her recipe. Hoping a meat version of this recipe is in the plans 😉

      1. Hi Nicole!!! Thanks for taking the time to comment and we’re so happy that you enjoyed our yemista recipe – even with the overflowing rice! 🙂 As our mother says, if you don’t sometimes mess up in the kitchen…you’ll never learn (this rhymes in Greek 🙂 ). We definitely do have a meat version of yemista but are not sure when we will be posting it. In the meanwhile, we hope that you find much more to love on our site. Thanks for being here with us! xoxo Helen & Billie

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