The Best Authentic Greek Stuffed Tomatoes-Gemista

Try this quintessential summer Greek Mediterranean dish: Roasted summer vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs. The famous Gemista or Yemista.

Gemista Greek stuffed tomatoes

It is not possible to talk about tomatoes, the Mediterranean diet and Greek food without mentioning Gemista (or Yemista). Gemista are vegetables usually tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant filled with rice (sometimes with ground meat) and baked in the oven. Gemista translates as “ones that are filled”. And as I mentioned earlier my mom’s gemista happen to be my favorite food.

Now I need to mention that yes, this recipe has a lot of olive oil for non-mediterranean standards, but don’t let that scare you.

As with most people’s favorite foods, this is also a comfort food for me, but as opposed to many comfort foods this one is healthy. At first glance you may think it’s a starchy dish, but once you take a look at this recipe you will notice that there are plenty of vegetables, to be exact, for each gemisto you eat you get almost 2 servings of vegetables. Why? Well the rice itself is mixed with some more vegetables; in fact you only eat about a ¼ cup of rice per serving.

Now I need to mention that yes, this recipe has a lot of olive oil for non-mediterranean standards, but don’t let that scare you. First of all there is plenty of olive oil left in the pan so unless you drink it or mop it up with bread you won’t be getting all those calories. Secondly, as I have mentioned the beauty of the lathera-Greek vegetarian dishes with moderate starch and a good amount is olive oil is that you actually end up with a moderate amount of calories because the vegetables hardly add any calories to the meal.

Now as I said my mom’s gemista is my favorite food, I don’t order gemista when I’m out because none of them will compare. These are truly the best (and I don’t say that lightly). Here is why:

How to Make the Best Greek Stuffed Tomatoes- Gemista

  • The rice is cooked until it is very soft not al dente and so are the vegetables. My mom says that if the gemista look too pretty they probably won’t taste good. And she is right, whenever I see nice bright looking gemista that have kept their shape, the vegetables are somewhat hard and so is the rice, making for a tasteless and boring dish. Also, do not pre-cook the rice, the whole point of cooking together is that the rice absorbs all the flavors of all the other ingredients,
  • She only fills them with rice, not ground beef. It is a summer dish; beef would just make it heavier and add calories.
  • She mixes the rice with a bunch of herbs, which makes them super tasty.
  • There is olive oil in this dish and it is important that you use it, otherwise you won’t get this melt-in-your mouth sensation. Trust me. I recently saw a recipe for gemista on the site of a popular US NYC newspaper that used only 3 tablespoons of olive oil, that will not work, you’ll end up with a hard, tough and dry gemisto.
  • She cooks potatoes with them. By adding potatoes you actually have a whole meal fit to serve guests.
  • And did I mention that this recipe has no animal products, so perfect for vegans too!
greek stuffed tomatoes and peppers

Ok this is my mom’s famous recipe, it will take you about an hour to do the prep, so you are better off making a big batch, these last 2-3 days and they taste better the next day.

This dish is a lathero and it is enjoyed best at room temperature with feta. I don’t eat it with bread, as there is the rice and potatoes, but most Greeks do.

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The Best Authentic Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers-Gemista

Gemista Greek stuffed tomatoes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
The quintessential Greek Mediterranean dish: Roasted summer vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs. The famous Gemista or Yemista.
Course: Dinner, Entree
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean, Vegan
Keyword: Greek Stuffed Tomatoes
Servings: 7
Author: Elena Paravantes
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  • 5 large tomatoes
  • 5 large green bell peppers (you may also use zucchini or eggplant) + 1 small green pepper
  • 10-12 tablespoons un-cooked short or medium grain rice (do not use long grain)
  • 8 zucchini
  • 1 onion
  • 2 pounds potatoes
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dry mint
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • cloves-whole
  • allspice – whole
  • 1 1/2 cup olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt/pepper


  • Preheat oven at 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius).
  • Wash the tomatoes and peppers. For the peppers cut around the stem and empty the inside of the pepper. For the tomato cut around the base (the bottom part) not the stem part and empty the tomato with a spoon. Put these pieces of tomato in a separate bowl along with the juices. Make tiny slits on the inside bottom of the peppers and tomatoes (not all the way through)
  • Place the empty tomatoes and peppers along with their caps n a large pan about 3 inches deep.
  • Take 2-3 zucchini peel them and grate them, put the grated zucchini in another bowl.
  • In a food processor add an onion, 4-5 garlic cloves, a bit of oil about a teaspoon and some salt. Mix but not too much (you don’t want a paste). Add the onion mixture to the zucchini.
  • Take a small green bell pepper and also dice it and add to the zucchini mixture.
  • Finally take a small potato (a bit larger than an egg) and grate it and add to the zucchini mixture.
  • Now strain the juice from the tomatoes (squeeze the tomato with your hands too) and save in a separate bowl. Now you should have 3 bowls one with tomato, one with zucchini-potato-onion mixture and one with tomato juice.Cut the tomato in small pieces and mix it with the zucchini mixture. Add 1 tablespoon salt, dry mint, parsley and tomato paste. Now add to the mixture 10 to 12 tablespoons short grain rice and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Finally add ¾ cup olive oil. Let the mixture sit.
  • Now start cutting the potatoes. Take 2 lbs. of potatoes, peel them and cut them into quarters, place in a bowl. Take 3-4 zucchini, peel and slice and add to potatoes. Add ¾ cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon oregano, some salt and 2 cloves garlic cut n small pieces. Mix well (with your hands preferably). Then add the tomato juice which you had saved from the tomatoes in step 8.
  • Now start filling the tomatoes and peppers with rice all the way to the top and close with their caps.
  • Add the potatoes to the pan, making sure to place around the tomatoes and peppers so they don’t slide in the tray. If there is any rice mixture left mix it with the quartered potatoes and add to to the pan.
  • Add 5 cloves to the potatoes and about 5 allspice.
  • Add about a cup of water, but not on top-you don’t want to “wash off” the oil. Add the water in a corner of the pan and tilt slightly so the water goes everywhere.
  • Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). Then reduce to 320-340 Fahrenheit (170-160 Celsius ) and bake for another 1-½ hours. If you notice it getting dry, add a bit more water.
  • To see if it is done, check the rice it should be soft and mushy.


You can also just use only tomatoes.
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Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved

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Recipe Rating


  1. Panayiota says:

    Hi Elena I’m about to start making the gemista.Just wondering if 12 tbsp or 3/4 cup rice is enough for this recipe or should I use more rice.Most recipes recommend 2 cups that’s why I was wondering.Thanks

    1. Hi Panayiota, Yes this amount of rice works perfectly for this recipe which accounts for using 5 tomatoes and 5 Peppers or a total of 10. Also this recipe uses tomato and zucchini in its filling as well.

  2. I have not made this recipe yet but I would like too! If I was making it for 2 people, how many tsp or tbsps of rice would I need? Also, could I use jasmine rice?

    1. Hi Donna, You can change the number of servings, just go to the box where it has the servings and change the number. In any case for 2 servings you would use 3-4 tablespoons of rice. Although as it is a time consuming recipe and tastes even better the next day, I would make extra. I do not recommend Jasmine rice, long grain rice will not give you the smooth texture we are looking for in this recipe.

      1. Panayiota says:

        Hi Elena I’m about to start making the gemista.Just wondering if 12 tbsp or 3/4 cup rice is enough for this recipe or should I use more rice.Most recipes recommend 2 cups that’s why I was wondering.Thanks

  3. Christina Konospiris says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I have made your recipe many times now to great success. I do add some ground beef to make this more if a stand alone meal it has been amazing every time. My Greek born parents were very impressed both at the result and my use of the term “lathero”. I am eager to try more of your recipes!

  4. I’ve made this so many times this summer and it keeps getting better, it really is worth the effort and time. Olive oil as mentioned is really essential for flavor and texture, so don’t be shy to use a generous amount.
    For me arborio and also baldo rice have worked well until now.
    Thank you Elena for sharing your mom’s recipe for Gemista, it has become one of my favorite dishes!

  5. Hi Elena,
    I would like to make your wonderful version of gemista, but I have 2 questions:
    1. In step two you say to cut the bottom, not top, of tomato to scoop out inside, then you say later in that step to make tiny slits on bottom, I am confused. Can I just make a small cut across bottom of tomato to stabilize it in the pan, and scoop insides from the top, after I cut it off? I think that is what my mom used to do.
    2. Recently I have learned to love semi-pearled Farro which cooks in similar time to white rice — in about 20 minutes. Could it be substituted here?
    I am very excited to try this version, as my mom did make a version of this often when I was growing up, but sadly, I do not have her recipe.

  6. So worth the time and effort! Delicious!
    Thank you for providing this website! You have helped me change my health and life. Bring on the cookbook

  7. Janet Canavese says:

    This was my first foray into Mediterranean/Greek cooking and this dish was absolutely fabulous, just as it was written! It didn’t take too long to prep the dish with my husband and I (isn’t retirement grand!). The taste was amazing, just like our first visit to Greece where I met my husband in 1979! After 40 years our marriage is still strong, as is our love of Greek food. This web site is truly amassing and I am so grateful to have found it. We will definitely be making more recipes from Elena!!

  8. Absolutely delicious! I prepped the peppers on a Sunday for weekday dinners. Just added the potatoes the next day, popped the whole thing into the oven, et voilà! I agree that the copious quantities of olive oil are necessary for texture and taste. There was tons of oil left at the bottom of the baking pan. You really don’t end up eating all of it, so resist the temptation to skimp on the oil. For North American cooks: I used Calrose rice for this recipe, and it turned out beautifully.

    1. Thank for sharing your tips! Yes, a lot of the olive oil stays in the pan so you don’t consume all of it (unless you dip some good bread in it 😉

  9. Christopher says:

    Hi Elena, I’ve made this recipe for family several times now and it always comes out great. One added note to the mention of brown rice – I always use it, and in order to deal with the cooking difficulty I have found an easy solution. While preparing everything else, put the rice in a pot with water, heat only until the water is just hot to the touch, and then turn off the heat and let the rice sit until you’re ready to use it, at which point you can just strain the rice. The rice is still mostly uncooked so it can absorb all of the flavors while cooking perfectly in the tomatoes and peppers. I love your website and all of the great recipes and health facts! Thank you!

  10. Caroline Lothian says:

    I’ve just made these, they are currently cooking in my oven! I’m just wondering if it’s okay that the potato and courgettes are piled up all round the Gemista? Should I stir them or leave them alone? It smells delicious though! Oh and you didn’t put tomato paste in the ingredients list or the lemon juice, thankfully I had some on hand. Oh and one final question, I’m using a fan assisted oven is 150/160 degrees still okay as the twenty minutes at 200 has burned them a bit.

    1. Hi Caroline. The potatoes and courgettes should be spread out, so they can cook well. Not sure regarding your comment for the ingredients list, both tomato paste and lemon juice are on the ingredient list. Yes temperature should be lowered after 15-20 minutes, a fan assisted oven may require different cooking times.

  11. I made this this week with my large home-grown tomatoes and peppers. It was delicious and we had enough for 3 meals. I had extra rice mixture so stuffed a small butternut squash which I also added to the pan. Definitely slow food but worth the time and effort taken. I will look forward to making this again next summer.

    1. Rachel Scalf says:

      Hi! I just want to make sure the dish should bake uncovered. Very excited to try this!


  12. ANGELA M WALSH says:

    So, I finally had time to make these. I good solid hour prep time, which I don’t mind, it’s actually very soothing to me. After prep, I popped them in the oven and couldn’t help turning on the light and looking every few mins. The house smelled amazing and I was starving by the time they came out. The rice still just had a small bite to it but all I could find was the short grain brown rice. Next time I’m going to let the mixture sit for a bit and then bake a little longer. The rice that was mixed in with the potatoes was nice and soft.
    Love this and will make again and again. I have made several of your recipes so far and everyone I have loved. Thank you for sharing and your wonderful website.

    1. Thank you for sharing Angela. Yes, I find that brown rice will still have a bite to it no matter how long you cook it.

  13. We made this dish last night, and despite the amount of preparation, found it delicious and worth making again! However, there was one part that did give us trouble probably due to the rice we used. We ended up using short grain brown rice, but found the rice still partially uncooked after the suggested 1 1/2 hours at the temperatures in the recipe. Would using regular white short grain rice be better? And if so, what would be a good short grain rice to buy if the brown rice did not cook at the suggested times and temperatures? Thank you again for the detailed recipe!

    1. Than you Eric! Brown rice takes a longer time to cook and I find that it will always have a bite no matter how long one cooks it. I would not use it for this particular recipe.

      1. What is the best way to store these?

  14. Nancy L Studebaker says:

    Cant wait to make these, with tomatoes in season now!

    In the past, I have made Hungarian Stuffed Peppers, with yes…meat. And freeze them. I usually make a massive amount and then enjoy them all winter long.

    I imagine Greek Stuffed Peppers would freeze well too? How about tomatoes? Have you ever frozen your Gemista?

    1. Hi Nancy, I have not put gemista in the freezer, because we usually eat them over 2-3 days, so there is never any left 🙂 I imagine stuffed peppers would work but not sure how well stuffed tomatoes would be frozen.

    2. Bessy Amiridis says:

      When the genista are in the oven are they covered with aluminum foil or uncovered. It doesn’t mention in your recipe. Thank you

  15. Christine says:

    I waited till now (summertime) to make this dish. This morning I brought home bags of the freshest tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions and potatoes from my local farmers market. After an hour of shredding and chopping, it went into the oven. While baking, we all got very hungry, because it smells incredible. We took a long walk until it cooled down and we came home to this incredibly delicious meal along with a slice of feta. We are looking forward to the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I didn’t have a loaf of crusty bread, but I will have to buy some to sop of the incredibly delicious sauce that forms in the bottom of the dish. Or maybe I will use a few spoons of it to sauce a plate of pasta, and add a few crumbled bits of feta. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe.