This vegetarian moussaka has some deep smoky flavors, with layers of eggplants, potatoes, spiced vegetarian meat, and a creamy bechamel sauce. This is the perfect vegetarian comfort food dish, Greek-style!
Making a classic moussaka is something, but making a vegetarian moussaka is a whole different story. The dish needs to be as delicious as the meat version, without the meat. It can be easy for some recipes, but for others it really is a challenge. In fact, this vegetarian moussaka was a work in progress for weeks until I got the perfect abundance of flavors.
What’s a vegetarian moussaka?
In a traditional moussaka recipe, meat-lovers (or simply meat-eaters) will find all the flavors coming from the meat that releases some juice while cooking. In a vegetarian moussaka, we have to recreate this, which is nearly impossible. I first tried the recipe without the cheese, but my moussaka with a lentil-based stew tasted more like a Shepherd’s pie than a moussaka (good, but not was I was looking for).
So I tested the recipe again, and found out that a saucy bechamel did help boosting the flavors of the recipe, as well as some additional grated cheese for the salty flavors (yes, moussaka tends to be a little salty). I’m super excited to now share with you my very own version of this fantastic vegetarian moussaka!
Ingredients for a vegetarian moussaka
- Eggplants. Use about 3 medium Italian eggplants.
- Potatoes. You will need about 2.2 lb (1kg) potatoes, or about 4 medium white or yellow potatoes.
- Beluga lentils. Alternatively, you can use Puys lentils
- Carrots + onions + celery (celery is optional).
- Mushrooms. You can use them sliced or diced.
- Garlic. Because everything tastes better with garlic!
- Canned tomatoes, crushed. Choose a 28-ounces (approx. 800 ml) can and use both the crushed tomatoes and the juice.
- Tomato paste. It gently enhances the flavors of the dish.
- Fresh thyme + paprika. Moussaka doesn’t call for much extra condiments or herbs, but fresh thyme is always welcome. You can also add some dry origano!
To these ingredients above, you will need to add the ingredients for the bechamel sauce. This involves flour, milk, butter, salt and pepper, and optionally nutmeg. I also added some grated cheese for additional salty flavors. Keep the cheese optional if you wish, but I recommend using it.
An easy step-by-step guide to vegetarian moussaka
The recipe may seem a little overwhelming at first, but in reality it is less work than it looks like, and super simple to assemble. Find below the 4 easy steps to making a vegetarian moussaka:
- Start with preparing the eggplants and roast them in the oven, sliced and brushed with oil.
- Cook or steam the potatoes, and mash them following the recipe instructions.
- Then, prepare the lentil stew with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, lentils, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Always taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Prepare the bechamel sauce, and set aside.
For assembling the vegetarian moussaka, all you need to do is layering the different layers of ingredients, finishing with the bechamel sauce and the mashed potatoes on top (you can also invert the two last layers). Bake, and voilà!
Variations around this moussaka
Spoiling alert: I am not sharing a big variation of the recipe here, but based on the various moussaka recipes I have tried in my life, there are various ways you can make a moussaka. You can for instance use the layers differently, replace the mashed potatoes with sliced potatoes and place them at the bottom part of the dish, or you could also slice the eggplants lengthwise. Nothing revolutionary here, but just a different styling and way to present it.
More eggplant recipes:
- Baba Ganoush
- Eggplant Rolls filled with Hummus
- Quinoa-Stuffed Eggplants
- Easy Eggplant Chickpea Curry
- Eggplant and Goat Cheese Stacks
Other simili-carne vegetarian recipes you’ll love:
Lastly, if you make this Vegetarian Moussaka, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating, letting me know how you liked it. And of course, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Thank you and enjoy!Print
This vegetarian moussaka has some deep smoky flavors, with layers of eggplants, potatoes, spiced vegetarian meat, and a creamy bechamel sauce.
For the vegetables:
- 3 medium-large eggplants, sliced in ½-inch (about 1 cm) thick rounds
- Olive oil, divided
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2.2 lb (1kg) Yukon gold potatoes, or about 4 medium potatoes
For the lentil stew:
- 1 cup (190g) dried beluga lentils (or Puys lentils)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1–2 celery ribs, diced (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh or dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon oregano (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- About 1 lb (450g) crimini mushrooms, diced or sliced
- 1 28-ounces (800 ml) can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ Tablespoon smoked paprika
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar (optional)
- A handful of toasted pine nuts (optional)
For the bechamel sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) milk, warm
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup (110g) grated cheddar
- A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
For the vegetables:
- For the eggplants. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Prepare two parchment paper-covered baking sheets. Arrange the eggplant slices on the baking sheets in a single layer, season with sea salt and set aside for 5 minutes. Then, brush generously with olive oil, and roast for about 20 minutes. Flip the slices and roast for another 15 minutes, until silky. Set aside.
- Cook the potatoes in a large volume of water, until fork-tender. Or steam them (I prefer this second option). Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Return the potatoes to the same pot. Mash them with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, the reserved cooking water, and season with salt and pepper. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. Set aside.
For the lentil stew and bechamel sauce:
- Lower the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C), and grease the bottom and sides of a 9×9-inch (23 cm) baking dish or a dish of a similar size.
- For the lentil stew. Cook the lentils with 3 times their volume of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes until cooked through. Drain over a colander and rinse the lentils.
- Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables soften up. Add the mushrooms, red wine vinegar, and sauté for another 5 minutes, until the water released by the mushrooms evaporates and they begin to brown. Add garlic and stir around for another minute. Add the lentils, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, salt and pepper, then cover and cook for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- For the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, about 2 minutes (do not let it brown). Add the warm milk, and keep stirring as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper. Set aside.
For assembling the vegetarian moussaka:
- Arrange half of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half of the lentil mixture, followed by the remaining eggplant slices and lentils. Add an even layer of bechamel sauce, then spoon the mashed potatoes on top, evening them out with a spoon into a smooth layer.
- Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with pine nuts and herbs if using, and serve. Enjoy!
Keywords: Vegetarian Moussaka