So you love moussaka but you are fasting for lent or you are a vegan? That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite dish anymore! This is my delicious vegan moussaka with lentils recipe that I’ve specifically crafted so it keeps the essence of the traditional one, yet is fully plant based! This recipe is so good, you won’t believe it is vegan!
With my Vegan Lentil Moussaka, you get all the delicious potatoes and eggplants along with a vegan-friendly Béchamel sauce that even uses a clever ingredient to create that cheesy flavor on the topping and my delicious, packed with flavour, lentil based filling!
So read along to discover what you’ll need to make the most delicious vegan lentil moussaka, my tips and tricks to help you make it to perfection, my step by step photos, and of course my unique recipe!
What is a traditional Moussaka?
Moussaka is arguably the most famous Greek dish. It is served in every Greek taverna and is the dish of choice for a large family gathering and special occasions.
Moussaka is a delicious eggplant, potato and mince meat casserole topped with a deliciously creamy and cheesy béchamel sauce. The essence of the traditional moussaka is summarised in:
- Its umami packed filling: The traditional Moussaka sauce is a deep dark red/brown ragu, which is both meaty yet fragrant and is packed with umami flavours. The traditional moussaka uses a combination of beef or lamb to make the sauce together with garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon and red wine.
- Its creamy béchamel: The traditional Moussaka is topped with a creamy, thick béchamel that is packed with a distinct savoury taste yet is extra fragrant because of the grated cheese and nutmeg!
- Its deliciously juicy vegetables: Aubergines and potatoes are cooked separately and then added to the moussaka when ready to assemble. The aubergines give it a delicious juiciness and the potatoes that extra starchiness and robustness in its flavour, making it a complete meal!
So keeping the above in mind, how can we make the perfect Vegan moussaka while keeping its “essence” – the umami packed filling, its creamy béchamel and its deliciously juicy vegetables intact?
Making the perfect Vegan Moussaka with Lentils – Key Ingredients
In order for your Vegan moussaka recipe to keep its authenticity, we need to carefully select our meat and dairy substitutes. After plenty of experimentation I’ve narrowed it down to the following key ingredients:
- Lentils: they are the perfect meat substitute. They are nutritious, natural and healthy. Also they are a staple ingredient in the Greek cuisine! In my recipe I’ve opted to use green Lentils but you can also use any variety of whole (not split) brown lentils as well.
- Dried mushrooms: To make the sauce more “meaty” I’ve opted to use a sprinkling of dried mushrooms. They will expand when cooking and will impart their natural umami flavour that makes this vegan moussaka so delicious!
- Herbs and spices: After plenty of experimentation and keeping to the moussaka tradition, I’ve put together a delicious herbs and spices mix that makes this moussaka taste just like the original! You’ll need some garlic, cinnamon, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, red wine, oregano and a bay leaf to season your sauce to perfection
- Vegan friendly béchamel: The classic Bechamel sauce is unfortunately using cows milk and butter so is not vegan or lent friendly. In keeping with the Greek tradition, I’ve opted to prepare my vegan béchamel using olive oil for the roux. To give it that extra creaminess but without sacrificing its flavour, I’ve found that soy milk is an excellent substitute for regular cows milk. To bring in those delicious Greek flavours and aromas, I’ve also infused the béchamel with a brown onion, cinnamon stick, bay leafs, nutmeg and garlic powder.
- Nutritional yeast: This is my one secret ingredient that makes the béchamel taste so special! So what is nutritional yeast? It’s a natural product that is made out of deactivated bakers or brewers yeast. It is highly nutritious, containing plenty of vitamin B and proteins. And best of all? It imparts a deliciously cheesy flavour to the béchamel!
- Potatoes and Aubergines! A Moussaka is not a moussaka without potatoes and generous helping of aubergines. So make sure you grab yourself a bunch and let’s get cooking!
Tip: You can use almond milk in place of soy milk if you prefer. It will give the sauce a nuttier flavor but it won’t brown as much as it would with soy milk. So if you want to use this option, add some breadcrumbs to the top to help brown the dish.
Preparing your Vegan Moussaka with Lentils
To prepare your Vegan Lentil Moussaka you’ll need to follow the following four key steps:
- Prepare the lentil sauce
- Prepare the vegetables
- Prepare the bechamel
- Assemble and bake!
So get your pans out and let’s get started!
Preparing the Vegan Moussaka Lentil sauce
To prepare your Vegan Moussaka recipe lentil sauce, you’ll firstly need to soak your dried mushrooms in 500ml / 2 cups of boiling water. This will help the mushrooms hydrate!
Then in a large saucepan, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and cook for 5-6 minutes until translucent and just beginning to color. Add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute until its aroma is coming through.
Once your onions are soft and translucent and the garlic cooked, its time to add the spices. Start by adding the ground cinnamon, the tomato paste and simmer until the tomato paste has caramelised. This releases the delicious umami flavour in the tomato paste!
Next stir in the chopped tomatoes, red wine, balsamic vinegar and the water from the dried mushrooms, keeping a little aside to wash out the tomato tin to get all that delicious tomato juice! Stir in the lentils, oregano, the bay leaf and lastly add the soaked dried mushrooms.
Bring to a boil, then season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour until the lentils are soft, stirring occasionally.
Tip: Keep an eye on your lentil sauce when its cooking. If it looks like its drying out add a little more water and stir.
Preparing your Vegan Bechamel Sauce
To prepare our delicious Vegan Bechamel sauce firstly we will need to infuse the milk. In a medium sized pot add your soy milk, the roughly chopped white onion, the cinnamon stick, the peppercorns and the bay leaf. Cook over medium-high heat until it just comes to a boil then remove and set aside to infuse.
To make the béchamel sauce, you’ll first need to make a roux. In another saucepan, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is warm and has started to simmer, add the flour and whisk. Cook for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly so your flour cooks and looses that flour-y taste.
Strain your milk and gradually whisk in the flour mixture. You’ll need to keep whisking so no lumps form. To take some of the labour out, you can use your electric hand mixer with the whisk attachment!
Once all the milk has been absorbed into the flour and the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in the spices – the nutmeg, garlic powder and salt. Add the nutritional yeast, whisk and taste. Add some more salt if needed to bring out the cheesy flavour of the yeast.
Your vegan moussaka béchamel sauce is now ready!
Preparing your Vegan Moussaka Vegetables
Start by preparing your potatoes. Slice them thinly and lay them our on a large baking sheet or two, depending on the size of your sheets and spray or brush with olive oil. Season your potatoes with some salt, flip them over and repeat.
Preheat your oven to 220C/430F and place your potato tray in to cook for approximately 30 minutes or until well browned.
Tip: Line your baking sheets with parchment paper – your potatoes won’t stick and you won’t have to flip them over while cooking either! Also, if you don’t have an olive oil spray you can brush olive oil onto the potato and eggplant slices using a pastry brush.
Now its time to prepare your eggplants. Cut them lengthwise into finger-width slices, place them on baking parchment lined baking sheets and season with salt. Spray or brush with some olive oil, flip them over and repeat.
In the preheated oven (220C/430F) bake your eggplants for approximately 20 minutes until tender. As with your potatoes, you won’t need to flip them over half way. However you’ll need to rotate the baking sheets in the oven half way to make sure they brown evenly!
Do you need to fry the potatoes and eggplant?
It is common to fry the potatoes and eggplant before assembling the dish but I roasted them instead for a healthier option. If you do prefer to fry them, cover the base of the pan with olive oil and cook over a high heat until golden on each side. Use some kitchen towel to blot away the oil and continue with the vegan moussaka recipe!
Do you need to salt the eggplant?
With modern eggplant varieties, there’s no need to salt them to remove bitterness. However, if you use heirloom varieties or find your eggplant is unusually bitter, you can salt the slices and leave them in a colander for about 30 minutes.
Rinse off the salt and squeeze out extra moisture before continuing with the recipe. Just skip the salt before roasting them if you do this.
Assembling your Vegan Moussaka with Lentils and baking it
Now that your key ingredients are all ready, its time to assemble the vegan moussaka and bake it. Start by spreading the potatoes in a single layer over the bottom of a deep 32cm x 20cm (12-inch x 8 inch) baking dish.
Then layer half of the eggplant slices, followed by the lentil mixture. Add the rest of the eggplant, spreading them evenly on top. Finally pour over the béchamel and smooth it over with a spoon or a spatula.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/350F and bake your moussaka for 30-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.
To serve, remove your vegan moussaka with lentils from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes until it has cooled down a bit. This will help you cut the dish without it falling apart!
Making ahead of time and storing
From my experience, this recipe doesn’t freeze very well as the béchamel, filling and potatoes turn soggy when frozen. If you want to prepare it in advance, prepare all the key steps and assemble the dish. Cover it with some cling film and place in your fridge where it will last for 1-2 days. When you want to serve, preheat the oven and cook for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
To store any leftovers, slice them up and place them in airtight containers. You can store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. To serve, place your slices on a baking sheet and reheat at 100C / 220F for approximately 30 minutes until piping hot throughout.
This vegan lentil moussaka recipe is delicious on its own and a complete meal! I do love serving it with some delicious village crusty bread, sourdough bread, some delicious vegan tzatziki and a delicious Greek Salad! If I’m looking to make it into a larger meal I love pairing it with some delicious Greek lemon roast potatoes and some roast vegetables (briam) on the side!
More delicious Greek Vegan recipes
For more Greek vegan and lenten recipes take a look at my hand selected collection below:
- Greek Peas And Potato Stew With Tomatoes
- Country-Style Greek Potato Stew
- Delicious Briam Recipe (Greek Mixed Roasted Vegetables)
- Traditional Greek Green Beans
- Chickpea Fritters Recipe (Revithokeftedes)
- Traditional Greek Kolokithokeftedes (Fried Zucchini/Courgette Balls)
- Tinos Fennel Fritters
- Tomatokeftedes (Fried Santorini Tomato Balls / Tomato Fritters)
And of course my vegan meze platter collection below:
Vegan Meze Platter:
- Vegan tzatziki sauce
- Greek Pita bread
- Greek “village style” rustic bread
- Hummus dip
- Crispy Greek Fried Eggplant
- Crispy Fried Zucchini – Courgette Fritters
- Greek Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves with rice)
- Authentic Greek Fava Recipe (Yellow Split Peas Puree)
So you love moussaka but you are fasting for lent or you are a vegan? That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite dish anymore! This is my delicious vegan moussaka with lentils recipe that I’ve specifically crafted, so it keeps the essence of the traditional one, yet is fully plant based!
For the Vegan Moussaka Lentils sauce
- 5g dried mushrooms (1/2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion
- salt to taste
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
- 400g can chopped tomatoes (14 oz)
- 1 glass red wine (approx. 250ml / 1 cup)
- 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 200g dried green lentils (7 oz)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- black pepper to taste
- sugar to taste
For the Vegan Moussaka Béchamel sauce
- 1 brown onion
- 600ml soy milk (2 1/2 cups)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 black peppercorns
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup)
- 80g flour (2 3/4 oz)
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- salt to taste
For the Moussaka
- 3 large eggplant
- 3 medium potatoes
- olive oil
- Pour 500ml (2 cups) of boiling water over the dried mushrooms and set aside to soak.
- Infuse the milk for the béchamel. Roughly chop the white onion and add to a small saucepan or milk pan along with the soy milk, cinnamon stick, one of the bay leaves and the peppercorns. Set over a medium high heat and gently bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse.
- Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the chopped red onion and cook for 5-6 minutes until translucent and just starting to colour. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minute until aromatic.
- Stir in the ground cinnamon, followed by the tomato paste. Cook for a further minute or two until the tomato paste has caramelised slightly and turned brick red.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes, red wine, balsamic vinegar, and the dried mushroom soaking liquid, using a little soaking liquid or wine to wash out the tomato tin so you don’t leave any juice behind. Stir in the lentils, oregano, the remaining dried bay leaf, and the soaked dried mushrooms, finely chopped.
- Bring to the boil and season well with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 220C/430F.
- Slice the potatoes into 0.5cm (half a finger width) slices. Line a large baking sheet (you might need two depending on the size of your sheets) with baking parchment and lay out the potato slices. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Flip the pieces over and repeat. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until well browned – with the baking parchment, there should be no need to flip them to colour both sides.
- To prepare the eggplant, slice lengthwise into 1cm (one finger width) wide strips. As with the potatoes, transfer to baking parchment lined baking sheets, season on both sides with salt, and spray with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes; there will also be no need to turn the eggplant pieces half way, but you’ll want to rotate the pans in the oven roughly half way to make sure everything browns evenly.
- Once the vegetables are done, drop the oven temperature to 180C/350F.
- When the lentils are about 10 minutes from being cooked, start the béchamel. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Once the oil has just started to shimmer, whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly to cook the raw flavour out of the flour.
- Strain the infused milk and gradually whisk it into the flour mixture, whisking quickly to avoid any lumps. Whisk in the nutritional yeast, nutmeg, and garlic powder, and and season to taste with salt – you’ll probably need more than you think to bring out the ‘cheesy’ flavour of the nutritional yeast. Remove from the heat only when the mixture is thick, but still spreadable.
- To assemble the moussaka, spread the potatoes in a single layer across the bottom of a deep 32cm x 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch) baking dish. Then, layer half the eggplant slices, followed by the lentil mixture. Add the rest of the eggplant, and smooth the béchamel over the top.
- Bake the moussaka for 30 minutes or until the top is golden. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Keywords: vegan moussaka, vegan moussaka with lentils, moussaka with lentils, vegan lentil moussaka