This authentic vegan moussaka recipe is the best you'll ever try! Layers of eggplant, creamy bechamel and a meaty lentil ragu.
It's 100% authentic based off of my Greek mom's recipe and will knock the socks off all your guests. While Greek moussaka can take some effort, it is possible to make it easier the day you put it together following all my tips and tricks.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Ralphs. The opinions and text are all mine.
This post was originally published on 11/14/16
Taking my mom's Greek recipes from her childhood back in Greece and making them vegan is my super power. My vegan spanakopita is one of my huge successes, but my vegan pastitsio is a close second! This moussaka recipe rivals both; with creamy béchamel sauce, tender eggplant, and a savory lentil filling, this is going to be one of your new favorite casseroles!
Traditionally, moussaka is made with cream and meat. Two things that are not part of a plant based diet. But I knew that with some experimenting, I could make it happen and I nailed this one.
Here is what you need to make vegan moussaka (this filling is similar to my Vegan Shepherd’s Pie):
- Eggplant - if you don't love eggplant, you could also sub potatoes for the eggplant, or even zucchini. Just make sure to cut the zucchini thick and salt it as it has a lot of water.
- Onion - sweet onion is ideal, however yellow, brown, or white onions can be substituted if needed. I would just avoid red onion as the taste can be overwhelming.
- Garlic - freshly mince your own garlic cloves for the best taste. Or, you may use jarred minced garlic.
- Chickpeas - I found the canned cooked chickpeas gave a slightly better texture. You can also use dried chickpeas, but make sure to soak them overnight.
- Beef/lamb substitute - a combo of lentils and walnuts re-create the texture, taste, and protein without the meat! Some people also make vegan moussaka with mushrooms.
- Vegetable broth - this helps to keep the recipe vegan. Pick low sodium if needed.
- Tomatoes - you will need about 4 medium sized fresh tomatoes to equal one pound.
- Fresh herbs - parsley is my preferred herb to use. However you can customize by using a blend of your favorites! Also try oregano, basil, or thyme.
- Tomato sauce - make sure to plain tomato sauce, not one seasoned with other spices. Choose no salt added if you're watching your sodium.
- Wine - if you prefer not to use wine, then add veggie broth in place of it, although the red wine gives it a great flavor.
- Breadcrumbs - use gluten-free if needed. You can make breadcrumbs if you prefer homemade. Toast 2 pieces of bread until crisp, then blend in a food processor.
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese - click the link to learn how to make your own, or use your favorite store bought dairy free cheese.
- Seasonings - simply salt and pepper enhance all the other flavors. If you'd like to add some extra taste, sprinkle in some cinnamon or nutmeg.
I used the Ralphs Private Selection and Simple Truth Organic brand beans and spices for this recipe. I love how they are easily accessible and have great prices!
The creamy vegan bechamel sauce is actually pretty simple, and so amazingly delicious. Instead of the classic butter, flour, and dairy filled milk combo, you need:
- Cashews - specifically raw cashews. If you are not using a high speed blender you can either soak the cashews overnight or grind them into a fine powder using a coffee grinder in order to achieve the smoothest texture.
- Broth - keep this recipe vegan by using vegetable broth, and make sure to use low sodium if needed.
- Potato - cook this ahead of time. Baking is best to avoid adding in extra moisture, however you can boil if you prefer.
- Salt and pepper - use white pepper. You can use regular black pepper in place of white pepper in both parts of this recipe, the white allows the béchamel to look smooth without any black spots in it.
How to Make Vegan Moussaka
This lentil moussaka definitely takes some time and effort. But the end result is SO good! You can also check out my tips on how to prep ahead to make this easier.
Prepare the eggplant:
- Slice the eggplant into evenly thick pieces.
- Drain the excess moisture by placing the slices in a colander or on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Allow them to sit 10 minutes, then wipe off any excess water with a paper towel.
- Arrange the eggplant slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and brush with olive oil.
- Broil in the oven.
Make the béchamel and filling
- Blend all of the sauce ingredients until thick and creamy, set aside.
- In a large skillet or saucepan sauté the "meaty" layer ingredients in extra virgin olive oil until cooked. You can also use vegetable broth to make this recipe oil free.
- Pulse the chickpeas and walnuts then add to the filling in the pan. You can also wait to pulse everything together for that perfect crumble.
Assemble the layers and bake
- Start by sprinkling the breadcrumbs into a baking dish.
- Next layer the roasted eggplant slices.
- Top with the "meaty" lentil mixture and some Parmesan.
- Add the creamy bechamel sauce on top, with some more Parmesan.
- Then bake and serve!
NOTE: You can print the FULL recipe with all ingredients & detailed instructions below!
What to Serve with Moussaka
You don't really need to serve this veggie moussaka recipe with anything because it's an all encompassing meal; you have protein, grains, and veggies so one and done!
But, if you wanted to make something a bit extra, I suggest serving it with a salad, greens or veggies of some sort. Here are some of our favorite sides for vegan moussaka:
How to Make Moussaka Ahead of Time
Moussaka is a love hate kind of recipe. It is SO good but takes some work. However I have a few tips on how you can prep this recipe so that is isn't so hard the day you need it.
- Make the meaty filling, blend the béchamel, and prep the eggplant.
- Store all of these in the fridge in separate containers until ready to use. I would suggest that you make these no more than 2-3 days ahead of time.
- You can also make the meaty filling and béchamel and freeze them until ready.
- The moussaka itself can be assembled the day before you want to serve it if you don't have time the day of.
- Once assembled, half bake it.
- When you're ready to serve bake it the rest of the way the day of.
- Make sure to check to see if you need to add some broth to the dish so it doesn't dry out when baking.
- If it starts to get too dry and burn at the bottom, then just drizzle a little broth along the sides so it sinks to the bottom of the dish.
Meal Prep and Storage Tips
You can also make this lentil moussaka completely ahead of time and freeze until ready to eat it. Nothing is as good as it is fresh, but this recipe freezes pretty well. Make sure it has cooled completely before you attempt to freeze it. Here is how I do it:
- Make the moussaka. Cool completely.
- Wrap the top in plastic, with the plastic layer touching the top to help with freezer burn.
- Wrap the top in foil.
- You can also follow this process with individual servings by wrapping the cut pieces in plastic, then foil.
- When you are ready to eat it, defrost it on the counter.
- Then you can heat in the microwave or reheat in the oven adding a drizzle of broth if it starts to get dry or burn.
While the two dishes are similar, the main difference between lasagna and moussaka is that lasagna uses pasta to separate layers, and moussaka uses eggplant.
I like to cut the eggplant into circles about ½ inch thick for moussaka.
Yes you can! You can prepare the layers ahead of time and assemble just before baking. Or, make it completely and freeze until you're ready to enjoy!
More Vegan Greek Recipes
My heart is made full from Greek food, and how could it not be? It's part of my family's history, and it just tastes so darn delicious! I've loved transforming traditional recipes into vegan Greek food, including this vegan moussaka recipe, here are some more of my favorites:
The BEST Vegan Moussaka
- 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt , divided
- 1 cup sweet onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , chopped
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas , rinsed and drained (or use ½ cup soaked dried chickpeas, see note)
- ½ cup dried green lentils
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cups veggie broth , low sodium if needed (may need more depending on beans used)
- 1 pound tomatoes , chopped (about 4 medium)
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup red wine
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper (see note)
- Your favorite cooking oil or more veggie broth to sauté and coat eggplant
- 9 tablespoons breadcrumbs , gluten free if needed (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon)
- 1 cup Vegan Parmesan Cheese , divided into 4 parts (about 1 whole recipe if using my homemade version)
- Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C)
Prep the eggplant:
- Slice the eggplant into thick pieces, about ½ inch. Place them on a paper towel and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Allow them to sit for about 10 minutes while preparing other parts of the recipe. This will help bring out some of the water.
- After about 10 minutes, take eggplant pieces and wipe off any excess water with a paper towel. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and brush with oil or broth.
- Put eggplant in the oven and broil. Start with 5 minutes on each side, keep checking and leave until golden brown. Mine was 8 minutes on the first side, and 5 on the second.
- Make béchamel sauce by placing all ingredients into a blender and blending until nice and smooth.
Make “meat” sauce:
- Sauté onion and garlic with the rest of the salt (1 teaspoon) and oil or splash of broth until brown.
- You can choose to chop the cooked chickpeas and walnuts now instead of chopping the whole mixture after. Simple pulse in a food processor.
- Add chickpeas, lentils and walnuts, sauté 1-2 minutes.
- Add broth, fresh chopped tomatoes and parsley.
- Cook partially covered for 20 minutes until the liquid is almost gone and beans are al dente. Then add the tomato sauce, wine and pepper. Stir and cook partially covered for another 5 minutes until most of the liquid is gone. Add more broth if needed.
- Allow it to cool a bit, then if you haven't pulsed the chickpeas and walnuts already, put the whole mixture into a food processor and pulse to make it a chunky ground meat like texture. This is optional, if you prefer to leave it whole, that’s fine too. Just take note that if you don’t pulse the mixture a bit the texture will not be as meaty.
Put the moussaka together:
- Brush bottom of a 9 x 12 dish with a drizzle of oil or broth.
- Put ¼ cup breadcrumbs on the bottom to coat it and help prevent burning.
- Line the dish with half of the eggplant pieces.
- Sprinkle with ¼ of the parmesan.
- Top with the “meat” mixture.
- Sprinkle ¼ cup breadcrumbs on top.
- Sprinkle with ¼ of the parmesan.
- Place half of the eggplant pieces on top.
- Sprinkle with ¼ of the parmesan.
- Pour the béchamel over it.
- Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle the top with the last ¼ of the parmesan.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is brown. Make sure not to overbake or it will dry out. Allow it to cool so it can thicken and settle.
- Devour your hard work!
- You can also use dried chickpeas, make sure to soak them overnight. I found the canned cooked chickpeas gave a slightly better texture.
- If you prefer not to use wine, then add veggie broth in place of it, although the red wine gives it a great flavor.
- You can make breadcrumbs if you prefer homemade. Toast 2 pieces of bread until crisp, then blend in a food processor.
- If you are not using a high speed blender you can either soak the cashews overnight or grind them into a fine powder using a coffee grinder.
- You can use regular black pepper in place of white pepper in both parts of this recipe, the white allows the béchamel to look smooth without any black spots in it.
- If you hate eggplant, you could also sub potatoes for the eggplant, or even zucchini. Just make sure to cut the zucchini thick and salt it as it has a lot of water.
- Soak chickpeas if using dried. You can make the “meat” mixture, béchamel and parmesan before the day you put it together to make it go must faster day of.
- Great baby and toddler food. Make sure you pulse the “meat” mixture well so that there are no large pieces of walnuts left. You may also want to skin the eggplant as the skin can sometimes be tough for young ones to eat.
Recipe by Veggies Don’t Bite, visit our site for more great plant-based recipes.