Have you ever had a good Greek moussaka? If yes, I’m sure you appreciated how smoothly all of the ingredients come together. What about a vegan version? Today I’m sharing a recipe for a vegan moussaka with a lentil-based sauce that makes me confident to say that I’ve perfected this dish over the years.
Wanna have a bite?
Greek cuisine has always been near and dear to my heart. I can’t say that I’ve made a lot of Greek dishes at home, but I’ve definitely had my share at Greek restaurants! Things got a little more complicated once I switched to a vegan diet, and going to my once favorite Greek places got kind of boring since fully vegan options were few and far between.
What can a vegan girl do if she wants to keep eating delicious Greek moussaka? Make it at home, of course!
But first, for the uninitiated: what is moussaka? Here’s how a classic Greek version is defined at About.com: “Moussaka is a casserole made by layering eggplant with spiced meat filling then topping it off with a creamy bechamel sauce that is baked to golden perfection.”
Vegan people will have a couple issues with this definition:
- – How can we get rid of the meat?
- – How can we make a non-dairy version of bechamel sauce?
- – Can we make a less greasy version of this dish? Classic moussaka can be pretty oily!
Another issue that I have:
- – If we get rid of all the heavy stuff in moussaka, how can we make a possible vegan version more filling? I don’t like to be hungry half an hour after dinner!
Thankfully, I’ve come up with answers to all these questions:
- – Substitute meat with a lentil-tomato sauce that’s seasoned just right;
- – Instead of making bechamel sauce with butter, milk, and white flour, make it with a little coconut oil, almond milk, and whole wheat flour, adding 1 Tbsp of ground flax seeds.
- – Vegan moussaka is going to be way less greasy if you keep added oils to a minimum. In most of my recipes, I aim at not using any oil at all (Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, a well-known cardiac surgeon, will explain why in this article on his site), but unfortunately I haven’t yet found a good oil-free vegan version of bechamel. If you have one, please let me know!
- – To make my vegan moussaka more filling, I added 1 or 2 layers of boiled/steamed potatoes (that’s the Russian in me!). Potatoes are a great filler that doesn’t have an overpowering flavor, so my moussaka tastes just as delicious as the Greek-intended version!
Any version of moussaka is a rather time-consuming endeavor, so brace yourself here… Just trust me: once you bite in, your taste buds will applaud your diligence and patience, and so will your family!
And just how good is this stuff? Well, to say that this is one of my husband’s favorite dishes is almost like not saying much at all: after I make this, I hear compliments from him about how delicious it is/was for at least three days! Another story: he ordered moussaka at a Greek restaurant once, and I said that I was worried that after having a classic Greek-made moussaka he wouldn’t want to eat mine again. After our food arrived, he took a couple bites of his entree and assured me that I had nothing to worry about!
All right, enough with the stories, bring on the recipe!
This is one of those recipes that is quite time-consuming, but oh so rewarding and comforting in the end! It's not oil-free, so if you avoid added oil in your diet, feel free to use a different version of bechamel sauce.
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup dried lentils, rinsed
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato (about 1 small tomato)
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup diced portobello mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cup boiling water or veggie broth
- 1/2 cup packed fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Arrange in layers in a colander, sprinkling salt between each layer. Let sit for at least 20 min (this releases and gets rid of bitter juices, so your eggplant won't taste bitter in the end). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- After 20 min, pat dry eggplant rounds with paper towels to remove all of the juices released.
- Arrange on a cookie tray in one layer. Spray with olive oil spray. Flip slices, and spray the other side.
- Insert eggplant in the hot oven. Bake for 15 min, flip slices, and bake for another 10-12 min.
- Once eggplant is done, take it out of the oven and reduce the heat to 375 degrees.
- Peel and slice raw potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Rinse potato slices to remove extra starch, steam for 10 min on stovetop. If you don't have a steamer, boil whole potatoes for 10 min, then cool off a bit and slice in 1/4 round pieces. Potatoes don't have to be fully cooked at this step.
- Heat a skillet with 1-2 Tbsp of water, add chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 5 min, stirring occasionally, until onion gets translucent.
- Add the rest of the sauce ingredients except spinach complete with boiling water and spices. Cook for about 20-25 min, stirring a few times. Once lentils are tender and all of the liquid is absorbed, stir in spinach and take the sauce off the heat.
- In a large skillet on medium-low heat, melt coconut butter. Once melted, add whole wheat flour, 2 Tbsp at a time, and mix into the oil with a rubber spatula. Once all flour is added, pour in almond milk in 3 parts, stirring with the spatula constantly to break up clumps. Continie stirring for about 5 min, until the mixture gets homogeneous and thickens up to the consistency of thick gravy. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Take off the heat, stir in ground flax seed.
- In an ovenproof 8" by 8" casserole dish, arrange all components in layers: lentil-tomato sauce, eggplant, lentil-tomato sauce, potatoes; lentil-tomato sauce, eggplant, lentil-tomato sauce, potatoes.
- Go until you run out of all ingredients (it's ok if you end up having more eggplant than potatoes). The last layer should be eggplant.
- Once everything is assembled, pour bechamel on top and distribute evenly. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil.
- Insert the casserole into the oven at 375. Bake for 20 min; remove the foil and bake for another 15 min.
- Once done, remove from the oven and let cool 10-15 min before cutting. Enjoy!
Have you tried a different vegan moussaka recipe that you liked? Do you have any other favorite vegan versions of classic ethnic dishes? Let us know in the comments!
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