So creamy and savoury you will never guess that this Veggie Lentil Moussaka is light and lean! With perfectly cooked eggplant and nutty lentils, this dish will turn anyone into a convert!
For more comfort food, try our Creamy Brie Mac and Cheese!
I tried a lot of moussaka before I really understood what all the fuss was about. After too many mediocre examples, it wasn’t until I went to Greece that I tasted truly fantastic versions. They used the right ingredients in the right proportions to allow the layers of flavour to really shine.
The rest of my family aren’t huge fans of eggplant (or aubergine if you are in the UK!) but I have been trying to convince them that it can be fantastic when made well. This Veggie Lentil Moussaka may have won the argument because they loved it!
Veggie lentil moussaka
Moussaka is a traditional Greek dish layered bake that holds much in common with lasagna. Rather than strips of pasta, moussaka uses strips of eggplant to hold this dish together.
Moussaka needs a hearty, robust base to stand up to the creamy top layer. That’s why I replaced the meat used in traditional moussaka with deliciously nutty lentils.
I also created a substitute for Béchamel sauce that is slightly easier to make than the traditional version. It is still luxuriously creamy so perfect for this dish!
Recipe tips and notes
- There are lots of varieties of lentils to choose from, but for this recipe you will want a lentil that will hold its shape when cooked. I found green lentils to be the best choice.
- Eggplants that are not too large and don’t have a lot of seeds provide the best taste. Look for male eggplants, which have a round mark on the bottom rather than a dash as these have less seeds.
- Slice the eggplants lengthwise to mimic the shape of lasagna noodles. Try for even slices no more than ¼ inch thick so they cook evenly.
- I used cooking spray to coat the eggplants to make this recipe leaner, but a brushing of olive oil will work perfectly as well. Add a pinch of salt as well before placing under a boiler or grill.
- The tomato sauce that the lentils are mixed into is important for a perfect base of flavour. Poor quality sauce that isn’t made from ripe and sweet tomatoes will not do this dish justice! I buy Italian tomato sauce whenever I can find it to get the best flavour.
- To mimic the Italian style, avoid making your lentils swim in the tomato sauce. The eggplants are the main flavour in this dish and shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the sauce.
- Not all parmesan cheese is vegetarian, but it should not be too difficult to find varieties that are. Take a good look at the label to avoid cheese made with animal rennet.
- The slices of moussaka stand up better if they have been given the chance to rest for a while. Although you can eat it right out of the oven, making it in advance will result in tidier slices!
This vegetarian moussaka is quite creamy so will go well with something light and fresh on the side. A fig and halloumi winter salad has a pleasant freshness that will cut through the cream.
But that’s not the only salad that will work well on the side. Most green salads made without a creamy dressing will work very well, or try a Greek salad to keep it authentic!
Once you get through a delicious piece of moussaka, you’ll be left with lots of tangy sauce on your plate. A basket of fresh bread will come in handy!
Traditional Greek moussaka is served hot, but I also like it when served cold or at room temperature!
More eggplant/aubergine recipes
- Roasted aubergine with garlic tahini sauce
- Grilled vegetable pizza bianca
- Savoury galette with grilled eggplant
For the eggplant
- 4 small eggplants
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
For the lentil sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 750g / 4 cups cooked green lentils (started 2 cups dried lentils)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 500ml / 2 cups passata/crushed tomatoes
- 125ml / ½ cup vegetable stock
For the faux 'béchamel sauce'
- 340g / 12 oz cream cheese
- 150ml / ⅓ cup milk
- 50g / ½ cup grated Parmesan
- To prepare the eggplant, cut the eggplant into ¼ inch slices and arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Season with salt and brush with some olive oil or spray with a cooking spray. Broil/grill in the oven for 7 minutes, then flip the slices, season with salt and brush with more olive oil and finish broiling for 3-5 minutes longer until they are cooked all the way through. You might need to use 2-3 baking trays to fit all eggplant slices. (This step could be done a day ahead.)
- To prepare the lentil sauce, cook the chopped onion in olive oil over low heat for 7-10 minutes until soft and slightly caramelized, then add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add cooked green lentils, a pinch of salt, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, allspice, dried thyme, tomato passata or crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock and stir everything to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes uncovered, stirring once in a while until the mixture is thick and the liquid is mostly gone.
- To make the faux béchamel sauce, combine the cream cheese and milk in a small saucepan, heat gently while stirring with a whisk until it smooth.
- To assemble the moussaka, spread ⅓ of the lentil sauce over the bottom of a rectangular 9X13 inch baking pan, then top with half of the cheese sauce and sprinkle with ½ of the grated Parmesan. Cover with eggplant sliced. Repeat the layers finishing with the eggplant slices, the rest of the cheese sauce and Parmesan.
- Cook for 40 minutes at 350F/180C, then broil/grill for 2 minutes until golden. Let the moussaka rest for 20 minutes before cutting it into squares.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 887Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 98mgSodium: 1111mgCarbohydrates: 98gFiber: 29gSugar: 28gProtein: 33g