Vegan moussaka

Vegan moussaka

vegan moussaka portion

NOTE: check out my new, improved recipe for vegan moussaka here.

A while ago, I set myself a challenge of making a plant-based version of a quintessentially meaty dish: moussaka. After all, I live in Greece now and I didn’t want to give up eating this deliciously fragrant dish. I knew I can make a vegetarian ragu easily so that was a no-brainer, but the topping (rich bechamel sauce that traditionally relies on butter, milk and sometimes eggs) was going to be the tricky part.

My initial thought was to simply swap butter for some local olive oil and dairy milk for homemade almond milk and it did yield a very tasty result. The issue was, however, that despite using loads of oil and tons of flour, I ended up with just a thin layer of bechamel, which did not look like moussaka I’ve eaten here before.

I explored doubling the quantities of both oil and flour, but I couldn’t get over how many additional calories a sauce like that adds to the dish – about 250 kCal per piece. I nearly reconciled with having just a thin layer of bechamel on my moussaka when an idea popped into my head. I was preparing cauliflower for dinner and it suddenly struck me that this humble vegetable has such delicate taste and virtually no colour (I know, white is a colour, but you know what I mean) that perhaps it could lend itself well to bulking up my bechamel without anyone noticing. Sneaking veggies into food, it’s happened – I’m turning into my mum.

I disclosed my revelation to Duncan and he was up in arms. “Why would you do that?”, he said. “Why do you always need to make everything healthy?”. Fair comment, I said, but I still wanna give it a go before I dismiss it completely. I’m so glad I did.

I’m pleased to say that Mr Cauliflower – apologies for hating you with passion as a kid – did work wonders. It bulked up the sauce without altering the taste and even its fiercest critic was happy to devour a triple portion of moussaka for dinner. If you still aren’t convinced and are not freaked out by the humongous fat content (or need to gain weight quickly), simply double the amounts of oil and flour and add a touch more milk to end up with a rich moussaka topping.

NOTE: check out my new, improved recipe for vegan moussaka here.

aubergine sliced

vegan ragu

vegan moussaka dinner al fresco

75 min
45 min
75 min
45 min


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely diced
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 3 level tsp cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves, pounded to powder in pestle & mortar
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, grated
  • 5 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 2 x 400 g tins)
  • ½ cup green lentils, rinsed
  • 100 ml red wine
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste


  • 4 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise into ½ cm slices
  • 4 medium potatoes


  • 7 tbsp olive oil
  • 7 tbsp white flour
  • 7 tbsp cauliflower purée*
  • 2 and ¼ cups almond milk, warmed up
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt, plus to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  1. Bring rinsed lentils to boil and cook for 10 mins. Drain and set aside. Peel the potatoes and parboil them for 12 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oven up to 225° C. Put aubergine slices on a parchment-lined baking tray (no need to grease them) and into the hot oven for 25 minutes – until they are soft and lightly browned. Some people advocate salting aubergine for an hour (and rinsing the salt off) before cooking as salt is meant to draw our bitterness, but I’ve forgotten to do that a few times and never tasted any bitterness. Do it ahead of baking if you want.
  3. In a pan, heat up 3 tbsp of olive oil. Fry onion until translucent. Add in garlic and fry for another minute. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves coating the onion-garlic mixture in the spices. Gently fry for another minute on low heat so that the spices don’t burn.
  4. Add in tomatoes, bay leaves and wine. Keep on simmering under cover until tomatoes break down. Add in lentils. Keep on simmering uncovered until all the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Season with salt, sugar and pepper and adjust to your liking. Let the sauce cool down.
  5. To assemble moussaka, slice parboiled potatoes into ½ cm slices and place at the bottom of an oiled tray. Brush olive oil on the top of the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
    Place 1st layer of aubergine on top of potatoes, season well. Spoon in cooled down tomato sauce. Place another layer of aubergine, season with salt and pepper. Finally, spread béchamel on top.

vegan moussaka step by step

  1. Cook moussaka in a 175° C oven for about 45 minutes – until the top gets slightly golden. It tastes best the day after it has been made so make it in advance if you can.


  1. Heat up olive oil in a heavy-bottom pan/pot. Gradually, add flour to the oil whisking continuously. Cook the oil-flour mixture on a low heat for about 5 minutes stirring continuously. Don’t rush this step as otherwise béchamel will have an unpleasant floury taste.
  2. Take off the heat. Slowly, add in warmed up milk and cauliflower purée, mixing the whole time – you should get a nice thick sauce. Return to the stove.
  3. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, grated nutmeg and lemon juice. Add nutritional yeast, if using. Cook for another minute or two. Let the sauce cool down before pouring it over assembled moussaka.

Volume measurement I use is 1 cup = 237ml

The dish I used for my moussaka has the following dimensions: 26 cm x 19 cm x 5 cm

* To make cauliflower purée, divide washed cauliflower (you need about ½ medium cauliflower) into florets, and cook them in a pot of salted water until tender (about 6 min). Blitz into a purée using a hand blender. Alternatively, skip the cauliflower completely and increase the amount of oil and flour to 12 tablespoons for a more indulgent béchamel.

** Nutritional yeast is by no means necessary. It adds a slightly cheesy flavour so if you have it add it in and if you don’t, skip. It is important, however, not to confuse it with baking yeast as making this mistake will result in a nasty tasting béchamel.

17 g
20 g
3 g
9 g
53 g
*per serving
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15 reviews, 21 comments
I love to combine your two mussaka recipes (lentil ragu + cashew sauce). Over the years it has become one of my very favorite meals. Thank you!
    Thanks Angelika, I am delighted to hear that. Thank you for taking the time to let me know! x Ania
This was a pleasure to cook, you know when you just enjoy making something, this felt like that. I halved the recipe but accidentally kept the same amount of lentils but the recipe was very forgiving and it turned out great. Absolutely love the cauliflower in the bechamel, didn't add nutmeg as my partner is not a big fan, he polished this moussaka off in no time. Thanks again for another tasty dish, love cooking your food.
    Thanks Pauline, I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed this moussaka - especially that it's one of the very first recipes I published on here :) . Delighted to hear that you enjoy my cooking style and thanks for taking the time to let me know - as always, I really appreciate it. x Ania
Jenny Mc:
Amazing, will defo be making it again soon. It tasted better after being left out of the oven to cool for 10 or so minutes. Thanks for this yummy recipe:)
    My pleasure, Jenny! So pleased you liked it and just in case you want to try another version, I released a new, improved version of this dish recently - recipe here. Ania
Anne-Marie Gogos:
What is your insta ?
Do you pre cool cauliflour to make purée ? Dosnt day I don’t think
Awesome recipe! Made it for lunch today and it tastes amazing. Thank you for sharing.
    Thanks for your lovely comment, Marisa! I'm delighted that you enjoyed it! :) Ania
The pureed cauliflower us a brilliant idea. I used Trader Joe's vegan crumbles instead of the lentils. It turned out very well. I was initially skeptical of the amount of cinnamon in the recipe. It seemed like too much, but the flavor was fantastic.
    Thanks, Kristopfer! I am so pleased to hear that you liked it! Ania
Ethel Kurland:
I had invited a vegan friend to dinner and decided that your recipe would be perfect. I had never made a vegan meal before. end result both she and another friend insisted on getting your recipe, which I have now passed on. It was fabulous. Thank you so much. Easy to follow recipe and well documented.
    Thanks, Ethel! That is so lovely to hear! :) Ania
Ania I honestly don't know how you're doing this, but every recipe I've tried from your blog tastes exactly how I remember the meat versions from Greece - wonderful! Every now and then, when I want to refresh my memories, I come here. Take care! xx
    Aw, thanks so much for you kind words, Ada! I'm sooo chuffed to hear this!! x Ania
Excellent but used a cheat. I live in Italy and used vegan bechamel I purchased at Natura Si, anything to save time....
    Glad to hear, Mary! Thank you. And how lucky to have vegan bechamel available! Ania
This recipe looks lovely! When you say it tastes better if made the day before, do you reheat it before serving? How is best to reheat?
    Thanks Amelia! The main element that gets more flavourful with time is the sauce so making it a day before is a good idea. You could also make the entire dish a day in advance and reheat in a low oven (300° F / 150° C) covered with a piece of foil to protect the top from drying out and browning further. Hope that helps! Ania
This recipe was great! Made it for my dad who loves moussaka. They were so happy with the result and my mom kept on saying the house was scenting so nice because of the spices, tomato and wine . Definitely going to make it more often as im super enthusiastic to let more people taste this wonderful dish. Thank you a lot for sharing!
    Thanks so much, Nadine! That's really lovely to hear that it went down so well with you and your family! x Ania
This is so tasty! Made this for 40 or so people and it went down a storm! Will make again
    That's so lovely to hear, Claire! Thanks for taking the time to leave such a nice comment :) Much appreciated! Ania
AMAZING!!! Thanks a lot for sharing the recipe:)
    Thanks so much, Laura! So lovely to hear! Ania
Elisabeth Hagendoorn:
A lot of work :D but me and my husband loved it! We have seconds for tomorrow!
    Yes, moussaka is a time consuming dish, for sure! Glad it was worth it though:) !
Very happy with the result! I went from installing a shower to making this with no time to spare! The kitchen looked like a war zone after but the end result was fab. I didn't have time to purée the cauliflower but it didn't matter. I am vegan and loved it, my partner and mum also loved it, the whole lot went! Will defo be making this again but next time I'll give myself more time and enjoy making it!!
    Hi Helen,
    Thank you, that's so lovely to hear :) Glad it was worth the trouble! x
Cecilie @A Story of Freedom:
I used to love moussaka as a kid! This is the first vegan moussaka recipe I see. I must try this! Do you think I can omit the wine or use something else?
Thank you!
    Hi Cecilie. I'm sure you can omit the wine, but perhaps it's worth replacing it with homemade veg stock and a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar to mimic wine's acidity. Let me know how you liked it.
      I replaced it with kevita/roots beer which worked well
        That's great to hear, Sarah! Thanks for lovely feedback! Ania
Chris Jones:
Made your Moussaka for a couple of friends visiting last weekend (one of whom is vege). It was loved by all including meat eaters (My friend Russell was first to a second helping!). Really warm and satisfying.
The recipe was broken down nicely and I liked how you can make all the layers well in advance and throw them together when your ready to bake. Made it easier to prepare starters/ desserts in time. Stealing this one!
    Thanks, Chris! So pleased to hear that it went down so well with your guests.
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