Hearty lentils, roasted eggplant, spinach and a creamy custard topping make this lentil moussaka utterly delicious! This veggie moussaka recipe is perfect for Sunday supper, a special occasion meal or when entertaining friends and family.
Today I’m sharing a totally comforting lentil moussaka recipe.
It’s totally a labour of love, but SO worth it!
The lentils are flavoured with warming spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of clove, as well as savoury oregano and spicy chili flakes.
Plus, there’s roasted eggplant, spinach and a creamy custard topping with crumbly salty feta. Serve with a side of pesto pasta salad and you have yourself one belly satisfying meal!
Sounds good, right?
What is Moussaka?
Moussaka is a traditional Greek recipe, typically made with lamb.
I like to describe moussaka as a Greek lasagna.
It’s essentially a big casserole dish of comfort food with multiple layers.
Today, though, I’m sharing a vegetarian moussaka recipe. It has all the delicious flavours of a traditional moussaka, but it’s made with lentils.
Vegetarian Moussaka Ingredients
- Lentils in a tomato sauce with warming spices
- A custard topping with feta cheese
How to Make Lentil Moussaka
Full details on how to make moussaka are in the recipe card below, but here are the basics:
- Cut the ends of your eggplants and discard (I find it’s easier to peel once the ends are cut off).
- Peel the eggplants. You don’t have to get every last bit of peel off. Some left is ok.
- Cut into ½-inch rounds.
- Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning once.
- Once the eggplant has cooked, carefully remove and set aside.
- Add baby spinach and ground nutmeg to a pan. You can add a splash of water, if you like, to get things going.
- Simply wilt the spinach and that’s it.
- Remove spinach from the pan and place it in a fine-mesh sieve (or use a clean tea towel).
- Push down on the spinach to squeeze out excess moisture. We don’t want the spinach too wet because it will water down the moussaka. Note: The spinach isn’t actually going through the sieve (only water).
- Chop and set aside.
- In a skillet, cook some onion and garlic in a little olive oil.
- Add minced mushrooms and cook those down.
- Stir in tomato paste and seasonings and cook for a just a bit.
- Add canned tomatoes, broth and bay leaves and cook until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and remove and discard bay leaves.
- Stir in cooked lentils.
- Melt butter in a saucepan.
- Whisk in flour to form a paste and cook about 3 minutes.
- Slowly add warmed milk (half cup at a time) and cook until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon when a finger is drawn through it. Add more milk and continue until all milk has been used.
- Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Everything should be nice and thick. Let things cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Whisk in egg and egg yolks.
Layer the Lentil Moussaka
- Grease a casserole dish and spread a layer of potatoes over the bottom. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle over some bread crumbs.
- Layer half of your roasted eggplant on top.
- Next, layer half of your lentil sauce.
- Then, goes half of your cooked spinach. Repeat one more time, starting with eggplant.
- Pour custard topping over top. If some seeps down the side, don’t worry about it.
- Sprinkle crumbled feta over top.
- Bake and garnish with some fresh oregano!
Yum! Talk about delicious!
What Type of Lentils Should I Use? Do I Need to Soak Them?
Use dried green lentils.
There’s no need to soak these.
Simply pick over and discard any foreign objects, like rocks, and any imperfect lentils. Then, rinse, drain and cook.
Rinse and drain lentils again after they’ve cooked before adding to the tomato sauce.
What to Serve with Moussaka
More Tips & Variations
A small sweet potato was used as the base of this lentil moussaka recipe. You could opt for a regular potato instead if you like.
The eggplant was cut into rounds and distributed over top. You could cut length-wise into longer pieces if you like. I just find it easier to cut into rounds.
‘No salt added’ tomatoes were used. If you use anything otherwise, you may want to adjust the salt added.
Don’t have spinach on hand? Try some cooked kale instead.
Hope you love this meatless moussaka recipe as much as we do!
Did you make this lentil moussaka recipe? That’s awesome! Love it if you leave a comment below.
Lentil Moussaka (vegetarian twist on a classic!)
- 3 to 4 eggplants , peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds (about 3 to 3.5 pounds)
- ⅓ cup avocado oil (approximately)
- ½ teaspoon salt , divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper , divided
- 10 ounces baby spinach
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow or white onion , peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 8 ounces baby bella (cremini) mushrooms , minced (about 227 grams)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- pinch ground clove
- 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (tomatoes blended with an immersion blender or roughly broken up with a potato masher before using)
- ½ cup unsalted vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dried green lentils , picked over (remove an discard any foreign objects, like rocks, and imperfect lentils), rinsed, drained and cooked per package instructions (about 2.5 to 3 cups cooked). Rinse & drain again after cooking.
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour (5 tablespoons)
- 3 cups whole milk , warmed
- 1.5 teaspoons black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 3 large egg yolks (yolks only)
Other Moussaka Ingredients
- 1 medium sweet potato, yellow potato, or Russet potato , thinly sliced
- pinch salt
- pinch black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons unseasoned panko bread crumbs
- ¾ to 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (opt for a vegetarian variety, if needed, to keep this moussaka vegetarian)
- Chopped fresh oregano (leaves only)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spread slices of eggplant over top. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes, turning once. Once done, carefully remove, and set aside. Reduce oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (for later).
- Place spinach in a dry pan (a 12-inch pan enameled cast-iron pan that's about 2.5 to 3 inches deep works well), along with nutmeg and a tiny splash of water (about 1 to 2 tablespoons). Cover and cook over medium heat on the stovetop until just wilted (stir occasionally; this should only take a few minutes). Drain well of any excess moisture with a tea towel or push through a fine-mesh sieve, chop, and set aside.Note: The spinach isn't actually going through the sieve (only water).
Lentils and Sauce
- While you are preparing your tomato sauce base, cook lentils in a separate pot on the stovetop per package instructions. Note: For this recipe, 1 cup of lentils was used and 3 cups of water. Pick over lentils and discard any foreign objects, like rocks, and imperfect lentils. Rinse and drain. Then, bring to a simmer in a pot with water, reduce heat, cover and cook 20 to 30 minutes. Don't overcook. Rinse and drain.
- While lentils are cooking, prepare tomato sauce base. Wipe out pot of any excess moisture (from when you cooked spinach). Heat olive oil over medium heat on the stovetop. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in mushrooms and cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cinnamon, oregano, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, nutmeg and clove. Cook 1 minute.
- Pour in tomatoes, broth and bay leaves. Stir. Bring to a simmer, reduce to a medium simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes (stir occasionally).
- Remove bay leaves and discard. Add cooked lentils to sauce. You're looking for a 'meat sauce' consistency here.
- Melt butter in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour to form a paste and cook about 3 minutes.
- Slowly (about ½ cup at a time), whisk in warmed milk. Once milk is added, cook for a few minutes, whisking, until thickened before adding more milk. Continue doing this until all the milk has been used. This could take about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once milk has been used and sauce is thick, stir in pepper, salt and nutmeg. Turn off heat and let cool 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every so often to allow it to cool down (as to not scramble the eggs once added to a hot liquid).
- Very slowly whisk in egg and egg yolks until it's combined and smooth.
Assemble and Bake Moussaka
- Grease a 9-inch x 13-inch deep baking or casserole dish with baking spray or oil.
- Layer potato slices on bottom of dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper and bread crumbs.
- Layer half of the eggplant on top. Next layer half of the spinach. Then, half of the lentil sauce, spreading out to have an even layer filling the dish. Repeat, starting with eggplant.
- Pour custard over top (if some seeps down the sides of the casserole, that's okay). Sprinkle with feta cheese.
- Place dish on a baking sheet (to catch any spills) and bake for 65 to 70 minutes.
- Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 to 30 minutes before serving (don't skip this step).
- Garnish (if desired) with fresh oregano. Serves 6 to 8. Enjoy!
Nutrition estimate (if provided) is based on 1 Serving.
Nutrition information (if provided) is provided as a courtesy and should be considered an estimate only. Ingredients can vary and Girl Heart Food makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
A note on times provided: appliances vary, any prep and/or cook times provided are guidelines only.