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 it’s 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 dish of comfort food with multiple layers.
Today, though, I’m sharing a lentil moussaka recipe. It has all the delicious flavours of a traditional moussaka, but it’s made with lentils instead of lamb.
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). Then peel the eggplants (you don’t have to get every last bit of peel off, some left is okay).
- Cut into ½-inch rounds.
- Place onto parchment paper-lined sheet pans, brush with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast, flipping once. When the eggplant is 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. Push down on the spinach with a spoon 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.
Make the lentil sauce
- In a pan, 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 tomatoes, broth and bay leaves and cook until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and remove and discard bay leaves.
- Add the cooked lentils.
- Stir in. There ya have it, a flavour-packed sauce ready for moussaka!
Make the custard topping
- Melt butter in a saucepan.
- Whisk in flour to form a paste and cook for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste.
- Slowly add warmed milk (half cup at a time) and cook until thickened before adding more milk (basically, you’re adding the milk in increments and cooking until all the milk has been used). Once done, the mixture should coat the back of a spoon when a finger is drawn through it.
- Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Turn off heat and let cool for a little bit, stirring occasionally. This is important because you don’t want to scramble your eggs when you add them shortly.
- Whisk in egg and egg yolks.
- The custard should be thick, creamy and ready to be used in moussaka.
Layer the lentil moussaka and bake
- Grease a baking 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 layer on 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?
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
If you want to add some sides, any of these are delicious with moussaka:
Tips and Variations
- 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.
- A small sweet potato was used as the base of this lentil moussaka recipe. You could use a regular potato instead if that’s what you have on hand.
- Don’t have spinach on hand? Try some cooked kale instead.
If you make this lentil moussaka recipe, be sure to leave a comment below!
Lentil Moussaka Recipe
- 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 freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 10 ounces baby spinach
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup dried green lentils, picked over (remove an discard any foreign objects, like rocks, and imperfect lentils), rinsed, drained and cooked according to package instructions (about 2.5 to 3 cups cooked). Rinse and drain again after cooking.
- 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 freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- pinch ground clove
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, tomatoes blended with an immersion blender or roughly broken up with a potato masher before using
- ½ cup no salt added vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk, warmed
- 1.5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 3 large egg yolks (yolks only)
Other Moussaka Ingredients
- Cooking spray, to grease baking dish
- 1 medium sweet potato, yellow potato, or Russet potato, thinly sliced
- pinch salt
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons unseasoned panko bread crumbs
- ¾ to 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, depending on how much feta you want
- Chopped fresh oregano leaves
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spread slices of eggplant over top. Brush with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the eggplant rounds halfway. Once done, carefully remove, and set aside.Note: While the eggplant is roasting, you can start preparing some of the other moussaka components (like the spinach, lentils and sauce).
- Place spinach, nutmeg and a tiny splash of water (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed sauté (or deep) pan (one that comes with a lid) over medium heat (you can use the same pan later to make the sauce). Cover and cook on the stovetop until just wilted (stir occasionally; this should only take a few minutes). Place the spinach in a fine mesh sieve to squeeze out excess moisture. To do this, I like to press the spinach against the sieve with a spoon, allowing the excess water to flow out. Chop the spinach.Note: You're not pressing the spinach through the sieve, just using it to get rid of that extra water.Note: If you'd rather, you can use a clean tea towel instead of a fine mesh sieve to remove excess moisture from the spinach. To do this, after cooking the spinach, allow it to cool a bit until it's cool enough to handle, place it in a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess moisture.
- Cook lentils in a separate pot on the stovetop according to 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. Add lentils to a saucepan with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat (to about medium-low heat) to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Don't overcook. Rinse and drain. Set aside.Note: While the lentils are cooking, prepare the sauce.
- For making the sauce, you can use the same pan you cooked the spinach in. Wipe out pan of any excess moisture. Heat olive oil in the pan 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 for 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cinnamon, oregano, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, nutmeg and clove. Cook for 1 minute.
- Pour in tomatoes and vegetable broth and add bay leaves. Stir. Bring to boil, reduce the heat (to about medium-low heat) to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes (stir occasionally).
- Remove bay leaves and discard.
- Once the lentils are cooked, add them to the sauce. You're looking for a consistency similar to a meat sauce. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour to form a paste and cook for 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 black pepper, salt and nutmeg. Turn off heat and let cool for 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. Set aside.
Assemble and Bake Moussaka
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray a 9-inch x 13-inch deep baking or casserole dish with cooking spray or grease with cooking oil.
- Layer potato slices on bottom of dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, black 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 to taste (if desired) with fresh oregano. Serve and enjoy! Recipe serves 6 to 8.
A note on times provided: appliances vary, any prep and/or cook times provided are estimates only.
Tried this recipe?
If you do make this recipe, thank you!! It would mean so much if you could leave a comment below. Love to know how you enjoyed it, and it helps other readers too!