This vegan moussaka is every bit as good as the 'real' thing - a rich lentil ragu cooked in red wine, layered up with roasted aubergine and topped with sliced potato and a creamy vegan béchamel.
I've been itching to experiment with vegan-ising the totally luscious Greek dish, Moussaka, for some time but it isn't the speediest dish to make and it took a week's 'staycation' over this half term holiday to finally get around to it.
I'm so glad I took the trouble and you will be when you try it too! Yes, this definitely isn't in my '20 minute meals' series, and there are four different elements to make, layer up and then bake. But the finished product is absolutely worth the effort.
A traditional moussaka would be based on a slow-cooked lamb ragu - easy enough to vegan-ise and I've used lentils mixed with carrots, courgette and onion cooked in red wine and stock, with cinnamon and oregano.
This is layered up with roasted aubergine, and whilst traditionally the topping would contain eggs whipped into a creamy béchamel sauce, I found that thickly sliced potatoes slathered with a vegan béchamel (with vegan parmesan in it if you wish) is every bit as luscious and such a decadent topping to this fabulous dish.
This is such a crowd-pleasing dish to serve to both vegans and non-vegans alike, incredibly tasty and filling, no one will be missing the meat.
I serve mine with a crisp green salad and crusty bread, or in the winter perhaps some green vegetables on the side.
Of course you can use any base layer you like instead of lentils - if you've found a meat-free mince that you like just substitute it into the recipe in place of the lentils, or you could use finely chopped mushrooms or even roughly chopped or mashed butterbeans instead.
📝 What you need
Tinned lentils There's quite a difference between really good quality tinned lentils and super-cheap ones. The really good ones are quite small and still have a lot of bite and texture, whilst the cheap ones are fairly mushy. Sometimes I like mushy, but in this moussaka you really want some bite so go for the best ones you can find.
Red wine Never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink! There's no point in paying a fortune for wine that's going to be bubbled down in your ragu, but equally if you have a bottle that's been sitting half-empty on the worktop for over a week, it will ruin your moussaka! A medium-bodied red will go well with the tomatoes - not too heavy but reasonably acidic. something like a pinot noir would be excellent.
Dairy-free butter I always use a block 'butter' for making a béchamel (rather than a tub of spread), as the water content is much lower so you get a much creamier sauce.
Dairy-free milk Use an unsweetened plant milk - I usually use oat, but soya or any other plant milk will work well.
Dairy-free cheese My favourites for cooking are Applewood smoked vegan cheddar or Violife epic mature. But I often use half and half cheddar with vegan parmesan here too which is really good. If you can only find supermarket own-brand vegan cheese use it sparingly - the taste and smell can be quite overpowering compared to the better quality cheeses.
❄️ Can you freeze moussaka?
This would freeze really well, and would be perfect for batch cooking as it would take very little extra effort to make up a double batch, then freeze in individual foil trays for lots of lovely weeknight suppers.
Just remove one from the freezer in the morning, then bake as below for 35-40 minutes until cooked through and golden brown on top.
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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ "Absolutely delicious!! My husband loved it!! Thank you for such a tasty vegan version of the moussaka, which is “meaty”, creamy and full of flavour. I will be making again today. My husband is looking forward to it, as am I, of course. 😊 A great recipe!" Carole
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ "Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. It was dreamy and so satisfying to make and eat!" Ailia
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ "Honestly this recipe is dreams - can’t recommend more!! Please try this out, you won’t regret!!" @veganrie
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The Ultimate Vegan Moussaka
For the aubergine layers:
- 2 aubergines
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the lentil layers:
- 1 onion
- 1 courgette
- 1 carrot
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic purée / ready-chopped garlic
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 400 g tinned lentils (green or brown - drained and rinsed)
- 150 ml red wine (check it is vegan)
- 150 ml water
- ½ tsp vegetable stock powder (check it is vegan)
For the potato & béchamel layer:
- 2 large potatoes
- 60 g dairy-free block margarine
- 60 g plain flour
- 500 ml dairy-free milk unsweetened
- 50 g dairy-free cheese
- grated nutmeg (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan) / 350ºF / Gas Mark 4. Slice the aubergines into rounds about ½cm thick. Brush with oil on both sides, season with salt and black pepper and lay on baking trays. Roast for 25 minutes or so, turning half way through cooking, until golden brown all over and soft.
- Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, carrot and courgette. Heat the olive oil in a large lidded casserole or frying pan, and gently cook the onion and carrot for 4-5 minutes until starting to soften, then add the courgette and garlic and continue to cook for a further 4-5 minutes.
- Add the cinnamon, oregano and tomato purée to the pan, stir well, then add the lentils and red wine. Turn up the heat to bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. After 2-3 minutes, add the water and stock powder then cover and cook gently for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are soft. If the mixture becomes too dry before the end of cooking, add a little more water, and if there is too much liquid left over just remove the lid for a further few minutes of cooking. Taste and add salt and pepper as required.
- Whilst the lentil mixture is cooking, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Peel and thickly slice the potatoes, then add these to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until almost cooked through but not falling apart. Drain and set aside in a bowl.
- Melt the margarine in the same saucepan, and add the flour. Cook gently, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, then add the milk a little at a time until you have a thick and glossy sauce. Remove from the heat and stir through the grated cheese and nutmeg. Taste and add salt and pepper if required.
- To layer up the moussaka, see the video above: Place half the aubergine slices in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, followed by half the lentil mixture. Top with the remaining aubergine slices, then the remaining lentil mixture, then the potato slices, and finally pour over the béchamel sauce.
- Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the top is turning golden brown. Serve immediately with crusty bread and a crisp green salad.
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