Vegetarian (Meatless) Moussaka Recipe

Meatless Moussaka. Photo © Lynn Livanos Athan
    2 hrs
Ratings (11)

Moussaka (moo-sah-KAH) is perhaps the most widely recognized Greek dish. It is a layered casserole traditionally made with eggplant, cheese, meat sauce and béchamel, a white sauce where warm milk is whisked into a butter-flour mixture.

This recipe is a result of tinkering with the traditional ingredients to make a lighter, vegetarian moussaka recipe. I wouldn't recommend trying to whip this up on a busy weeknight as it is still quite time consuming. When you have the time to devote to prepping the vegetables and baking the dish, it will make an excellent dinner entree for friends and family.

What You'll Need

  • Vegetables
  • 2 to 3 eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 1/4 pounds potatoes
  • 4 eggs, separated (reserve yolks for bechamel)
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 15 ounce can chickpeas, (garbanzo beans) drained, rinsed and mashed
  • One 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Béchamel Sauce
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk, warmed
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten (reserved from above)
  • A pinch ground nutmeg
  • For Assembly
  • 3/4 cup grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

How to Make It

Prep the Vegetables

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Place the eggplant and zucchini slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover with an inverted plate weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink and let sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole for about 10 minutes. They should not get too soft, just enough to be tender. Drain, cool and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat lightly with a fork or whisk. Spread breadcrumbs on a flat plate.
  2. Rinse the eggplant and zucchini slices and blot excess moisture with paper towels. Set the zucchini aside with the potatoes. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place breaded eggplant slices on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes turning them once during cooking.
  3. When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 F.

Make the Tomato Sauce

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add mashed chickpeas to pan with tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered so that excess liquid can be cooked out.

Make the Béchamel Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Let the flour cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
  2. Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.
  3. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil. Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens, being careful not to scorch it.

Assemble the Moussaka

  1. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 x 3 inch baking pan. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with breadcrumbs.
  2. Leaving a small space around the edges of the pan, cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of potatoes. Top with a layer of eggplant slices. Add tomato sauce on top of eggplant and sprinkle with grated cheese.
  3. Add zucchini slices next. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with grated cheese.
  4. Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a knife and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.
  5. Bake in 350 F oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can make part of this dish ahead but stop before making the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Cook the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake the Moussaka.