Ready for the BEST vegetarian moussaka recipe?! Layers of roasted eggplant, potatoes, and zucchini with a tasty chunky tomato-lentil sauce nestled in, and topped with creamy bechamel sauce!

This roasted vegetable moussaka is easier to put together than you think. Be sure to check out my step-by-step tutorial and grab my make-ahead tips below!

Vegetarian moussaka with eggplant, potatoes, zucchini and bechamel on top

A little twist on traditional moussaka

We can all agree that moussaka is Greek comfort food at it's finest!

And, yes, the popular flavor-packed eggplant casserole, topped with creamy bechamel sauce, is a labor of love. There are typically several layers and a few steps involved.  But if you've ever made it, you know that it's totally worth the effort for a special family dinner.

I shared my earlier moussaka recipe, made with a juicy meat sauce, earlier, and many of you have tried it and loved it! Since then, I have gotten many requests for a meatless version.

I've been playing around with different ingredients, and I finally have the BEST vegetarian moussaka that is as scrumptious and tasty as my meat-lovers' version.

This vegetable moussaka casserole is made of layers of quick-roasted vegetables; a tasty rich tomato sauce with black lentils in place of ground meat; and creamy bechamel to top it all.

Let’s dive more into this vegetarian eggplant moussaka, what's in it, and how to make it!

Vegetable moussaka after baking. Golden brown bechamel layer

Vegetable moussaka components

It helps to think of this vegetarian moussaka recipe as having three components: vegetables; a vegetarian sauce; and a top layer of creamy bechamel.

To make the best vegetarian moussaka, it took some tinkering around with ingredients to make a version that felt just as hearty and unctuous as my earlier meaty beef (or lamb) version.

To really knock this recipe out of the park, I had to find the PERFECT meat substitute that held up well in the sauce and provided a great hearty texture. The verdict? Black  Beluga lentils.

Black lentils are petite and cook fairly quickly. They have a wonderful, creamy consistency; full-bodied and earthy flavor. Not to mention, they're a great source of protein, polyphenolas, iron, and fiber...(find black lentils here.)

In this vegetarian moussaka, a scrumptious tomato-lentil sauce--with a fragrant pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon--is nestled between quick-roasted vegetables, including tender eggplant. And of course to top our eggplant casserole is none other than creamy bechamel sauce!

What vegetables go in vegetarian moussaka? And what else do you need to make it?

The components of this vegetarian moussaka recipe are not hard to make. There are three components as I mentioned earlier: vegetables, sauce, and a top layer of bechamel. Let's walk through them some more:

1. Roasted Vegetables

For this vegetarian eggplant moussaka recipe, eggplant remains the star. I also add 2 to 3 russet potatoes and 2 zucchini. All the veggies are sliced the long way to create our different layers.

Eggplant needs a little extra TLC. So we start with giving our eggplant slices a sprinkle of kosher salt and leave it alone for 20 to 30 minutes to "sweat out" any bitterness.

To prepare the vegetables for our vegetarian moussaka, we give them a quick roast in hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Tomato-Lentil Sauce

This lentil sauce is my vegetarian replacement for meat sauce.

It incorporates cooked black bluga lentils with crushed tomatoes and aromatics like minced garlic, onions, a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon. After a brief simmer, this sauce is hearty and creamy, you won't miss the meat.

3. Bechamel

We're not taking shortcuts here with this roasted vegetable moussaka. The very top layer of creamy bechamel is essential, making this dish as scrumptious and comforting as they come!

Although bechamel sounds scary and intimidating, it is fairly easy to make (we've done it before in this pastitsio recipe.) Essentially, you make a roux with flour and quality extra virgin olive oil (some use butter, but I prefer olive oil here.)  Let it brown a tad,  add in warm milk (bit-by-bit), whisk, season, and add in tempered eggs, while continuing to whisk a little bit more until nice and smooth.

Let's get to the step-by-step...

How to Make this Vegetarian Moussaka – Step-by-Step

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and salt the eggplant. Slice eggplant length-wise. Sprinkle with kosher salt on both sides and place on a large sheet lined with paper towel. Let eggplant "sweat" for 20 to 30 minutes or so, while you work on other things.  This will help the taste and texture of the eggplant. When ready, pat excess moisture.2. Make the bechamel. Pour extra virgin olive oil in a pot and let heat till shimmering but not smoking. Add the flour, salt, and pepper and stir around until the mixture turns a light golden brown. Slowly add your warmed milk, while whisking continuously.

In a small bowl, whisk a small amount of the hot bechamel mixture with the 2 eggs. Then return all to the pan with the remaining bechamel mixture. Continue to stir or whisk the mixture bringing to a gentle boil for just 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken a little more (you should have a creamy, thick and smooth bechamel sauce).

Tip: if your olive oil and flour mixture is too dry and looks chunky, drizzle in a little more olive oil until it looks like a smooth paste.

Bechamel

3. Prepare the tomato-lentil sauce. First, saute the onions and garlic briefly until they smell delicious. Add your already COOKED black lentils, tomatoes, and broth. Season and add spices. Let it come to a boil and then over part way with a lid, turn the heat down, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

How to cook black lentils for this sauce?  To cook the black lentils first before you add them to sauce, begin with ½ cup dry black lentils. Add 1 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are tender (about 20 to 25 minutes, adding more water as needed to keep the lentils submerged.) Drain.

Tomato black lentil sauce for vegetarian moussaka

4. Roast the Vegetables.  While the lentil sauce is simmering, take your dry eggplant and place it with the potatoes and zucchini on lightly-oiled baking sheets (you'll need more than one baking sheet to spread the veggies in one layer.)  Sprinkle the zucchini and potatoes with salt (eggplant is already salted.)

Give the veggies a brush of extra virgin olive oil. Roast in heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Roasted eggplant for vegetable moussaka

Roasted potatoes and zucchini for vegetable moussaka

5. Assemble to moussaka. You have made it, time to put it all together!

Ladle a little bit of the lentil sauce on the bottom of a lightly oiled casserole pan. Layer the roasted veggies on top...

Roasted vegetables layered in baking pan

Now add the rest of the tomato lentil sauce...

Tomato lentil sauce added on top of roasted vegetables

Add bechamel on top. Be sure to spread the bechamel and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.

Assembled Vegetarian Moussaka before baking

6. Bake!  The vegetarian moussaka casserole can take somewhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour in your heated oven.

You're looking for the top bechamel layer to turn a nice golden brown (if needed, place it under the broiler for a tiny bit, watching very closely to make sure you get the color you want.)

Baked vegetable moussaka

Can you eat eggplant skin?

Many people think eating eggplant skin is a no-no, but the exact opposite is true. When eggplant is cooked, the skin becomes tender and soft and is great to eat. It packs lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

(If you need to, you can partially peel the eggplant leaving just some of the skin on.)

Why do you salt eggplant?

The first step I take whenever I work with eggplant, whether to fry or roast it, is salting it. This is important for two reasons:

First, it allows a lot of the moisture in the eggplant to release. If you cook eggplant without salting and patting dry with paper towels, your moussaka can get watery and make your dish soggy and less flavorful. Nobody wants that!

Second, eggplant tends to be a little bitter and the salt counteracts that bitterness. You are left with a much sweet and milder slice of eggplant after salting.

To save time in this recipe, as you saw in the step-by-step above, I start by salting the eggplant then move on to working on the bechamel etc. if you are going to make moussaka, do it right!

Vegetarian moussaka in blue baking dish

Can this vegetable moussaka be prepared ahead?

Despite the number of steps involved, this vegetarian moussaka is not too complicated to prepare. And, even better,  you can prepare parts of this recipe ahead of time. You have a couple of options...

You can cut and roast all your veggies, make the tomato lentil sauce, and even prepare the bechamel 1 night in advance (I've done it 2 nights in advance as well, but since there may be leftovers, I try not to work too far ahead.)

You can store the different components in separate containers in the fridge, and when you are ready, assemble and bake!

If you decide to make the bechamel in advance, you will need to warm it up in pot before you can pour it on the top of your moussaka. As it sits in the fridge, it will get very thick and slightly gelatinous. You may need to add an extra splash of milk to thin the sauce out and get it back to its pourable consistency.

If you don’t want to worry about this, just make the bechamel right before you are going to assemble. That way it’s fresh and requires no extra steps.

Leftovers

You’re likely to have leftovers, which is great because it tastes just as good the next day. You can place them in an airtight container for about 3 days.

Can you freeze vegetarian moussaka?

If you need to freeze your leftovers, it is a perfect solution for making the vegetarian moussaka last longer. It will keep well for up to 1 month in the freezer. Plus, no thawing needed, it can be baked right away from freezer to oven!

What do you serve with this eggplant casserole?

This type of eggplant casserole is a full meal in and of itself. But if you are looking for a little something extra, add a big Greek salad or simple Shirazi salad to start.

Still want some meat? Server a few Keftedes or a couple skewers of souvlaki along.

You may  also like:

Eggplant Lasagna 

Eggplant Rollatini

Caponata

Baked Zucchini

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Vegetarian moussaka with eggplant, potatoes, zucchini and bechamel on top

BEST Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe


  • Author: Suzy Karadsheh
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 pieces 1x

Description

Ready for the BEST vegetarian moussaka recipe?! Layers of roasted eggplant, potatoes, and zucchini with a tasty chunky tomato-lentil sauce nestled in, and topped with creamy bechamel sauce!

This roasted vegetable moussaka is easier to put together than you think. Be sure to check out my step-by-step tutorial and grab my make-ahead tips.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 1 ½ lb), partially peeled and sliced length-wise
  • Salt
  • 3 Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise (½-inch in thickness)
  • 2 large zucchini, sliced length-wise (½-inch in thickness)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil)

For Bechamel:

  • ⅓ cup + 2 tbsp Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt, more if you like
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups 2% milk, warmed
  • 2 large eggs

For Lentil Sauce:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ¼ cup COOKED black lentils (from ½ cup uncooked black lentils. See notes)
  • 1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup broth or water
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch cinnamon

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Salt Eggplant. While oven is heating, spread eggplant slices on a large pan lined with paper towel and sprinkle with kosher salt set aside for 20 to 30 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels
  3. Make the Bechamel. While the eggplant is sitting, work on the bechamel sauce. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook until golden (if needed, added a little more olive oil). Gradually add the warmed milk, whisking continuously. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Add nutmeg. In a small bowl, whisk a small amount of the hot bechamel mixture with the 2 eggs. Then return all to the pan with the remaining bechamel mixture. Continue to stir or whisk the mixture bringing to a gentle boil for just 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken a little more (you should have a creamy, thick and smooth bechamel sauce).
  4. Make Lentil Sauce. In a cooking pot or large non-stick pan, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Sautee onions and garlic for a brief 3 to 4 minutes till fragrant, tossing regularly. Stir in COOKED black lentils, crushed tomatoes and broth or water. Season with a dash of kosher salt, and add oregano, nutmeg and a small pinch of ground cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover only part-way. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or so.
  5. Bake Vegetables. While lentil sauce is simmering, bake the vegetables. Arrange the potatoes, zucchini and eggplant slices on lightly oiled baking sheets. Brush with extra virgin olive oil. Bake in heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes just until tender.
  6. Assemble Vegetarian Moussaka in a 9 x 13 baking dish. First, pour a bit of the lentil sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and spread. Layer the vegetables on top. Add the remainder of the lentil sauce. Finally, spread bechamel sauce on top, making sure to smooth it out well with the back of a spoon.
  7. Bake. Place moussaka casserole on the middle rack of your heated oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until top bechamel layer turns golden brown.(If needed, place under broiler and watch very carefully till top turns a nice golden brown.)
  8. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Cut into 12 squares. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Cook's Tip 1: Do not skip salting the eggplant. This step helps season the eggplant, while allowing it to sweat out any bitterness. It also helps relax it's spongy texture.
  • Cook's Tip #2: Once moussaka is baked, be sure to let it rest for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving. This allows the bechamel topping to settle so it's easier and less messy to serve.
  • Prepare Ahead Tips: You can prepare each component of this recipe--bake the veggies, make the bechamel topping and the lentil sauce one night in advance. Store each in separate containers in the fridge and assemble when you are ready to bake. If you decide to make the bechamel in advance, you will need to warm it up in pot before you can pour it on the top of your moussaka. As it sits in the fridge, it will get very thick and slightly gelatinous. You may need to add an extra splash of milk to thin the sauce out and get it back to its pourable consistency.If you don’t want to worry about this, just make the bechamel right before you are going to assemble. That way it’s fresh and requires no extra steps.
  • How to cook black lentils for this sauce?  To cook the black lentils first before you add them to sauce, begin with ½ cup dry black lentils. Add 1 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are tender (about 20 to 25 minutes, adding more water as needed to keep the lentils submerged.) Drain.
  • Leftovers? Store leftovers in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Visit Our Online Shop to purchase black bluga lentils and browse all-natural and organic spices and extra virgin olive oils including Private Reserve Greek EVOO used in this recipe!
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Vegetarian
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Greek

Keywords: Vegetarian Moussaka, Vegetable Moussaka, Vegetarian Eggplant Moussaka

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. time frame for this recipe is SO far off. I'm still waiting for this to be done so can not comment on whether or not it's good.
    But.... recipe says 1hour 30 minutes. NOT TRUE!!
    I started this at 3:30 pealing and cutting eggplant (and salted) and zucchini. Just thinking head start.
    Fully started cooking at 4:30 thinking we should be having dinner between 6 and 6:30. Well..... NO!
    It is now 7:15 and according to the recipe steps with the wait time after taking out of the oven I still have 35 minutes to go. Which means dinner will be at almost 8:00PM! SO... without the preemptive eggplant and zucchini this meal is still taking 3 1/2 hours to complete.
    At this point just hoping this was worth the effort. I guess I'll post a follow up if this was worth it.

  2. Love this recipe - I've done it several times and it always comes out really well. I agree it would be good to have metric measurements in your recipe as we usually weigh ingredients in g/ml rather than measure with cups.

  3. Still in the process of making this dish. My home smells wonderful and I can't wait to get stuck in. I believe the worst part of this meal is waiting the 20 minutes after its taken out of the oven to allow the white sauce to settle. Thanks for the recipe, I have been looking for a wonderful veg moussaka for a while.

    P.S, never thought to add nutmeg to the white sauce, oh my, delicious tease to the taste buds.