For those who think that you have to miss out on a delicious moussaka if you skip animal protein. Well, here the answer to that. An amazingly rich and creamy vegan moussaka.
Meaty without meat
Traditionally a moussaka is made with minced lamb. But lentils (full of proteins also) and walnuts make for a great substitute.
Start with creating the typical moussaka flavours; by adding nutmeg, cinnamon and oregano to onions and garlic with a good amount of red wine, and tomatoes and leave to simmer for a while (not the lentils yet). This will give it some time to release the flavours.
Add the lentils last, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Season the mixture well.
Vegan moussaka, it takes some time but good preparation is half the work
Prepare the par-boiled potatoes, pan fried aubergines and soaked cashews ahead of time. This gives you a lot better and organised preparation, as two layers of the three are done!
While the lentil mixture is simmering you can start making the vegan bechamel.
A rich and creamy vegan bechamel sauce
Cashews create just the most delicious creamy and rich sauce when blended. Therefore, cashews are often used in a vegan diet to replace creamy sauces.
The blended cashews mixed with water are very easy to adjust to a specific flavours you are looking for. In the case of this vegan moussaka, we aim for a cheesy-like flavour, which is produced by adding the nutritional yeast. And we want a light nutmeg flavour. The garlic powder gives it its deep and full flavours. I never used to have garlic powder in my cupboard until I started cooking plant based. Garlic powder cannot be substituted by fresh garlic, believe me I tried many times 😉
The texture depends on the amount of water added. For the vegan moussaka its best to aim for a thick creamy sauce, which you can nicely layer on top of the lentil mixture without dripping everywhere.
After baking the top will lightly brown but the inside is still juicy and creamy, exactly what we want for a moussaka.
This hearty dish definitely calls for a red. A fruity red with good acidity and a little black pepper. This sends me straight towards a Spanish tempranillo, a Rhone shiraz, or a chateau neuf de pape. In Italy you can go for a sangiovese or nero d’avola. But as the dish is greek you might want to opt for a greek, fruity peppery red.
Enjoy this hearty rich vegan moussaka dish with a refreshing green salad, or tomato salad. Add @haricoco1 to your instagram post if you use this recipe. So we can share our various moussaka creations.
2 tins of lentils, so approx. 530gr cooked lentils
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
40 gr (1/2 cup) toasted almond, crushed into small pieces
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
100 ml (1/2 cup) red wine
1 tbsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp, nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
250 gr (2 cups) raw cashews, pre-soaked
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp white miso paste
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper
250 ml (1 cup) water
Pre-heat oven to 180C / 350F
Soak the cashews overnight. Or the quick option is to boil the cashews, and leave to stand covered for 15 – 20 minutes.
Pre-cook the potatoes for approx. 10 minutes (depending on your potatoes) until just cooked but still hard. After cooling down, slice the potatoes into 3 or 4 mm thickness (0.15 inch)
Slice the aubergines into even slices 3 or 4 mm thickness. You can do this either lengthwise or rounds. Pan fry these slices in olive oil and a pinch of salt in a pan until nicely browned (you might have to add more oil during the process). You can roast the aubergine slices as well if you prefer, layer them on a roasting tray with oil and salt and roast for approx. 25 minutes until nicely browned.
Chop all the ingredients for your lentil mixture, and drain your lentils.
Heat a heavy bottom pan on medium heat, and add at least 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Sauté the chopped onions with a good pinch of salt. When the onions become slightly translucent add the chopped garlic and give it a stir for 2 minutes.
Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, Oregano, and bay leaf. and stir for another minute.
Stir in first the wine, and leave to cook for 1 or 2 minutes, followed by the tinned tomatoes.
Bring to a simmer, and leave to simmer (covered) for approx. 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes add the lentils, and leave to simmer (covered) for another 10 minutes.
Season your lentil mixture with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, to your liking.
Vegan Bechamel sauce;
Blend the soaked, rinsed and drained cashews in a food processor. When the cashews are well blended start adding the water to create a saucy texture to the thickness of a thick cream.
Add all the other ingredients (garlic powder, nutmeg, nutritional yeast, white miso paste, pinch of salt and black pepper) and blend well into a smooth creamy texture.
layering and baking
Oil an oven tray and start layering the first layer; Potatoes.
On top of the potatoes a layer of aubergines.
And on top of that a good thick layer of the lentil mixture.
Add another layer of potatoes on top
And another layer of aubergines.
Topped with a thin layer of the lentil mixture.
Now cover with a good thick layer of the bechamel sauce.
Put the vegan moussaka in a hot oven and bake for approx. 25 – 30 minutes, until you can see the edges of the bechamel starting to brown.
Let the moussaka cool down for at least 15 minutes, before serving.
Serve this vegan moussaka with a nice refreshing salad.
This moussaka is best fresh, but can be kept in the fridge for up to three days.
This moussaka recipe is part of my new series; ‘Travels of taste‘. We use our taste buds to travel the world. So today we find ourselves around the Mediterranean. Sensing its fresh air & hot sun and tasting its incredible fresh food. Check out my full Mediterranean ‘travels of taste’ post; >>> The Med; Olive oil, herbs & fresh produce.