This vegan moussaka is a hearty, delicious, veggie filled stew packed full of flavor. You really won’t miss the béchamel topping, with this Lebanese style eggplant!
What is moussaka?
Moussaka is traditionally a Greek dish with eggplants/and or potatoes in a rich meat stew, topped with a creamy white sauce and baked.
However, we have a Middle Eastern moussaka very common in the Levantine region of the Middle East. It’s a lot lighter, with no creamy sauce at all, and can be made with or without meat. It’s often referred to as Maghmoura. Lebanese Moussaka never tasted so good!
Why make this vegan moussaka?
It gives all the hearty and delicious flavor that you’d expect from moussaka, but instead of attempting a vegan bechamel or vegan cream sauces, it makes the whole thing so much easier by just omitting the creamy layer. You really won’t miss it!
The combination of eggplant, chickpeas, and bell pepper make this so filling and full of delicious contrasting textures.
The eggplant in this recipe is roasted instead of fried, a healthier, easier, and much less messy option.
It’s a highly adaptable dish, you can throw in any veggies you like, omit any you don’t, swap out the spices.
It tastes even better the next day! The flavors really develop overnight in the fridge, so this is one of the few times I like leftovers more than the fresh dish.
What ingredients do you need for this dish?
The veggies: Eggplants, diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and a green bell pepper. This is a winning combo! Lots of sliced caramelized onion, and garlic for flavor.
The spices: I used seven spices, commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. You can make your own via the recipe here, or just use any mixed spice you have and like. I also use cinnamon, along with black pepper and salt. Kept it simple, but feel free to add paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, anything you like!
The sauce: Crushed tomatoes, plus some additional tomato paste to deepen the flavor. I also added a touch of pomegranate molasses which I LOVE, especially in tomato based applications. You can find this at any Middle Eastern specialty store, it has a really special flavor, tangy and sticky and a little sweet. If you can’t find it, you can either leave it out or substitute with balsamic vinegar. The sauce is also thinned out slightly with 1/2 cup water.
Steps to making vegetarian moussaka:
Roasting the eggplant: I personally prefer roasting eggplant to frying it. Frying soaks up a lot of oil, and can be really messy and time consuming to have to stand over the frying pan. Roasting is a lot easier, and I enjoy the flavor a lot more.
Making the stew: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, and caramelize the onions. Next, add the garlic, and diced tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes until tomatoes start to release liquid. Add the tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, spices and drained chickpeas and simmer for a few minutes.
Assemble: Mix together the stew, the roasted eggplant, and the diced bell pepper and pour into a baking dish. Cook in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, covered in foil so it stays saucy, until bubbling.
FAQs and expert tips for the best Lebanese Moussaka:
Don’t be afraid of spicing this up with warming spices like cinnamon, and feel free to add more spice like dried cumin, paprika, dried coriander.
Roasted eggplant freezes beautifully, I usually make a big batch of roasted eggplant cubes and freeze for future dishes, cutting out prep time significantly.
Cook the onions through thoroughly to soften and slightly caramelize them before adding in the rest of the ingredients, this gives great flavor.
You can leave out the chickpeas if you like. You can also substitute other veggies, like okra, zucchini, sweet potato. Make this to your taste!
You can also add ground beef or lamb to the skillet after the onions caramelize, and turn this into a non-vegetarian moussaka. Super yummy too!
If you like the sauce to be thinner, you can add more water.
What to serve vegetarian moussaka with:
I like this with rice, plain basmati rice or vermicelli rice. You can find an easy recipe for vermicelli rice here, a commonly served rice with many Middle Eastern stews. For a healthier option, I often use brown basmati rice.
This would be delicious with couscous, or quinoa. You could have this plain, or dip some pita bread in it to eat it, also a common practice..
You can have this dish warm, room temp or cold. It’s delicious any way!
Storing leftover vegan moussaka:
Leftovers will last tightly covered in the fridge for 4-5 days. You can reheat in the microwave or on the stove top.
This dish will freeze well, in a tightly covered container for 2-3 months. Thaw overnight before reheating.
Vegan Moussaka – Lebanese Eggplant
For the eggplant:
- 2-3 medium sized eggplants
- salt to sprinkle
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the rest of the dish:
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 tomatoes, diced in pretty big pieces
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses See Notes
- 1 tsp seven spices or mixed spices
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 can crushed tomatoes 14.5 oz, 400 g
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 can chickpeas, drained.
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
To roast the eggplants:
- Heat oven to 425 F (220C). Peel the eggplant, leaving some strips of skin attached. Dice into 1.5-2 inch cubes, and sprinkle generously with salt. Leave aside for 10 minutes or so while oven heats, over a colander if you can to get rid of some of the moisture.
- Pat dry, and arrange single layer in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss with hands to coat evenly. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing around halfway through cooking time, until golden brown and cooked through. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F (180C)
For the rest of the dish:
- Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet (oven safe if you have) over medium high heat. Add the sliced onions and cook until caramelized and golden brown, 6-8 minutes, tossing frequently throughout.
- Add the sliced garlic and diced tomatoes, then lower heat to medium and simmer for five minutes.
- Add the tomato paste to the pan, and saute for 30 seconds before adding the pomegranate molasses if using, along with the seven spices, cinnamon, pepper, and salt.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and the water and simmer for a few minutes.
- Add the roasted eggplants, drained chickpeas, and diced bell pepper to the sauce, toss to combine well and transfer to an oven safe baking dish if you need to. Cover loosely with foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbling.