Apr 03, 2013

Plant-Based Moussaka

I broke the Cardinal Rule and made this dish for the first time for company. Brave! But it turned out great so my worry was in vain. I have rarely eaten traditional Moussaka. Whenever I ate at Greek restaurants I’d always order the spinach pie and a salad. So, not being very familiar with the way it “should” taste, it was a tad adventurous adapting it to my vegan menu.

It takes a bit of time to put this together but what I love about it is that it can be prepared ahead of time… like lasagna. Then you can avoid scrambling around while company is waiting. I scrambled around anyway. I never give myself adequate time to prepare when company is coming for dinner. I must like it that way because I’m always “in the weeds” when cooking for a crowd. Must be the adrenaline rush or something.

Anyway, THE most amazing part of this recipe for me was, hands down, the ground “meat” replacement (idea snitched from Diet, Dessert & Dogs). What a fabulous idea! It’s incredible to me how, after over a year of vegan recipe hunting for new ideas, I can still find something so fresh and creative. It was easy to make and it looks like, tastes like and has the texture of ground beef. Perfect for this and other recipes… like lasagna. Yes, I think it’s going to be time to make a vegan lasagna soon! 

cauliflower walnut mixture, before baking
Health trails, 
Plant-based Moussaka

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 2 hours

Serving Size: 6

A vegan twist on a Greek classic!


    ~ for the ground “beef”
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower
  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 low sodium soy sauce of your choice
  • 1 TBS dried sage
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • ~ for the veggie filling
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 can diced, no-salt-added tomatoes, drained (I used fire-roasted by Muir Glen)
  • 1 tsp Bragg’s Aminos or any low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 TBS Spike salt-free seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBS fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 large eggplant
  • ~ for the béchamel topping
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ~ for garnish
  • 1 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • sprigs of fresh thyme


    The ground “meat” should be prepared first as it can take some time to cook:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a large rimmed cookie sheet or rectangular pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Cut the cauliflower into chunks and add it to a food processor.
  4. Pulse until you reach a crumbly consistency.
  5. Do the same with the walnuts. If you have a large processor they can be processed together.
  6. Transfer the cauliflower and walnuts into a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir well. You can use your hands for this. It helps to work everything together.
  7. Spread the mixture out evenly onto the cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally. You will see the mixture start to get browner. This is good. You don’t want it to get overly browned or dried out so keep an eye on it. When it is evenly browned it is done.
  9. While the cauliflower/walnut mixture is baking, work on your veggies:
  10. Water sauté the onion until tender.
  11. Add the zucchini, bay leaf, Spike, liquid aminos and thyme and stir to combine.
  12. Drain most of the liquid from the tomatoes and add them.
  13. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated from the veggies.
  14. Deglaze with the wine.
  15. Simmer a bit more to cook off the alcohol.
  16. Meanwhile, lightly grease a deep casserole dish.
  17. Slice the eggplant into ½ inch pieces. You can peel it if you want. I usually stripe mine.
  18. Next, make your béchamel sauce:
  19. Add cashews, nutmeg and 1 cup of water to a high powdered blender and blend until smooth.
  20. Add remaining water and blend again.
  21. Assembly and finishing:
  22. Line the casserole dish with slices of the eggplant, overlapping a bit.
  23. Add all of the meat mixture and pat down to smooth it out.
  24. Add the veggies.
  25. Add another layer of eggplant.
  26. Top with the béchamel sauce and some fresh slices of tomatoes .
  27. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 min-1 hour, until a sharp knife inserted slides in easily. Basically you are just waiting for the eggplant to be tender.
  28. Take the cover off, add a sprinkle nutritional yeast, and continue baking for about 10-15 more minutes. You don’t want any water on top and the tomatoes will probably leak some water. When it’s done the sauce will have set up nicely and look slightly cracked around the edges.
  29. Let set for 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving, finishing with some sprigs of fresh thyme..


This is not a simple recipe in terms of time and effort, but is so worth it!

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6 responses to “Plant-Based Moussaka”

  1. Claudia Ring says:

    Hey Helyn.

    I'm very happy your emails are coming to me now. This veggie moussaka was wonderful! Question, though. My bechamel sauce did not thicken. Any helpful hints?

  2. Helyn says:

    Hi Claudia! Oh, good, glad you're getting them now… hmmm… not sure why it wouldn't thicken. I've made many sauces this way and it always thickens up. You baked it WITH the sauce on and followed the recipe and directions exactly?

  3. Claudia Ring says:

    I feel I did. Add some of water and cashews to my Vitamix with nutmeg. Blend till smooth, then add this rest of the water. Pour on top of moussaka.

    I will be trying this again, so if you see nothing wrong with what I did, I'll report how the next one goes.

  4. Helyn says:

    Yes, please let me know how the second round goes. I really have no clue as to what when wrong :-

  5. Barbara says:

    Hi Helen,
    I love your recipes! I have been looking for vegan comfort food recipes and I hit the “motherlode”! I spent the better part of Sunday looking at your site. Yum is all I can say.
    So my first recipe…the Vegan Moussaka! It turned out amazing. My only mistake was not grinding down the walnuts enough. I think that combo should always be in the refrigerator as a go to “meat”. I loved the flavors. I can see using it a lot for who knows what.
    Your inspiration will certainly help me on my journey to further clean up my diet and eat less meat. I have decided this week will be meatless. I will be on your site a lot! LOL!
    Baking the artichoke stuffed mushrooms now. I will let you know how they come out. Thank you again for your inspiration and wonderful recipes.

    • helynskitchen says:

      Barbara you are so welcome! Glad you’re here! I’m always available for questions so don’t hesitate to contact me about any recipe. Enjoy and have fun!! xo

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