This is an easy, healthy, vegetarian, dairy-free and grain-free take on moussaka that happens to be perfect for Whole30, Paleo, gluten-free, and vegan lifestyles, as well.
What is moussaka? It is an eggplant casserole that can often be found on Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Mediterranean tables. Sometimes made with meat, sometimes made with chopped eggplant, other times made with slices of eggplant and layered lasagna-style, but always packed with rich, bold, flavor.
Moussaka is most often assembled similar to a Shepherd’s Pie with the flavorful mixture on the bottom, then a topping of mashed potatoes. The mashed potato mixture is then topped with bechamel, which bakes up bubbly and golden brown. I like to layer the eggplant stew with cooked mashed potatoes, sort of lasagna meets Shepherd’s Pie style.
Our North African cooking sauce makes a wonderful recipe starter for this easy and delicious take on moussaka. (I love fusion food, don’t you!?) Just add a touch more cinnamon and nutmeg to our flavorful, complex blend made of onions, garlic, roasted bell pepper, lemon, and whole ground spices and you’ve got a beautiful base for a really amazing moussaka with a global gourmet twist.
I created a cashew-based, dairy-free, grain-free bechamel to top this moussaka recipe, making it perfect for anyone following a Whole30, Paleo, or vegetarian lifestyle. The flavor of this dairy-free bechamel sauce is so delicious, and really nutritious in itself, making it a lighter, healthier alternative to traditional bechamel. But any traditional bechamel recipe would work great as well.
If you do want to make this recipe with meat, simply start by cooking up ground meat of your choice (lamb or beef would be traditional, but ground turkey, pork or chicken works as well) until golden brown, then proceed with the recipe. *If you enjoy dairy, a final topping of feta cheese across the top sure would certainly be delicious, too.
I hope you love our healthy and delicious, easy take on a moussaka recipe! Watch the video below to see how easy it is to make, and make sure and tag us on social media if you make it yourself!
Moussaka recipe with Mesa de Vida
- 2 tsp healthy oil/fat of your choice
- 4 cups eggplant diced into 1" cubes *Chinese eggplant has a thinner, less bitter skin and seeds and doesn't need to be peeled. If you use a traditional, dark purple eggplant, you may want to peel first.
- 1 green bell pepper cut into 1" dice
- 1 jar Mesa de Vida North African cooking and seasoning sauce
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 14 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp kosher/sea salt, or to taste
- 4 cups prepared mashed potatoes *I make my mashed potatoes by cooking 1 lb gold potatoes + 1 cup water in the Instant Pot for 8 minutes. Pour off most of the water when done, then mash with ghee or olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Can be prepared while your eggplant mixture is cooking, or use leftover mashed potatoes.
- 1 – 1/2 cups bechamel sauce traditional, or try our vegan/dairy-free/grain free/Whole30/Paleo cashew version, below
Dairy and grain-free bechamel sauce
- 1-3/4 cups boiling water
- 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Tb nutritional yeast
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 pinch kosher/sea salt
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot add oil, swirl to coat.
- Add eggplant, bell pepper, Mesa de Vida North African cooking and seasoning sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, canned tomatoes, and salt to taste. Stir well, bring to a simmer, cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the eggplant and pepper is tender, and the mixture is thick and stew-like. Remove from heat.*Depending on the size of your pot and stove, you may need to add a bit of water to help the ingredients stew down. Add a couple of tablespoons at a time until the consistency is just right. Alternately, if your vegetables are a bit too watery, remove the lid from the pan and raise the heat up to medium-high. Cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the mixture is thick and rich.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Add 1/2 of the vegetable stew mixture to the bottom of a baking dish. Crumble half of the mashed potato mixture evenly over the top. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients. *You can also simply place all of the vegetable mixture into the dish, then top with the mashed potatoes, Shepherds Pie style if you'd like.
- Pour the bechamel over the top, spread until smooth.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until just beginning to brown on top. Rest for 15 minutes before serving.
To make the cashew bechamel:
- Pour boiling water over the cashews, let sit for 1 hour. Blend the cashews, water, and remaining ingredients until very smooth. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until thick and the sauce coats the back of a spoon (this took just 2-3 minutes for me.) Set aside and use as needed.
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