Easy Bulgarian Vegetarian Moussaka made with saucy tomato lentils, potatoes, and a savory egg custard that melts in your mouth! The perfect family dinner that comes together in just 1 hour!
This recipe was updated on 02/02/22 with better content.
Did you know that moussaka is the traditional Bulgarian food that everyone in the country knows and loves? It's one of those comforting family meals that bring nostalgic feelings for me.
This Bulgarian Vegetarian Moussaka is easy and simple to prepare, but the flavors are rich, compound, and balanced, and it will keep you going back for seconds (and dare I say even thirds)!
What is Moussaka?
Moussaka is an eggplant and/or potato-based dish, often including ground meat and layers of bechamel sauce (source).
While it has a lot of variations, In Bulgaria we don't use eggplant or bechamel sauce. Traditional Bulgarian moussaka consists of potatoes, meat, and tomatoes, as well as a savory custard made out of eggs and yogurt.
Our version uses lentils to replace the ground meat, but is just as delicious and completely vegetarian!
Ingredients and Notes
- Lentils. It's best to use red lentils, as i haven't tested this recipe with other types of lentils.
- Canned tomatoes. Use whole peeled tomatoes for best flavor.
- Potatoes. We like to use starchy potatoes like Yukon Gold.
- Yogurt. This recipe works best with full-fat Greek yogurt. This recipe won't work with fat-free yogurt.
How to Make Bulgarian Vegetarian Moussaka
To a large pot, heat some oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots, and saute for 8-10 minutes, until golden.
Then, add spices and saute for 1-2 more minutes, until fragrant.
Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, mushrooms, potatoes, red lentils, salt, and black pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.
Simmer on medium-low heat for 25-30 minutes, or until the red lentils are cooked through and there is no liquid left. Make sure to stir occasionally so the bottom doesn't burn.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and transfer the lentil ragu to a baking dish.
Then, in a bowl mix the eggs, yogurt, and spices until smooth. Pour the mixture over the ragu into an even layer.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let the moussaka rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing!
- Cook the lentils until there is no liquid left. You don't want a soggy moussaka so make sure to give the lentils enough time to cook through.
- Let the moussaka rest before slicing. This is optional but we recommend at least 15 minutes of rest time so that it can set.
- Use low-sodium vegetable broth. This way you are in control of the saltiness level and you're less likely to oversalt your food.
- For a dairy-free moussaka, use plant-based yogurt. We recommend using unsweetened soy yogurt or coconut yogurt.
Bulgarian moussaka and lasagna are very different. Moussaka doesn't have pasta, or cheese, and has only two layers- the lentils and the custard, whereas lasagna can have up to 4 layers.
Yes, this is the best part of the recipe! You can prepare the lentil ragu 2-3 days in advance, then assemble and bake, following the instruction as written.
If stored properly, moussaka will last for 4-5 days in the fridge. Remember to save it in an air-tight container!
Yes! You can freeze it for 1 month (and sometimes longer). For best flavor and texture, let it thaw completely before reheating.
More Vegetarian Dinner Recipes
Easy Vegetarian Moussaka with Mushrooms
- A pot
- A baking dish
For the bottom layer
- 2 tablespoon olive oil, for cooking (or any oil)
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 1 large carrots, cubed
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- 3 cups vegetable broth or water
- ½ of a 14.5oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand (or use 2 medium chopped fresh tomatoes)
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 2 cups cubed potatoes (~2 large potatoes)
- 3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
- ½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- A handful of parsley, chopped (optional)
For the top layer
- 5 medium eggs
- 1 ½ cups full-fat Greek yogurt*
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- To a pot, heat 2 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and carrots and saute for 3-4 minutes, until fragnant. Add garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, and ground coriander (optional), and saute for 1-2 minutes, until the spices are toasted.
- Add potatoes, mushrooms, red lentils, vegetable broth (or water), canned tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes), salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring often, until the lentils are cooked through and there is no liquid left (it's ok if the potatoes are not fully cooked through).
- Once ready, remove the ragu from the heat and stir in the chopped parsley (optional). Transfer it to a 8x10 inch (21x25cm) baking dish.
- Pre-heat oven to 180C (356F). In the meantime, prepare the top layer. To a medium bowl, add eggs, yogurt, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Mix until creamy and smooth.
- Pour the egg mixture over the lentils layer and even it out.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Keep an eye on it after 25 minutes, to make sure the top isn't burning. I recommend to let the moussaka rest for 15 minutes before slicing, but it's optional.