Reducetarian,  Savories

Reducetarian Moussaka

The first time I ever had Moussaka I was living in Los Angeles, California with my good friend Rachel. One Sunday morning Rachel announced that she was going to make Moussaka and I — being the good New England WASP that I am — nodded along as though I had any idea what she was about to prepare. Look, Morales didn’t have bobsleds in San Juan, and we didn’t have Moussaka in rural Maine.

Need a gluten-free version of my Reducetarian Moussaka? See the notes section in the recipe below.

What came out of the kitchen that evening was life-changing. Here was a dish that took literally all day to prepare, but when it was done you were rewarded with this unctuous, hearty stack of eggplant and spiced meat all topped with the most billowy béchamel you’ve ever put a fork through.

I frequently asked Rachel for Moussaka after that day, but — remembering the near 12-hour slog it was — she usually demurred. And I don’t blame her for this. Look, I love good food and I am willing to put some serious time into a Sunday evening meal, but the idea of rising at 6am to start dinner just doesn’t appeal to me. Speeding up this dish was a prerequisite.

The breakthrough on this front came when I made Felicitys Cloak’s “Perfect” Moussaka a few years ago. And I will not lie to you, the basic method below is directly borrowed from hers. She saves time by prepping parts of the dish as others sit in or on the stove doing their thing, and she jettisons a whole slew of traditional ingredients that you don’t really need as you can’t taste them anyway. The down side of her recipe? It lacks the oomph that I remember when Rachel first pulled her Moussaka from the oven all those years ago in California. Now, I don’t know about you but if I’m going to spend two hours making dinner I want that dinner to have ample oomph.

And why make it meat-free you ask? Well, Lyndon and I are doing our best to have more meat-free meals every week. It’s our goal for 2021, actually.

I can’t lie to you, I’m not sure I could ever be a vegetarian. And — with massive apologies to the throngs of vegans out there who probably want me to be vegan — I will never-ever-ever be able to go through life without eating cheese. I am simply not strong enough. 🧀⁠

That said, I am 100% interested in reducatarianism. Don’t freak if you’re new to this concept, it may be the most forgiving, most agreeable, least stress-inducing thing you’ve ever looked into. There is just one through line: Reduce your consumption of animal products. And that is easy to get on board with. It’s good for our bodies, good for the planet, and good for general cow happiness. #🐮 It’s a win-win-win.⁠

So let’s roll up our sleeves and have at it. My Reducetarian Moussaka is a rich, hearty, heavily spiced Moussaka that you can churn out in two hours flat. And it comes with the added bonus of being a sneakily-vegetarian dish. Prep it the same day, prep it a day ahead, prep it in stages… it doesn’t matter. It will be waiting for you in all its cow-free glory when you are ready for it.

Enjoy! 😀👍🏻🐮

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Reducetarian Moussaka

  • Author: Matthew Smedal
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 4 healthy portions 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Greek
  • Diet: Vegetarian


My Reducetarian Moussaka is a rich, hearty, heavily spiced Moussaka that you can churn out in two hours flat. And it comes with the added bonus of being a sneakily-vegetarian dish. Prep it the same day, prep it a day ahead, prep it in stages… it doesn’t matter. It will be waiting for you in all its cow-free glory when you are ready for it. ⁠So save a cow, and get ready to win dinner with my Reducetarian Moussaka.



for the base:

  • 2 healthy pounds of eggplant (1 kilogram) 
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (plus up to 1/2 teaspoon more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound of plant-based meat (500 grams)*
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup water (150 milliliters)
  • 2/3 cup red wine (150 milliliters)**
  • A handful of Italian parsley
  • olive oil

for the béchamel sauce:

  • 3 cups whole milk (750 milliliters)
  • 6 tablespoons butter (90 grams)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (90 grams)
  • 3/4 cup shredded gruyere (90 grams
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg 


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375°F (180°C+fan). Pour yourself a glass of wine. Here we go.
  2. Dice your onion. Mince your garlic. Chop your parsley. Grate your gruyere
  3. Slice your eggplant into 1/4-inch rounds. Rub them with olive oil, place them onto baking sheets, and rain salt and pepper down on top of them. Bake them for 20-25 minutes or until they have turned soft and golden.
  4. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add your chopped onion and cook about 5 minutes, until the onion has become soft, but before it takes on any color. Add in your garlic, cinnamon, and oregano and cook 2 more minutes. Add in your plant-based meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat browns and the pan starts to look dry. Add in your tomato paste, water, wine, season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and simmer (stirring occasionally) for 40 minutes. Most of the liquid will cooked off.
  5. Now, let’s get to work on your béchamel sauce: Heat your milk until it’s just about to boil (small bubbles on the surface). While the milk heats, melt your butter in a large sauce pan. Add your flour to your melted butter and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until you can no longer see individual specks of flour and there is a faint hint of color to the mixture (congratulations, you have just made a roux! Parisian kitchens, here you come).
  6. Little by little pour the hot milk into your roux, whisking like your life depends on it. Cook and whisk until the sauce becomes quite thick, then add in your grated gruyere and whisk until it melts. Remove your sauce from the heat. Crack your eggs into a medium sized bowl and whisk them. Very slowly, pour some of the hot sauce into the eggs, whisking like crazy so the eggs don’t scramble (this is called tempering the eggs). Add a little more of the hot sauce into the eggs, and then upend the tempered eggs into the sauce pan. Whisk, whisk, whisk. Add your nutmeg, sprinkle a healthy pinch of salt and pepper over the top and taste. If it’s not completely divine add another pinch of salt and pepper and taste again. Repeat adding salt and pepper until you scream in delight at the flavor.
  7. Add your parsley to the sauté pan with your moussaka base and taste. If the spices aren’t quite present enough for you add up to 1/2 teaspoon more cinnamon.
  8. Place roughly a third of your eggplant slices on the bottom of a 13×9″ baking dish. Top these with 50% of your moussaka base and repeat until you have 5 layers: eggplant, base, eggplant, base, eggplant. Pour your béchamel over the top, trying your very best to use all of it (you may have a little extra).
  9. Bake for roughly 40 minutes or until until the top has become a glorious golden-brown, and serve.


*You want to buy a block of plant-based ground meat. It will be in the meat aisle of your supermarket along side regular blocks of ground meat, and will look exactly like vacuum packed ground meat. One well-known producer sells 12-ounce (not 16-ounce) packs and if this is the kind you buy that’s COMPLETELY FINE. Just use the 12-ounces, don’t buy a whole second pack to make up the difference.

To make a gluten-free béchamel sauce, omit the flour and reserve 3/4 cup of cold milk. Add 1/4 cup of cornstarch to the cold milk and whisk to combine. Add the cornstarch + milk mixture to the sauce just after the eggs go in, and whisk over heat until the sauce thickens.

Keywords: reducetarian, vegetarian, fake-meat, moussaka


  • Rachel L Coosaia

    I am going to make this, next week! I have to use a dairy free bechemel, so wish me luck on that… Hopefully it will compare to our Tujuna version! XO

  • Beth H

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was excellent. It probably took me a little longer than two hours, but I am slow at chopping my ingredients. I didn’t tell my husband he wasn’t eating real beef and he never knew the difference. We are very excited to have it for leftovers tomorrow. Thank you.

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