I’m so excited to share one of my absolute favorite dishes – Vegan Egyptian Moussaka. If you’re thinking, “Moussaka… isn’t that a Greek dish?” you’re not wrong. But today, we’re exploring the Egyptian version of this classic, and trust me; it’s an adventure worth taking.
It’s a delicious, simple dish that takes a short time to make, plus it is healthy and vegan.
Imagine layers of beautifully roasted eggplants simmered with a rich, aromatic garlic-tomato sauce, bell peppers, onions, and a medley of spices. Some versions even toss diced mushrooms for that extra ‘meaty’ texture minus the actual meat. The result? A hearty, flavor-packed dish that’s both nourishing and satisfying.
Egyptian Moussaka, or “Mesaa’a,” is a hearty main dish casserole made with ground beef or without. I will share my vegan version but feel free to add the ground between the layers.
What is Egyptian Moussaka?
While Moussaka may be more commonly associated with Greek cuisine, the Egyptian version of this dish is quite different but equally delicious. Unlike its Greek counterpart that layers eggplant with minced meat and béchamel sauce, Egyptian Moussaka is a vegan-friendly dish that showcases the humble eggplant as its star ingredient.
A classic authentic Egyptian moussaka recipe has three key components: slices of eggplant, meat sauce, and layers of vegetables. Here are the ingredients you need to make this vegan Moussaka:
- Large Eggplants – The star of this dish. No need to peel the eggplant skin before cutting.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – For roasting the eggplants.
- Onions – sliced for the layers.
- Bell Peppers – I usually use green peppers but feel free to use colored peppers.
- Tomatoes – I like to add slices of tomatoes between layers.
- Garlic Cloves – add flavor and fragrance to the tomato sauce.
- Butter/ Olive Oil – to sauté the minced garlic
- Tomato Paste – This helps to thicken the sauce.
- Crushed Tomatoes – Can of crushed tomatoes or 3-4 crushed fresh tomatoes.
- Sugar – to offset the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Spices – Salt, black pepper, seven spices, paprika, and a pinch of cumin and chili flakes (optional).
- Jalapeno (optional) or any spicy peppers – Halved and added on the top layer.
How to Make this Vegan Egyptian Eggplant Moussaka?
Roast the Eggplant: Slice the eggplants, place them on a baking tray, and lightly sprinkle salt on both sides. Let them rest for at least 15 minutes to eliminate the excess water. Dry them with a paper towel. Brush them with olive oil and bake at 400° F for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Roast the Vegetables: Slice the onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Brush them with oil and sprinkle a little salt on them. Bake for 15-20 min.
Prepare the tomato sauce: In a medium pot, Heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat, add the minced garlic, and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant and golden brown. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the sugar and spices. Cover and let the sauce simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Assemble the Moussaka: In a baking dish or a ceramic tagine, layer half of the eggplants, roasted vegetables, and the remaining eggplants and cover with the garlicky tomato sauce. Add the halved jalapeno if using on top.
Bake: Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Serve: Let the Moussaka rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- The authentic Egyptian recipe uses fried eggplants, but baking is a healthier alternative as the eggplant soaks too much oil while frying. Also, air frying the eggplant is another option.
- Roasting the vegetables gives them a silky texture and a deep, smoky, irresistible flavor.
- There is no need to peel the eggplant skin before cutting as it will soften when cooked, plus it gives a nice color to the dish. (But you can partially peel the eggplant leaving some of the skin on).
- Add cooked ground meat to your tomato sauce if you are a meat eater.
Why you should salt the eggplants before cooking?
1- Salting the eggplant facilitates the release of excess moisture. Skipping this step and directly cooking the eggplant without drying it with paper towels can lead to a watery moussaka.
2- Eggplants naturally have slight bitterness, but salting helps neutralize this.
I suggest salting the eggplants and leaving them aside while slicing the other vegetables.
Can I make it ahead and freeze the Moussaka?
Absolutely, cook everything and assemble the layers in a baking tray. Freeze the tray for up to 3 months, thaw in the refrigerator, and bake for 30 minutes.
What to serve with Vegan Egyptian Eggplant Moussaka?
Moussaka is a complete meal on its own. However, the traditional way to eat it is with pita bread, white rice, and a side salad.
Storing and freezing
Having leftovers is great because it tastes better the next day :). Place the leftovers in the fridge in an air-tight container for 3-4 days.
Freeze the leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge, then bake at 350°F for about 15-20 min, or microwave.