July 1, 2010

Eggplant Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream

by IsaChandra

Serves 8
Time: 1 1/2 hours, much of it active

Moussaka

In our version of this traditional Greek casserole, layers of tender roasted eggplant, potatoes and zucchini are layered with a sublime cinnamon-scented tomato sauce and topped with velvety, creamy topping of pine nut custard. While you might not want to attempt this after a long day of work, it’s a great dish for a potluck or a special Sunday night dinner. The pine nut cream is also a great trick to have up your sleeve or lasagna, pizza or anything calling out for a rich, savory topping. This recipe is modified from Veganomicon.

Note: The zucchini will likely be very watery after roasting, so when it’s cool enough to touch gently but firmly squeeze slices, by the handful, to remove any excess water. This will prevent an overly wet casserole and will help concentrate the flavors

For the vegetable layer:
1 lb eggplant
1 lb zucchini
1 1/2 lbs russet-type baking potatoes (using large, long potatoes works perfectly in this recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil

For the sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup vegetable broth or red wine
2, 15 oz. cans crushed tomatoes, with juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

Pine Nut Topping:
1 lb. soft tofu
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
1 clove garlic
pinch nutmeg
1 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
white pepper to taste

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Extra pine nuts for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.

Wash and trim stem from eggplant and zucchini. Scrub and peel potato. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and potato, lengthwise, into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. Rub eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink or in a big bowl for about 15 minutes to soften, briefly rinsing with cold water and squeezing out any excess liquid water.

Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute 1/4 cup oil between the three sheets and sprinkle vegetables with salt (except eggplant if salted already). Toss to coat, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Spread vegetables out with minimal overlapping. Roast the zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 22 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

While vegetables are cooking prepare the tomato sauce. Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and minced garlic to a large heavy bottom sauce pot. Bring to medium heat and let garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove bay leaf and adjust salt.

Make the pine nut topping:
In a food processor blend together pine nuts and lemon juice, scrapping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula until a creamy paste forms. Add tofu, garlic, arrowroot, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan and pre-heat oven again to 400 F. Spread 1/4 cup of sauce in the pan, then add a layer of the following; eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and half of the breadcrumbs. Spread all of the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer of eggplant, potatoes, sauce and breadcrumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut topping over the entire top, smoothing out any uneven spots. Scatter a few pine nuts on top if desired. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.



  • July 1, 2011 at 8:23 pm: Veganizer

    This has long been one of my favorite Isa recipes. It tends to be a big hit when I’m cooking for non-vegans. I also like to use variations on the tomato sauce and pine nut cream when I’m coming up with other recipes of my own!

    • July 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm: IsaChandra

      Thank you! But it’s actually a Terry recipe :) I love it, too.

  • July 6, 2011 at 11:21 pm: Marla

    I am making this tonight with some adjustments. My husband does not like eggplant so I am using mushrooms -it will add some extra water but I think I made the proper adjustments. I also used walnuts instead of pine nuts. The sauce is so tasty and I will be using that in quite a few more recipes.

  • July 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm: frollein

    Ido I need the arrowroot in this recipe? I have all for it except the arrowroot and am super lazy in the moment… :)

  • July 27, 2011 at 5:32 am: dani_defiance

    i used cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder and it was great

  • August 7, 2011 at 4:22 am: C

    The sauce was too tangy for my liking. I added a tbsp if sugar and doubled the oregano. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!!

  • August 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm: Mandy Gardener

    Yum! Thanks PPK for another amazing recipe.

    The pine nut cream is a real winner!

  • September 19, 2011 at 12:01 am: rachet

    this is excellent. oh man…i’m forcing myself to save some for lunches tomorrow!

  • September 25, 2011 at 3:46 am: Laina

    Is the soft tofu, the mori nu type or regular soft tofu. Can’t wait to try this. Thanks!

  • September 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm: sara

    Made this for my Greek cypriot mother and she loved it! chucked a big handful of defrosted soya mince into the sauce was so yummy!

  • September 29, 2011 at 1:08 am: Amanda

    I am BRAND NEW to Vegan cooking (and living) and I’m allergic to soy. Is there anything I can use as a substitute in the pine nut cream? I’ve just spent some time at a book store flipping through a few vegan cookbooks, and I plan to buy Veganomicon when my husband gets paid next. I noticed a lot of recipes that have a creamy sauce all seem to call for soy. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you.

  • October 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm: Andrea

    A friend sent me this recipe and I tried it. It was soooooo delicious! I am definitely making this again in the future.

    @Amanda. I think this would be delicious even without the creamy sauce. Maybe sprinkle pine nuts on top and I think whole gloves of garlic sprinkled in too would be good since they will cook in the oven and have a buttery texture and yummy mild garlicy taste.

  • October 19, 2011 at 9:03 am: Rachel

    I have made this several times since the summer, and each time I give some to my non-veggie friends, they love it! Even my husband’s grandmother, who claims to only like chocolate, rushed to get some when I offered leftovers from last night. I love this recipe. Thanks for sharing it!!

  • November 25, 2011 at 8:28 am: Crystal

    I just made this as the centerpiece for the first Thanksgiving I have hosted. Living in Hawaii, I subbed macadamia nuts for pine nice (macs are so much cheaper!) and it was so wonderful. And a great way to use up all the eggplant that has been going off at the CSA. Time consuming, but definitely a keeper.

  • December 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm: Gwen

    FINALLY made this after a couple years of drooling at the recipe. it was much less intimidating than it looks, I think it’s about equivalent to making lasagna. Having a mandoline slicer is key. This was served at a party with mostly omnivores and everyone loved and asked for the recipe!!! Several tofu haters had seconds and thirds!

  • January 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm: Gigi

    I made this last night, but I cheated a bit. I used 1 jar (26 oz) of Trader Joe’s Organic Marinara instead of making the tomato sauce and sprinkled a little cinnamon on the top layer of sauce. The flavor was good, but there was not enough sauce. If you’re looking to do this shortcut I would recommend using 1.5 – 2 jars of sauce. Also, my eggplant didn’t cook all the way. This could be because of not enough sauce or something else. I’ve got leftovers, so I’m going to try adding some more sauce to the baking pan and baking at 350 for maybe another 30 minutes (I’ll cover it with foil first). I also think this would be good substituting sliced portabellos for the eggplant. (For the record, I love eggplant.)

  • January 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm: Alexandra Franzen

    Nom nom! This recipe is fantastic … I’m wondering how long it will stay ‘good’, in the fridge? 3 days? 4? 5? A trillion?

  • February 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm: Deirdre

    This is g-r-e-a-t. Even though I used too much salt!

  • April 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm: mandy

    has anyone made this ahead? should i assemble it ahead and bake it before serving, or bake it ahead and just reheat?

  • April 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm: joanna schupp

    i made this for easter and it was the bomb!!!!!! we used a jarred mushroom tomato sauce instead of making it. it was a very time consuming recipe and definitely bloody! my mom had never used a mandoline so she cut herself three times. we got some blood on the veggies but i was sure to throw those ones away. it was definitely worth all the effort! it’s officially the best vegan food i have ever tasted and i’m not lying!

  • April 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm: Rachel

    I just made this and this is literally the most delicious thing ever! The only problem is I couldn’t get my layers to look as nice as yours in the picture….they kind of went all over the place when I cut into it….it still tasted great though!

  • April 25, 2012 at 11:15 pm: margaret

    What nut would you suggest to be the closest alternative taste-wise? The cost for pine nuts has gone up apparently, for reasons unbeknownst. Would macadamia nuts be a second choice?

  • May 7, 2012 at 10:36 am: Kylie

    OMG this dish is amazing!! So tasty and the pine nut cream would make both a tasty dip or a great substitute for bechamel sauce on lasagne. I agree with the people above who’ve stated this would be a great dish for non-vegans as well and i think they would enjoy!

  • May 10, 2012 at 11:11 am: mizmixit

    I made this yesterday for my vegan friend, my avid meat eater husband and me. We all loved it. I left out the arrowroot as I didn’t have any and it was fine. I not vegan but I am am trying to watch my cholesterol levels and vegan cooking is great for that so I’m very pleased to find something so delicious.

  • July 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm: Mixxie

    I just made this from the cookbook version. YOU DEFINITELY need the parchment for the eggplant and potatoes (I used well-oiled foil for the first batch of veg and that seemed fine for the zucchini but I had to scrape off the eggplant and peel off the potato). This was way more delicious than I expected. I’m not a big eggplant fan but I was intrigued enough by the ingredients to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. The sauce is out of this world. I think I added a tiny bit more cinnamon then was called for but I love cinnamon. I will definitely make this again. I can’t wait to try it for a pot-luck.

  • July 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm: Mixxie

    I forgot to mention, I used cornstarch instead of arrowroot because I could not find arrowroot (even at whole foods—I might have been looking in the wrong section). It did not seem to matter. The pine nut cream formed a sort of light crust but it looked good and was delicious.

  • July 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm: Mixxie

    The sauce is stupidly easy to make–garlic, shallots and canned tomatoes with some spices…it takes about 5 more minutes than opening a jar and is so worth it. PLEASE do not cheat and use jarred sauce. You will only be cheating yourself. I used good quality canned tomatoes (Sclafani) and the sauce is pretty much the easiest thing to prepare in the whole recipe. It takes less than five minutes to slice shallots and chop garlic and that is the only prep work involved int he sauce. The rest is opening a can and adding some spices. Why cheat there for goodness sake? You make the sauce while the veggies are roasting. Those folks who used jarred Italian sauce are missing out on the nuances of the homemade Greek-style sauce. Simply adding cinnamon does not cut it folks. I’m appalled actually. Maybe because I never by jarred sauce since the prep time in making a good marinara is only about 5 minutes and then it is just simmering time. You don’t even have to simmer it for that long.

  • August 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm: Marlene

    Does anyone – Isa? – know if you can freeze the pine nut cream? I used it in a veggie pot pie and it was heaven, now I want to make it all the time and put it in everything! Can it go in stovetop sauces (like a tomato sauce to make it creamy) or does it have to be baked?

  • August 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm: Eva

    I made this last night, but with some modifications due to the availability of the products: I didn’t have eggplant, so I doubled the zucchini. I didn’t have shallots either, so those were missing. I used canned tomato sauce instead of crushed tomatoes. The potatoes I used were small. And finally the tofu was extra firm.
    Despite all those modifications, it turned out to be delicious. Amazing recipe! Thanks so much!!!

  • August 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm: Anna

    I forgot to squeeze the zucchini! I hope it turns out okay…

  • October 13, 2012 at 7:05 pm: penguingirl

    Soooo good! Made this last night for a dinner party and everyone loved it (I’m the only vegan/vegetarian who was there). I bought two egggplants and two zucchinis and had an extra layer because my casserole dish is a little deeper than the average 9×13.

  • October 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm: Amy

    The recipe says “Serves 8″ – does that mean eight “normal people” or eight people, who tend to go for second/third helpings? (We’ll only be 4 and I don’t want to make too much or too little.)

  • January 14, 2013 at 10:21 pm: Mark

    Try grilling the vegetables, it’s a bit more work tending to them but less stuff to clean up and the results are well worth it. The grill marks, browning and even a little charring adds great flavor. Also, the zucchini will dry out perfectly.

  • January 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm: Deb

    We just used a variation of the pine nut topping on quinoa-stuffed baked peppers. I will use this topping recipe dozens of ways…it was spectacular both in flavor and texture. I substituted ground walnuts for the pine nuts and 1.5 tsp corn starch for the arrowroot. I also added 3 tbsp of nutritional yeast. Thank you so much for such a versatile “bechamel” sauce!

  • March 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm: Patty Clark

    Hi…I just made two thinking that I’d bring one to my daughter at college who now changed her mind about me coming (that’s another story)
    Do you think I can freeze it in the pan?

  • May 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm: Rachel

    This is delicious, but I can never get it to look as pretty as your picture! The pine nut cream never spreads that nicely. Not like it really matters because it still tastes awesome, but is there a trick to it?

  • May 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm: Rachel

    PS I use this pine nut topping recipe to make a fake sort of “feta cheese” and I use it with kale to make a spanakopita. It is DELISHES and vegans and non-vegans love it. Thanks!

  • June 1, 2013 at 12:01 am: Jazmyn

    The recipe was super easy to follow whilst still feeling like a kind of elaborate dish (maybe I’m just used to cooking simpler things)
    All ingredients were easy to find in the local supermarket and we had a few things already stocked in the pantry, which made it slightly easier!
    This is the first time since being a vegan that I’ve tried any casserole: and I have to say, it exceeded any expectation I had! So so so yummy! Can’t give enough praise for the complex flavors and authentic Greek feels of this dish. We Chose to completely cover the top with pine nuts too which was a great idea as they roasted and broke up the texture of the dish.
    Would highly recommend!

  • June 23, 2013 at 6:56 pm: Delia

    This recipe is AMAZING!!! The pine nut is so tangy, it’s like feta cheese! I would just say that for my recipe I found myself needing about 4x as much of the pinenut cheese, but maybe that’s just because we like it so much. I also upped the spices in the tomato sauce a lot. but it’s amazing!

  • June 24, 2013 at 7:44 am: Justin

    Great dish! very delicate and light tasting! The pine nut cream is amazing! I too could have done with a double batch of the pine nut cream!

  • July 17, 2013 at 1:17 am: Susan

    Do you only add 1/4 cup sauce for each layer, then use the rest on the cooked pieces, or should I put all of it in the casserole?

  • August 4, 2013 at 3:32 am: Matt

    So so good. Thank you! I’m a first-time commenter but longtime user. Your recipes have always been hits. Keep up the good work!

  • August 26, 2013 at 12:34 am: RecentVegan

    Just made this for dinner today and I must say, it is DIVINE! Thank you for this amazing recipe. I just wish pine nuts were not so expensive, because I would be making this all the time.

  • September 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm: Mel

    I have the same question as Marlene below – can we freeze the pine nut cream? I plan on making this for a family reunion but am not sure if I’ll have a food processor available, so wanted to plan ahead. My guess is it will be fine, but wanted to as the expert! Thanks!

  • September 25, 2013 at 5:11 pm: cyn

    we made this with a cashew-tofu cream instead of the pine nuts, and it was absolutely delicious! just soaked raw cashews in water for a little while before tossing into the food processor. and for those that have soy allergies, we’ve also made it with a straight cashew cream (with garlic, lemon juice, salt+pepper, and enough cashew soaking water to achieve the right consistency—don’t be afraid to use a lot), and the results were also yummy. if you’re using only a cashew cream on top, however, i would spread it on about halfway through baking, as it doesn’t really behave the same way as the tofu in a hot oven. amazing recipe!

  • January 16, 2014 at 12:27 am: christine

    this sounds amazing, I am going to try it at a dinner party…maybe i should try it on my husband first..looks pretty easy..

  • February 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm: J

    My niece and sister made this recently and I couldn’t get enough of it, it is soooo good. I’m glad you mentioned saving the topping for lasagna, that is next.

  • March 24, 2014 at 4:35 pm: Laura

    I know I’m late to the party, but I wanted to add some substitutions that worked great. I had the eggplant and one small potato on hand. To use up some CSA bounty, I subbed celeriac for the rest of the potato, and it was lovely and mild. I wouldn’t hesitate to use celeriac instead of all of the potato. I used kale instead of zucchini; I steamed it and then chopped it small. Also used a 12.3 oz. package of silken tofu instead of a whole pound. It was perfection. I had to sneak a couple of cold bites in the middle of the night, and I just had it for breakfast.