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Vegan Moussaka That Actually Tastes Like Moussaka, I Swear

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

Ignore the story and jump to the recipe here.

I am going to come clean about something here. I probably never would have even thought about making a vegan moussaka if it hadn't been for a man in my life. I mean, the beauty and glory of a moussaka is in the oiliness, the meatiness, the ground beef and lamb, creamy and cheesy Béchamel. Why try to change a classic?

Then I dated my ex. Every year for lent, this big, meat-eating man would go completely vegan. It wasn't really about religion for him, though that certainly was part of it. It mostly was about honoring himself and a tradition. It was being able to accomplish something important. I always admired him for this. In the six years we spent together, I had to get creative. The first time I tried to make a vegan moussaka was for him. I did it in a slow-cooker for the most part, and it was pretty good. But it didn't taste like moussaka.

In the past couple of years, I have cut mostly cut meat out of my diet. It hasn't been about the ethics of it, though that weighs on me sometimes as well. In my case, it has been about inflammation. I found that when I was consuming meat, the hormones would increase the inflammation in my body. In a one week retreat in Costa Rica in 2018, I went completely vegan and felt the constant pain literally melt away. As someone who suffers from an auto-immune disorder, anything I can do to minimize pain, I will.

Which brings us back to moussaka... in a bit of a tangential way.

Moussaka is one of my favorite foods. I didn't grow up having it in Greece. I saw it made a couple of times and was always awed by the amount of work that went into making it. That's why when I see versions with multiple short-cuts, I am slightly put off. Part of the beauty of this particular food is in the effort it takes to make it. It's also one of those foods that is either great to prepare with friends or as a meditative experience. There is a lot of slicing and layering involved.

The modern version we have all come to love at our favorite local diner was actually created by Nicholas Tselementes, arguably the first chef to put Greek cuisine on the map. After years of studying various cuisine all over Europe, but with a strong emphasis on French cuisine, he came back to Greece and set himself on a mission to modernize the foods that were introduced to Greece during the Ottoman occupation.

In theory, I like this idea. He wanted to take a difficult part of Greek history an