Moussaka That Won’t Ruin '300' Abs

Moussaka that won't ruin '300' abs
A few months ago, Nick asked if I’d like to eat Greek food and watch a documentary about ancient Sparta for date night. And by documentary, he meant the 300 sequel, Rise of an Empire. If you haven’t gleaned this already, Nick has a thing for Sparta. He has a Spartan helmet—the kind worn by Gerard Butler and 299 super-fit dudes while holding off the army of some creep who I refuse to believe is Karl from Love Actually—and there’s a Spartan shield inked on his shoulder. We did something called the Spartan Race, which I’ve tried to erase from my memory but for the sake of this story, I’ll recall a few details: barbed wire, javelins, fire. And then, there was a trip to Sparta. As in the actual Sparta. Yes, you can go there, and it’s the only place on the planet where you can yell: “This. Is. SPARTA! No really, guys, it actually is!”

On our first day in Sparta, I had what was the best meal of the entire trip: a vegetable moussaka so cheesy and creamy and delicious that I’m certain no Spartan warrior, real or from Hollywood, ever ate it or else they wouldn’t have had those abs. So, back to date night. When Nick suggested that we eat Greek food before the movie, I tried to create a healthier version of this memorable meal. My first attempt was kind of spartan (couldn’t resist) when it came to taste and to make up for it, we went to a Greek restaurant instead.

Still, I was intent on making a delicious, healthy version of this dish and continued experimenting for months. I’ve since combined multiple recipes to finally land on one that we love. The base consists of eggplant layered with a hearty puree of lentils, tomatoes, onion and spices, and it’s topped off with a cauliflower sauce to stand in for bechamel. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and totally healthy, so if you have plans to get 300-inspired abs, this moussaka won’t derail your efforts.

Note: This dish takes about two-and-a-half to three hours from start to finish, depending on your multitasking skills—think pureeing lentils while boiling cauliflower while baking eggplant. I’ve broken down the instructions into five easy sections to help you power through it like a kitchen warrior.

Healthy, vegetarian moussaka (vegan & gluten-free)

Healthy Vegetarian Moussaka (Vegan & Gluten-Free)
Yields about 9 servings

2 medium eggplants
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups vegetable stock
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup green lentils
1 large onion, chopped
1/8 to 1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
Salt & pepper

1. Prep eggplant: Cut eggplants lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Set on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 30 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.

2. Prepare lentil-tomato sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, lentils, oregano, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until lentils are cooked, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf and cinnamon. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until chunky (if your food processor is small like mine, you may have to do this in batches). Season with salt and pepper.

3. Bake eggplant: Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through. Set aside to cool.

4. Prepare cauliflower sauce: Add cauliflower florets to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. Strain cauliflower and let cool. Add cauliflower, 1/8 cup almond milk, nutritional yeast and nutmeg to a food processor and process until smooth, adding more almond milk as needed. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Assemble and bake moussaka: Reduce oven to 350˚F. Spread a thin layer of the lentil-tomato sauce on the bottom of a deep baking dish (I used a 10x10 dish) and top with a layer of eggplant. Spread 2 cups of the lentil-tomato sauce on top. Add another layer of eggplant and top with the remainder of the lentil-tomato sauce. Spread cauliflower sauce on top. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 475˚F. Return dish to oven for an additional 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe for vegan, gluten-free moussaka

P.S. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our time in Sparta. I thought Nick was joking when he suggested that we climb the tallest mountain in all of Sparta—since that seemed like something King Leonidas must have done—but I was wrong.

Visiting ancient Sparta This way to some ancient ruins...and glory!

Exploring Sparta, Greece
Statue of King Leonidas in Sparta, Greece The city’s statue of King Leonidas—abs and all.

Hiking the tallest mountain in Sparta, Greece Here I am looking really excited about hiking this mountain.

Mountain views in Sparta, Greece

Mountain and ocean views in Sparta, Greece
At the top of the highest peak in Sparta, Greece But we made it to the top. Victory! 

Where we hiked in Sparta, Greece (victory!)

This recipe was adapted from Vegetarian Times, Peachy Palate, Craving Greens, and My Recipes.


  1. this looks so good, I might have to try it out!! what great adventure pictures too!
    xo Jessica

    1. Thank you, Jessica! Please let me know if you try it! xo

  2. This looks absolutely delicious! I can not wait to try it out myself. PS Kudos to you for being such a supportive wife and climbing that mountain with Nick!

    1. Thanks, BA! It was not an easy climb, but it made for a great workout!

  3. Oh, this looks absolutely delicious. I still have a few weeks off until I go to university and maybe I could try it in smaller portions to find my rhythm to it. My mom would be pretty stunned if I did something like that when she comes to visit me.
    xx Lisa

    Following Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa! Now that you mention it, I think my parents would be pretty stunned if I made this for them, too! I'll have to share next time :) I think smaller portions would be a good way to ease into this, although having leftovers is always nice! Maybe start by halving the recipe. Let me know if you give it a try! xo

  4. The weather is finally starting to cool off - so I can turn back on my oven :) excited to give this a try! Thanks Julia.