Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe from Bulgaria

Layers of rich mushroom-lentil mince, crisp roast potatoes and a creamy yogurt topping are baked in the oven for this take on Bulgarian moussaka. This hearty vegetarian dish is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe | Bulgarian Vegetarian Recipes

Country Number 26: Bulgaria

Before we officially began this around-the-world cooking challenge, we played a little game in our household called cuisine roulette. The game involved using a random country generator to determine the cuisine that each of had to cook that week.  It was actually this game that inspired us to undertake this whole crazy challenge. Bulgaria was one of the first countries that popped up. This game meant we were pre-acquainted with Bulgarian cuisine (unlike most obscure cuisines that we’ve been going into very blindsided).

History of Bulgarian Cuisine

Bulgaria is a Balkan nation that sits on very diverse terrain. It has a Black Sea coastline and an interior of mountains and rivers. Due to the varying terrain and climatic conditions of the country, there is a large variety of vegetables, fruit and herbs available. This has resulted in a diverse cuisine and various cooking traditions throughout the country.

Culturally, Bulgaria is melting pot of Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian influences. Its cuisine shares many characteristics with both its Balkan and Middle Eastern neighbours. In fact, the influence that Middle Eastern cuisine has had on Bulgaria dates back as early as the 7th century.

Meat, yogurt, cheese and vegetables are the four most common staples in Bulgarian dishes. As a starter, salads and soups are commonly served. Main dishes tend to take the form of stew or grilled meat/ vegetables. While meat is a prominent part of Bulgarian food, vegetables play just as important a role. This makes the cuisine in Bulgaria much more vegetarian-friendly than some of its Eastern European neighbours.

Popular Bulgarian Vegetarian Dishes

  • Shopska– Almost every Bulgarian dish is accompanied by this simple, fresh salad. It is a combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers and grated cheese on top.
  • Tarator– A simple cold soup made of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, and dill, often served as a starter.
  • Chushka Biurek (Stuffed Peppers)-  Red peppers are fried, stuffed with egg and cheese, and served in a thick tomato sauce in an iron pan.
  • Sirene– The most popular cheese in Bulgaria, used in many salads and pastries.
  • Banitsa– A Bulgarian pastry that is eaten for both breakfast and dessert. Buttered phyllo dough is filled with savoury filling such as egg, spinach, pumpkin or sweet fillings such as yogurt or sweetened milk.
  • Madradjisko- A dish cooked in a clay pot that contains similar ingredients to chushka biurek. The bottom layer is made of fried onions and peppers, followed by a thick layer of Bulgarian cheese and a top layer of eggs.
  • Garnish cake- A rather extravagant five-layer chocolate walnut cake. Each layer is baked, cooled, put on top of each other and covered in decadent chocolate cream.

Vegetarian rating of Bulgarian Cuisine:

Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe | Bulgarian Vegetarian Recipes

Making this vegetarian moussaka recipe

I have very found memories attached to making moussaka. It is a dish that my dad and I make a lot together. However, we always make the Greek version, using layers of eggplant, mince and béchamel sauce. To be honest, I thought this was the only way that moussaka was made.

We have recently learnt that there are in fact many variations of moussaka across countries throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In Turkey, the dish simply consists of mince, tomato and eggplant. In the Levant, the dish is always made vegetarian and chickpeas are added instead of meat. Bulgarian moussaka is made with potato instead of eggplant, and instead of a bechamel, a creamy yogurt topping is used.

Traditionally, Bulgarian moussaka includes a layer of beef mince. Of course, we made our version vegetarian, adding in a layer of mushrooms and lentils instead. Once added in to the tomato sauce, they lend the same kind of hearty texture you would get with meat and retain a lot of flavour. We also added in some extra vegetables such as carrots and capsicum.

Normally, for this recipe, you dice up potato and boil them. However, we have a healthy disdain of boiled potatoes, so we decided to adapt this method by cutting the potatoes into thin slices and roasting them instead. We are pretty convinced that this cooking method for the potatoes improved the whole dish substantially. 

How to make this vegetarian moussaka recipe

This recipe is a labour of love, so it does take some time to come together. However, it is a great recipe when you have a few hours to prepare, such as for a dinner party. Here are the steps to making this Bulgarian Moussaka.

  1. Preboil the potatoes for 5 minutes
  2. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes in a casserole dish in a pre-heated oven.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetarian mince by sautéing the ingredients in a frying pan, then leaving to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Make the yogurt topping by combining all the ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Take the potatoes out of the oven, add mince and bake for another 15 minutes.
  6. Add the yogurt topping and bake for another 15 minutes or until the yogurt has set.
Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe | Bulgarian Vegetarian Recipes

Ingredient notes for this vegetarian moussaka recipe

  • Vegetables- You can add as many or few vegetables as you like to this recipe. We added carrot and red capsicum to our vegetarian moussaka, however you can use whatever is in the fridge (just make sure it is finely diced for the texture).
  • Lentils– We used a tin of brown lentils for this recipe to save on cooking time. If you use dried lentils, cook them first.
  • Make it vegan– Skip the yogurt topping and instead top with vegan cheese.
  • Make it gluten-free– Replace regular flour with cornflour in the yogurt topping. Every other element of the dish is naturally gluten-free.
Bulgarian Vegetarian Recipes

Serving suggestions for moussaka

Given the heaviness of the dish, Bulgarian moussaka works really well when accompanied by a light, fresh salad. If you want to stay true to Bulgarian flavours, serve it with a shopska salad, which includes  cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers and grated cheese on top.

Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe | Bulgarian Vegetarian Recipes

Bulgarian Vegetarian Moussaka

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Layers of rich mushroom-lentil mince, crisp roast potatoes and a creamy yogurt topping are baked in the oven in this take on Bulgarian moussaka. This hearty vegetarian dish is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

Ingredients

Vegetarian mince layer:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200 g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 tin of lentils
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Potato layer:

  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Yogurt topping:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

Make potatoes:

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Parboil sliced potatoes for 5 minutes in a pan of boiling salted water. Drain and leave to steam dry.
  2. Layer in large casserole dish, coating with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or until golden and tender.

Make vegetarian mince:

  1. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add in diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add in garlic and sauté for another minute.
  2. Add in mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are tender. Add in diced carrots, pepper, lentils, tomato paste, wine, vegetable stock and spices. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes or until you are ready to assemble the moussaka.

Make yogurt layer:

  1. In a bowl, beat together yogurt, flour, eggs, and baking soda. Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble Moussaka:

  1. Take casserole dish layered with potatoes out of oven and top with vegetarian mince. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  2. Take moussaka out of the oven once again and pour the yogurt mixture on top. Return to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top turns golden and the yogurt is just set.
  3. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a comment & review above or share a photo on Instagram tagging @polkadotpassport so I can reshare your creations!

Other vegetarian dinners to try:

Like this vegetarian moussaka recipe? Pin it for later!

The perfect vegetarian moussaka recipe from Bulgaria
Nicola Easterby Bio Image

HEY THERE, I'M NICOLA!

I am on a mission to discover the BEST destinations & dishes from around the world. Whether it’s hopping on a plane or into the kitchen, come join the adventure!

Mango Sour Recipe

Mango Sour Recipe

Mango Sour is a tangy, sweet and spicy Guyanese condiment. It's used as a dipping sauce for many savoury dishes and is HIGHLY addictive! I don't know about you, but I LOVE a good condiment. As it turns out, so do the people of Guyana, which is a small country located...

read more
10 Best Northern Ireland Glamping Spots

10 Best Northern Ireland Glamping Spots

Looking to go glamping in Northern Ireland in 2022? From glamping pods with hot tubs to luxury yurts, these are the 10 best places to go glamping in NI! Northern Ireland is easily one of the most beautiful and underrated places in the world. From its luminous greenery...

read more
10 Best Barcelona Beach Clubs and Bars (2022)

10 Best Barcelona Beach Clubs and Bars (2022)

Barcelona is undeniably home to some of the beach clubs and bars in the world. These are the spots to visit if you want to experience the city's vibrant nightlife! Barcelona is one of Spain's most popular destinations, thanks to its rich culture, delicious food and...

read more

READ NEXT:

35 BEST Protein Overnight Oats Recipes

35 BEST Protein Overnight Oats Recipes

Looking for a nutritious breakfast that will keep you full for hours? Try one of these delicious high protein overnight oats recipes (both with and without protein powder)! What are overnight oats? If you haven’t had overnight oats before, they are essentially a cold...

read more
Banoffee Overnight Oats

Banoffee Overnight Oats

These banoffee overnight oats are a healthy spin on the classic British dessert pie. Featuring layers of creamy oats, caramel, sliced banana, yogurt cream and chocolate shavings, they are going to be your new favourite breakfast! After an overwhelmingly positive...

read more
Mango Sour Recipe

Mango Sour Recipe

Mango Sour is a tangy, sweet and spicy Guyanese condiment. It's used as a dipping sauce for many savoury dishes and is HIGHLY addictive! I don't know about you, but I LOVE a good condiment. As it turns out, so do the people of Guyana, which is a small country located...

read more

READ NEXT:

35 BEST Protein Overnight Oats Recipes

35 BEST Protein Overnight Oats Recipes

Looking for a nutritious breakfast that will keep you full for hours? Try one of these delicious high protein overnight oats recipes (both with and without protein powder)! What are overnight oats? If you haven’t had overnight oats before, they are essentially a cold...

read more
Banoffee Overnight Oats

Banoffee Overnight Oats

These banoffee overnight oats are a healthy spin on the classic British dessert pie. Featuring layers of creamy oats, caramel, sliced banana, yogurt cream and chocolate shavings, they are going to be your new favourite breakfast! After an overwhelmingly positive...

read more
Botswana Cuisine: 10 Traditional Foods to Try

Botswana Cuisine: 10 Traditional Foods to Try

Everything you need to know about Botswana cuisine, including its history, customs, and the top traditional Botswana foods to try. History of Botswana cuisine Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa that is one of the most sparsely populated in the world....

read more
Skip to Recipe