Do I follow a Paleo diet? No, not really.  But I am quite open-minded when it comes to food, and love a recipe that turns something a bit on the heavy side into a lighter but still delicious version.  I have zero interest in lighter food that loses a ton in the flavor department. Or texture.  This is another gem of a recipe I found at Mike’s site, The Iron You, made and loved.  It is amazing how versatile cauliflower can be, in this preparation it doubles as a pseudo-bechamel sauce, and I guarantee you won’t miss the real thing. Plus, instead of having a hard time getting up from your dining chair because your stomach acts as if it’s trying to digest 14 bricks, you’ll be light as a feather slowly dangling through the air. Ok, not quite as light.  But close enough.

Paleo Moussaka

(slightly adapted from The Iron You)

for the eggplant layers:
2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
olive oil
lemon juice
sea salt
ground black pepper

for the meat sauce:
1 lb ground beef (or ground lamb, more authentic)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 handfuls fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon red vinegar
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper

for the Paleo bechamel sauce:
¾ cup almond milk  (I used half milk, half almond milk)
2 cups  (7 oz) cauliflower florets (best to weigh it)
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
3 eggs

Heat oven to 400°F.

Whisk a little olive oil with lemon juice. On a baking sheet brush eggplant slices with the oil/lemon mixture and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast in the oven until soft and golden about 25 to 30 minutes. While the eggplant is roasting make the meat sauce.

In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, add shallots and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add meat and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until meat is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, vinegar, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In the meantime make the paleo bechamel sauce. In a saucepan add cauliflower florets, milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Remove from the heat and with an immersion blender, blend until smooth, or use a food processor.  Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl, add a little of the warm sauce to temper them, then slowly add them to the sauce.

To assemble the moussaka, lightly grease baking dish large appropriate to make two layers of eggplant slices. I used a round, 10-inch diameter baking dish. Arrange eggplant slices to form a uniform layer. Cover the eggplant evenly with half of the meat mixture. Repeat to make a second layer. Carefully spoon the cauliflower bechamel sauce over the meat mixture and spread evenly to the edges.  Try not to disturb the meat mixture too much.
Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes, until the top is nicely puffed and browned. Let rest 10 minutes, and serve warm.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I like to peel my eggplant slices after roasting, but if you prefer to peel before, or to leave the slices  unpeeled, go for it.  I am not too fond of the bitter taste of the peel and find its texture unappealing, so I definitely remove it before assembling the moussaka.  For dishes such as this one, I am happy to remove the peel on my plate, as the presentation is nicer with the intact Solanum melongena.

I love the meat sauce with its touch of cinnamon. The smell as it simmered was to die for!  And I must share this picture, because it’s a rare occasion: I managed to catch a photo of steam rising from the pan… how sexy is that?   I was impressed by Karen’s achievement in her post a while ago, and managed to get there too….



Since it was my first time making pseudo-bechamel with cauliflower,  I decided to be precise and weighed the florets. I suppose eyeballing 2 cups would work too, but I felt like playing safe. The best part of the dish? Leftovers were even better than on the first day. In fact, I would almost advise you to make this dish a couple of days before showtime. The flavors mingled together perfectly, the dish had a more wholesome feel. Awesome.

When I served this moussaka, I did not tell Phil the modifications to make it Paleo.  He could hardly believe when I divulged the dirty secret to involve cauliflower. It works so well, it’s kind of surprising. Don’t be put off by it, give this method a try, it is so much lighter than the real thing, but it still feels like comfort food. A gastronomic win-win situation.

Mike, thanks again for the great recipe, your blog is a constant source of inspiration!


Dinner is served!


ONE YEAR AGO: Zucchini “Hummus”

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – October 2013

THREE YEARS AGO: Bourbon and Molasses Glazed Pork Tenderloin

FOUR YEARS AGO: Crimson and Cream Turkey Chili

FIVE YEARS AGO: Taking a break from the nano-kitchen

SIX YEARS AGO: Chocolate Chip Cookies

26 thoughts on “PALEO MOUSSAKA

  1. I LOVE this! I am also not a follower of particular food regimes but I do also like to see the various versions of dishes and recipes that can be created, and I love the white sauce in this. I’ll definitely be utilising it, thank you🙂


  2. You know I just like food with no self-imposed restrictions but I’d love this. I often find moussaka too heavy but I love the dish so this is a big win!


    • I am with you on this, definitely – moussaka is a classic and I hate to “mess” with it, but when it keeps its essence intact and makes me feel a lot better after enjoying a plate, it’s all good! 😉


    • Thanks for the feedback, Denise! I am so glad you tried it, and I know the sauce will surprise anyone who does – it is luscious and really “fools” you into the bechamel path 😉


  3. Pingback: PALEO MOUSSAKA | Foodfhonebook

  4. I love healthy comfort food! I’ve never made moussaka at home, but I do absolutely love eggplant. I definitely need to give this one a try soon. Love the steamy shot too.😉


  5. Putting this on a post-it for my menu planning in the coming week or so. During football season we like to find hand-held or one-dish things we can comfortably eat in front of the TV with Monday and Sunday night games and also that will play well with a good cold craft beer — I think this will really fit the bill.


    • Well, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? 😉 Indeed, this dish is even better next day, and re-heats beautifully – for me leftovers are a must, since we eat lunch at home and is usually quite rushed. A real winner of a recipe this one was…


  6. love Mike, love his approach to food — simple, no-nonsense and without all the crap (that’s my official summary😉 ). This looks utterly delicious! we don’t eat eggplant (allergies) but no matter, we can work around it easily in this recipe. This dish has all the comfort and warmth of fall wrapped up in a big hug🙂. Have a great weekend Sally.


    • You summarized it all perfectly!

      weekend should be pretty awesome, we are in Los Angeles actually, arrived around midnight last night, a bit exhausted but happy to be here. Short visit, but we’ll see some friends, meet two of the stepsons on Tuesday… all good


  7. If I hadn’t had a bounty of Japanese eggplant from the garden staring me in the face I may not have tried this recipe. The recipe as written is quite healthy and while my intention was to follow it as written my ‘ judgement’ prevailed.
    The meat sauce was straight forward, but I did use the classic lamb in place of beef. I also added some allspice, a bay leaf, and bits of finely chopped golden raisins. Red wine was substituted for the vinegar.
    The bechamel is where I went totally off track. I love cauliflower and was willing to give the Paleo a try but when I looked at the photo of your final dish and the thinness of the layer I had to make an adjustment. I did cook the cauliflower (actually I used twice as much 14 oz.) in the milk I realized the texture was lacking. I actually added 2 oz. of goat cheese, 1/4 of instant mashed potatoes, 1//4 cup grated gruyere and 1 oz, of grated pecorino, a beaten egg a at good grating of nutmeg. The finished béchamel layer was 3/4 ” high savory and rich which made all the difference to me. What I am very happy about is trying the cauliflower ‘sauce’, and using up my surplus eggplant. Which goes to show you everything has a redeeming factor. Thanks for posting this recipe and forcing me trust my adaptability.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I do enjoy moussaka and bet I’d love this one. I’ve seen cauliflower used in a number of cream-type sauces and all are said to be not only delicious but the cauliflower is indistinguishable. I also find the Greeks’ use of cinnamon in their sauces to be a tasty alternative to that which I’m accustomed. With winter coming, this is a dish to put on the menu. Thanks, Sally.


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