This vegan pastitsio is a deliciously layered Greek pasta bake that’s sure to become the next family favorite. Great for feeding a crowd and is freezer-friendly.
This vegan pastitsio (pastichio) starts with a spiced sauce made with red lentils and meatless ground. It’s layered over pasta, topped with a creamy bechamel sauce then baked until bubbly.
This Greek classic feels like a spin on an Italian lasagna. Perfect for dinner one night and lunches the next day!
This recipe was adapted from Akis Petretzikis.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Bucatini or Pastitsio Bucatini – This is the classic choice. They are long and tubular. I’ve served them with Sundried Tomato Pesto as they hold thick sauces well.
I used the Misko Brand. Short tubular kinds of pasta such as penne or ziti are other great options.
- Salt – for boiling pasta
- Vegan butter or margarine
- Nutritional yeast – Adds a “cheesy” flavor.
For the filling:
- Vegan Meatless Ground – A great replacement for meat in the classic recipe. It gives the sauce a richer flavor. I used Beyond Meat.
- Cooked lentils – I used red lentils, but green or brown ones could also work. Soak overnight to make them easier to digest or if lentils make you bloat.
I shared more details on how I prep lentils in my Vegan Lentil Stew Recipe.
- Tomato Paste
- Red Wine or Broth – Red wine offers a richer flavor, but both are good!
- Vegetable Bouillon – I used Better Than Bouillon vegetable base. It’s in the form of a paste but you can also use bouillon or stock cubes.
- Crushed Tomatoes – canned works fine but you can also use fresh.
- Ground spices – Often used in Greek cuisine. These include cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
- Herbs – Fresh or dried, including thyme, bay leaves and parsley
- Salt and pepper
For the bechamel:
- Vegan butter or dairy-free spread
- All-purpose flour
- Soy milk – Add the milk bit by bit while whisking continuously to achieve a smooth sauce. Adding all at once can lead to a lumpy bechamel.
- Salt and black pepper
- Nutmeg – I highly recommend it as it brings the flavors together.
- Lemon juice – give the sauce a slight tang. For a cheesier flavor, I recommend vegan lactic acid. I’ve used it in my Vegan Mac and Cheese for the perfect flavor.
- Nutritional yeast – adds a slightly cheesy flavor but it’s optional
You’ll also need a 10-inch square or 9 by 11-inch casserole dish. A deep pan is best for a nice thick slice. I suggest one with at least 3 inches in height.
How To Make Vegan Pastitsio
Make the veggie meat sauce:
1. Brown the Beyond Meat or vegan ground in a pan then add the onion and garlic.
2. Cook until the onions are translucent then add spices, sugar, tomato paste and bouillon paste. Cook for a few seconds until the spices become fragrant then stir in the red wine.
3. Add the tomatoes, cooked lentils and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally and allow it to simmer uncovered on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until most of the moisture has evaporated.
4. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, then remove from heat.
Make the béchamel sauce:
1. Melt the vegan butter in a saucepan over low heat. Gradually stir in the flour with a spoon or whisk to form a roux or paste. Cook for about 1 minute or until slightly tan in color.
2. Gradually add the soy milk and stir quickly and constantly. It will look lumpy at first but keep stirring until smooth. It’s ok if tiny lumps remain.
3. Stir in the nutmeg, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.
Make the pasta:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and preheat the oven to 190˚C or 370˚F.
2. Boil the dried pasta for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions for al dente.
3. Drain the pasta well and add to a mixing bowl. Add the nutritional yeast and vegan butter and toss to coat the pasta.
Layer the pastitsio:
1. Oil the casserole dish then add the pasta. Lay them in the same direction for more uniform slices.
2. Add the vegan meat sauce and spread it evenly.
3. Pour the béchamel into the casserole dish and spread evenly.
4. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top is lightly browned or forms a crust on top.
5. Cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Key Tips To Follow
1. Don’t overcook the pasta.
As with every pasta bake, slightly undercooking the pasta is best to avoid mushy end results.
Boil the pasta for 2 minutes less than the recommended time for al dente. It will continue to cook to perfection in the oven.
2. Low and slow
Simmer pasta sauce on low heat. This allows the flavors to completely combine in any tomato-based sauce.
The “meat” sauce in pastitsio is usually thicker than other bolognese sauces. This ensures it stays put when you cut out a slice. So have a little patience and let that sauce simmer and reduce.
3. Use a whisk for the béchamel sauce
A whisk helps to reduce lumps in a white sauce. It mixes in the flour more quicker and easier.
You can also use a fork or wooden spoon. It may not be completely lump-free but good just the same.
Recipe Variations or Substitutions
- Add vegan Worcestershire sauce or garlic for added flavor to the white sauce.
- You can use all Beyond Meat or all red lentils for this recipe. Brown or green lentils may also be used.
- Try gluten-free pasta and all-purpose gluten-free flour for the béchamel.
How To Make In Advance
Pastitsio is great for meal prepping. The béchamel and lentil sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
When ready to serve, cook the pasta, assemble and bake as directed.
If the béchamel is too thick, you may have to add a bit of water, reheat and stir to the desired consistency.
If you’ve got some leftovers, you can put them in the fridge or freezer.
Cover the entire dish with foil or remove individual servings and store them in airtight containers.
They’ll last fine in the fridge for two to three days or freezer for up to three months.
How To Reheat
Reheating pastitsio is just the same as any other baked pasta dish. Simply reheat a portion in the microwave for a few minutes.
Two minutes from the fridge or six to seven minutes from the freezer.
When reheating in the oven, place an oven-proof dish and bake for ten to fifteen minutes.
More Vegan Pasta Bake Recipes
- Spinach Lasagna (Gluten-free)
- Stuffed Shells with Almond Ricotta
- Vegan Cannelloni with Tofu Ricotta
- Gluten-free Lasagna with Lentils and Sausage
If you love this dish, then you’ll also love this other Greek favorite, Spanakopita, a flavorful spinach pie wrapped in layers of crispy, flaky phyllo dough.
Vegan Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)
- 9” x 11" x 3" casserole dish
- Whisk or wooden spoon
Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, use Metric measurements and measuring spoons.
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 lb (450 g) vegan ground meat, I used Beyond Meat
- 1 cup (180 g) cooked lentils, red, brown or green
- 2 medium onions, chopped or minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup (125 ml) red wine or broth
- 2 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base, (See Notes)
- 1 can (400 g) crushed tomatoes, 15oz can, or fresh
- 1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1 cinnamon stick
- ¾ teaspoon ground Allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 2 tsp fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ bunch (30 g) fresh parsley, chopped, about a handful
- 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
Béchamel or white sauce:
- 5 tbsp (70 g) vegan butter or margarine
- ¾ cup (90 g) all-purpose flour
- 2½ cups (625 ml) soy milk, or oat milk
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice, or ¼ tsp vegan lactic acid
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast, adds a slightly cheesy flavour but it's optional
- salt and pepper, to taste
Make the veggie meat sauce:
- Heat the oil in a large sauce pan at medium heat and add the Beyond Meat. Cook until browned then add the onion and garlic.1 lb (450 g) vegan ground meat ,2 medium onions ,3 cloves garlic
- Cook until the onions are translucent then add spices, sugar, tomato paste and bouillon paste. Cook for a few seconds until the spices become fragrant then stir in the red wine.2 tbsp tomato paste ,2 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base ,1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ,¾ teaspoon ground Allspice ,½ teaspoon ground cloves ,1 teaspoon sugar ,½ cup (125 ml) red wine or broth
- Add the tomatoes, cooked lentils and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Allow it to simmer uncovered on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the most of the liquid has evaporated.1 cup (180 g) cooked lentils ,1 can (400 g) crushed tomatoes ,1 teaspoon dried thyme ,2 bay leaves ,½ bunch (30 g) fresh parsley ,salt and pepper
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, then remove from heat.
Make the béchamel sauce:
- Melt the vegan butter in a saucepan over low heat. Gradually stir in the flour to form a paste called a roux. Cook for about 1 minute or until slightly tan in color.5 tbsp (70 g) vegan butter or margarine ,¾ cup (90 g) all-purpose flour
- Slowly add the soy milk and stir quickly to reduce lumps. Continue stirring while it thickens then add the nutmeg, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.2½ cups (625 ml) soy milk ,¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg ,4 tbsp nutritional yeast ,salt and pepper ,2 teaspoon lemon juice
Make the pasta:
- Boil the dried pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than the packet instructions for al dente.9 oz (250 g) bucatini pasta ,salt
- Preheat the oven to 190˚C or 370˚F.
- Drain the pasta well and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the nutritional yeast and vegan butter then toss to coat evenly.3 tbsp nutritional yeast ,1 tbsp (14 g) vegan butter or margarine
Assemble and bake:
- Oil the casserole dish then add the pasta. Lay them in the same direction for more uniform slices.2 teaspoon olive oil
- Add the vegan meat sauce and spread it evenly.
- Pour in the béchamel and spread evenly.
- Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top is lightly browned or forms a crust on top.
- Cool for 20 minutes for easier slicing and serving.
- You can use all meatless crumbles or all lentils for this recipe.
- 1/3 cup (70g) dried red lentils makes about 1 cup (150g) cooked.
- If you’re using broth instead of red wine then omit the bouillon base or use less.
- My casserole dish measured 9″ x 11″ x 3″ but a 10-inch square casserole dish may also be used.
- A deep pan is best for a thick slice. I’d suggest one with at least 3 inches. Make half the recipe for pans with a shorter height.
- Meal-prep: To store, cool completely, cut into individual slices and place them in airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- To reheat, thaw a slice in the refrigerator if needed then microwave on High until heated through.
- This recipe was adapted from Akis Petretzikis.
This post was originally published on October 15, 2020, and updated on February 11, 2022 with new photos and details.