Greek Moussaka (or Musaka) is an authentic Greek eggplant dish made with layers of aubergines and/or potatoes, tomatoey meat sauce, and silky béchamel. The extra cheese and breadcrumb topping give this succulent dish a golden crunchy texture.
This is not a "quick " dish but it is easy with step-by-step instructions and pictures below and the result is worth the effort and time.
What is Moussaka?
Moussaka is a Greek eggplant casserole dish made with layers of aubergine and/or potatoes topped with ground meat in tomato sauce. This tasty dish is very common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking and it has many different variations.
Some variations use potatoes or courgettes instead/or with the aubergines.
Unlike the Turkish Moussaka, the Greek version of this aubergine dish has also potatoes and is topped with a cheesy béchamel sauce. It surely is the ultimate comfort food!
Difference Between Moussaka and Lasagna
The bolognese sauce I make for Homemade Lasagna Recipe is similar to the meat sauce for moussaka with only a few differences:
Firstly, the sauce for moussaka is much thicker than the bolognese sauce. Secondly, the addition of cinnamon gives it a fresh taste and smell that characterizes a traditional Greek Moussaka!
And lastly, there is no celery or carrot added to the moussaka sauce, unlike the bolognese sauce.
Also, the béchamel sauce for moussaka has egg yolks in it and is also much thicker than the béchamel sauce for lasagna.
Moussaka is layered with vegetables, lasagna is layered with lasagna pasta sheets.
Ingredients and Substitutes
Meat Sauce Ingredients
- Aubergines - Small aubergines are better, they have fewer seeds, thinner skin, and tend to be sweeter, tenderer, and less bitter. Pick slightly firm but not hard aubergines with a shiny&smooth skin and peel them in stripes like a zebra pattern.
- Potatoes - You can use any potatoes you have in hand for this dish.
- Lamb mince - The main ingredient for meat filling is the minced lamb (ground lamb), and its fat content is as important as the quality of the meat. Ideally, it should have %20 fat for the best flavor. Alternatively, you can make the sauce with beef mince.
- Onions - You can use white, brown, or yellow onions.
- Olive oil - I use good quality olive oil to achieve the best flavor. Be generous about it when you are making an aubergine dish as olive oil gives the dish a nice and rich flavor.
- Tomatoes - Use the best tomatoes you can find (like plum tomatoes). Alternatively, tinned tomatoes are also good for this recipe.
- Tomato paste - It is the staple of Turkish cooking. It adds an umami flavor to the dishes as well as a bright red color. You can find it in Turkish or Middle Eastern shops. You can also buy it online from Amazon.
- Beef Stock - I prefer using Homemade Beef Stock but you can use stock cubes if you don't have any stock in hand. Make sure you don't add too much salt as ready-made stocks and stock cubes contain salt already.
- Parsley - It adds balance to savory dishes and is one of the most popular herbs in Mediterranean cooking. You can omit it if you prefer.
- Garlic - Fresh garlic is a great flavoring that adds sweetness and nuttiness to dishes. Turn it into a paste with a Mortar and Pestle or grate it using a Microplane Zester Grater.
Béchamel Sauce Ingredients
- Butter - Use good quality unsalted butter. To make the bechamel, make sure it is totally melted before adding the flour.
- Plain Flour - It is also known as all-purpose flour. It is perfect for making cakes, cookies, pastries, and thickening sauces.
- Milk - I use full-fat or semi-skimmed milk for the bechamel sauce. Add it slowly in small batches to the butter and flour mixture for velvety sauce.
- Nutmeg - It is the perfect flavoring for the bechamel sauce. I grate the nutmeg freshly using a Microplane Zester Grater for more intense flavor and freshness.
- Cheddar Cheese - Mature or extra mature cheddar adds a bit of kick to the sauce. You can substitute it with gruyere or gouda.
- Breadcrumbs - I use panko breadcrumbs for extra crispness but you can use any breadcrumb you have in hand. You can substitute it with cornflakes. Just blitz it in a food processor before using the cornflakes.
- Egg yolk - It adds flavor and richness to the béchamel sauce.
How to Make Greek Moussaka?
Making this Authentic Moussaka dish requires some time, a bit of effort, and lots of washing up but don't let this put you off. To achieve the best results, you need to follow a few simple steps:
Make the Meat Sauce
The tomatoey meat sauce for this Moussaka dish is similar to the meat sauce I use for my classic Lamb Bolognese with Linguine. The main difference is consistency. Moussaka needs a thicker meat sauce to help create those layers.
To make the sauce, heat a large pan or a dutch oven on medium heat and put the lamb mince in. Cook until it releases its fat and is nicely browned. Break the mince down into small pieces with a wooden spoon while cooking.
Add the onions along with the garlic and saute until translucent with the fat from the meat. If your meat didn't release enough fat, add some olive oil to help cook the onions and garlic.
Add the freshly ground black pepper, cinnamon, paprika, and salt, and sauté for 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute then add the tinned tomatoes. Add the stock, sugar, and herbs. Stir well and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
Make the Béchamel Sauce
Traditional béchamel (or white sauce) has three main ingredients: butter, flour, and milk. When you portion your moussaka the bechamel sauce should not be runny. The addition of egg yolk to the sauce helps it to set firmly when baked.
To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat and stir in the flour.
Mix well using a wooden spatula or a small whisk and cook for 2 minutes stirring all the time. Don't let it brown, need to stay pale in color.
Whisk in a little of the warm milk at a time, stirring continuously until you have a smooth, velvety sauce. Cook on low heat for a few minutes stirring all the time until the sauce has thickened and the flour taste has disappeared.
The sauce sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns easily so keep stirring the sauce at all times. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the nutmeg, salt, and the 50 g grated Parmesan cheese. Let it cool down for five minutes and whisk in the egg yolk, and set aside until you need it.
Prepare the Vegetables
Preheat the oven to 180° C (360° F). Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and add some vegetable oil in just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot enough, add the potatoes in batches and fry until lightly brown on both sides. The potatoes will still be uncooked in the middle but lightly browned outside.
Remove the potatoes from the pan and set them aside on a plate. In the same pan, fry both sides of the aubergines until lightly browned and they started to soften. Remove from the pan and set aside on a colander to drain excess oil.
Alternatively, you can roast the eggplants in the oven if you want a lighter moussaka. Simply place the sliced aubergines on a baking sheet lined tray and drizzle some olive oil on the top. Cook for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven until slightly browned.
Assemble the Moussaka
To assemble the moussaka, layer half of the eggplants on the bottom of an oven dish (both my 27 cm x 19 cm / 11" x 7") rectangular dish or 25 cm (10") dia round dish works well for this recipe.
Top with half of the mince filling and spread evenly all over the aubergines.
Layer the potatoes on top of the mince filling.
Sprinkle on some salt then top with the rest of the mince filling. Nicely cover with the remaining aubergines and pour over the bechamel sauce.
Spread evenly using a silicone spatula or a pallet knife. Sprinkle evenly the 25 g grated parmesan and 25 g grated cheddar then cover with the breadcrumbs.
Cook in the preheated oven for about an hour or until it is golden brown and bubbling away. Let it cool down for 15 to 20 minutes before portioning and serving.
Top Tip From the Chef
Aubergines absorb lots of oil while frying. Gently pressing on them would help to get rid of some excess oil. Alternatively, you can bake the aubergines and potatoes for a lighter moussaka. Your dish will still be delicious and have fewer calories.
Simply drizzle your sliced aubergines and potatoes with some olive oil, season with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and bake them in sheet pans for 20 minutes at 200° C (400° F) until they are slightly browned on the outside.
Greek Eggplant Moussaka (or Musaka) is an easy dish to make, but it needs some time to prepare. The good news is that you can prepare it up to three days in advance and bake it when you need it.
Moussaka is a complete meal as it contains some potatoes. However, you can serve this comforting eggplant dish with some Turkish Pide Bread and a bowl of Lebanese Fattoush Salad on the side. Alternatively, you can serve Moussaka with some buttery and fluffy Turkish Rice Pilaf or healthy Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf (Mercimekli Bulgur Pilavi).
Yes, you can freeze moussaka before or after baking.
If you want to freeze the moussaka before baking, build it in an oven dish, let it cool down in the fridge and then nicely cover it with a cling film before putting it in the freezer.
It will keep for up to 3 months, simply thaw it overnight in the fridge and then bake in preheated oven until it is golden brown and bubbling away.
If you want to freeze the moussaka after baking, portion it individually, cool it down in the fridge, and place it in an airtight container.
When you want to reheat it, thaw it in the fridge overnight, place it in an oven dish, cover with tin foil and reheat it in preheated oven until it is piping hot. Or microwave it for a few minutes until piping hot.
Love Aubergines? For other delicious aubergine dishes why not try:
I hope you enjoy the process of making this delicious Greek Casserole dish as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet olsun!
Greek Moussaka (Musaka)
For the Meat Sauce
- 400 g minced lamb
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion (small diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 400 g chopped tomatoes (or tinned tomatoes)
- ½ tablespoon tomato paste
- 100 ml stock (beef, lamb or chicken)
- 2 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme (chopped)
For the Bechamel Sauce
- 40 g butter
- 40 g all purpose flour
- 350 ml milk (warm)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 egg yolk
- 50 g parmesan cheese (grated)
For the Vegetables
- 350 g potatoes (approximately 2 large potatoes) (peeled and sliced 0.5 cm thick)
- 700 g aubergine (approximately 3 medium aubergine) (peeled in stripes and sliced 1 cm thick)
- vegetable oil for frying
For the Topping
- 25 g parmesan cheese (grated)
- 25 g cheddar cheese (grated)
- 25 g panko breadcrumbs
Cooking the Meat Sauce
- Heat a large pan or dutch oven on medium heat and cook the lamb mince until brown and release its fat. Stir occasionally to break the mince down into small pieces.
- Add onions and garlic, saute until translucent then add freshly ground black pepper, paprika, cinnamon, and salt. Sauté for 30 seconds.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute before adding the tinned tomatoes.
- Add the stock, sugar, and herbs. Stir well and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
- Check the seasoning and add some salt if needed.
- While the meat sauce is cooking, start the béchamel sauce.
Cooking the Bechamel Sauce
- Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat and stir in the flour.
- Mix well using a wooden spatula or a whisk and cook for 2 minutes stirring all the time.
- Whisk in a little of the warm milk at a time stirring continuously until you have a smooth, velvety sauce.
- Cook on low heat for a few minutes stirring all the time until the sauce has thickened and the flour taste has disappeared.
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the nutmeg, salt, and the 50 g grated parmesan cheese.
- Let it cool down for five minutes and whisk in the egg yolk, set aside, and start preparing the vegetables.
Preparing the Vegetables and Assembling the Moussaka
- Preheat the oven to 180° C (360° C).
- Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and add some vegetable oil in just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
- When the oil is hot enough, add the potatoes in batches and fry until lightly brown on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.
- Fry the aubergines in the same pan until both sides are lightly browned and they started to soften. Remove from the pan and set aside on a colander to drain excess oil.
- To assemble the lamb moussaka, layer half of the aubergines on the bottom of an oven dish then top with half of the mince filling and spread nicely all over the eggplants.
- Layer the potatoes on top of the filling, sprinkle on some salt then top with the rest of the mince filling.
- Nicely cover with the remaining aubergines and pour over the bechamel sauce. Spread evenly using a silicone spatula or a pallet knife.
- Sprinkle evenly the 25 g grated parmesan and 25 g grated cheddar then cover with the breadcrumbs.
- Cook in the preheated oven for about an hour or until it is golden brown and bubbling away.
- Let it cool down for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
- Moussaka needs a thicker meat sauce to help create those layers.
- Break the mince down into small pieces with a wooden spoon while cooking.
- Aubergines absorb lots of oil while frying. Gently pressing on them would help to get rid of some excess oil.
- You can prepare moussaka up to three days in advance and bake it when you need it.
- Roast the aubergines in the oven if you want a lighter moussaka.
- You can freeze moussaka before or after baking.
- Let the Moussaka cool down for 15 to 20 minutes before portioning and serving.
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