Turkish Moussaka (or Musakka) is an authentic dish made with layers of aubergines and tomatoey meat sauce. This tasty dish is originated from Ottoman cuisine and there are a few different variations. You can replace the lamb mince with beef or chicken mince and swap the aubergines with courgettes or potatoes. It is very easy to adjust this versatile dish to your taste.
You can prepare Turkish Moussaka in advance and gently heat up on low heat before serving. It is one of these dishes that taste better when reheated. The best way to serve it is with a slice of crusty bread or some Turkish Rice Pilaf.
Why This Recipe Works?
- It is versatile, you can adjust the type or the amount of the vegetables you want to use to your taste.
- Turkish Moussaka is freezer friendly, you can freeze it for up to 3 months.
- It is very easy to make with step-by-step instructions.
- You can prepare it in advance for up to 3 days, it tastes even better when reheated.
Ingredients & Substitutes
- Aubergine - Pick slightly firm but not hard aubergines when buying them. Peel them in stripes like a zebra pattern and slice them 1 cm thick.
- Vegetable oil - You can use sunflower or rapeseed oil instead.
- Mince - You can use lamb or beef mince for this dish as well as a mixture of both.
- Onion - Finely chopped white, brown or yellow onion.
- Turkish green chilli - They are one of the most popular peppers used in Turkish cuisine. They are usually mild but some of them can be quite hot. You can replace them with bell pepper or Spanish Padron peppers.
- Red chilli - Optional, adjust to your taste. If using Turkish peppers, check their spiciness before adding any more chillies to your dish. Use chilli flakes if you prefer.
- Tomato Paste - It is the staple of Turkish cooking. It adds an umami flavour to the dishes as well as a bright red colour. You can find it in Turkish or Middle Eastern shops. You can also buy it from .
- Tomatoes - Red & juicy summer tomatoes are always the best option. You can also use tinned tomatoes with an additional teaspoonful of sugar for the acidity.
- Chickpeas - They add an extra texture to the dish and also goes perfect with aubergine. It is not traditional to use chickpeas in Musaka but I love the texture and the taste it gives to the dish. Use dried or tinned chickpeas.
- Stock - I prefer using Homemade Beef Stock but chicken stock or vegetable stock works great as well. 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 savoury dishes and is one of the most popular herbs in Mediterranean cooking. You can omit it if you prefer.
Although the preparation takes a bit of time, making Turkish Moussaka is straight forward and there are a few easy steps that you need to follow to achieve the best results:
Prepare the Aubergines
Peel the aubergines in stripes and slice them 1 cm thick. Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, fry the aubergines for 2-3 minutes on both sides until lightly browned and slightly softened. Add extra oil if needed as aubergines observe lots of oil.
Place the aubergines onto a colander to drain the excess oil. Gently pressing the aubergines will help to get rid of some of the excess oil. You can reuse the oil drained from the aubergines to fry the next batch.
Prepare the Meat Sauce
When you finish frying all the aubergine, use the same pan to prepare the meat sauce. Get rid of the extra oil in the pan and add the mince. Place the pan on medium heat and cook the mince until brown and it releases its fat. Stir occasionally to break the mince down into small pieces.
Add onions, peppers, chilli and garlic, sauté until translucent then add freshly ground black pepper, cumin and salt. Sauté for 30 more seconds, stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute before adding the chopped tomatoes.
Add the stock along with the chickpeas, stir well and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Take off from the heat and add chopped parsley.
Assemble the Moussaka
Preheat the fan oven to 180 °C. To assemble the moussaka, layer half of the aubergines on the bottom of an oven dish size of 22 cm-24 cm diameter and then sprinkle some salt. Spoon half of the meat mixture on the aubergines and spread evenly on top. Layer the rest of the aubergines on meat filling and sprinkle some more salt.
Top the aubergines up with the rest of the meat filling. Cover the dish with tin foil or a lid and then put it in the hot oven. Cook for 1 hour then remove the lid/tin foil and cook for another 45 minutes or until the aubergines are softened and the sauce has thickened.
For other great recipes with minced meat (ground meat) why not try:
Some of the best side dishes for this delicious Turkish Musaka are Bulgur Pilaf, Pumpkin Risotto (Risotto Alla Zucca), Bazlama (Turkish Bread), Tabbouleh, Greek Salad, Tomato, and Walnut Salad (Gavurdagi Salatasi) or just a slice of Homemade Toast Bread.
Greek Moussaka is made with layers of aubergine and/or potatoes, tomatoey meat sauce, and then finished with a layer of cheesy béchamel sauce. Turkish Musakka has only layers of aubergine and tomatoey meat sauce with no béchamel sauce added. Greek Moussaka is baked in the oven but Turkish Musaka can be both baked or stove cooked.
Yes, you can make moussaka a couple of days ahead and cook just before serving. It tastes even better a day after as the taste develops overnight.
Top Tip from the Chef
Aubergine absorbs like a sponge so be careful when frying the aubergines in oil. Make sure the oil is piping hot before frying them. Put just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan which will be absorbed by the first batch of aubergines. Add oil for each batch and try not to exceed the amount stated in the recipe. Leave your aubergine slices on a colander after frying for a few minutes to get rid of excess oil.
I hope you enjoy the process of making Turkish Moussaka as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet Olsun!
Did you make this recipe?
- 4 medium aubergines (800 g in total)
- ½ cup vegetable or sunflower oil (for frying)
- 300 g lamb or beef mince
- 1 large onion (finely chopped)
- 1-2 Turkish green chili (or ½ green bell pepper)
- ½ red chili (or ½ teaspoon chili flakes)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 medium tomatoes (diced)
- 90 g dried chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked for 1.5 hours (or 200 grams cooked chickpeas)
- 1 ½ cups vegetable, chicken or beef stock (350 ml)
- ⅓ cup chopped parsley
- Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add the vegetable oil.
- Peel the aubergines in stripes and slice them 1 cm thick.
- When the oil is hot, fry the aubergines for 2-3 minutes on both sides until lightly browned and slightly softened. Do it in batches and add more oil if needed.
- Place the aubergines onto a colander to drain the excess oil.
- When you finish frying all the aubergines, use the same pan to prepare the meat sauce.
- To make the meat sauce, add the mince to the pan and place it on medium heat.
- Cook the mince until brown and it releases its fat, stirring occasionally to break the mince down into small pieces.
- Add onions, peppers, chili, and garlic, saute until translucent then add freshly ground black pepper, cumin and salt. Saute for 30 more seconds.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute then add the chopped tomatoes.
- Add the stock and chickpeas, stir well and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
- Take off from the heat and add chopped parsley.
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
- To assemble the moussaka, layer half of the aubergines on the bottom of an oven dish size of 22 cm-24 cm diameter and sprinkle some salt.
- Spoon half of the meat mixture on the aubergines and spread evenly on top.
- Layer the rest of the aubergines on meat filling and sprinkle some more salt before topping them up with the rest of the meat filling.
- Cover the dish with tin foil or a lid and put it in the hot oven. Cook for 1 hour then remove the lid/tin foil and cook for another 45 minutes or until the aubergines are softened and the sauce has thickened.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
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