Moussaka

Moussaka is a traditional Greek eggplant casserole made with layers of eggplant, potato, meat sauce and a creamy bechamel.

Moussaka is undoubtedly one of Greece’s most popular dishes. It is served in Greek homes throughout the country and abroad and you would be hard-pressed not to find it on the menu of any Greek restaurant.

One bite into this delicious eggplant casserole dish and it isn’t hard to see why it is so popular!

Eggplant and potatoes are layered with an aromatic and hearty meat sauce (I use beef in my version). These layers are all then topped with a lusciously creamy bechamel sauce.

A slice of moussaka topped with fresh parsley.

As far as flavour goes, this casserole certainly has a lot to offer the palate and is sure to please those taste buds!

It is one of my favourite Greek layered casseroles (up there with Pastitsio) and a meal we all look forward to eating. I am confident you will love it as much as we do!

A pan of moussaka baked until golden brown.

What is moussaka?

Moussaka is a Greek layered eggplant casserole dish that is one of the most popular comfort foods in Greece. It consists of layers of eggplant, potato, and meat sauce that are then topped with a layer of creamy bechamel.

My moussaka recipe was passed down from my mom. It is made with a single layer of potatoes, 2 layers of eggplant which sandwich a layer of thick meat sauce and a generous topping of bechamel. A sprinkling of grated cheese tops it all off.

I have included a breakdown of the layers and the order they are arranged in below.

This dish does have several steps and take some time to make but it is totally worth the effort. I have included step by step photos of how to prepare each layer and then assemble the moussaka.

Layers in Moussaka

The layers for moussaka are as follows (listed in the order they appear in a slice from top to bottom, not the order you follow to arrange them):

  1. Grated Cheese (Top Layer)
  2. Bechamel
  3. Eggplant Slices
  4. Meat Sauce
  5. Eggplant Slices
  6. Potato Slices (Bottom Layer)

Instructions and photos of how to arrange these layers are in the steps below.

Closeup of a slice of moussaka showing all of the layers.

How to make Moussaka

While there are several steps required to make moussaka, don’t be deterred. They aren’t difficult to do and essentially fall into 4 overall steps:

  1. Pan-fry (or roast or grill) the vegetables.
  2. Prepare the meat sauce.
  3. Prepare the bechamel sauce.
  4. Arrange the layers and bake.

The full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post but I have included step by step instructions and photographs to help you with each of these steps.

Pan-fry (or roast or grill) the vegetables:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cooking in batches, pan fry the eggplant slices until soft and golden brown on both sides.
  2. Pan fry the potato slices until golden brown both sides and fork tender.
  3. Place fried eggplant and potato on a paper-towel lined pan and season with salt. Set aside.
    Note: Instead of frying, you can also roast or grill the eggplant and potatoes.
Photo collage showing the frying of eggplant and potatoes.

Prepare the meat sauce:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet pan over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften.
  2. Add the ground beef and brown it, breaking up any large chunks as you stir and cook it.
  3. Once the beef is browned, add the tomato paste, parsley, salt and pepper to the meat. Add the water and bring the meat sauce to a boil, stirring frequently until the water evaporates and the meat is cooked. Set aside and let cool.
Photo collage showing the Steps to Make Meat Sauce for Moussaka.

Prepare the bechamel sauce:

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring until it makes a thick paste or roux. Add the milk slowly, whisking continuously as you do so. Whisk until the béchamel sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, then remove it from the heat. Whisk in the egg yolks, mizithra, salt and nutmeg.
  2. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
Photo collage showing how to make bechamel sauce.

Arrange the layers and bake:

  1. Lightly grease a deep 9×13 or similar sized pan with olive oil.
  2. Arrange the potato slices on the bottom of the deep baking pan to create a layer of potatoes.
  3. Add a layer of eggplant slices on top of the potato layer. You will use half of the eggplant slices for this layer.
  4. Top the eggplant layer with the meat sauce, spreading it to ensure it is evenly distributed.
  5. Add a second layer of eggplant slices on top of the meat sauce.
  6. Top the eggplant slices with the bechamel sauce, spreading it evenly across the moussaka.
  7. Sprinkle the bechamel layer with mitzithra or Parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake the moussaka in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a nice golden crust forms.
  9. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes so it can set before slicing.
Photo collage showing Steps to Assemble and Bake Moussaka.

Tips and substitutions:

  • Prep in advance: In order to minimize the workload on the day you bake your moussaka, you can definitely prep some of the components in advance. I regularly make the meat sauce the day before I make moussaka and then store it in the fridge, for example. You can also pre-pan fry or grill your vegetables the day before too.

  • Grill or roast the eggplant and potatoes: In order to cut down on the oil, you can definitely grill or roast the vegetable layers instead of pan frying.

  • Substitute different ground meat options. This recipe uses ground beef but you can also use ground lamb or a mixture of beef and pork for the meat layer.

  • Substitute different cheese: My recipe uses mitzithra but when I don’t have any on hand, I use Parmesan cheese instead. Other options include grated Kefalotiri, Kefalograviera or Romano cheese.
Closeup of the baked golden brown topping of a moussaka.
Golden brown topping of bechamel and grated mitzithra cheese on a moussaka.

Storing leftovers and reheating

Leftover moussaka slices can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated.

To reheat the slices, place them on a baking pan and heat them at 325F until they are warmed through.

Can you make moussaka in advance?

Moussaka is great for prepping in advance. You have several options for this such as:

  • Prepare the individual components in advance. The meat sauce and vegetable layers can be prepped the day before and then stored in the fridge. The next day, all you have to do is make the bechamel sauce and assemble the layers.

  • Assemble the whole moussaka: The entire moussaka can be assembled and refrigerated from the night before. You can simply assemble the layers and then bake it the next day. Alternatively, you can assemble and bake the entire moussaka and then (once cooled) store it in the fridge so it is ready to go the next day.

How to freeze moussaka

Moussaka is great for freezing. I actually recommend doubling the recipe and freezing an entire batch for future meals, as I often do! If you are going to go through all the steps to make 1 moussaka, it only makes sense to double it and make your future self super happy!

You can also freeze leftover slices of moussaka for future meals.

To freeze, allow the moussaka to cool completely. Then, place the moussaka slices in a freezer-safe container and freeze. As an added layer of protection, I like to wrap my containers in plastic food wrap or place them in a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.

To thaw and reheat moussaka, thaw it in the fridge overnight if possible. Then place the slices on a baking tray and heat them up in the oven at 325F until it is warmed through.

What to serve with Moussaka

Since moussaka is hearty and filling, all you need when serving it is a nice salad or vegetable side dish. Traditional Greek Salad is one of my favourites to serve with moussaka. Other options include Zucchini Fries, Horta Vrasta (Greek Boiled Leafy Greens), Mediterranean Couscous Salad, or Green Bean Salad with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Kali orexi (bon appetit in Greek)!

-Cathy

A slice of moussaka on a white plate.

You may also enjoy this other Greek comfort meals:

Pastitsio (similar to moussaka except instead of eggplant and potatoes, pasta is used!)
Gemista (Greek Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes)
Greek Lentil Soup
Fasolakia (Greek Green Beans)
Papoutsakia (Greek Stuffed Eggplant)

A slice of moussaka topped with fresh parsley.

Moussaka

Herbs and Flour
Moussaka is a traditional Greek eggplant casserole made with layers of eggplant, potato, meat sauce and a creamy bechamel.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine Greek
Servings 12
Calories 382 kcal

Ingredients
  

Vegetable layers

  • 4 medium eggplants cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 3 potatoes cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • salt
  • oil for frying

Meat Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (optional)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley chopped

Béchamel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons grated mitzithra or Parmesan cheese

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons grated mitzithra or Parmesan cheese

Instructions
 

Prepare the vegetables

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cooking in batches, pan fry the eggplant slices until soft and golden brown on both sides.
  • Pan fry the potato slices until golden brown both sides and fork tender.
  • Place fried eggplant and potato on a paper-towel lined pan and season with salt. Set aside.
    Note: Instead of frying, you can also roast or grill the eggplant and potatoes.

Meat Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet pan over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften.
  • Add the ground beef and brown it, breaking up any large chunks as you stir and cook it.
  • Once the beef is browned, add the tomato paste, parsley, salt and pepper to the meat. Add the water and bring the meat sauce to a boil, stirring frequently until the water evaporates and the meat is cooked. Set aside and let cool.

Béchamel

  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring until it makes a thick paste or roux. Add the milk slowly, whisking continuously as you do so. Whisk until the béchamel sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, then remove it from the heat. Whisk in the egg yolks, mizithra, salt and nutmeg.
  • Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

Assemble moussaka

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Lightly grease a deep 9×13 or similar sized pan with olive oil.
  • Arrange the potato slices on the bottom of the deep baking pan to create a layer of potatoes.
  • Add a layer of eggplant slices on top of the potato layer. You will use half of the eggplant slices for this layer.
  • Top the eggplant layer with the meat sauce, spreading it to ensure it is evenly distributed.
  • Add a second layer of eggplant slices on top of the meat sauce.
  • Top the eggplant slices with the bechamel sauce, spreading it evenly across the moussaka.
  • Sprinkle the bechamel layer with mitzithra or Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake the moussaka in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a nice golden crust forms.
  • Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes so it can set before slicing.

Notes

Note: Nutritional information is an estimation only and does not include the oil used for frying.

Nutrition

Calories: 382kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 15gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 234mgPotassium: 894mgFiber: 6gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 614IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 182mgIron: 2mg
Keyword bechamel, casserole, greek food, meat sauce
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