Moussaka is a classic Greek comfort food recipe that is reminiscent of lasagna; a spiced ground beef mixture is layered with eggplant, potatoes, and cheese, all smothered in a rich bechamel sauce. A warm and cozy dish, variations are found all over Europe; it’s perfect for holidays, special dinners, and winter nights in.

Slice of moussaka on a white plate.

Years ago, I visited my husband (then-boyfriend) when he was living just outside of Washington DC. A few blocks from his apartment was a small Greek restaurant with a menu that overwhelmed and excited me. Being totally unsure of what to choose, I asked him for a suggestion, followed it, and ordered their moussaka.

Similar to lasagna or a layered casserole, this traditional Mediterranean dish has sliced eggplant and potato rather than noodles. Between the layers are bites of spiced beef and creamy bechamel sauce. There are so many rich flavors and exciting textures, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. A few years after having it for the first time, I worked hard to find a recipe that gave me the same warm feeling – and this is it!

White casserole dish with moussaka, fresh from oven.

As I’ve said, this originated in Greece but there are variations of it all over the world. In Albania, Bulgaria, and other countries of the region, they use all potatoes, and the topping is more of a custard than a bechamel. In Egypt, they use only eggplant and often eat it cold, or after being in the refrigerator overnight. Turkey does things differently, serving it more like a stew, alongside rice.

What is so wonderful about all of these different traditions, is that you can make lots of variations based on what you and your family love, as well as what you may have available!

Ingredients for moussaka

This moussaka has a robust flavor, thanks to layer upon layer of different tastes and textures. This is how we build it:

  • Eggplant and Potatoes: I use both in this recipe, as is standard in the Greek versions. However, you can go all potatoes or all eggplant, if you’d like. I have even seen versions with zucchini and carrots as well.
  • Meat: In this recipe, I choose spiced beef, again the more traditional option. However, plenty of versions include lamb and some even choose to go with ground turkey or chicken. Of course, for those who want to go meatless, any of the many plant-based ground/crumbled “beef” options will work well, though you may need to adjust cooking time based on their packaging.
  • Dairy: This recipe does call for eggs, cheese, milk, and butter. Any plant-based option can be swapped here, but the thicker and richer your cream and butter the better! Plant-based egg replacements work fairly seamlessly, but be sure to find something to swap for both the egg whites and egg yolk in this recipe, since they both play a part.
  • Spices and Pantry Items: Beyond the meat, dairy, and veggies, the rest of the recipe calls for a lot of staple items. Though I love a swap that saves you time – please keep the ground nutmeg and allspice added as written. These spices are so key to the incredibly rich beef flavor and I would love for you to experience that the first time you try this!

Photos of assembling moussaka and pouring bechamel on top.

How to make moussaka step-by-step

  • Peel and slice your eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds. Sprinkle them with salt and line them in a colander. They will drain here for one hour before you take it out to pat them dry and squeeze out any excess water softly. Once patted dry, set the slices aside. Peel and slice your potatoes into 1/2 inch rounds as well, putting them aside to be layered in later.
  • Heat a saucepan with olive oil, and once hot cook the eggplant slices for six to eight minutes, turning occasionally until they are browned on both sides. Drain pieces on a paper towel-lined baking sheet or plate.
  • After removing the eggplant, add more oil to the pan, along with garlic and onion. Once softened, reduce the heat to medium and add in ground beef, stirring until browned.
  • Once the meat is browned, add the tomato, allspice, sugar, and salt and pepper. Simmer until the liquid has evaporated, and remove to cool. Once cooled, fold in the egg whites and parsley.
  • Next, get started on the bechamel sauce. First, pour milk into a saucepan and bring to a barely boil before taking off the heat. Melt the butter in a large pan and add flour, stirring for one minute. Remove the pan from heat, and whisk in the milk until the mixture is totally smooth. Add the pan back onto the stovetop and simmer on medium for 10-15 minutes, or until thick and smooth. Take it off of the heat one more time, and fold in nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 10×15 inch lasagna pan with butter, and sprinkle with bread crumbs.
  • Now we begin assembly! Line the base of the pan with potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Cover with half of the beef and tomato mixture, and sprinkle with half of the parmesan and half of the remaining breadcrumbs.
  • Begin the second layer by lining with eggplant slices, also overlapped. Top that with the remaining half of the beef, parm, and breadcrumbs.
  • Whisk the heavy cream and egg yolks into the cooled bechamel sauce, and spread it evenly over the top of the dish. It’s okay if this layer is thick!
  • Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browning. Let it stand for about 15 minutes before diving in!

Pieces of moussaka on white plates with baking dish in background.

Serving suggestions

Moussaka is eaten in a million different ways – even cold! At restaurants, you will often find it served with a cold cucumber salad, green beans, or crispy garlic bread. A side salad or pasta salad would also be a great side to this versatile main course.

Making ahead and storing moussaka

Just like a casserole or lasagna, moussaka is a great dish to bring to gatherings, send to a busy friend, or have ready to go on a busy weekday night!

  • Make-Ahead: Assemble the moussaka, cover, and refrigerator for up to 1 day, but store the bechamel sauce stored separately in the refrigerator. Whisk the bechamel sauce vigorously; if it is too thick to pour, reheat in a saucepan over low heat until it reaches a pouring consistency. Pour over the prepared moussaka and bake as directed.
  • Freezing: Because the white sauce does not freeze especially well, make and layer the eggplant, potatoes, and meat mixture, then cover with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then make the bechamel, add it to the top, and bake as directed.
  • Storing Leftovers: The moussaka can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Slice of moussaka on white plate with fork taken bite out.

More delicious Greek recipes

I would absolutely love it if you made this Moussaka; if you do, please stop back and leave a rating and let me know how you liked it! ENJOY! 😍

Moussaka

A classic Greek comfort food recipe that is reminiscent of lasagna; a spiced ground beef mixture is layered with eggplant, potatoes, and cheese, all smothered in a rich bechamel sauce.
4.58 (7 ratings)

Ingredients

  • pounds (1020 g) eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds
  • ½ cup (108 ml) olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 pounds (907.18 g) lean ground beef
  • 16 ounces (453.59 g) tomato puree
  • ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 5 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup (100 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • pounds (1.02 kg) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds

For the White Sauce:

  • 3 cups (732 ml) whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) ground nutmeg
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Instructions 

  • Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let drain in a colander for 1 hour. Rinse, squeeze out any excess water and pat dry.
  • Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, turning occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides (if you don't have a pan big enough, do this in two batches). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Increase the heat to medium, add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a spoon, for about 10 minutes, or until browned. Add the tomato puree, allspice, and sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool, then fold in the egg white and parsley.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the white sauce. Place the milk in a small saucepan and bring to barely a boil, then remove from the heat. Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, then stir in the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Return the sauce to medium heat and simmer, whisking constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 10x15-inch lasagna pan with butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs. Cover the base of the dish with the potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Spread half of the meat mixture on top and sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the remaining bread crumbs. Cover with the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly. Spread the remaining meat mixture on top, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the remaining breadcrumbs. (At this point, the dish may be covered and frozen. Thaw before baking.)
  • Whisk the cream and egg yolks into the white sauce and spread it evenly over the surface of the dish. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Potatoes and Eggplant: I use a combination in this recipe, but you can use all potatoes or all eggplant. You can also substitute zucchini or carrots.
  • Serving Suggestions: Add garlic bread or a side salad to round this out as the main course.
  • Make-Ahead: Assemble the moussaka, cover, and refrigerator for up to 1 day, but store the bechamel sauce stored separately in the refrigerator. Whisk the bechamel sauce vigorously; if it is too thick to pour, reheat in a saucepan over low heat until it reaches a pouring consistency. Pour over the prepared moussaka and bake as directed.
  • Freezing: Because the white sauce does not freeze especially well, make and layer the eggplant, potatoes, and meat mixture, then cover with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then make the bechamel, add it to the top, and bake as directed.
  • Storing Leftovers: The moussaka can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Recipe adapted from Vefa's Kitchen
Nutritional values are based on one serving
Calories: 451kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 27g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 125mg, Sodium: 261mg, Potassium: 1112mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 768IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 217mg, Iron: 4mg

Did you make this recipe?

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Photography by Julia Trigo.