Moussaka is to the Eastern Mediterranean what lasagna is to Italy: A very rich, special casserole that is perfect for Sunday dinners or potluck gatherings. The recipe takes some time to put together, but like a good lasagna, it’s worth it.

This version is Greek, although every country in the region makes its own version of moussaka. Even the Greek versions have endless variety, from different ingredients in the meat sauce, choices of meat, amount of béchamel, how they cut and cook the eggplants, whether to use potatoes, etc.

The best way to make moussaka is in steps. Start with the meat sauce, and while that is simmering, prep the potatoes and eggplant. Make the béchamel last because it is not a sauce that holds very well. Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps, we’ve just detailed the process carefully to make it easier to follow.

Do you have a favorite way of preparing moussaka? Please let us know about it. Also check out the links to more moussaka approaches from other food bloggers in the link list below the recipe.

Moussaka Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 8

A word on the cheese: All sorts of cheese can be used here, and to be most authentic, use kefalotyri. We used mizithra, which is becoming increasingly available in supermarkets. No need to search the globe for these cheeses, however, as a pecorino or any hard grating cheese will work fine.



Meat sauce

  • 2 pounds ground lamb or beef
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 Tbsp or more of lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Bechamel sauce

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

The moussaka

  • 3 large globe eggplants
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 8 cups water
  • 2-3 Yukon gold or other yellow potatoes
  • 1 cup grated mizithra cheese (or pecorino or Parmesan)
  • Olive oil


Prepare the meat sauce

1 Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and brown the ground meat. By the way, the meat will brown best if you don't stir it. Add the onions about halfway into the browning process. Sprinkle salt over the meat and onions.

2 Once the meat is browned and the onions have softened, add the garlic, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.

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3 Add the red wine and mix well. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat and continue to simmer gently, uncovered for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Add the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Mix well and taste. If the sauce needs more acidity, add more lemon juice.

Set the sauce aside.

Prepare the potatoes and eggplants

4 Mix the 1/2 cup salt with the 8 cups of water in a large pot or container. This will be the brine for the eggplants.

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5 Slice the top and bottom off the eggplants. Cut thick strips of the skin off the eggplants to give them a striped appearance. A little skin on the eggplant is good for texture, but leaving it all on makes the moussaka hard to cut later, and can add bitterness, which you don’t want. (Some moussaka recipes leave the skin on and have you slice the eggplants lengthwise, which is an option if you prefer.) Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and drop them into the brine.

6 Let the eggplants sit in the brine 15-20 minutes, then remove them to a series of paper towels to dry. Place a paper towel down on the counter, layer some eggplant on it, then cover with another sheet of paper towel and repeat.

7 As the eggplants are brining, peel and slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds. Boil them in salted water for 5-8 minutes – you want them undercooked, but no longer crunchy. Drain and set aside.

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8 To cook the eggplant, broil or grill the rounds. You could also fry the eggplant rounds but they tend to absorb a lot of oil that way. To grill the eggplant rounds, get a grill very hot and close the lid. Paint one side of the eggplant rounds with olive oil and grill 2-3 minutes. When they are done on one side, paint the other side with oil and flip. When the eggplants are nicely grilled, set aside. To broil, line a broiling pan or roasting pan with aluminum foil. Paint with olive oil. Place the eggplant rounds on the foil and brush with olive oil. Broil for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned on one side, then flip them over and broil for a few minutes more. Set aside.

Prepare the béchamel

9 Heat milk in a pot on medium heat until steamy (about 160 degrees). Do not let simmer.

10 Heat the butter in a small pot over medium heat. When the butter has completely melted, slowly whisk in the flour. Let this roux simmer over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Do not let it get too dark.

11 Little by little, pour in the steamy milk, stirring constantly. It will set up and thicken dramatically at first, but keep adding milk and stirring, the sauce will loosen. Return the heat to medium. Add about a teaspoon of salt and the nutmeg. Stir well.

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12 Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine. Temper the eggs so they don’t scramble when you put them into the sauce. Using two hands, one with a whisk, the other with a ladle, slowly pour in a couple ladle’s worth of the hot béchamel into the eggs, whisking all the time. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the béchamel while whisking the mixture. Keep the sauce on very low heat, do not let simmer or boil.

Finish the moussaka

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13 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Layer a casserole with the potatoes, overlapping slightly. Top the layer of potatoes with a layer of eggplant slices (use just half of the slices).

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14 Cover the eggplant slices with the meat sauce. Then layer remaining eggplant slices on top of the meat.

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15 Sprinkle half the cheese on top. Ladle the béchamel over everything in an even layer. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

16 Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

Let the moussaka cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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Lamb moussaka burger from Chef John of Food Wishes

Lamb moussaka from Tasty Eat At Home

Moussaka from Grow. Cook. Eat.

Moussaka, Circa 1961 a Julia Child version posted by Not Eating Out in New York

Moussaka with ground beef - from the king of Greek cooking, Peter Minakis of Kalofagas



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Showing 4 of 58 Comments

  • Magda

    Thanks for your wonderful recipes! I’ve cooked and enjoyed many of them over the years.

    My moussaka is similar to yours but I use thinly sliced raw potatoes, which I think have better flavor and texture. I put a layer of thinly sliced raw onions on the potatoes and, in season, a layer of tomato slices before the bechamel. I sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper. I don’t want my moussaka to be very rich, so I use half the amount of bechamel and omit the cheese.

    I found that there is no need to heat the milk when making bechamel. I heard on some cooking show that one should whisk cold liquid into hot roux and I’ve always followed this rule. The bechamel made that way is very smooth and doesn’t get lumpy.

    I’d like to make moussaka with lamb but the lamb I’ve gotten at Whole Foods has a very strong, almost sweetly floral flavor that I’m not a fan of. Does anyone have tips about buying lamb in the US?

  • Cheri

    I, too, noticed a few years ago that lamb seemed to have gotten very gamey-tasting. Someone told me that what I’d been eating was imported from New Zealand, and that US lamb was much milder. Since then I’ve been careful about the source, and it tastes the way it used to, so I think they were probably right.

    My moussaka recipe comes from the old Time-Life cookbooks; it doesn’t use the potatoes and has more tomatoes in the meat sauce–it is delicious (but I think I’ll try your recipe the next time, to expand my horizons a little).

  • michael bash

    I’m US living, working and cooking in Greece for 35+ years. Mousaka (Arabic word, accent on 2nd syllable) is the most labor-intensive dish I’ve ever made. Tip = make the meat sauce another time and freeze it (I do the same for Pastitsio). One step out of the way. Two, there is no ground lamb in Greece; animals are too small. All use beef. Three, using pots and zukes with eggplant is not a copout, it’s better. Four, mousaka bechamel has eggs in it except on ferryboats. But that’s Tselemedes which is another story.

  • my little expat kitchen

    Moussakas is one of the greatest Greek dishes and almost every household has its own recipe. Moussakas usually has one layer of every ingredient and in my version, a layer of gourgettes is always added as well.
    The bechamel on top needs to be thick and creamy and of course mizithra or kefalograviera is a must!
    Your version is really good! Love the step by step instructions!

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