Moussaka, similar to lasagna, this Greek version of this mediterranean casserole is layered with ground meat, bechamel, eggplant and potatoes.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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!

Our Favorite Videos

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!

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 tablespoons extra virgin 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 tablespoons 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)
  • Extra virgin olive oil


Prepare the meat sauce

1 Brown the ground meat, add onions: 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 Add spices and tomato paste: 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.

3 Add wine and simmer: 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.

4 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

5 Make brine: 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.

6 Prep eggplants: 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.

7 Brine eggplants: 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.

8 Boil peeled, sliced potatoes: 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.

9 Cook the eggplant rounds: 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

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

11 Make roux: 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.

12 Add milk to roux: 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.

13 Temper eggs, and add back to sauce: 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

14 Layer casserole dish with potatoes and eggplant: 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).

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

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

17 Bake: 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.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. Thank you!

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Simply Recipes. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.



Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

89 Comments / Reviews

No ImageMoussaka

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Judith Clark

    I love the seasonings in the meat mixture. I use my own tomato sauce (tomatoes and garlic) made with summer tomatoes instead of tomato paste and red wine, and I don’t put cheese in the bechamel. I find that the dish is lighter without the cheese and the flavours of the meat mixture are clearer. I use fresh grated nutmeg in the bechamel and 1/2 tsp is way too much for me. The potatoes at the bottom soak up all the good juices and flavours.

    Yes, it takes effort, but everything that is good does take effort. And love.

  2. Tania

    Hi what is the substitute for red wine? can we use red vinegar?

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Sharon

    I adjusted the recipe based on my ingredients on hand. I put potatoes on the bottom then I put the meat mixture which included ground pork, onion, red pepper strips and diced zucchini, garlic and herbs savory, garlic, fennel seed salt and pepper, and a little nutmeg. Then i put tomato slices sprinkled with salt, pepper, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Then i layered the eggplant on top of that covered with the bechamel sauce which included Parmesan and baked. I turned out fantastic. Always good to change things up a bit to make it your own. Yum, delish. Will definitely make it again. Thanks for the base recipe

  4. Happy Chef

    I’ve made this several times now and it is always amazing! I don’t change a thing except maybe add a bit more of the spices than called for since I don’t actually measure. But I do this with most recipes and it always turns our great. I have shared the recipe many times as well, since guests often ask. Labour intensive but it is a labour of love.

  5. Anne

    I have made this at least 3 times. Always a hit no matter the dinner guests. One of the few recipes I have not adjusted the recipe.
    Thank you!


View More