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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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

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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.

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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



If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

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

66 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Jane

    I agree with the other reviewers-EXCELLENT recipe. Given that moussaka is normally a labor intensive dish, this is a relatively simple recipe, and easy to follow the steps. I used 1lb of ground lamb, and 1lb of ground sirloin. I didn’t have allspice, so I substituted cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Also, I used about 6-7 small/medium sized yellow potatoes, and 2 large eggplant. Since this is a somewhat time-consuming dish to make, and because I actually had enough ingredients, I made 2 pans of moussaka. I was worried that I would be short on the meat sauce and béchamel, but there was plenty for 2 pans. I used 2% milk and included a 1/4 cup of half/half. This was the nicest bechamel sauce I’ve ever made. VERY TASTY MOUSSAKA!!
    PS: Is it okay to freeze one of the pans of moussaka for later?


  • Marilyn

    Half way thru making this I wondered what was I doing, it had better be the best moussaka I’d ever tasted. Now that its out of the oven and Ive tasted it, I can say it really is a tasty dish. I mixed 2 lbs of ground chuck and 1 lb of ground lamb so I adjusted the ratio of spices, tasted the meat mix and it needed a lot more salt, cinnamon and allspice. I threw in about a half cup of crushed tomatoes. I brined the eggplant and then lightly floured and fried the slices. I used grated Kasseri cheese – sprinkled half over the first layer of eggplant – and folded it into the bechamel right before spreading it on top of dish and sprinkled some Parmesan on top just because. I love the potatoes on the bottom, it soaks up some of the grease and compliments the eggplant and meat sauce. The bechamel is spot on, creamy but not eggy. All in all a great recipe for when time is no consideration and eggplant is on sale.


  • Joyce

    I’ve made your recipe, and loved this, but don’t think I’ve taken the step to brine the eggplant, but it does make sense. Other recipes don’t include the sliced potatoes on the bottom, but I like it. There are a lot of recipes posted online, and comments are criticized because directions weren’t followed 100%. I think the joy of sharing recipes on the internet is just learning and trying new ways of making classic recipes. We all know that so many international recipes for the same thing vary based on region or country, so let’s all try to embrace all the differences, and incorporate what we’d like from each of them. This is how foods evolve and we find ways to make them better.


  • Michael

    This is a good recipe with very good tips on cooking in general. Just making this the way described will make you a better cook.
    If one has fresh smaller eggplants skip the brining they do not need it. Older, larger, eggplants can benefit from brining, again young ones not.

  • Tania

    Please, what is the substitute of red wine in this recipe?

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