This Greek Moussaka Recipe Is comfort food at its finest. A hearty, ooey gooey casserole made with delicious layers of a rich Tomato Meat Sauce and a luscious, creamy Cheese Sauce layered with Eggplant.
Greek food might not come instantly to mind when you think of comfort food—but boy, after you try this delicious Greek moussaka recipe, it will!!! Moussaka is a delicious, hearty Greek casserole recipe that is sure to become a new regular in your household. It is a simple enough concept: take sliced eggplant, roast it, layer it with a spiced meat mixture, and top it all off with a light and cheesy white sauce.
Is your mouth watering?
Eggplant isn’t always a popular ingredient. But this moussaka recipe does wonders for it. The eggplant in this recipe isn’t mushy or bitter—it’s more innocuous. It blends into the flavor of the whole dish. People don’t know they’re eating eggplant! They’re are so overjoyed with the deliciousness they’re experiencing, they forget to even ask about the ingredients.
Plus, my recipe doesn’t call for fried eggplant like most moussaka recipes do. I think that frying the eggplant before layering it into the baking dish takes an already rich dish and adds unnecessary extra oil, making the whole thing far too heavy. Roasting the eggplant is the perfect alternative! It softens the eggplant without filling it up with oil. That nice, soft eggplant will bake into a deliciously tender addition to your moussaka.
The cheese sauce used here is a variation on traditional béchamel, a base sauce used in much of French cuisine. It’s mostly just a milk, cheese, and butter combination, but some careful tactics need to be employed when whipping it up. Bad béchamel can undo your whole moussaka! Check out the recipe notes for tips on producing a reliable, mouth-watering béchamel. Stir in Parmesan cheese and a few spices to finish up your cheese sauce.
Listen, let’s be honest here, this recipe isn’t quick to make. It’s a bit time consuming. But it is easy. Each step is pretty clear, and not too complicated. I have my kids help me make it! This isn’t a recipe I turn to for a quick weeknight dinner, No, I make this when I have the time to enjoy the process and I don’t need to rush. With this simple moussaka recipe, preparation doesn’t have to be a stress—in fact, pronouncing the name right will be your biggest stress.
The cooking and preparation time for this dish is just indicative of the fantastic complexity of flavor you’ll experience with moussaka. And it is comparable to many different layered casserole dishes.
Beyond that, this moussaka is a crowd pleaser. It makes a large casserole perfect for potlucks or family gatherings. And it’s unique and complex flavor is sure to get a “thumbs up” even from people who originally thought they disliked eggplant.
I love serving this recipe with a good Greek salad—something with feta, olives, and cucumber chunks. The crisp and light vegetables compliment the hearty, rich, warm casserole well.
Give this recipe a try. I think you’ll enjoy this great interpretation on traditional Greek moussaka.
Eggplant: Cooking eggplant isn’t a common practice for a lot of people. This recipe may even be your first time. Cooking good eggplant starts at the grocery store. Try to find black-skinned eggplants—they tend to taste better and be more flavorful.
Roasting your eggplant is probably the easiest way in the world to prep it. I simply brush both sides of the eggplant slices with a little olive oil, arrange the slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and pop them in a preheated hot oven. When I roast the eggplant I don’t bother with presalting it to remove excess moisture. In my opinion, it doesn’t need it.
Frying eggplant can be a tricky business, and you don’t want to end up with soggy sponges for your moussaka. That’s why I roast instead. But some people are insistent on fried eggplant in their moussaka. For those folks, I have some tips to avoid sogginess when you fry your eggplants:
- To fry an eggplant well, make sure that you sprinkle the slices with salt before frying. This will draw out the moisture in the eggplant and improve the final texture. Eggplant tends to drink up any oil you fry in the pan with it, so you don’t want any excess moisture in the eggplant before you start frying. This will also help to prevent splattering hot water and grease.
- A second important tip for frying eggplant deals with your choice of oil. Make sure that the oil you choose to fry your eggplant in is heat tolerant. Vegetable oil or grapeseed oil is; olive oil is not.
- When you’re done frying the eggplant, be sure to use a paper towel to dab off any excess frying oil. This will help to prevent soggy eggplants in your moussaka.
Grilled eggplant can also be delicious, and is generally a little healthier than fried eggplant—though honestly, with dishes like moussaka calories aren’t generally a primary focus . Still, grilled eggplant doesn’t soak up as much of the oil as fried eggplant. Roasting is still my preferred method.
Not everyone likes eggplant, though. And though I happen to think that this recipe will work for even those folks—I understand the need to have a backup plan. To replace the eggplant in this moussaka recipe, simply use potato instead. Potato moussaka will be a little heavier, and won’t have the same texture. But it’s still pretty darn good. Consider that with the moussaka, Jamie Oliver is a proponent!
Béchamel: The key to making good, consistent béchamel (the base of the cheese sauce) is being thorough. It’s not enough to just melt butter and dump some milk in the pan. Instead, melt your butter and add the milk slowly—1 cup or less at a time. Whisk thoroughly and completely smooth any lumps before adding the next cup of milk.
It’s also important to scald the milk before adding it to the butter. Cold milk almost always results in a béchamel fail.
Finally, bring the heat up slightly after you add the milk. This is necessary for the sauce to thicken the way you want it to.
Cook Time: Any of the techniques you use to reduce the cook time on a casserole will work with this recipe. One handy thing is that you can make up the meat and eggplant early in the day, or even the day before. This part of the recipe will keep as long as it’s refrigerated. The béchamel, however, will need to wait until last minute.
Variations: It’s actually not all that difficult to make vegetarian moussaka. Though at its core, Greek moussaka is a meat dish, cooked lentils can be a good substitute for the meat. The final dish won’t taste the same, but will be delicious nonetheless.
Meat Sauce: Traditionally, moussaka is made with lamb. I have a secret to tell you though, I honestly am not a big fan of lamb. Unfortunatey, I got horribly sick after eating Irish Stew in college and ever since, if lamb has even the slightest gamey-nees to it, I remember the aftermath of that darn Irish Stew. So, when I make this recipe I use ground beef. Feel free to use either ground beef or ground lamb 🙂
- Yield: Serves 6-8
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
Greek Moussaka Recipe
- Eggplant, Cut into 1/2 Rounds - 2 large or 3 Medium
- Tomato Meat Sauce:
- Butter - 2 Tablespoons
- Chopped Onion - 1 1/2 Cups
- Minced Garlic - 1 Tablespoon
- Ground Lamb or Ground - 1 Pound
- Allspice - 1 Teaspoon
- Cinnamon - 1/4 Teaspoon
- Nutmeg - 1/4 Teaspoon
- Sugar - 1/8 Teaspoon
- Salt - 1 1/2 Teaspoon
- Pepper - 1 Teaspoon
- Oregano - 1 Tablespoon
- Tomato Paste - 1/4 Cup
- Red Wine - 1 Cup
- Tomato Sauce - 1- 15 Ounce Can
- Cheese Sauce:
- Whole Milk - 2 1/2 Cups
- Unsalted Butter - 4 Tablespoons
- All-Purpose Flour - 1/4 Cup
- Nutmeg - 1/4 Teaspoon
- Salt - 1 Teaspoon
- Black Pepper - 1 Teaspoon
- Grated Parmesan Cheese - 1 1/2 Cups
- Eggs, Beaten - 2
- Grated Parmesan Cheese - 1/2 Cups
- Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped - 1/4 cup
- Spray a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Prepare Eggplant: Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Sprinkle each side lightly with salt and place in a colander set on a plate for 20 minutes. Pat slices with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Brush 1-2 baking sheets with olive oil. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheets, then brush the tops of slices with a thin layer of olive oil. Roast in preheated oven 15-20 minutes or until the eggplant is soft and beginning to brown. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
- Make Tomato Meat Sauce: In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add beef or lamb, stirring to break up the meat. Add the allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, salt, pepper and oregano. Cook until the meat is browned and there is no longer any pink in the meat. Drain off any excess fat. Add the wine and cook until it's almost completely evaporated. Add the tomato paste and tomato sauce and cook on low until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
- Make Cheese Sauce: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it's simmering. In a medium sauce, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the warm milk, stirring often, and cook until 5-7 minutes until the sauce is smooth and thick. Stir in nutmeg, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Cool sauce for 10 minutes. Slowly whisk in eggs and set aside.
- Assemble: Arrange half of the eggplant slices in the prepared baking dish and pour half of the tomato meat sauce on top. Repeat a second layer of eggplant and the remaining tomato meat sauce. Pour the cheese sauce over the tomato meat sauce and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.
- Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in preheat oven (temperature should be at 400 degrees) for 50-60 minutes and Moussaka bubbly and the top is browned.