Classic Greek Moussaka with Eggplant - Step by Step

  • 01 of 06

    Prepare Moussaka Ingredients

    Eggplants for Moussaka
    This classic version of moussaka starts with eggplants. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    In Greek: μουσακά, pronounced moo-sah-KAH

    Moussaka can be any dish created in layers of vegetables and ground meat, and dishes with the same or similar names are prepared in several areas of the world. Other Greek versions call for artichokes, potatoes, and zucchini, or a combination, but this is the classic known worldwide.

    Because Moussaka takes a good bit of time and space, try increasing the recipe, using freezer-safe dishes (the one-time-use aluminum pans work well) and freeze some for later use. (How to Freeze)

    Preparation time: 2 hours 30 minutes
    Cooking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
    Yield: approximately 8 servings

    Pots, Pans, Utensils

    • large, heavy-bottomed frying pan or skillet with cover
    • 1 medium saucepan (for béchamel)
    • 1 large saucepan (for béchamel)
    • 2 wooden spoons
    • 1 medium whisk (for béchamel)
    • 1 baking / roasting pan approximately 10 x 16 x 3 inches


    • 5-6 large eggplants
    • sea salt
    • olive oil
    • 4 medium onions, chopped
    • 2 1/2 pounds of ground beef or lamb
    • 3 cups of chopped ripe tomatoes with juice (or canned tomatoes)
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 6-8 whole cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or a small stick (break off around 1 inch long)
    • 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 cup of grated kefalotyri cheese (or pecorino)
    • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
    • 1/2 cup of dry red wine
    • 3 tablespoons of tomatopaste
    • freshly ground pepper
    • béchamel with cheese or 6 cups of basic béchamel
    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Prepare the Eggplant

    Prepare Eggplant for Moussaka
    Left to right: Remove the stem, cut the skin off in strips, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    Build the moussaka from the bottom up:


    Wash the eggplants and trim off stems. Cut off 1/2-inch wide strips of the skin lengthwise, leaving about an inch in between, all around the eggplant, then cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices.

    Put the slices in a large bowl or on a tray, sprinkle liberally with salt and let them sit for 30 minutes. Rinse well, drain, and pat dry.

    Brush slices lightly on both sides with olive oil and run them under the broiler on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly browned and soft. Remove and set aside to cool.

    Note: If you've never fixed this before, there are two reasons often given for salting the eggplant: (1) to remove any bitterness, and (2) to absorb some of the natural liquids.

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Prepare Meat Sauce

    Prepare Moussaka Sauce and Bake
    Combine ingredients for the sauce, then cover and simmer. Photo © Jim Stanfield


    Preheat the frying pan or skillet over low heat.

    When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and increase the heat to medium low. Sauté the onions with a wooden spoon until they are translucent, add the meat and continue to sauté until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, 1/2 the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, bay leaves, allspice, wine, and tomato paste and mix well. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 45 minutes to an hour. If there is still liquid in the pan, continue to simmer uncovered until the mixture is as dry as possible, stirring to prevent sticking. When dry, remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick (if used), and set sauce aside uncovered until ready to use.

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Make the Bechamel Sauce

    Bechamel sauce
    Bechamel sauce. Photo © Jim Stanfield


    While the sauce is simmering, make the béchamel with cheese or 6 cups of basic béchamel, cover, and set aside.

    Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Add Bechamel Sauce & Cheese Topping

    Add bechamel sauce to moussaka
    Add bechamel and cheese. Photo © Jim Stanfield


    Lightly oil the baking pan and sprinkle the bottom with the remaining breadcrumbs. Place a layer of eggplant slices on the breadcrumbs (it's ok to overlap) and spread the meat mixture evenly on top. Cover with the remaining eggplant slices, and carefully pour the béchamel sauce evenly over the top.

    Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over the top, and continue to cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Moussaka, Ready to Serve

    Moussaka Finished and Ready to Eat
    Moussaka, ready to eat. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    Remove the moussaka from the oven and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes. Moussaka is traditionally eaten warm, not hot, and can also be eaten at room temperature. Like many Greek dishes, this is even better the next day.


    • Moussaka can be prepared up to the béchamel and refrigerated overnight. The next day, make the bechamel, pour over the top, and cook as directed.
    • It can also be completely cooked and cooled, then frozen. Defrost and and reheat in a 350° (175-180°C) oven.

    Serving suggestions:

    Moussaka is traditionally served in very large pieces and it is a heavy dish. Serve with a green salad, crusty bread, and a dry red wine. If anyone has room for dessert, a fruit sorbet or cheese with fruit is a light way to end on a sweet note.