Classic Greek Eggplant Moussaka

Greek Eggplant Moussaka

The Spruce

  • Total: 2 hrs 45 mins
  • Prep: 2 hrs
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Servings: 6 to 8 servings

Although moussaka is a dish most associated with Greece, it is in fact well known in many other countries in the Middle East, each having its own version of this hearty and filling casserole. Classic moussaka is made by layering potatoes, eggplants, and a meaty lamb sauce, and then covering the dish in an egg-enriched béchamel sauce that crisps up and becomes golden brown in the oven. Modern versions use beef, some skip the potatoes and béchamel, but most keep the meat sauce and creamy sauce on top.

This complete dish is easy to assemble and can be made up to 48 hours ahead of time. Although there are many steps to complete the moussaka, think of it like lasagna, but instead of pasta sheets, you'll be using eggplant and potatoes. While moussaka can be time-consuming to prepare, it's worth the effort—so hearty and filling that a simple salad is the perfect side dish to this complete meal.

3:30

Click Play to See This Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 eggplants  (about 4 pounds)

  • Salt (for salting the eggplants)

  • 1 pound potatoes (peeled, boiled)

  • 1 splash water

  • 8 large eggs (whites and yolks separated)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil (divided)

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs (divided)

For the Meat Filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or lamb)

  • 2 large onions (finely diced)

  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • Salt (to taste)

  • Freshly ground pepper (to taste)

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 4 cups milk

  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg

For Topping the Casserole:

  • 1 cup Kefalotyri cheese (Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano)

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Vegetables

  1. Gather the ingredients for the vegetables.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  2. Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1-inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate and weigh down the plate with a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink and let the eggplants bleed for 1 hour—15 to 20 minutes minimum.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. While the eggplants are bleeding, cut the potatoes into into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease with some of the olive oil.

  6. Rinse the eggplant slices with abundant water and dry with paper towels. Reserve.

  7. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Place breadcrumbs on a flat plate.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  8. Dip the rinsed and dried eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides well. Save a handful of breadcrumbs for assembling.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  9. Place the breaded eggplant slices on the foil-lined baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over once during cooking.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  10. When the eggplant is finished cooking, set aside and lower the oven temperature to 350 F.

Make the Meat Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients for the meat filling.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe ingredients for the meat filling
     Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
  2. In a large sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the ground beef until the pink color disappears. Add the chopped onion and sauté the mixture until the onions are translucent, or about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Add wine to the pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit. Add the cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar. Stir well.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Allow the sauce to simmer, uncovered, for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a dry and chunky sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce

Make the Béchamel Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients for the sauce.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe ingredients for the sauce
     The Spruce
  2. In a medium saucepan, slightly warm up the milk, without boiling it. Turn the heat off and cover.

  3. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add the flour to the melted butter, whisking continuously to make a smooth, lump-free paste. Let the flour cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Add warmed milk to the mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens a bit. Do not bring it to a boil.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Whisk the 8 egg yolks in a small bowl.

  6. Remove the sauce from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and a pinch of nutmeg. Return to the heat and stir until sauce thickens. Set aside.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce

Assemble the Moussaka

  1. Gather the eggplants, potatoes, meat sauce, bechamel, the reserved handful of breadcrumbs, and cheese.

  2. Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (a lasagna pan works perfectly). Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with breadcrumbs.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Leaving a 1/4-inch space around the edges of the pan, place the potatoes in a layer on the bottom. Top with a layer of half of the eggplant slices.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Add the meat sauce on top of the eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Pour the béchamel sauce over all, being sure to allow the sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow it to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

    Eggplant Moussaka Recipe
     The Spruce
  7. Enjoy!

How to Store Moussaka

This recipe yields between 6 to 8 generous servings of moussaka, more if you like smaller portions. You have plenty of options for storing:

  • If you just need half of the servings, go ahead and make the full recipe but use two smaller baking dishes instead of a large one. Freeze one of the dishes and bake the other one. The one headed for the freezer can't have béchamel on top—you'd need to make just half of the amount of béchamel for the moussaka you're actually baking. The frozen moussaka will keep well for up to 3 months. When you want to reheat it, thaw in the fridge overnight and then make and pour the béchamel on top right before baking.
  • If you need to make ahead of time, assemble and cover without the sauce. Keep in the fridge unbaked for up to two days. Make and pour béchamel sauce right before baking the dish.
  • For cooked leftovers, keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Zucchini Variation

This eggplant moussaka is the traditional way to prepare the dish, but not everyone loves eggplant so a zucchini variation is a delicious alternative. You'll need 4 to 5 large zucchinis, but the rest of ingredients remain the same:

  • Because there is no need to salt and rinse the zucchini, simply wash well and pat dry. Trim the ends and then slice transversely into 1/2 inch slices.
  • Bread the zucchini as you'd do with the eggplant and bake for the same amount of time.
  • Follow the rest of the recipe as instructed.

Another delicious version of the zucchini mousaka involves simply sautéing the slices instead of breading and baking them.