Moussaka is a very versatile dish that can be modified in many different ways. If you are looking for a rich dish that will leave your guests full and satisfied, then this one’s for you! Prepare yourself for this delicious dish by giving it a try today!
Food photography/styling by StudioKimihou
The first time I ever had moussaka was when my ex-in-laws made it for dinner one night. I think they were trying this whole “putting-the-romance-into-their-retired-life” sort of thing by cooking together. And I can totally see why moussaka would seem a good bet for team building.
The beauty of moussaka is that it is a deceptively simple dish. Made very much like traditional lasagna, it features layers of vegetables, a beautifully scented meat sauce and a creamy béchamel sauce on top. It is seriously gorgeous to eat. But at about two hours of prep and cook time, it is definitely not a weekday dinner! Unless, of course, you do what I do and make it ahead! This dish freezes beautifully, or you can assemble it one day and cook it another. It’s versatile!
The origins of Moussaka are uncertain, it is believed to have originated in the 18th century Ottoman Empire. It is possible that this dish was originally made with ground lamb and eggplants, but many different variations exist today depending on who you ask!
The most common recipes call for lamb or beef mince, béchamel sauce, eggplant and tomato. It is a very versatile dish – the Béchamel sauce makes Moussaka very rich compared to other similar dishes like lasagna. I think this richness is what attracts me the most, it’s one of those dishes that are very hard to resist second helpings.
I could happily eat a whole tray of Moussaka, but I would have a really hard time trying not to finish the whole béchamel sauce as well! The richness of the sauce is just too good to resist.
Moussaka is usually served warm along with salad or fries but it can also be eaten cold for breakfast if there is any leftover! This dish freezes very well, so I would recommend freezing half of it before adding the béchamel sauce.
Moussaka is very quick and easy to make – apart from the time you spend waiting for the eggplant to cook. This can be quite a lengthy process, and I would recommend using 2 baking trays if you don’t want your eggplants burning before they are cooked through.
For this recipe I used a homemade béchamel sauce, but you can absolutely use a jar from the store. That said, béchamel is not difficult, and I encourage you to give it a try! Moussaka is the kind of dish that you should feel free to experiment with!
The trick is to get each ingredient/layer ready and then assemble the whole thing last minute. So here’s what you need to do.
1/2 lb ground beef
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 C red wine
8 oz tomato sauce (canned)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp dried oregano
salt/pepper to taste
5 T butter
5 T flour
4 C milk (warmed)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
salt to taste
2 medium/large red potatoes
You’ll begin by cutting the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds, brushing them with olive oil on both sides and sprinkling them with salt and pepper. Bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes on each side, then set aside.
Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds, and boil them for around 5-6 minutes in a heavily salted pot of water. Drain and set them aside, as well.
For the meat sauce, sweat the onions in the olive oil until they are soft. Add in the minced garlic and the ground beef, and cook until the beef is browned.
Add in the spices, and cook until the smell permeates the air around you (a minute or two). The meat sauce is one of the stars of this dish, and it should be very fragrant and delicious smelling.
Turn up the heat, and add in your red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes until reduced, then add in the tomato sauce. Simmer for a few more minutes, then set aside.
Moving on to the béchamel sauce, you’ll want to add the butter into a medium hot pan, and let it melt. Add in the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Keep whisking, allowing the paste to bubble. Add in your warm milk, and continue to whisk, working out any lumps. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat to low, and allow it to cook until it becomes thick (around 10 minutes). Add in the salt and nutmeg, and whisk one last time.
Assembling Moussaka is as simple as layering a lasagna. Begin with your potatoes, layering them across the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese on top.
Next, add a layer of eggplant, again sprinkling with a layer of parmesan.
The next layer is your meat sauce, which you will add to cover your vegetable layers. Once again, you will sprinkle with parmesan. If you plan on freezing your moussaka, this is the point where you will do so. Do not add the béchamel sauce. While it will still freeze and work okay, I always prefer fresh béchamel, and I encourage you to make it fresh for your thawed moussaka.
Finally, pour your béchamel sauce on top of the entire dish, letting it seep down into the bottom layers and into the meat sauce. Sprinkle again with a final bit of the parmesan.
Place the dish in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered and another 30 minutes uncovered.
How beautiful is that?? It comes out with a beautiful golden color, and it is just perfect. The edges are just a bit crispy, the cheese has become perfectly baked, the béchamel sauce is creamy and perfectly saturating the dish.
All those layers come together through the béchamel sauce, and the flavors combine perfectly for a dish that is to die for. If you haven’t tried moussaka, I highly encourage you to give it a go!
I’ll be honest, my children would never touch an eggplant in any form, but they gobble this right up. Similarly, if a potato comes to them in any form other than a french fry, they are running for the hills, but this dish has them asking for more. It’s just gorgeous.
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/2 C red wine
- 8 oz tomato sauce (canned)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- salt/pepper to taste
- 5 Tbsp butter
- 5 Tbsp flour
- 4 C milk (warmed)
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- salt to taste
- parmesan cheese
- 1 eggplant
- 2 medium/large red potatoes
- olive oil
- Cut the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds, brush with olive oil on both sides, as well as a nice sprinkling of salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes on each side at 400 degrees on a baking sheet. Set aside.
- Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch rounds and boil them for about 5 – 6 minutes in a heavily salted pot of water. Drain and set aside.
- For the meat sauce, sweat the onions in the olive oil until they are nicely soft. Add in the minced garlic and the ground beef and cook until the beef is browned. Add in the spices and cook until the smell permeates the air around you (a minute or two). Turn up the heat and then add in the red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes until reduced and then add in the tomato sauce. Simmer for a few minutes and then set aside.
- For the bechamel, add the butter into a medium hot pan and melt. Add in the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Keep whisking, allowing the paste to bubble. Add in your warm milk and continue to whisk. Work out any lumps. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat to low and allow it to cook until it becomes thick (around ten minutes). Add in the salt and nutmeg and whisk one last time.
- To assemble the dish, layer the potatoes across the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle some parmesan on top. Next, add the eggplant in a new layer, and sprinkle again with parmesan. Then, layer the meat sauce on top of this, sprinkling again with a bit of parmesan. Finally, pour your bechamel sauce on top of the entire dish and sprinkle again with some parmesan.
- Bake the dish in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes covered and another 30 minutes uncovered.
Feel free to use store-bought bechamel if you don't want to make your own.
If freezing, be sure to freeze BEFORE pouring bechamel sauce for best results
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 231Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 348mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 10g
This nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not be entirely accurate. Please do your own research if you are overly concerned about specific macros.
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.