Beef/ Hearty Dinners

Outrageously Delicious Greek Moussaka

April 7, 2021 by Chris Collins

Moussaka is a Greek classic, and here I’ll show you how to make it in the most delicious way possible!

Moussaka is a labour of love, there’s no two ways about it. There’s a fair few steps, but once you get in the swing of things it truly couldn’t be easier to make. There’s also a fair few different ways to make Moussaka, but today I’ll show you what I deem to be the most delicious way! Follow me…

close up shot of metal spatula scooping moussaka out of dish

Meat Sauce for Moussaka

Beef vs Lamb

There’s a lot of dispute over what’s the traditional meat to use in Moussaka. Most commonly you’d see lamb or beef being used, but I’ve even read pork or veal has traditional roots! I’ve personally tried this recipe using beef and lamb, and have settled with beef. In my opinion it takes on the flavour profile of a Moussaka better, but you can use lamb if you wanted.

Thick Consistency

The meat sauce for a Moussaka is somewhat similar to a classic ragu/bolognese. One of the main differences is the consistency. Moussaka is known for having distinctive layers, and ensuring your meat sauce has reduced down properly will help create those layers.

Cinnamon

Another distinctive part of a Moussaka’s meat sauce is the use of cinnamon. It’s quite subtle, but it really gives that classic Moussaka flavour. You can use a cinnamon stick, or use ground cinnamon as I’ve done here!

Process shots: fry onion and garlic (photo 1), fry ground beef (photo 2), add tomato paste (photo 3), fry then add red wine (photo 4), pour in stock and passata then add thyme, parsley,  bay leaves, cinnamon and seasoning (photo 5), simmer until thick consistency (photo 6).

6 step by step photos showing how to make meat sauce for moussaka

Vegetables in Moussaka

Eggplant/Aubergine

Eggplant in Moussaka is essential. To prepare it you’ll need to slice then sprinkle with salt and leave to rest. This will not only draw out unwanted moisture, but will also remove the bitter taste from the eggplant.

Potato

You could probably get away with just layering with eggplant and still call it a Moussaka, but potato is very widely used. And of course, me being me and this blog being this blog, I highly recommend adding potato. After you’ve sliced the spuds I recommend patting dry to remove unwanted moisture.

Zucchini/Courgette

Not as widely used, but still an authentic addition. Same as above, just pat the slices dry to remove moisture.

You could pat the veg dry with tea towels, but I like to stack them between sheets of paper towel. That way you can soak them all at once and just leave them until needed.

6 step by step photos showing how to prepare moussaka

Baking vs Frying

Traditionally you’d fry the veg, but as times have moved on so has the cooking method. As such nowadays it’s just as common to bake the veg. Me? You know I’m not shy of oil around here 😂

I fry the veg mainly because I’ve always got some leftover pot of oil that needs recycling. That and you do get more of a deeper golden ‘crust’, which offers slightly more flavour.

The obvious downside is the absorption of oil, namely in the eggplant (which is like a sponge!). As such just make sure you thoroughly pat it all dry with paper towels before you stack the Moussaka.

3 step by step photos showing how to fry vegetables for moussaka

Béchamel Sauce for Moussaka

Meat Sauce layer ✅
Veg layer ✅

The third and final main layer is the béchamel sauce. Again, this is similar to a classic béchamel you’d use in an Italian lasagne, just with a few differences:

  • Consistency – Just like the meat sauce, this béchamel is MUCH thicker than the classic. Again, just to ensure it creates a defiant layer that doesn’t seep into the meat sauce.
  • Egg Yolk – These help thicken the sauce, but also add a gentle rich flavour.
  • Seasoning – nutmeg and white pepper are a must! The béchamel sauce makes up quite a thick layer so it’s important it’s properly seasoned.

What Cheese to use?

Traditionally you’d use Kefalotyri, but realistically most hard cheeses work well. Here I use Pecorino, but Parmesan works nicely.

Process shots: melt butter (photo 1), stir in flour (photo 2), whisk in milk (photo 3), add seasoning (photo 4), add cheese (photo 5), stir in egg yolks (photo 6).

6 step by step photos showing how to make bechamel sauce for moussaka

Moussaka Layers

You can stack a Moussaka in various different ways, but you really want to ensure the potatoes are at the bottom, just to create a sturdy base. Then you finish with a nice thick layer of the béchamel. This also ends up going beautifully golden and crispy as it bakes 😛. Here’s how I stack mine:

How to layer a Moussaka

  1. Potatoes – Sprinkled with cheese, parsley, salt & pepper.
  2. Zucchini/Courgette – Stacked in the opposite direction to the potatoes. Sprinkled with cheese, parsley, salt & pepper.
  3. Eggplant/Aubergine – Only use half, sprinkled with salt & pepper.
  4. Meat Sauce – Ensure this is nice and level/flat.
  5. Eggplant/Aubergine – Second half stacked in opposite direction to the first layer, seasoned with salt & pepper.
  6. Béchamel Sauce – Topped with more cheese.

6 step by step photos showing how to stack moussaka

Moussaka FAQ

Can you assemble moussaka ahead of time?

Yep! You can then rest in the fridge until ready to bake. Just make sure you bring it to room temp before you bake to take the chill out of the centre.

Does moussaka freeze well?

It sure does. You can do this baked or unbaked. Just thaw in the fridge then bake as needed.

What to serve with Moussaka?

You can serve by itself, just garnished with a good pinch of fresh parsley. It’s also nice with a small side salad or even a chunky of crusty bread! Check out my Sides for more inspo.

close up shot of knife slices in moussaka fresh out the oven

moussaka on small white plate with silver fork garnished with fresh parsley

For more comfort food classics check out these beauties:

Hearty Ground Beef Dinners

How to make Moussaka (Full Recipe & Video)

close up shot of metal spatula scooping moussaka out of dish

Outrageously Delicious Greek Moussaka

Moussaka is a Greek classic, and here I'll show you how to make it in the most delicious way possible! (SEE VIDEO BELOW & CHECK NOTES FOR GUIDANCE)
5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings (click & slide): 8
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: Greek
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Calories per serving: 571kcal
Cost per serving: £3 / $4

Equipment:

  • Large Pot or Pan & Wooden Spoon (for beef)
  • Large Pot or Pan & Tongs (suitable for shallow/deep frying veg)
  • Medium/Large Pot & Whisk (for bechamel sauce)
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • 8" x 12" Baking Dish (or similar size)
  • Kitchen Papers Towel (lots of it!)
  • Serving Spatula/Spoon
  • Fine Cheese Grater
  • Jug (for milk)
  • Kitchen Thermometer (for frying)

Ingredients (check list):

Beef Layer

  • 1.6lb / 750g Ground Beef (preferably fairly lean)
  • 1 cup / 240ml Tomato Passata (pureed/strained tomatoes in US)
  • 1 cup / 240ml Beef Stock
  • 1/2 cup / 120ml Dry Red Wine (can sub more beef stock)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced Fresh Parsley, plus extra to serve
  • 2 heaped tbsp Tomato Paste (Tomato Puree in UK)
  • 1 tbsp finely diced Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • 1 large White Onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, finely diced
  • 2 small or 1 large Bay Leaf
  • 3/4 tsp Salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar (any)
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil

Béchamel Sauce

  • 4oz / 120g Unsalted Butter
  • 4oz / 120g Plain Flour
  • 4 cups / 1litre Milk, at room temp
  • 1 cup / 80g freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra to serve (Kefalotiri Cheese is traditional, can also sub parmesan)
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 tsp Salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 small Nutmeg, grated (or 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp White Pepper

Veg Layers (see notes for baking version)

  • 2lb / 1kg (approx 4 smallish) Eggplants/Aubergine, sliced around 1/3" thickness (I do lengthways but you can make more smaller rounds if you wish)
  • 1.6lb / 750g (approx 2 large) Baking Potatoes, peeled & sliced around 1/4"
  • 1lb / 500g (approx 2 medium) Zucchini/Courgettes, sliced into approx 1/3" strips (I do lengthways)
  • 2 cups / 500ml Vegetable or Olive Oil, or enough to cover veg in the pan
  • few pinches of Parsley & Pecorino (to sprinkle in between layers)
  • Salt & Pepper, as needed

Instructions:

  • Beef Layer: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan or pot over medium heat. Add onion and fry until it begins to soften/brown, then add in garlic and fry for 1-2mins longer. Add in beef and break up with a wooden spoon until fully browned. Stir in tomato paste and fry for a couple of mins, then pour in wine. Deglaze the pan if needed, then pour in passata and beef stock. Add in parsley, thyme, cinnamon, salt, sugar, pepper & bay leaf and give it a good stir. Keep on a gentle simmer for around 30mins, stirring occasionally until nice and thick. Meanwhile...
  • PREP Veg Layer: Rest few sheets of paper towel on a flat surface and lay on your eggplant slices. Rub a pinch of salt over both sides, then add two layers of paper towels on top. On top of that add the zucchini slices, followed by another layer of paper towel, followed by potato slices and finished with another layer of paper towel. Gently press down to soak up the moisture. Can use tea towels instead if you wish.
  • COOK Veg Layer: Heat up enough oil to cover the veg in a suitably sized pot/pan until it gently sizzles (you're aiming for around 150C/300F). Carefully start sliding in your potato slices and fry both sides until lightly golden with the potato fork tender. Remove, shake off oil and place on fresh paper towel. Increase oil temp slightly to around 170C/340F and fry the zucchini slices until softened & lightly browned, then finish with the eggplant slices. Leave everything to drain on paper towels. You can use two pans to speed things up or bake one or two of the veg (see notes).
  • Béchamel Sauce: In a suitably sized pot over medium heat melt butter. Stir in flour to create a paste then gradually begin whisking in your milk. Once you've poured in all the milk and the sauce is thick, stir in salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Take the pot off heat and stir in pecorino until the sauce is lump free, then quickly whisk in the egg yolks. Take 1/2 cup of the sauce and stir it into the beef.
  • Stack Moussaka: Add a layer of potato to the baking dish (overlapping as needed) and sprinkle over a hefty pinch of parsley, pecorino, salt & pepper. Follow with zucchini and parsley/pecorino/salt/pepper, then half the eggplant with a pinch of salt and pepper. Try and close all the gaps and make it all nice and compact. Spread over beef layer, top with the rest of your eggplant then top with the Béchamel sauce.
  • Cook & Serve Moussaka: Finish with a sprinkling of pecorino then place in the oven at 180C/350F for 35-45mins, or until golden on top. I highly recommend leaving it to sit for at least 15mins, just to help it keep shape. Serve up and enjoy!

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Baked Veg - You can bake the eggplant, zucchini and potato instead of frying if you wish. You can also bake some of it (i.e. the potatoes) as you fry the eggplant/zucchini to save time. Here's what I recommend if you bake:
- Still salt the eggplant and pat everything dry with paper towels first.
- Coat everything in olive oil, salt and pepper, then space out on baking trays.
- I recommend baking at 200C/390F. Potatoes will take the longest (around 30mins), then eggplant (around 20mins) then zucchini (around 10-15mins). This is all depending on thickness though so just be vigilant. Just bake until everything is lightly golden and fork tender.
b) Prep Ahead - You can definitely prep the beef part ahead of time, just cool and tightly store in the fridge over night (or freeze up to a month), then allow to come back to room temp before stirring through Béchamel and stacking. If you want to prep the whole thing ahead of time just make up until baking then tightly cover in the fridge overnight, then bring to room temp and bake as needed. Can also freeze just thaw and bake as needed.
c) Make Ahead - Allow to completely cool then store in the fridge for 3-4days (can also freeze for a month). Thaw then bring to room temp before baking for around 30mins, or until piping hot again through the centre. You could bake straight from the fridge but I find it's sometimes difficult to cook it right through the centre without the outside burning.
d) Frying/Oil - Because you don't fry at a super high temp you can use olive oil. This will add a good punch of flavour, almost like a gentle zing of spice. Vegetable oil will give you much more of a neutral flavour. I usually go for olive oil if I've not got much oil (i.e. shallow frying), but use vegetable if I've got a much bigger pot and deep fry with bigger batches. 
e) Calories - assuming 5% beef, 1/4cup olive oil soaked up by veg and divided by 8 people. Calories for 1 portion:

Your Private Notes:

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Outrageously Delicious Greek Moussaka
Amount Per Serving
Calories 571 Calories from Fat 263
% Daily Value*
Fat 29.22g45%
Saturated Fat 12.344g62%
Trans Fat 0.427g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.158g
Monounsaturated Fat 12.653g
Cholesterol 141mg47%
Sodium 746mg31%
Potassium 1358mg39%
Carbohydrates 42.95g14%
Fiber 6.2g25%
Sugar 14.52g16%
Protein 34.11g68%
Vitamin A 1157IU23%
Vitamin C 23.6mg29%
Calcium 327mg33%
Iron 4.8mg27%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart!

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Katie
    August 10, 2022 at 6:14 pm

    Totally gonna make this this weekend! I personally dislike eggplant – do you think it would be acceptable taste-wise to sub with a layer of yellow squash instead? Would it totally take away from the recipe to make that change? Or even just omit?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 11, 2022 at 3:42 pm

      Hey Katie! The eggplant is quite an iconic layer in a Moussaka, so I can’t say i’ve tried it without unfortunately. It won’t quite taste the same, however, I’m sure either options you suggested will still work nicely 🙂

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Lee
    July 28, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    5 stars
    I made this, delicious

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      July 29, 2022 at 10:01 am

      Thanks, Jacqueline!

  • Reply
    Linton S
    July 12, 2022 at 4:49 am

    5 stars
    OMG! Just made a huge tray (triple ingredients) of this Moussaka on the weekend – winter in Melbourne Australia – you are completely accurate Chris – it IS outrageously delicious! BTW I roasted the veggies not fried – sensational flavors combined.
    And I am still eating it today (Monday) it tastes even better!
    My guests stated it was restaurant quality!
    I have managed to freeze 2 x man-size slabs for another time.
    There’s no going back to the old recipe now!
    Thank you!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      July 13, 2022 at 2:31 am

      So happy to hear it went down a success!! Thanks for popping back for a review 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    Maria C
    June 30, 2022 at 5:09 am

    We did follow the instructions and everyone was delisted. Thanks

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      July 1, 2022 at 11:39 pm

      Great to hear, Maria!

  • Reply
    Oliver
    June 16, 2022 at 11:18 pm

    5 stars
    Best moussaka I’ve ever had – and it’s one of my favourite dishes!

    I did some slight variations out of necessity: I cut the veg prep time down by deep frying the potato slices (did them all in 2 batches) and pan frying the aubergine slices. I used parmesan for the bechamel and a mix of parmesan and gruyere for the top as I ran out of parm. I was using beef stock jellies so I doubled up the passata to make up the liquid, and I used a whole sugar cube as I didn’t have loose!

    I’ll make 1.5x the bechamel next time as I love a really thick top and my dish is pretty deep, but it was fantastic as it was.

    This is a really great recipe, thanks!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      June 17, 2022 at 9:38 am

      Thanks so much for the review, Oliver! So happy to hear this went down well 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    Ron Reeves
    May 26, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    5 stars
    Mousaka recipe easy to follow and turned out great

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      May 26, 2022 at 8:14 pm

      Great to hear, Ron! Thanks for the review 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    Julia
    May 18, 2022 at 3:25 am

    5 stars
    This recipe was very tasty and a good source of vegetables. The prep time was long waitng for the vegetables to roast. I added a layer of ricotta cheese mixed with an egg and cut down in the amount of Bécamel sauce in half.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      May 20, 2022 at 1:34 pm

      Glad this went down well, Julia! Thanks for the review 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    Anna
    May 8, 2022 at 8:44 pm

    5 stars
    Wow! Made this today and I can honestly say it was the best moussaka I’ve ever tasted! Took a few hours of prep, I did it in stages but so worth it! Didn’t quite come out in the neat pie slice but we didn’t really care about the presentation as the taste was so good!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      May 10, 2022 at 1:15 pm

      That’s great to hear, Anna! It’s definitely a lot of prep, but so happy you found it to be worth it 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    Sophia
    April 8, 2022 at 6:47 pm

    This looks magnificent. I haven’t made it yet but am amazed that you were able to cut it out of the oven and have it stay in one piece. I usually have to chill it overnight, cut it up, and reheat. What kind of voodoo do you know?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      April 9, 2022 at 10:50 am

      It’ll definitely hold! The thick bechamel, and having some stirred through the meat sauce definitely helps. Then of course you do a little voodoo as it rests out the oven, of course 🙂

  • Reply
    Marina
    April 6, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    I’ll tell you now, Chris, before I have even tried the recipe:
    I am Greek and my mum is a legendary home cook (her moussaka was always half aubergine – half potato for my fussy sister)
    You have clearly done your homework and respected the origins of this most quintessential Greek dish and I hugely respect and appreciate that. For most of us, food (especially comfort food) evokes memories and emotions that we wouldn’t want tampering with.
    I’ll be trying your recipe very soon.
    And thank you.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      April 7, 2022 at 10:03 am

      Ah this is so great to hear, Marina! Thanks so much for popping by and sharing your thoughts. Hope the recipe goes down well 🙂 C.x

  • Reply
    Karman Foods
    March 17, 2022 at 6:28 am

    5 stars
    You’d surely love this Moussaka recipe. I tried adding Kikkoman Manjo Aji Mirin and Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Tamari Soy Sauce; it makes the Moussaka more flavorful and aromatic. Best paired with Vitasoy Lychee Flavor Vita Juice Drink.

  • Reply
    jk
    February 20, 2022 at 12:11 am

    Chris, could the tomato and white sauces be made day before to cut prep time on baking day?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      February 20, 2022 at 10:54 am

      You can definitely make the meat sauce ahead of time, or make and stack the whole thing. I’ve got a little section on preparing ahead of time in the recipe card notes 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    Esther
    August 7, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    5 stars
    Compliments to the owner of this recipe ! Made it tonight and it was a hit. Plates were emptied in no time. It took me time to prep, but definitely worth it. Goes to family recipe book

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 8, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      Great to hear, Esther and happy to hear it was worth the prep. Thanks for the review 🙂 C.x

  • Reply
    Christina V
    May 24, 2021 at 9:35 pm

    5 stars
    Made this tonight. Excellent! Thank you!!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      May 24, 2021 at 10:34 pm

      Great to hear, Christina! Thanks so much for popping back for a review 🙂

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