This recipe for moussaka does take some time, but the different components can be made separately ahead of time, and the result is delicious.

Jump to Recipe (or scroll for photos and riveting information...)
Advertisement - Continue Below
Baked moussaka in a white rectangular baking pan.

What is Moussaka?

Moussaka is a Mediterranean savory layered casserole made with eggplant, potatoes and ground meat – sometimes beef, sometimes lamb – topped with a Béchamel sauce before being baked. It’s one of my favorite Greek dishes and is a great way to feed a crowd, along with a big Greek salad

Meat sauce in a stainless steel saute pan with a wooden spoon and a blue and white striped towel.

Meat Sauce for Moussaka

The meat sauce for moussaka is special because of the spices included. Oregano should be no surprise to you in a meat sauce, but the addition of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg give this sauce a warmth and Mediterranean flavor that you’re bound to recognize if you’re fond of Greek foods. This meat sauce only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to make, but if you wanted to break up the preparation of this moussaka over a day or two, this is one step you can do a day ahead of time. Just store it in the refrigerator overnight. 

Three photos of preparing eggplant for moussaka - salting the eggplant on paper towels, brushing oil onto the eggplant slices, cooked eggplant slices on a blue baking sheet.

How to Prepare Eggplant for Moussaka

The eggplant layer in moussaka must be pre-cooked. You could sauté, grill or air-fry the eggplant slices, but I prefer to simply bake them in the oven. It’s a step that you can do while you’re preparing the other components of the dish. Salting eggplant before roasting is optional. Although many of us have been salting egglant for years, it really only has an effect on the eggplant if you’re going to be frying it. Salting will help the eggplant soften and have a creamy interior. That’s not really necessary here in this moussaka casserole, so if you don’t have time to do the salting, skip it! Do, however, brush the eggplant liberally with oil. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil and need that oil in order to stay moist and to brown nicely.

Three photos showing the process of tempering egg yolks into a Bechamel sauce.

Making the Béchamel for Moussaka

The Béchamel sauce for moussaka is a little thicker than a regular Béchamel sauce because it needs to set firmly on top of the casserole. In order to give it that strength, we use more flour and we reinforce the sauce with egg yolks, which will cook in the sauce as the casserole bakes. Once you’ve made the Béchamel sauce on the stovetop, temper the egg yolks into the hot sauce by first whisking a small amount of sauce into the egg yolks to bring their temperature up a little. Then, return the loosened egg yolks to the saucepan and whisk it all together. Finally, stir in the Parmesan cheese. This also helps to thicken the sauce a little, but more than that, its salty flavor helps season the topping.

Building the Moussaka

Once you have all your moussaka components ready – meat sauce, boiled potato slices, baked eggplant slices, fresh breadcrumbs and Béchamel sauce, you’re ready to build the casserole. Just layer in the components as you see above (oil the dish, eggplant, meat sauce, potatoes, breadcrumbs, Béchamel) and transfer the casserole to the oven. It’s a wise idea to put a large baking tray on the rack below the moussaka to catch any possible drips. 

A dinner plate of moussaka with Greek salad on a table.

Make Ahead Moussaka

If you want to prepare the moussaka ahead of time, you can prepare all the components and layer everything, stopping before you add the Béchamel. Leave the top layer until you are getting ready to bake the dish. That way, the Béchamel sauce won’t get absorbed by the breadcrumbs. You’ll find that the ingredients are actually easier to layer when they are cold, so feel free to think and prep ahead of time. 

Looking down on a dinner table with a white casserole pan of moussaka, a white plate of greek salad and a white dinner plate of a portion of moussaka with salad.

What to Serve with Moussaka

I find that moussaka is very enjoyable when served simply with a Greek green salad, but it’s often just one part of a meal with many other items. If you are feeding a crowd, you might like to have the moussaka as one option and serve it with chicken souvlaki, Greek pasta salad, Tzatziki sauce, pita bread and some Greek potato wedges for a big Greek feast! You can always save leftover moussaka for the next day, re-heating it in the microwave or in the oven, or freeze it for a rainy day.

Featured Recipe Techniques

More about the skills used in this recipe.

Cooking School
How to Make a Cheese Sauce

Everyone should know how to make a basic cheese sauce. It’s such a delicious topping to so many different foods...View Technique

Advertisement - Continue Below


  • Prep Time: 1 h
  • Cook Time: 1 h
  • Total Time: 2 h
  • Servings:


Meat Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ½ cup beef or chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Béchamel Sauce:
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggplants sliced lengthwise about ½-inch thick
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 2 russet potatoes sliced lengthwise, about ¼-inch thick
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs


Start by making the meat sauce.
  1. Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and cook the onion and garlic until they soften – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato paste and spices and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add the red wine and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and crushed tomatoes and reduce until slightly thickened – about 10 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set the meat sauce aside. This meat sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge overnight.
Prepare the Béchamel sauce.
  1. Heat a 2- to 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the flour and stir, cooking for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Stirring regularly, bring the sauce to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes to thicken.
  2. Turn off the heat and temper in the egg yolks by whisking a little hot milk into the egg yolks and then whisking the egg yolks into the saucepan. Stir in the cheese, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Set the sauce aside.
Prepare the eggplant.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375˚F. Line two large sheet pans with paper towel, salt both sides of the eggplant slices and let the eggplant sit on the paper towel for about 30 minutes while the oven pre-heats, to draw out excess liquid.
  2. Blot the eggplant slices with the paper towel, oil the slices and place them on the sheet pans in a single layer. Transfer the eggplant to the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown, flipping the slices over halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Prepare the potato slices.
  1. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Add the potato slices to the water and cook until they are fork tender, but not falling apart – about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove the potato slices with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a paper towel to drain.
Assemble the moussaka.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375˚F.
  2. Lightly oil a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish.
  3. Shingle the eggplant slices in one layer on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Spread the meat sauce over the eggplant.
  5. Place the potato slices on the meat sauce.
  6. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the potatoes.
  7. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  8. Pour and spread the Béchamel sauce on the breadcrumbs.
  9. Transfer the moussaka to the oven and bake at 375˚F for 50 to 60 minutes, until the Béchamel sauce has started to turn a golden brown color and is bubbling.
  10. Remove from the oven and let the moussaka rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Advertisement - Continue Below
Advertisement - Continue Below
Advertisement - Continue Below

Comments (3)Post a Reply

  1. I thought it was always made with ground lamb not beef.
    That’s what my Greek friend always made it with. He was from Mykonos. .

    1. Hi John. I think you’ll find that different regions prepare it differently. You can use lamb, beef or a combination of the two.

  2. 5 stars
    Yes, this is a lot of steps and a bit time-consuming, but well worth the effort! Having made it once, I now know which steps are best done the day before if time is a factor. Another hit, Meredith!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *