Greek Moussaka recipe – A delicious taste of Greece
This dish is a legend! Creamy, juicy and absolutely delicious! Greek moussaka (mousaka) is one of the most popular dishes in Greece, served in almost every taverna and prepared in every household on special occasions and big family meals!
So what is Moussaka? Its a traditional Greek bake with luscious layers of juicy beef or lamb mince cooked in a tomato based sauce, layered with delicious eggplants and potatoes, topped off with a creamy béchamel sauce and baked until perfectly golden!
To make it easy for you to make a Traditional Greek Moussaka I’ve put together my very best step-by-step recipe, my tips and tricks as well as my hands on recipe video! So go ahead, indulge yourself in this little sin!
Preparing the Greek Moussaka Meat Sauce
Firstly you’ll need to decide on what meat to use. The traditional Greek moussaka recipe calls for either lamb mince or a mix of lamb and beef. But if you can’t handle or don’t like lamb’s strong flavour or you prefer a lighter Moussaka substitute it with good quality lean beef or veal mince.
Next its time to prepare your Moussaka meat sauce. In its essence, a Moussaka meat sauce is very similar to a basic bolognese sauce. Your ground meat is sautéed in olive oil, onions and garlic and then deglazed with some red wine and simmered with your chopped tomatoes. But there are also some key differences.
Firstly, the spices used for the Moussaka meat sauce are bayleaf and cinnamon. They infuse the meat and give it a fresh taste and smell that characterises a traditional Greek Moussaka!
Secondly, the Moussaka meat sauce needs to be very thick so it doesn’t soak through the vegetables. Once you’ve added the spices let the sauce simmer over low heat until it has reduced and thickened. This will also help the flavours to fully develop. Just remember to occasionally stir it so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan.
Finally, your Moussaka meat sauce needs to be well seasoned. Once your sauce has thickened season it with salt and pepper to taste. Add some salt & pepper, stir, taste and add some more if needed. Seasoning in the end will help you avoid over or under seasoning your sauce!
Adding potatoes to your Moussaka (or not)?
Traditionally, the base for a traditional Greek moussaka consists of fried eggplants only. However, I find that adding potatoes as the base layer of my moussaka adds an extra layer of “comfort” to the dish that is hard to describe.
So I must admit that I am a fan of adding some to my moussaka! The starchiness of the potatoes perfectly complements the tanginess of the sauce, the sweetness of the aubergines and the creaminess of the béchamel cream. If you haven’t tried them, give it a go next time and I’m sure you’ll love them too!
Greek Moussaka recipe – Preparing the vegetables
Traditionally the eggplants (and potatoes) in your Greek moussaka are shallow fried. And indeed, shallow frying your vegetables adds an incredible lusciousness to the dish that is hard to beat!
However, for a lighter alternative, drizzle your sliced aubergines and potatoes with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake them in sheet pans for 20 minutes at 180C/350F. They will turn out to be a bit lighter and with less calories and will taste just as amazing! Now you can enjoy more of your moussaka guilt free!
Tip: Sliced aubergines tend to stick to the sheet pans when baking so either use non stick sheets or overlap the slices a little bit so they are partially lifted from the bottom of your sheet pan. They will then lift right off without any of their flesh sticking to the sheets!
Tip: For the potatoes you can also use the same baking tray that you’ll assemble the Moussaka in to bake them. Not only will you slice and layer the exact amount of potatoes but you’ll also end up with less washing up to do!
Finally, some eggplants may be bitter, so it is important to prepare them correctly to remove their bitterness. Before baking your aubergines, slice them, rinse them thoroughly with water, season with salt and let them stand for half an hour in a colander. After you’ve “treated” them they will taste amazingly sweet and with no hint of bitterness!
Greek Moussaka recipe – Prepare the Béchamel sauce
A traditional Greek Moussaka recipe needs a luscious bechamel sauce. However this is also the trickiest part to get right! So how to make it the right way? Its all about having the right thickness, whisking constantly, enriching it with eggs and cheese and adding just the right amount of salt!
Moussaka needs a thick and creamy bechamel. A thin béchamel sauce will soak through the meat sauce and won’t give you that creamy thick layer that Moussaka is known for! So when preparing your bechamel make sure you cook it long enough, until its consistency resembles a thick custard.
Its time to prepare the base sauce. Start by first melting your butter on high heat. Then add all of the flour, whisk it until the butter is fully absorbed into the flour and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Turn down the heat to medium and add the milk a little bit at a time. Wait for the milk to absorb and then add some more until you’ve used all the milk in the recipe.
You’ll need to be constantly whisking while you’re adding the milk. Cooking your béchamel sauce while whisking over a low heat will prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom of your pan.
Tip: I always use a hand mixer with the whisk attachment to help me with whisking as I find it quite tiring to do it all by hand! Your béchamel sauce is ready when it has thickened and resembles a custard, like the picture below.
Now its time to season the béchamel! Remove the pan from the stove and add the cheese, the nutmeg and two teaspoons of salt. Whisk them in, taste your bechamel and add one more teaspoon of salt if it still tastes bland. I find it amazing how a little bit of salt can really lift the flavour of your béchamel!
Finally add your egg yolks and quickly whisk so the eggs fully incorporate in the mixture. When your Moussaka is baking they will thicken your béchamel and give you a more distinct and creamy layer over your aubergines!
Assemble your Traditional Greek Moussaka!
Now that your vegetables, your béchamel and your meat sauce are ready its time to assemble your dish! I always opt for the deepest baking dish I have to make sure I can use all of my meat sauce and béchamel without fear that it won’t fit and spill over! For my recipe below a 20x30cm/8x12inch and 8cm/3 inch deep baking dish is ideal.
Start by layering your potatoes at the bottom of your baking dish. Then split your aubergines in two lots – you’ll need the first lot to layer over the potatoes and the second lot over the meat sauce. Spread the first layer of aubergines over your potatoes. If you have too few aubergines space them out a bit. If you have too many, overlap them a bit so they all fit!
Now its time to add your meat sauce. Using a large ladle or spoon, pour the meat sauce over your aubergines and spread it out evenly. Then add your second aubergine layer. Finally using a large ladle add the béchamel and spread it out evenly, making sure your whole moussaka is covered!
Finally sprinkle a bit of grated cheese on top. When you bake your moussaka the cheese will melt and give it a delicious golden brown color! Your traditional Greek Moussaka is now ready to bake!
Preparing Moussaka in advance
There are two ways to prepare your Moussaka in advance. Which one you choose will depend on how many days later you would like to serve it. If you would like to prepare your moussaka a day in advance, go ahead and bake it, let it cool down, wrap it in cling film and store in the fridge. When you want to serve it, just pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 150C / 300F to reheat.
If you would like to serve your moussaka more than a couple of days in the future, prepare all the ingredients, assemble it, wrap it with cling film and store it in the freezer uncooked. It will keep for 2-3 months and be just as fresh when baked and served! To serve it, heat up your oven to 180C/350F and bake it for about 1 hour 30 minutes, until its cooked through.
If you just have some leftovers that you’d like to keep for more than a couple of days, cut them up in individual portions and store them in airtight containers in the freezer. To serve them, pop them in the oven for about 45 minutes at 150C/300F until they have defrosted and heated up throughout.
Tip: You can use a kitchen knife to check if your Moussaka has defrosted. Poke the center of your piece/tray with your knife, pick some of the meat sauce and check if it is piping hot.
What goes well with it?
I love eating my moussaka with a traditional Greek Salad, some crusty bread and a juicy saganaki as a starter!
Love eggplants? Take a look at my favourite stuffed eggplants with mince (papoutsakia), my delicious eggplant dip, panfried battered eggplants and tagliatelle with eggplants and feta cheese recipes which I’m sure you’ll love as well!
Love that creamy béchamel? If you love moussaka, then I am sure you will fall in love with the traditional pastitsio, the greek version of Lasagna!
Are you a vegetarian? Not to worry, there is always a way to enjoy this delicious dish! My delicious Vegetarian Greek Moussaka recipe with a mushroom based sauce is made for you!
So go ahead, give this traditional Greek Moussaka recipe a try and amaze your friends and family with this extra tasty hearty dish and don’t forget to let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!
Are you a Greek speaker? You can always read this delicious recipe in Greek here Παραδοσιακός Μουσακάς συνταγή (Μουσακάς με πατάτες και μελιτζάνες).