Classic Greek Moussakás

Sep 20, 2013

Moussaka (moussakás in Greek) comes from the Arabic word  musaqa‘h which, oddly enough, means something chilled.  The Greek version, however, comes hot out of the oven and is probably the most famous Greek dish of all.  Several variations and cooking methods are found in many Mediterranean cuisines. Most versions are based on sautéed eggplant and tomato, usually with minced meat. The Greek version includes layers of meat and eggplant topped with a Béchamel ("white") sauce. Béchamel was another import - introduced in the late 1920’s to Greek cuisine by the famous Greek chef Nicholas Tselementes, a great admirer of French cuisine. He brought many more innovations to Greek cuisine and his influence is still felt. In the old days, before béchamel, moussaka was topped with a cream made with yogurt, eggs and a little flour.
 Other variations include adding more sautéed vegetable slices.  Zucchini and potatoes are popular additions.


4 medium size eggplants, peeled and cut into 1cm thick slices 
150gr olive oil
1 red onion chopped
500gr minced beef  
400gr chopped tomatoes (1can)
1tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp grated allspice
1tsp sugar
1 glass of wine (white or red)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel :
500gr  hot milk
80gr butter
80gr all purpose flour
2 eggs beaten
60gr grated graviéra or gruyère

Finally, grated dry bread crumbs, for texture 

Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 minutes. This draws out any bitter juices.
 Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook gently until the onion is soft, but not colored. Add beef to the onion stir constantly and break up the meat with a wooden spatula until it has a loose texture. Now stir occasionally, and when the beef has turned slightly browned pour the wine in the skillet; let the wine almost evaporate before you add the rest of the ingredients.         
 Stir the allspice and chopped tomatoes into the skillet. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 30-40min, until the juices have been reduced and meat has cooked. Set aside.

Meanwhile make the béchamel sauce.
 Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and stir in the flour. Cook for a minute to eliminate the ‘’floury’’ taste but be careful not to brown the flour. Take off the heat and gradually stir in the hot milk all at once.  Stir continuously until the sauce thickens. Return to the heat if the sauce needs to be thickened more. Stir the cheese into the hot béchamel, and season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry. Fry in batches in the remaining olive oil until golden on both sides, about  5-8 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper. Set aside until ready to construct the moussaka.
Meanwhile the white sauce will have cooled enough to whisk in the beaten eggs and mix until tottaly incorporated.

Cover the base of an ovenproof dish (30 x 20cm) with eggplant slices. Cover the eggplant with mince and repeat the layers, ending with the last of the mince. Then, finally, pour over the béchamel sauce.
 Sprinkle the top of the béchamel with dried bread crumbs. 
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 50-60 minutes until golden.
 Allow the moussaka to settle for 30 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.
Serve moussaka warm or at room temperature.


  1. I am not Greek, but grew up surrounded by a large Greek community know for their summer festival. This is one of my favorite dish to make for friends for dinner during the holidays! I always have to explain why with my German and English background I know how to prepare Greek food :)

    1. Food has the power to make people from different cultures share the same feelings around a table, more than any language can. I’m glad you like Greek cuisine and you actually cook Greek recipes on special occasions for your friends and family :)

  2. Tania introduced me to your blog and I have been a frequent visitor since then. I lived in Athens for five years and have come to appreciate Greek cuisine greatly. I have made this recipe a number of times and it works out perfectly every time. Thank you.

    1. Hi Petrus, l'm glad you like my blog and that the recipes work for you. Tania has done a great job as my ambassadress in Amsterdam :)