Moussaka Recipe (Turkish Style)
In this moussaka recipe, ground lamb simmers with tomatoes and spices, then is layered in-between roasted eggplant slices. The resulting casserole is a comforting and filling home-style meal that’s a perfect make-ahead option for an easy weeknight meal or impressive enough for a dinner party.
Spices for Moussaka
There are many styles of moussaka in Mediterranean and middle eastern cuisine. I grew up eating Turkish-style moussaka flavored with some of my favorite essential Turkish spices. Allspice is a key ingredient in the flavor memories I have of the moussaka my mom made when I was a kid, and I was sure to include it in my allspice based seasoning that is one of my signature spice blends.
What is in this Moussaka Recipe?
Moussaka, generally speaking, refers to an eggplant and ground meat casserole. It has many variations in the world. The Greek style generally includes a cream or bechamel sauce as a topping or layered throughout. This lighter Turkish-style is the version that I grew up eating, and I prefer it, since I don’t tolerate large amounts of dairy well. I sprinkled some feta cheese on the top before baking, but feel free to leave it off altogether or serve it on the side.
How to Make Moussaka in Advance
Because this moussaka recipe can be a little labor intensive (but still easy), I prefer to make it ahead of time when I have a couple of hours to spare. That way it’s easy to heat up when I’m ready to eat. It’s easy to come home after work and throw in the oven for 45 minutes, and it’s an easy meal to serve to dinner guests, so you can have your hands and time free to socialize. The steps for make-ahead moussaka, outlined in the recipe below, are basically:
Step 1: Roast the eggplant
Step 2: Make the meat sauce (and cool)
Step 3: Layer the ingredients to make a casserole
Step 4: Refrigerate until baking, reheat about an hour before eating.
Moussaka Recipe (Turkish Style)
For the Eggplant
- 4 large globe eggplant
- olive oil
For the Meat Sauce
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1-2 Tablespoons Thursday's Little Secret
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 15 oz cans diced tomato
- 3-4 oz crumbled feta cheese
- chopped parsley for garnish
Cook the Eggplant
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1" thick slices. Place on rimmed baking sheets in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until softened, 20-25 minutes.
Make the Meat Sauce
- Meanwhile, in a large high-sided frying pan, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add ground lamb and cook over medium-high heat until browned, 10-15 minutes. While it's cooking, break it up into smaller pieces, adding about 1/2 teaspoon salt while it's cooking.
- While the meat is browning, dice onion and bell pepper. Mince garlic.
- Once the meat is browned, turn the heat down to medium and add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook 10-15 minutes until veggies are softened. Add another 1/2 teaspoon salt, Thursday's Little Secret spice blend, canned tomatoes, and about one can's worth of water. Stir well to combine, and turn heat down to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Cool the meat sauce before assembling the moussaka. It will hold for up to 3 days, or just cool briefly before assembling the casserole and baking.
Assemble the Moussaka
- In a 9" by 13" dish, put down a single layer of roasted eggplant slices. Spread about half the meat sauce on top in an even layer. Top with the other half of the meat sauce, then the rest of the eggplant. If there's a little meat sauce left, put it on the top. Sprinkle with feta cheese.
- Bake 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees F, until cheese is browned and mixture is bubbling.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.