Moussaka (, , ) is an eggplant- and/or potato-based dish, often including ground meat, which is common in the Balkans and the Middle East, with many local and regional variations. The best-known version in Europe and the Americas is the Greek variant created in the 1920s by Nikolaos Tselementes. Many versions have a top layer made of milk-based sauce thickened with egg (custard) or flour (béchamel sauce). In Greece, the dish is layered and typically served hot. The versions in Turkey and the Middle East are quite different. In Turkey, ''mussaka'' consists of thinly sliced and fried eggplant served in a tomato-based meat sauce, warm or at room temperature. In the Arab countries, it is often eaten cold, but occasionally hot as well.

Names and etymology

The English name for moussaka was borrowed from Greek () and from other Balkan languages, all borrowed from Ottoman Turkish, which in turn borrοwed it from Arabic (), literally "that which is fed liquid".''Oxford English Dictionary'' 3rd ed., March 200
The word is first attested in English in 1862, written ''mùzàkkà''.



Most versions are based primarily on sautéed aubergine (eggplant) and tomato, usually with minced meat, mostly lamb. The Greek version includes layers of meat and eggplant topped with a Béchamel ("white") sauce, and baked. The modern Greek version was created by the French-trained Greek chef Nikolaos Tselementes in the 1920s.Aglaia Kremezi, "Nikolas Tselementes", ''Cooks and Other People'', Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery
p. 167
"before Tselementes there was no ''moussaka'', as we know it today"
His recipe has three layers that are separately cooked before being combined for the final baking: a bottom layer of sliced eggplant sautéed in olive oil; a middle layer of ground lamb lightly cooked with chopped or puréed tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices (cinnamon, allspice and black pepper); and a top layer of Béchamel sauce or savoury custard.Νικόλαος Τσελεμεντές, Οδηγός μαγειρικής και ζαχαροπλαστικής, 1930 There are variations on this basic recipe, sometimes with no top sauce, sometimes with other vegetables. Such variants may include, in addition to the eggplant slices, sautéed zucchini (courgette) slices, part-fried potato slices, or sautéed mushrooms. There is a fast-day (vegan) version in Tselementes' cookbook, which includes neither meat nor dairy products, just vegetables (ground eggplant is used instead of ground meat), tomato sauce, and bread crumbs. Another variant is ' (''lit.'' "eggplant, little shoe style") which consists of whole small eggplant stuffed with ground meat and topped with béchamel and baked.

Other countries of Southeast Europe

In Albania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, and Romania, potatoes are used instead of eggplant, pork or beef mince, and the top layer is usually milk or yogurt mixed with raw eggs, sometimes with a small amount of flour added. There is also a three-layer version: the bottom layer consists of ground pork and beef, the middle layer of potato slices, and the top layer is typically a custard. Each layer is cooked on its own and layered in a pan and baked until the top is browned. The Romanian version is made usually with potatoes or eggplant or cabbage. The layers start with the vegetable, then the layer of meat (usually pork), then vegetables, until the pot is full. Sometimes bread crumbs are used for toppings, sometimes slices of tomatoes and crushed cheese. The pot is then filled with tomato sauce. There is also a pasta variant, with pasta being used instead of vegetables. The "fasting" variant, which is vegan, replaces meat with mushrooms or a mix of sautéed onions and rice. In the rest of the Balkans, the top layer is often a custard: this is the version introduced in the UK by Elizabeth David's ''Mediterranean Cookery'' and where it remains the usual presentation. Grated cheese or bread crumbs are often sprinkled on top.


In the Levant, moussaka is a cooked dish made up primarily of tomatoes and eggplant, similar to Sicilian caponata, and may also include chickpeas. It may be served cold as a mezze dish, or hot.


The Egyptian version of moussaka is made from layers of fried eggplant immersed in tomato sauce and then baked. A layer of seasoned cooked ground beef is usually added between the eggplant before baking. The dish can be served hot but is usually chilled for a day or so to improve the taste.


Turkish ' is not layered. Instead, thinly sliced eggplant is fried and served in tomato-based meat sauce seasoned with green peppers, garlic and onions. It is generally eaten with ' and . There are also variants with zucchini ('), carrots (') and potatoes (').

See also

* List of casserole dishes * Karnıyarık – recipe comparable to moussaka, popular in Turkey * PastitsioGreek baked pasta dish * Parmigiana - sliced eggplant layered with cheese and tomato sauce and then baked, popular in Italy * Shepherd's pie – recipe comparable to moussaka, popular in the United Kingdom * Tepsi Baytinijan – recipe comparable to moussaka, popular in Iraq


External links

* {{eggplant dishes Category:Arab cuisine Category:Greek cuisine Category:Jordanian cuisine Category:Balkan cuisine Category:Ottoman cuisine Category:Lebanese cuisine Category:Levantine cuisine Category:Egyptian cuisine Category:Israeli cuisine Category:Greek culture Category:Casserole dishes Category:Eggplant dishes Category:Bulgarian cuisine Category:Syrian cuisine Category:Turkish cuisine Category:Ground meat Category:Macedonian cuisine