This gluten free Low Carb Moussaka (Greek Beef Eggplant Casserole) recipe has a couple non-traditional elements that make it truly special.
Greece has been on my bucket list of travel destinations for forever now. When I think of Greece, I think of ancient ruins. The brilliant blue of the Aegean Sea, contrasted by the pristine white houses. And the food, of course the food.
My knowledge of Greek food is limited to my experiences at Greek diners and homemade meals at my Greek friend’s house in high school, which were actually quite a bit more authentic than my diner experiences. One of my favorites that my mom’s friend would make was always Moussaka.
I have literally made this dish twice in the past month (which is unheard of for me, especially because it makes a big batch so I’ve been eating it a lot!), so that should tell you how much I love it. It’s one of those dishes that is so much more than the sum of its parts; everything comes together for a perfect marriage of flavors.
What is the Difference Between Lasagna and Moussaka?
Moussaka is widely accepted as a Greek dish; however, I’ve heard different things from different people regarding the origin of lasagna, some saying it’s from Italy, others saying ancient Greece. Both moussaka and lasagna are layered casseroles, but lasagna is layers of pasta and moussaka is typically layers of eggplant or potato. Also, moussaka usually includes warm spices, such as cinnamon and allspice.
Additionally, the topping is different for moussaka and lasagna. Moussaka is made with some kind of white sauce (such as béchamel or mornay), while lasagna frequently is topped with a mixture of mozzarella, ricotta, and/or Parmesan cheeses. They are both delicious in their own right, but when you want to keep your carbs lower, moussaka is a good route to take.
Different Ways to Make Moussaka
There are quite a few variations of this dish; some include potato, some have eggplant. Most recipes call for a cinnamon, black pepper, allspice-scented tomato-based meat sauce (frequently lamb, but sometimes beef). Quite a few versions feature a thick béchamel or mornay on top. Today I’m sharing my absolute favorite way to make moussaka.
Eggplant, Potato, and Other Vegetables in Moussaka
I like to use all eggplant instead of a mix of eggplant and potato, or other veggies (like zucchini) because it’s such a great compliment to the other flavors.
Pro Tip: Whatever vegetable you use, make sure to cook it first! Otherwise, it will add to much water to the casserole.
Meat Sauce for Moussaka
For my meat sauce, I use beef because I’ve never been a big fan of lamb (by all means, use lamb if that’s your preference though). I make a super easy sauce from scratch that literally only requires a little patience, but no specialized skill. I use a few classic spices, as well as a somewhat surprising herb mix (see below for more info), and I deglaze the pan with a fruity, full-bodied red wine, which adds another level of complexity to the dish.
The key to the complex flavor of this sauce lies in the fact that it needs to cook for a while (at least 2 hours), so the flavors can develop and the sauce can thicken. Give yourself enough time so you don’t rush this step.
Pro Tip: You can make the meat sauce 2 to 3 days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you make the casserole.
You’ll need to cook the meat sauce until it’s thick like this.
Spices in Moussaka
Of course I go with cinnamon, black pepper, and allspice, but what really takes my meat sauce to the next level is Herbes de Provence. This is a blend that (according to Wikipedia) typically contains savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sometimes lavender.
In the past I used to use just rosemary, thyme, and oregano to make Moussaka. However, one day when I found myself out of both fresh and dried, I found my little jar of Herbes de Provence. I realized that it has the three herbs I normally would use, and I thought why not give it a try. I haven’t looked back since!
Béchamel sauce is one of the French mother sauces; it is milk thickened with a butter/flour mixture. If you add shredded cheese, it becomes mornay sauce. If you add egg and/or egg yolk, the sauce becomes more like a savory custard. Most commonly, I’ve seen béchamel sauce with egg yolk used as a topping for moussaka. To keep the carbs down, to top my moussaka I like to use more of a cheesy savory custard so there’s no need for all-purpose flour.
More Low Carb Casserole Recipes:
- Low Carb Leftover Chicken or Turkey Enchiladas from An Edible Mosaic
- Low Carb Vegetarian Chile Rellenos Bake from Kalyn’s Kitchen
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole from Wholesome Yum
- Low Carb Lasagna with Easy Meat Sauce and Cabbage Noodles from The Keto Queens
Did you make this recipe? Please rate it and leave a comment below because I love hearing from you! You can also tag @anediblemosaic on social media. To stay up-to-date FOLLOW ME on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Xoxo, Faith
Low Carb Moussaka (Greek Beef Eggplant Casserole)
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb, if that’s your thing
- 1 large onion diced
- 10 large cloves garlic minced or crushed
- 1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (or another fruity, dry, full-bodied red wine)
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
- 4 ounces canned tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups water or low-sodium beef broth
- 2 1/2 pounds eggplant (about 2 very large eggplants), sliced horizontally into 1/3-inch thick rounds
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- coarse sea salt
- black pepper
White Cheese Custard Sauce:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten with the 2 large egg yolks
- 2 large egg yolks lightly beaten with the 2 large eggs
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 6 ounces hard aged cheese such as Gruyere, sharp white Cheddar, or a mixture, shredded
- A few fresh herbs such as oregano or basil, for topping
For the Meat Sauce:
- Add the beef, onion, and garlic to a large, deep-sided skillet over high heat; cook (uncovered) until the meat is browned well, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and cook (uncovered) until the liquid is mostly evaporated off, stirring frequently. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Herbes de Provence, salt, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and water.
- Bring up to a boil, and then cover the skillet, turn the heat down to simmer, and cook until it’s a rich, thick sauce (see photo in the post above for how the meat sauce should look), stirring occasionally. It took me about 2 hours, and I uncovered the sauce for the last 30 minutes to help speed the process up a bit. Note that if you uncover the sauce you have to stir it quite a bit more frequently.
For the Eggplant (make this while the meat sauce is cooking):
- Once the eggplant is sliced, sprinkle a little salt on each slice and place it in a colander in the sink; let it sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, gently wring out each slice, and arrange the slices in even layers on 2 large baking sheets. Drizzle the olive oil on top and use your hands to coat each slice. Sprinkle on a little black pepper.
- Roast the eggplant in a 425F oven until the slices are tender and starting to turn golden, about 35 minutes, rotating the trays and flipping the slices over once halfway through.
For the White Cheese Custard Sauce (make this toward the end while the meat sauce is cooking):
- Heat the cream and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming. Beat the eggs and egg yolks together in a medium bow.. To temper the eggs, gradually whisk 1/2 cup of hot cream into the eggs, starting out with just a drop at a time, until the full 1/2 cup is incorporated. Turn the heat down to low; add the tempered egg mixture to the hot cream and heat until steaming. Whisk in the cream cheese until melted, and then and whisk in the shredded cheese a handful at a time until the sauce is smooth. Turn off the heat.
To Assemble and Cook the Casserole:
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Spread half of the eggplant out in a 5-quart casserole dish and spread half of the meat mixture on top; repeat. Pour the sauce on top.
- Bake until the sauce is set and starting to turn golden, about 35 to 45 minutes.
- Let the casserole cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
- Net Carbs: 7g per serving
- White Cheese Custard Sauce: Adapted from this recipe on New York Times Cooking.
- What Kind of Cheese to Use: You could always go with a mix of Gruyere and sharp white Cheddar, but I like to use Cabot Alpine Cheddar because otherwise, I’d probably use a combination of Gruyere and sharp white cheddar to the get the flavor profile I’m going for. If you’re not familiar with this cheese, it has a lovely nutty flavor, and at the same time is creamy-textured with a slight grana similar to Parmesan.
- Make Ahead: You can make the meat sauce 2 to 3 days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you make the casserole.
- Freezer Friendly: This casserole is freezer friendly! Once this casserole is cooked, I like to portion it into individual portions and freeze it like that so I can grab out a single serving whenever I need a quick meal. You can also freeze the entire casserole.
- To Reheat the Whole Casserole: Thaw the casserole at room temperature overnight. Cover it with foil. Place it in an 350F oven until hot and bubbling throughout.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to products I believe in, which means that even though it doesn’t cost you anything extra, I will receive a small amount of money from the sale of these items. Thank you for helping to support An Edible Mosaic!
Stacey Boudreaux says
This was a wonderful dish …. It’s not difficult at all to make . I prepared the meat the day before in my instant pot. My husband is not a fan at all of any type of meat that uses cinnamon. He loved it !!!! ( he is a picky eater) my son loved it as well!
Please don’t let the tempered eggs scare you . It’s very simple , don’t rush … this is a meal I will be preparing again!!! Big hit
The flavor is great, but sitting here a few minutes after eating, there’s a bitter aftertaste forming in my mouth that I’m not sure where it’s from exactly. I can’t decide if it’s from the wine in the meat, or the sharp white cheddar.
My only actual complaint though is that there was no structure to mine. I think it comes from the way the eggplant was precooked. Cutting it into 1/3 inch thick slices, then roasting, caused my slices to become near wafer thin. When I plated the sections fell apart into heaps as they made their way to the plates. Not a gigantic deal, seeing how it was about to be chewed and digested, but after putting the time to form a structure in the first place, it would have been cool to see the fruits of that for a minute or two before consumption.
That really does sound delicious! Thanks for the shout-out for my Chile Rellenos bake.
I absolutely love Moussaka. I CAN NOT WAIT to try your version, Faith!
This looks amazing.
I still use your lovely cookbook with great joy. :)
Diane H says
Does your Herbes de Provence blend contain fennel and lavender? It seems that some blends leave out one or the other, or both. I know it is said that only the western versions contain lavender, and I would welcome that ingredient, but I’m cautious about overpowering the blend with fennel. Trader Joes advertises a blend that sounds okay (lavender, no fennel).
Diane, I bought my blend a couple years ago in Paris, but it’s pretty basic: rosemary, savory, oregano, and thyme. I usually add a pinch of dried lavender as well.
Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet says
That looks scrumptious, so rich and flavorful!
Erin @ Texanerin Baking says
I’ve been wanting to go to Greece, too! Not even for the food but it just seems so pretty. And I love that you made lower-carb moussaka!
Deb Hatton says
Looks absolutely delicious! We make a shepherd’s pie that’s basically the eggplant and meat sauce, but we’ll have to try adding a quick Béchamel. Hopefully we can handle the richness level!
Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes says
I always order Moussaka when out at a Greek restaurant! Can’t wait to try it at home!
Kelly @ Nosh and Nourish says
This looks so nourishing and flavorful and delish!! Greece is totally on my bucket list.
Suzanne Jenkins says
What a great looking dish! I am Greek and agree with an all eggplant moussaka. We don’t mix the veggies. There’s a delicious seasoning available called Greektown seasoning that I recommend. I can’t wait to taste your version.
Can you make this in advance? For example, could I prepare the casserole up to the final step (baking in the oven) and then just keep it over night to bake in the morning? Thanks
Mona, Yes! I’ve done that and it works well.
Diane H says
This sounds wonderful, and I am definitely going to give it a go. Please let me (us!) know if you peeled the eggplants or left the skin on. I would prefer to use organic and leave the skins on, if it won’t deter from the results.
Diane, I leave the skin on and it works great!
Jennifer Farley says
This is exactly what I want right now. I haven’t had moussaka in ages.
Amanda|The Kitcheneer says
Greece is definitely on my bucket list too! I studied Latin in high school and have dreamt of visiting those ancient ruins since! And this eggplant moussaka sounds really delicious and a great way to keep things light and gluten free!