In this easy moussaka recipe, cinnamon-spiced beef mingles with tender aubergine slices, a creamy cauliflower bechamel sauce and a delightful parmesan cheese crust. A healthy twist on the famous Greek Beef and Eggplant Casserole.
Creating this easy moussaka recipe has been on my "to-do" list for ages and a few weeks ago, I finally decided it was time to tackle the famous Greek Beef and Eggplant Casserole.
I did some research to find the best moussaka recipes and..I was kind of shocked! I knew moussaka was a traditional Greek casserole made with eggplant and ground lamb or beef but what I didn't know was that this somehow healthy (or so I thought!) casserole was topped with a fatty béchamel aka white sauce.
Not to mention that in the traditional recipe, the eggplant is also fried. Well...thanks but no thanks!
I still really wanted to eat moussaka so I racked my brains to come up with a healthy, easy moussaka recipe. I don't want to toot my own horn but I'm pretty excited about what I've come up with!
The fried eggplant issue was easily solved by baking the eggplant slices instead of frying it. Subbing the dairy-loaded, fatty bechamel sauce wasn't as straightforward. I've been seeing food geniuses doing amazing things with cauliflower – like Sonia's grain-free focaccia or her dairy-free cheesecake (yep, you read that right) so I knew I had to lean towards this magical vegetable.
I finally settled for a creamy cauliflower bechamel sauce adapted from Lindsay's recipe and it was perfect for this healthy, easy moussaka recipe!
If you think cauliflower should have nothing to do with moussaka, I totally agree with you but the great news is that you can barely taste it. It's really just a delicious and creamy bechamel sauce and all you can taste is the parmesan, with a hint of garlic.
Fewer calories, fat and carbs; more veggies and more taste => this light and easy moussaka recipe with cauliflower bechamel sauce is a winner!
PS: I just emailed Solal to ask him if he noticed the cauliflower in the moussaka he had been eating all week and he said... "what cauliflower?" You can definitely trick your picky eaters with this one!
If you tried this easy moussaka recipe with cauliflower bechamel sauce, don’t forget to rate the recipe below and let me know how it went in the comments – I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for more deliciousness and behind-the-scenes!
Skinny Moussaka with Cauliflower Bechamel Sauce ( Delicious Beef and Eggplant Casserole)
In my light version of the famous Greek Beef and Eggplant Casserole, cinnamon-spiced beef mingles with tenderly baked aubergines, a delicious creamy cauliflower bechamel sauce and a parmesan cheese crust. This healthy easy moussaka recipe will become a family favourite in no time!
For Moussaka filling and eggplants:
- 1 lb extra lean ground beef 500 g , 5% fat
- 1 onion peeled and chopped
- 1 garlic clove peeled and minced
- ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes 2 x 400 g cans (14 oz cans)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 medium eggplants
For the cauliflower sauce
- 3 large garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 cups cauliflower florets about one small cauliflower or half a medium one
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup parmesan shredded (divided)
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
For the filling:
Place beef in a medium saucepan over medium heat, break it into small chunks and cook until brown, about 4 minutes. Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.
Add onion and garlic to the same saucepan and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Mix and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add ground beef back to the pan along with crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil on high heat then reduce to low and simmer uncovered for one hour.
Preheat oven to 400F/200C.
While beef is cooking, prepare eggplants. Remove eggplants' ends and slice them thinly.
Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and place 12 eggplant slices on it. You may need to use two baking sheets or bake them in two batches depending on the size of your oven. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool.
For the cauliflower sauce:
Melt butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and cook garlic until fragrant but not browned (or it will be bitter). Turn off the heat and set aside.
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium-sized pot, add cauliflower and cook until very tender, about 6 minutes. Do not drain. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cauliflower into your blender or food processor. Add ½ cup cooking liquid, cooked garlic with butter, ½ cup parmesan and pepper. Pulse until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Set aside.
Place half of the eggplant on the bottom of a large baking dish, cover with half of the beef mixture. Place another layer of eggplant, then the remaining beef mixture on top.
Using a rubber spatula, spread the cauliflower sauce evenly and top with ½ cup parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Cauliflower sauce adapted from Pinch of Yum
This sounds wonderful, and I think I'll have to try it because of the cauliflower sauce. I've been making your beef & eggplant casserole pretty regularly, which we both really enjoy, so it will be interesting to see which one we like better. BTW the link for the brand of cinnamon did not work.
I think you omitted the tomato sauce from the instructions. Do you add the beef to it?
I'm also wondering if the eggplant isn't placed on top of some sauce?
Yes, I forgot to say that the beef needs to be added back to the pot with the tomatoes! I updated the recipe. Thanks for spotting that and letting me know 🙂
Are you referring to the first layer of eggplants on the bottom of the dish? I put them directly on the dish, without sauce. Because they're already baked they won't stick.
Just wondering why you need to simmer for 1 hour? Can you use zucchini instead of eggplant?
It allows to sauce to thicken and it deepens the flavors a lot. I'm not sure about zucchini, I think it would be a bit too watery and too mushy.
Marie, just tried the recipe last night and I have to say it was delicious! My 11 month old baby girl absolutely adored it. I tweaked it a touch by using lamb mince and replacing the all spice with nutmeg. Next time I will use one garlic clove for the cauliflower sauce as I found it a bit too garlicky. Great recipe indeed! Thank you very much for sharing it.
I'm so glad to hear that!! Thank you for letting me know Julia 🙂
I ran out of butter once when making béchamel sauce, so I just used olive oil instead, and it worked really well!
That's good to hear Julia!
I just made this. I'm not sure why, but mine completely fell apart when I went to cut it and take it out of the baking dish. I'm not sure what I did wrong. It tasted good, just not very presentable.
Hi Barbara, I'm sorry to hear that! Did you let it cool before serving it? You need to wait about 10 to 15 minutes before cutting it. I'm glad to hear you still like it though 🙂
What temp do you bake it at?
200C / 400F !
Thank you so much! I made this Last night and used turkey instead of beef and OH MY GOSH! YUM!!!!!
I'm so glad you liked this recipe Jessica! 🙂
Ann from Sumptuous Spoonfuls
Moussaka is my favorite! I love your cauliflower solution for the bechamel sauce ... another idea I love to use is to just whisk together yogurt & egg, add a little salt and nutmeg and when it bakes it tastes just like a decadent bechamel sauce ... I used that trick in this recipe: http://www.sumptuousspoonfuls.com/mmmm-moussaka/
Oh yum, it sounds delicious Ann!
I came across your recipe as I was deciding what to do with my impulse eggplant buy - I only had one, so I added some zucchini in and I had to use frozen cauliflower for the sauce - but it came out amazing 🙂 Thanks for the recipe
Oh it's great to know it works well with zucchini too! I'm glad you enjoyed this recipe Shayne 🙂
I found this recipe on pinterest and just wanted to tell you how much my husband and I enjoyed it! I am allergic to milk so I subbed soy cheese for the parmesan, it still came out very delicious. Thank you for sharing this!
I'm so glad to hear that Michelle! And it's good to know it works well with alternative cheese as well 🙂
Does this freeze well?
I've never tried myself but I think it would freeze well yes!
I found this recipe on Pinterest, and have been wanting to make it for weeks. I finally made this last night, and I thought it was so delicious! My husband ate half of it in one sitting! We will definitely put this on our rotation. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!
Hubbies are the best taste testers haha. I'm glad you both enjoyed this recipe 🙂
Do you think this would work without the Parmesan and using olive oil instead if the butter? Thanks!
You can definitely use olive oil instead of butter. It might be a little bit trickier for the parmesan cheese though because leaving it out would affect the taste. It would still work but might be a bit less tasty. Are you looking to make this dairy free? Because if not, you could use Asiago, Romano or Grana padano instead of parmesan. Hope this helps!
Yes, I wanted to make it fairy-free. I didn't realize those other cheeses didn't have dairy. I will give that a try!
No they do have dairy! Cheese is dairy food. I was just asking in case making it dairy free was NOT what you were looking for 🙂 if you want to make it dairy free you'll have to leave out the cheese ?
Okay, I'm a huge moussaka fan but also I'm trying to lose some weight....I subbed organic ground lamb for the beef, used a very large onion and added some extra garlic, just because. I could not believe that this was only 236 calories per serving. It was so amazing. Love your tips on how to soften up the eggplant without the oil and the cauliflower sauce what can I say. I may have to buy stock in cauliflower farming because there will always be one in my home. It was over the top fabulous. Thank you. I'm new to your blog and looking forward to finding other amazing recipes.
Cindy I'm so glad you enjoyed this recipe so much 🙂 Thank you!!
If i have cauliflower rice how much do u think i should use in place of cauliflorets?
I'm thinking about 2 cups but it's pretty hard to tell since I haven't tried myself. Hope this helps!
So good! A friend made it for me when I was recovering from surgery...I can't stop making it...Awesome recipe...A course.of more times and iay be ready to share...A piece.
Thanks Laura, so glad to hear that!! 🙂
Delicious !!!Made it today and my greek boyfriend approved it 🙂 !!!Thank you for the great recipe !!!
Woohoo Greek approved, how cool! ???? haha. So glad to hear you loved it Laurita 🙂
I just made it, and i had to use up a cauliflower and its purple! Im sure it will taste fine
Oh funny, a purple moussaka! Hope you enjoyed it Sandra 🙂
So oh. holy. crap. This was delicious. I got a bunch of eggplant in my CSA box so I thought i'd hunt around the web for a lightened up moussaka. I ended up on your site and thank goodness i did. Dude. I could have eaten the cauliflower sauce out of a bowl; just me and a spoon and a Scandal marathon. I loved the long-simmered sauce (the key to flavor depth is long simmer amiright?) I can't wait to make this again. I'm going to give it a go with ground lamb vs. ground beef. Thank you so much for the great recipe. This is going right in the "go again" recipe pile.
OMG love Scandal too!! And I can definitely picture myself with Olivia and the cauliflower sauce haha. So glad to hear you loved this recipe Merideth! 😀
This was absolutely delicious! The flavors are fantastic, and it tastes so indulgent!
I know, right?! So glad to hear you love this recipe too Karissa 🙂
Great recipe! What is the green spice you put on top of the whole dish in the picture???
Thank you Carolyn! It's fresh parsley 🙂
And also are your nutritional facts per serving?
Yes, one serving out of 8!
Moussaka is one of my favourites but oh man, all those calories! Am I going to try your healthy version with cauliflower bechamel? YOU BETCHA!
Hi! I really liked this recipe! I am eating less meat these days, so I substituted Lightlife Gimme Lean veggie sausage. I loved it! Thanks for creating this!
Thanks Meret! Really to hear it works well with meat substitute as well, thanks for sharing 🙂
I’ve never commented on a recipe before, but... this is AMAZING!! I substituted the beef with super-lean lamb (which I minced myself), but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter - fantastic flavour, held together well and such a crowd-pleaser!
Yay so happy to hear Bridget! Thank you 🙂
I didn’t have egg plant. I substituted zucchini and chopped cabbage. I was in the mood for something different and this turned out to be a nice change. The cauliflower topping is a perfect touch.
Thanks for sharing your substitutions Freida, it sounds delicious!
I made this with lamb as well, it was fantastic! My partner and I both loved it, and the cauliflower version of bechamel worked really well. Thank you!
Yay so glad to read that Dani, thank you!!
I'm on a Keto diet and I'm wondering why do you have so many carbs per portion.Most of the ingredients have 0 carbs ,how did you get to that number? thank you
Hi Marta! The carbs from the veggies, especially the tomatoes add up! Keto is tough! You're a champ and I salute you.
Unreal! Does not taste like a low calorie meal at all! Took me about two hours to make but now that I’ve done it once it probably won’t take as long the next time.
Hi Nikita! Awesome, I am so happy you liked it and YES, first time attempts are always a bit more time-intense. I hope my moussaka finds its way back on your menu! Cheers
This was excellent! I made it with ground lamb, which was delicious. The cauliflower bechamel is a revelation! Really satisfying, and would be a great dish for crowds.
Ground lamb sounds delicious! Thanks Sally 🙂
I was wondering how you would go about adding potato to this recipe,. Traditionally this dish has both eggplant and potato. Do you think it would work to roast the potato like you did the eggplant? Have you ever tried? 🙂
Hi Megan! I've never tried adding potatoes but if you wanted to you could pre-cook the potatoes by boiling them (peeled, but whole, not cut yet) until they're almost tender but still undercooked (about half the time you'd cook them normally). Let them cool, slice and add to the casserole layered with eggplants. They'll finish cooking while in the oven. Report back if you give it a try!
I made this. Wonderful and so light, compared to the traditional dish. I substituted nutmeg for the cinnamon, because that is my Greek’s husband’s family’s tradition, and ground turkey breast.Was thinking about adding an egg to the cauliflower sauce to help it hold together better, like I do with the traditional béchamel sauce. Can you think of any reason not to? Thanks.
Love the idea of adding an egg! Go ahead - it will turn even richer and thicker! DELISH