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29 Oct

Primal Moussaka

Inspired by Greek Moussaka, the flavors in this casserole of layered eggplant and ground meat might sound a little unusual, but it’s a mild dish that’s likely to appeal to everyone at the table. Plus, it’s one of those great meals that taste even better the next day. Overnight, the flavors meld together even more, the texture tastes richer and while the casserole is good hot, it’s not so bad cold, either. Primal Moussaka is the type of dish you’re going to want to eat a few forkfuls of right out of the fridge before warming the rest up.

The silky texture of the eggplant and the warm, savory flavors of cinnamon, allspice and fresh dill mixed in with the meat mimic the taste of the traditional Greek casserole. But there’s a lot that’s different, too. The cheese sauce thickened with flour that tops traditional Moussaka has been replaced with full-fat Greek yogurt that bakes into a surprisingly creamy and dense topping. The trick is mixing the yogurt with eggs and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. There’s a little bit of chopped kale thrown into the casserole (optional, but really tasty) and although the meat can be ground lamb, it doesn’t have to be. The result is a version of Moussaka that actually tastes a little like lasagna, minus the noodles.

Intrigued? Give the recipe a try tonight!

4-6 servings


  • 1-2 large eggplants, peeled (optional) and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 bunch of kale, chewy lower stems cut off
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat (lamb is traditional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • olive oil, for sautéing
  • salt and pepper, to taste


Salting the eggplant is optional, but it will draw out moisture and prevent the eggplant slices from soaking up so much oil. After peeling (optional) and slicing the eggplant, place the slices in a colander. Sprinkle the slices liberally with kosher salt. Let the slices sit for 20-30 minutes until moisture appears on the surface. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly and blot dry.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add several slices of eggplant to the hot oil at a time and sauté the eggplant slices, turning as necessary, until soft and just lightly browned. Continue heating oil and cooking the eggplant until all the slices are cooked. Set the eggplant aside.

Boil the kale for 3 minutes. Puree the kale with the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water in a food processor.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute a few minutes then add meat, cinnamon and allspice. Stir, so the meat browns evenly. After five minutes add the dill and the tomato mixture.

Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

As the meat cooks, whisk together eggs, yogurt and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a lightly oiled 2-quart square baking dish, place a thin layer of eggplant then cover with the meat. Layer the remaining eggplant on top, then the yogurt. Top with additional grate cheese if desired.

Bake 45 minutes, or until the top is set and golden brown. Let rest 20 minutes before cutting into the Moussaka.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Thank you! I tried making this once, but skipped the bechemel entirely, so it was just lamb and eggplant. It was good, but no substitute for the real thing. This looks alot more authentic.

    Kat wrote on November 7th, 2011
  2. I made this tonight. It was kinda bland, but still pretty good. Definitely drain as much liquid as you can from the tomato-beef mixture. Baking took 50 minutes at 350; I think the yogurt I used wasn’t fattening enough, so there was more liquid that needed to bake off so that the moussaka could set.
    I’d like to make this again, but it took way too long to make (1 hour and 40 minutes prep time, doesn’t include the 50 minutes in the oven). Part of the problem was the sauteeing of the eggplant. Has anyone tried just throwing the eggplant into the casserole without sauteeing? By the way, kosher salting the eggplant for 30 minutes was well worth it; There was at least a couple ounces of water that exuded from the eggplant as a result.

    Shilpa Nicodemus wrote on November 7th, 2011
  3. I made this last night and it was delicious! Of course I’ve never had real moussaka so I can’t compare.

    The only thing I did different was to use a can of tomato paste because I only had one tomato. It was a heavy dish, but very satisfying.

    I’m about to have it again for lunch!

    Laura B wrote on November 9th, 2011
  4. My wife and I love fried eggplant. I like the idea of this recipe. Is there a way to replace dairy products to something else? She is allergic to dairy and tomatoe. Any suggestion?

    Edwin wrote on November 10th, 2011
  5. The yoghurt/egg topping is the standard recipe in Bulgaria. Actually there is no cheese needed at all (Bulgarians alomost exclusively use feta cheese anyway -> and that goes into the salad).

    But to get the real balkanese taste you need the mixed herbs “Tschubritza” 😉
    Words cannot describe them.

    Roland wrote on November 11th, 2011
  6. Made this for dinner last night and it was amazing. Added a little extra cinnamon to bump up the flavor, but other than that followed the recipe to the letter.

    This morning we warmed up the leftovers and it was even better!!

    Scott wrote on November 12th, 2011
  7. Made this with venison mince and it was fantastic. Much leaner than lamb and adds a lovely depth of flavour. YUM!

    Jacqdav wrote on November 13th, 2011
  8. I made this last night but used slabs of zucchini instead of eggplant because I *hate* eggplant. It was divine. And my non-veggie eaters didn’t even notice the snuck-in kale. WIN.

    Tammy wrote on November 14th, 2011
  9. i tried this on the weekend, it is divine. I didn’t have any kale so i used grated zuccini.

    kerry wrote on November 20th, 2011
  10. Tried it… Didn’t particularly like it

    The sauteing of the eggplant was a real chore as well… I think I would broil them if I ever tried this again.

    MarcTheEngineer wrote on November 30th, 2011
    • Try cutting up smaller pieces of eggplant, that is what I did and it was easy to sauté them all together and it came out great.

      Sophia wrote on December 27th, 2013
  11. Thank you for your dedication to the rest of us, caring about us, informing us, working your butt off for us.

    Edie Masters wrote on November 30th, 2011
  12. I can’t eat dairy, so I subbed the yogurt for equal amounts of canned coconut milk. Surprisingly, it didn’t give the dish a coconuty flavour and I still got that bechamel creamy good topping.

    My husband loved this… I owed him a yummy greek dish after we had to walk out of a greek restaurant when they couldn’t accommodate to gluten free. Thanks for this great recipe :) One of my new favs.

    TS wrote on December 3rd, 2011
  13. This is in the oven as I type. Looked delishious!!

    sc wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  14. My mother-in-law uses sliced cumbers (lengthwise) instead of eggplant. Also very good.

    — KP

    Kevin Patrick wrote on March 2nd, 2012
  15. I tried it and it was amazing!

    kym wrote on March 11th, 2012
  16. my mom used to make eggplant cassarole with saltine crackers, eggplant, milk plus other ingrediants. does anyone know the rest of the recipe? i don’t remember any meat or tomatoe.

    Bill wrote on June 15th, 2012
  17. I love making primal moussaka — but in place of the olive oil that is called for in the recipe, I use ghee to brown the eggplant. Another change we made that is actually exceptional is using my homemade lemon-coconut mayonnaise in place of the eggs and cheese in the crust. YUMM

    Storm wrote on July 26th, 2012
  18. Made this tonight minus the yogurt topping, and used swiss chard that we had in the garden instead of kale – yum!

    Holly wrote on September 10th, 2012
  19. Anyone see my big fat greek wedding? “omg your eating moose kaka?!” and everyone laughs at her… lol!

    Courtney wrote on October 18th, 2012
  20. I stumbled upon this in the morning; and made it for dinner. This is a great recipe –although I subbed broccoli for kale. All the picky eaters at the table asked for seconds.

    specsaregrok wrote on November 6th, 2012
  21. A bunch of Kale is ALOT of Kale? Mine turned into green goop….

    James Spence wrote on February 5th, 2013
  22. just tried this and in simmer stage but its total liquid and looks nothing like the photo. was i supposed to drain the can of tomoatoes? Bummed as I have an hour into this already:-(

    marina wrote on March 11th, 2013
  23. This was truly delicious. Thanks so much! (Btw, I took your suggestion from another post and subbed red wine for the water.)

    Jodi wrote on May 6th, 2013
  24. I made this dish tonight and it was excellent. I made a few changes, but without having made the recipe as is, I can’t say that they are necessarily improvements, but I can certainly vouch for my version:
    For the topping I added 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, also added allspice in addition to the nutmeg and blended in the grated Parmesan. I whipped the eggs until foamy before adding the cheese and yogurt.
    For the eggplant, I fried in bacon grease instead of Olive Oil. And for the filling, I used 1/2 the called for tomatoes and triple the called for spices. I also used 1/2 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb ground pork.
    I served it with a salad of arugula, diced apple, pomegranate seeds and goat cheese w/ balsamic vinaigrette and a good Sangiovese. Heaven.

    Samantha wrote on December 1st, 2013
  25. This recipe was awesome!! I added spinach to the meat too! The best part is that the toddlers LOVED it!! SOOOOO good!!!

    Shelley wrote on June 2nd, 2014
  26. Made the recipe tonight. Here are my modifications:
    1.25 lbs beef; only used just over 1/2 bunch of kale; used 25 oz jar of marinara sauce; added 1 shallot instead of onion/garlic.
    Filling tasted great (though didn’t look it) – I would up the spices next time. I would use drained diced tomatoes plus some tomato paste. My filling was watery so no water added to kale/tomato puree. I had some small local eggplants and they were barely enough for this recipe – I would use more next time. Topping tasted great but was pretty brown at 35 minutes so I stopped the baking there. Overall a great recipe!!

    Magda wrote on October 26th, 2014

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