Skinny Moussaka aka Delicious Beef and Eggplant Casserole

September 12, 2014 53 Comments

Skinny Moussaka aka Delicious Eggplant and Beef Casserole - @NECinnamon

Making moussaka has been on my “to-make” list for ages and a few weeks ago, I finaly decided it was time to tackle it. So I made some research to find the best recipes and….I didn’t expect what I found at all! 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 fried. Well…thanks but no thanks! I still wanted to eat moussaka so I racked my brains to find a healthy alternative and, not to toot my own horn but I’m pretty excited about what I’ve come up with!

Skinny Moussaka aka Delicious Eggplant and Beef Casserole - @NECinnamon

The fried eggplant issue wasn’t really one. The easy solution: baking it instead of frying it. Subbing the bechamel sauce wasn’t as straightforward though. 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 sauce adapted from Lindsay’s recipe and it was perfect for my moussaka! If you think cauliflower should have nothing to do with moussaka, it totally agree with you but the great news is that you can barely taste it. It’s really just a delicious and creamy sauce and all you can taste is the parmesan, with a hint of garlic. Less calories, fat and carbs;  more veggies and more taste => 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!

Skinny Moussaka aka Delicious Eggplant and Beef Casserole - @NECinnamon

Skinny Moussaka aka Delicious Beef and Eggplant Casserole


Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 8

Serving Size: 1/8th

Skinny Moussaka aka Delicious Beef and Eggplant Casserole

Cal: 228 - Protein: 20.8g - Fat: 8g - Carbs: 21.8g - Fiber: 7.2g - Sugar: 12g
WW Old Points: 4 pts - Points+: 6 pts


  • 1 lb / 500 g extra lean ground beef (5% fat)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon (I used this brand)
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 2 14-oz (400 g) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 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)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper


  1. 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.
  2. Add onion and garlic in the same saucepan and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and all spice. Mix and cook for about 3 minutes. Add ground beef back to the pan. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil on high heat then reduce to low and simmer uncovered for one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 400F/200C.
  4. 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.
  5. Prepare cauliflower sauce. Add 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 pot, add cauliflower and cook until very tender, about 6 minutes. Do not drain. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cauliflower in your blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup cooking liquid, cooked garlic with butter, 1/2 cup parmesan and pepper. Pulse until very smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Set aside.
  6. Assemble moussaka. 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. Using a rubber spatula, spread the cauliflower sauce evenly and top with 1/2 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

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Beef Casserole Clean Eating Gluten free Main Dishes Meat Paleo Paleo/Primal Primal Recipes Refined Sugar Free
  1. 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.

  2. Marie,

    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?


    1. Hey Cathy,
      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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Hi,
    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.

    1. 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 🙂

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

    1. 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!

        1. 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 ?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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! 😀

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