|Place of origin||Greece (3-layer form), Turkey (saute form), Middle East (cooked salad form), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Republic of Macedonia (3-layer form)|
|Main ingredient(s)||Aubergine or potatoes, meat|
Names and etymology 
The English name came from modern Greek μουσακάς (mousakás). The Greek name came from the Turkish musakka designating roughly the same recipe. The same name and recipe is found throughout the lands that formerly were part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The Turkish name came from Arabic مسقعة (musaqa‘h), which in Arabic means moussaka but comes from an Arabic root literally meaning "chilled". In Arabic countries a variant of the same recipe is eaten cold. A popular Middle Eastern recipe called İmam bayıldı (it has that name in Turkish, Arabic and Greek) is eaten cold and is similar to moussaka. Moussaka is eaten warm.
Most versions are based primarily on sautéed eggplant (aubergine) and tomato, usually with minced meat. The Greek version includes layers of meat and aubergine topped with a white sauce/Béchamel sauce, and baked. Turkish musakka, on the other hand, is not layered. Instead, it is prepared with sautéed aubergines, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and minced meat. It is eaten with cacık and pilaf. There are also variants with zucchini, carrots and potatoes. The Serbian version and Bulgarian version use potatoes instead of aubergines, pork mince and the top layer is yogurt mixed with raw eggs and a couple of spoons of flour. In the Levant, moussaka is a cooked dish made up primarily of tomatoes and aubergine, similar to Italian caponata, and is usually served cold as a mezze dish. In Egypt, it is based on aubergines, tomatoes and minced meat, and is eaten hot.
The modern Greek version was probably formulated by chef Tselementes in the 1920s. It has three layers that are separately cooked before being combined together for the final baking: a bottom layer of sliced aubergines 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. The composed dish is then layered into a pan and baked until the top layer is browned. Moussaka is usually served warm, not piping hot; if cut hot out of the oven, moussaka squares tend to slide apart and consequently the dish needs some resting time to firm up before serving. Reheating, however, does not present the same problem.
In Serbia and Bulgaria 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 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" (vegan) variant 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 as the "classic" presentation. Grated cheese or bread crumbs are often sprinkled on top.
There are variations on this basic recipe, sometimes with no top sauce, sometimes with other vegetables. In Greece such variants may include, in addition to the aubergine slices, sautéed courgette (zucchini) slices, part-fried potato slices, or sautéed mushrooms. There is even a fast-day, or "vegan", version in the Greek cookbook by Tselementes, which includes neither meat nor dairy products, just vegetables (ground aubergine is used instead of ground meat), tomato sauce, and bread crumbs.
See also 
- Karnıyarık – recipe comparable to moussaka, served cold, popular in Turkey
- Tepsi Baytinijan – recipe comparable to moussaka, popular in Iraq
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