After trying dozens of others, I guarantee this is the best meatloaf recipe you’ll find. It’s loaded with flavor, simple to prepare, and topped with a homemade glaze that totally makes it. Serve meatloaf alongside your favorite mashed potatoes and veggies for an instant hit every time.

2 slices of meatloaf on a white plate with roasted broccoli and mashed potatoes.

I’ve talked a lot about Sunday dinners at my grandma’s house, where there was always an abundance of pasta and traditional Italian foods. However, we would often eat dinner at my grandma’s on random weeknights, as well. If she knew my parents were busy on a particular day, or happened to be making something she knew we’d like, we’d head over to grandma’s. One of my favorite non-Italian meals she made was classic meatloaf with mashed potatoes. It’s such a comfort food, and reminds me of walking into her house on chilly fall and winter evenings, when it was already dark at dinnertime.

Not long after my husband and I began dating, I found out that meatloaf was one of his favorite meals. It took me awhile, but I finally found a meatloaf recipe that we both love – and one that’s incredibly easy to make.

The Best Meatloaf Recipe

You’ll love this classic meatloaf recipe because it’s:

  • Moist and tender
  • Simple to make
  • Tried and true; I tested dozens of recipes and this was the winner by far
  • Tastes homemade, just like Grandma’s recipe
  • Topped with a 3-ingredient sweet/tangy glaze
  • Delicious for Sunday dinners or busy weeknights
Overhead image of sliced meatloaf after baking on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

Homemade Meatloaf Success Tips

While a simple recipe at it’s core, there are a few tricks and ingredients that take ordinary meatloaf to I-want-seconds meatloaf:

  1. Meat
  2. Flavor and Texture
  3. Homemade Glaze

The Meat

In my experience, one of the biggest meatloaf mistakes is to only use ground beef – the result is meatloaf that basically tastes like a flavored, loaf-shaped hamburger. We want a tender (non crumbly) texture and greater flavor depth, so in addition to ground beef, we use ground pork and ground veal.

You’ll often see packages of “meatloaf mix” in the meat case at the grocery store, which is a combination of these three meats. If you don’t see it, you can always ask the butcher to create it for you. (You can substitute 2 pounds of meatloaf mix for the trio of meats in the below recipe.)

(Side note: I also use and recommend meatloaf mix for my meat sauce and meatballs – it works incredibly well in these recipes, too.)

Lots of Flavor and Texture

In addition to the three meat blend, meatloaf obviously requires some extra ingredients to give it tons of flavor and to keep it moist and tender. Most of the flavor and texture of this meatloaf recipe come from:

  • The Aromatics – Sauté onion and garlic before adding to the meatloaf mixture for mega flavor (and no one wants to bite into a raw piece of onion!).
  • Spices and Extras – Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and parsley all give this meatloaf a massive oomph in the flavor department.
  • Eggs and Milk – Keep the meatloaf tender and bind it together. (You can substitute ½ cup plain yogurt for the milk.)
  • Crushed Saltine Crackers – Lighten the texture, add moisture, and bind it together. (You can substitute ⅔ cup quick oats or 1⅓ cups fresh bread crumbs).

Homemade Meatloaf Glaze

I never make meatloaf without this glaze! It’s super simple but packs tons of flavor. You only need three ingredients (ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar) for a perfect sweet and tangy glaze. Brush on half before baking, and the other half when it’s almost done in the oven.

If you really love a saucy meatloaf, make a double batch of glaze and use some for dipping.

Overhead image of meatloaf after baking on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

How to Make Meatloaf

This is such an easy meatloaf recipe! Here’s an overview of the process (full recipe and instructions below):

  1. Make the glaze.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients. Take care not to overmix – this keeps the meatloaf moist and tender; overmixing can result in tough, dry meatloaf.
  4. Shape the meatloaf. Free form the loaf on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil (easy cleanup!) or you can use a loaf pan with a perforated bottom).
  5. Brush with half of the glaze.
  6. Bake.
  7. Serve.

If you want to use your slow cooker, check out this crockpot meatloaf recipe.

Collage of 2 images showing meatloaf glaze ingredients in a white bowl with a whisk and meatloaf glaze in a white bowl with a whisk.
Collage of 2 images showing stages of meatloaf mixture including whisked eggs and spices in a glass bowl with a whisk and all meatloaf ingredients in a glass bowl.
Collage of 2 images showing meatloaf mixture in a glass bowl and shaped meatloaf topped with glaze on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet before baking.

How to Freeze Meatloaf

Meatloaf freezes wonderfully, both before and after baking. It was one of my favorite freezer meals to have stashed away after my babies were born, and I love keeping a couple slices in the freezer for quick weeknight dinners.

Here’s how to freeze meatloaf:

  • Freeze Before Baking – Mix together the ingredients, shape the meatloaf, then wrap in plastic wrap, place in a ziploc freezer bag, and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake as directed. I recommend freezing it without the glaze and making it/brushing it on right before baking.
  • Freeze After Baking – After the meatloaf has baked and cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap, wrap it in a layer of aluminum foil, place in a ziploc freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in a 350-degree oven, covered with foil, for about 45 minutes, or until heated through. I do not recommend reheating directly from frozen, as it takes A LONG TIME and the outside can get dry while the inside remains frozen. For individual servings, slice the baked and cooled meatloaf and follow these same steps.

I think it has the best texture when it is frozen raw, thawed, and baked. Since it’s only baked once, it maintains the best flavor and texture.

Without exception, I serve meatloaf with my favorite mashed potatoes; you can’t have meatloaf without the mashed potatoes as far as I’m concerned!

This meatloaf is husband-approved and whenever I make it, I’m reminded of cozy dinners at my grandma’s house. A definite win-win for me.

2 slices of meatloaf on a white plate with a fork and roasted broccoli and mashed potatoes.

If You Like This Meatloaf Recipe, Try These Comfort Meals:

2 slices of meatloaf on a white plate with roasted broccoli and mashed potatoes.

Meatloaf Recipe

This classic meatloaf recipe is the absolute best you’ll find. It’s loaded with flavor, very easy to prepare, and the sauce is delicious.
4.47 (32 ratings)

Ingredients

For the Glaze:

  • ½ cup (120 g) ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar

For the Meatloaf:

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) dried thyme
  • teaspoon (0.13 teaspoon) cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup (122 ml) whole milk
  • 1 pound (453.59 g) ground beef
  • ½ pound (226.8 g) ground pork
  • ½ pound (226.8 g) ground veal
  • 16 saltine crackers, crushed
  • cup (20 g) minced fresh parsley

Instructions 

  • Make the Glaze: In a small saucepan, whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar; set aside.
  • Make the Meatloaf: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing the remaining ingredients.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and milk. Add the ground meats, crackers, parsley and cooked onion mixture; mix with a fork until evenly blended.
  • With wet hands, pat the mixture into a 9-by-5-inch loaf shape. Place on a foil-lined rimmed baking pan (you could also use a 9×5-inch loaf pan with a perforated bottom). Brush with half of the glaze.
  • Bake meatloaf until it is cooked through (it should register 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer), about 1 hour, brushing with the remaining glaze when there is 15 minutes left. Cool at least 20 minutes, then slice the meatloaf and serve.

Notes

  • Meat: You can replace the meat in this recipe with 2 pounds of “meatloaf mix”, which is available at a lot of grocery stores in the meat case.
  • Milk: The whole milk can be replaced by ½ cup plain yogurt.
  • Saltines: The crushed saltines can be replaced by ⅔ cup quick oats or 1⅓ cups fresh bread crumbs.
  • Storage: Store leftover meatloaf in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freeze Before Baking – Mix together the ingredients, shape the meatloaf, then wrap in plastic wrap, place in a ziploc freezer bag, and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake as directed. I recommend freezing it without the glaze and making it/brushing it on right before baking.
  • Freeze After Baking – After the meatloaf has baked and cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap, wrap it in a layer of aluminum foil, place in a ziploc freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in a 350-degree oven, covered with foil, for about 45 minutes, or until heated through. I do not recommend reheating directly from frozen, as it takes A LONG TIME and the outside can get dry while the inside remains frozen. For individual servings, slice the baked and cooled meatloaf and follow these same steps.
Nutritional values are based on one serving
Calories: 302kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 121mg, Sodium: 619mg, Potassium: 512mg, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 385IU, Vitamin C: 5.6mg, Calcium: 55mg, Iron: 2.8mg

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Ari Laing.