After trying dozens of others, I guarantee that this is the best meatloaf recipe you’ll find. It’s loaded with flavor, very easy to prepare, and the sauce totally makes it. Serve it alongside your favorite mashed potatoes and veggies; it will be an instant hit every time you make it.
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 at random times throughout the week, as well. If she knew my parents were busy on a particular day, or happened to be making something she knew we’d like, she would call and tell us to come over. One of my favorite non-Italian meals that she made was meatloaf with mashed potatoes. It’s such a comfort food, and it 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 that’s incredibly easy to make.
How To Make Meatloaf
Meatloaf seems like it should be such a simple recipe that there wouldn’t be much variation in terms of ingredients or process, but there are a few tricks that take it from ordinary meatloaf to the absolute best ever.
Let’s go through them step-by-step:
I’ve found that one of the biggest mistakes you can make with meatloaf is to use only ground beef. Your meatloaf will basically taste like a flavored, loaf-shaped hamburger. We want more depth of flavor and a more tender texture that doesn’t leave the meatloaf crumbly, so in addition to the 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 the 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 recipe.)
The Rest of the Ingredients
Meatloaf obviously requires some extra ingredients to give it tons of flavor and to keep it moist and tender, as well. Let’s run through them:
- The Aromatics – Onion and garlic is sautéed before being added to the meatloaf mixture to enhance its flavor (and no one wants to bite into a raw piece of onion!).
- More Flavor – 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 the meatloaf, add moisture, as well as bind it together. (You can substitute ⅔ cup quick oats or 1⅓ cups fresh bread crumbs).
- The Glaze – This sauce is super simple but it packs tons of flavor and I would never make meatloaf without it! 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.
Making this meatloaf recipe is super simple!
Once the onion and garlic are sauteed, you mix together all of the ingredients in a large bowl, either with a fork or your hands, taking care not to overmix (this keeps the meatloaf moist and tender; overmixing can cause it to because tough or dry).
(If you want to use your slow cooker, check out this crockpot meatloaf recipe.)
Meatloaf is a fabulous candidate for freezing, both before and after baking. It was one of my favorite freezer meals to have stashed away after each of my babies were born. How to do it:
- 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 been baked and cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap, then 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.
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 making it always reminds me of cozy dinners at my grandma’s house, so it’s a definite win-win for me.
If You Like This Meatloaf Recipe, Try These:
- Cast Iron Skillet Cheeseburgers
- Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket
- Beef Stroganoff Recipe
- The Best Shepherd’s Pie Recipe
- Chicken Fried Steak with Sawmill Gravy
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
- ⅛ 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
- ⅓ cup (20 g) minced fresh parsley
- 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 9x5-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.
- The whole milk can be replaced by ½ cup plain yogurt.
- The crushed saltines can be replaced by ⅔ cup quick oats or 1⅓ cups fresh bread crumbs.
Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in October 2014. It was updated in September 2018 with new photos and extensive recipe tips.
[photos by The Almond Eater]