The Basic Meatloaf Recipe that Everyone Should Have

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Everyone needs to know how to make meatloaf, right? Here’s the basic meatloaf recipe that you can fancy up however you like — or not.

The Basic Meatloaf Recipe that Everyone Should Have | Good Cheap Eats

After more than eight years of blogging, I’ve shared a lot of recipes. Throw in 4 cookbooks and the number gets even higher. I think I’m approaching 1000 recipes that I’ve developed and tweaked over the years. And yet, there’s no great post for me to point you to when it’s time to make meatloaf.

This is the kind of stick-to-yer-ribs kind of dish that everyone should know how to make. Everyone needs a basic meatloaf recipe; I’m going to suggest that this be that recipe.

I love meatloaf, yet it’s not a dish my mom ever made. There was one night my dad brought home a prepared grocery store meatloaf for my mom to cook and it didn’t go over well. It was covered in some crazy sauce and not at all tasty.

It wasn’t until I was in high school and had meatloaf at a friend’s house that I learned it could be absolutely delicious. The dad in that family was the cook so I quizzed him on the process and then went home to make meatloaf every week until I moved out.

I still make meatloaf — and everyone loves it. Not everyone loves meatloaf sandwiches the next day, but honestly, there’s never any leftovers to make one!

How I make this good:

Whenever possible I like to cook with plain old ingredients. While the convenience of mixes and canned sauces is nice, I feel better about feeding my family just real food whenever possible. (Go here for some of my reasons on all that.)

In my early meatloaf making days, I used packaged bread crumbs and onion soup mix. Nowadays I use fresh whole grain bread crumbs and a mixture of dry onion flakes, herbs, and spices. This reduces my need for any processed ingredients in this basic meatloaf recipe.

The Basic Meatloaf Recipe that Everyone Should Have | Good Cheap Eats

How I make this cheap:

Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe more economical:

  • Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale! When I see a great price on ground turkey, I buy a lot of it and store it in the freezer. Then I’m always using it at the price point I feel comfortable spending.
  • Buy spices in bulk. Typically I buy spices at Costco or from Amazon in the big containers. If it’s a spice I won’t use up quickly, I store the excess in the freezer to extend it’s shelf life.
  • Use fresh bread crumbs. Unless you want a fancy panko crispiness in a recipe, many recipes that call for bread crumbs can use fresh bread crumbs instead of the dried, sodium-laden crumbs you buy at the supermarket. This recipe calls for two slices of bread run through the food processor. Use the heels since, according to my daughter, no one wants to eat those anyway.

Tools I use to make this recipe easy:

This is a pretty straight-forward dish. You don’t need any fancy equipment. However, having some good basic kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.

The Basic Meatloaf Recipe that Everyone Should Have | Good Cheap Eats

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About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. Ann says:

    Try something TOTALLY different! Applesauce Stuffing Meatloaf

    2 lbs. meat (I use pork/veal/beef/turkey)
    1 small onion, chopped
    1 egg, beaten
    1 cup applesauce
    1 cup herb stuffing mix
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. pepper
    1/8 tsp. nutmeg

    It’s a crazy weird recipe but it makes an amazing meatloaf and now my family doesn’t want a regular meatloaf anymore!

  2. Kirstin says:

    Thank you, Jessica. We liked Trader Joe’s turkey meatloaf, which they stopped selling. I’ll try your recipe now.

    • It’s super easy to make and you can make several at once to freeze for later.

      • Amy says:

        How long do you bake it for?

        • 45 minutes or until it hits an internal temp of 165. It’s marked in the printable recipe.

  3. Amber says:

    Thanks, Jessica! Also would be helpful for you to include ways to dress up this meatloaf with different variations. For example, cheddar, barbecue, ketchup topped, etc… Love framework recipes with ideas for costomization! Also, is there a substitute to replace the bread crumbs for those of us are gluten free or grain free? Thanks for all you do!

    • You may not believe this, but our family doesn’t top it with anything. My husband can’t stand BBQ or ketchup, so I focus on making a moist meatloaf so a sauce isn’t necessary. If I make mashed potatoes, I’ll make gravy, but that’s it.

      Re; gf… you can gf bread or substitute finely minced mushrooms like I do here: https://goodcheapeats.com/2016/03/hearty-gluten-free-meatballs/

    • Alice E says:

      Amber, My variation, which pleases my husband who doesn’t really like ketchup on it is to top the meatloaf with a glaze made of equal parts of ketchup and mulberry jam. Grape jam or jelly would work, but I have the homemade mulberry so I use it. This is a lot like a sweet BBQ sauce. You do want a strong flavored jam or jelly for this since something mild like apple gets lost and lacks flavor.

      Also, for variety, try varying the spices. Dried herbs and spices such as sage, thyme and mustard are good in meatloaf. You could also vary the spices using Italian or Mexican blends.

    • Sonja says:

      In my first college apartment I didn’t have bread crumbs on hand – so I used rolled oats instead. (There was also an unfortunate experiment using cracker crumbs.) . I still use rolled oats today – more than 20 years later. Same volume as the bread crumbs.

    • Kathy says:

      I am gluten free and can have oats so I make my meatloaf with oatmeal. I have used gluten free bread crumbs but prefer oatmeal because of the price. Gluten free bread and breadcrumbs are much more expensive than oatmeal.

      I also vary the meatloaf by adding a different moisture when I make it. Sometimes it is ketchup, some times it is spaghetti sauce, sometimes salsa (a favorite), and once in a while BBQ.

  4. Alice E says:

    Jessica, handy recipe. I have several recipes for meatloaf, but this is the first with fresh bread crumbs so I will be trying it.

    When freezing them, I just form the meatloaf in a 7 x 11 or 9 x 13 pan and freeze it in the pan. Then once it is frozen I pop it out of the metal pan and put it in the zip bag, labeled and dated. To fix I just put the meatloaf in a pan, put it in the oven, turn on the oven and bake. It takes around an hour and makes an easy and fairly quick meal and eliminates the need to thaw ahead of time. My mother did the same type of thing but just wrapped the 7 x 11 pan with plastic wrap and left it in the pan. I don’t have as many pans as she had accumulated through the years.

    • Does it come out of the pan easily or do you line it first? For freezing, I usually form it on aluminum foil and just wrap.

      • Alice E says:

        Sorry for the delay, I have been lax about checking email this week. Please accept my apology.

        They usually pop out, if not I run warm water over the bottom of the pan to loosen it. But, occasionally it is a bit more hassle and I may use a piece of parchment paper now that you have mentioned it.

  5. Cathy says:

    One thing I learned from my friend, Abby, to help stretch the meat further is I boil two eggs, shell them and then put the hard boiled eggs in the pan with the meatloaf mixture covering them all around. My kids then love to find out who gets what part of the egg when we cut into it and slice it up.

    • Interesting variation. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sandi says:

      Ooh, like a surprise Scotch Egg. What fun!

      • I thought the egg was chopped up in, but now your comment helps me see I misunderstood. That is very cool!

  6. de says:

    I have have used mashed white beans to cut cost, extend the size of the loaf, and to add flavor to the loaf. My kids tell me all the time how they hate beans and never to let them on their plates. They love my meatloaf and do not realize there are beans in there.

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