Best Meatloaf Recipe

4.84 from 30 votes
77 Comments

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This meatloaf recipe will change the way you think about meatloaf! Rich, moist and loaded with chopped vegetables, this hearty dish is sure to become a family favorite!

Meatloaf on a plate with ketchup glaze

Best Meatloaf Recipe

This meatloaf is truly the best I have ever tasted! It’s inspired by the famous Claim Jumper meatloaf. The restaurant boasts huge portions of classic recipes, and this is one of their signature dishes. The last time we went out for dinner there, my husband got the meatloaf. I can’t even remember what I got, because all I can remember is the bite or two from my husband’s plate. I kept wishing I had ordered it too! the flavor was so perfect that I knew I needed to go home and figure out how to replicate it. This is pretty darn close, with rich sauce, chopped veggies and lots of smoky flavor. My entire family loves this meal and asks for it all the time.

Keep the Glaze Simple

The glaze on your meatloaf doesn’t need to be anything fancy. I have seen some glazes that require over a dozen ingredients and it’s just not necessary. All you really need is ketchup. In the recipe we use ¼ cup for the top glaze but you can definitely add more to taste if you are a ketchup lover (lookin’ at you, Dad). The only time we don’t use ketchup is  ff we smoke it (see notes below). When smoking it, will sometimes use a BBQ sauce glaze instead, just to enhance the smoky flavor.

Claim Jumper Meatloaf with a couple slices on the end topped with a garnish.

Time and Temperature

You want the internal temp of your meatloaf to be 160 degrees F (70 degrees C) before serving. This usually takes about an hour at 350-degrees, possibly more depending on the size of your meatloaf. Always use a meat thermometer when cooking meat. Though meatloaf is quite forgiving when it comes to the time and temp you are cooking at, it’s always a good idea just to check the meat temperature. If you want to caramelize the glaze on top, you can bump up the temp to 400-degrees for the last 5-10 minutes.

Gluten Free Meatloaf

The easiest way to make this gluten free (or GF) is to simply swap out the breadcrumbs for gluten-free breadcrumbs. You can also use GF soda crackers and crush them. You definitely want to make a substitution rather than leaving the crumbs out completely because you will need something to bind it all together. However, DO NOT try using oats. I tried this and learned the hard way. It will all fall apart. Stick with GF breadcrumbs, crackers, or croutons.

Tips For Making The Perfect Classic Meatloaf

  • First, start with good quality, 85/15 beef and/or pork. Try to steer clear of super low fat varieties, because this can make the meatloaf dry and crumbly. A little extra fat in the meat can help maintain its shape and give it more moisture and flavor. Varieties with too much fat will make it greasy and fall apart. 85/15 seems to be the perfect blend.
  • Line your pan with parchment paper or use a cooking spray to make it easier to get it out of the pan once it is fully cooked.
  • Make sure your veggies are diced nice and small, so they sautee evenly.
  • Keep the ketchup! We have had readers omit the ketchup from this recipe but it has turned out dry. Ketchup is sweet and when baked it can turn into a gorgeous glaze.
  • Let the meatloaf rest for about five to seven minutes before slicing, this allows all the juices to redistribute after cooking.
Sliced meatloaf on a platter with glaze

Smoked Meatloaf

If you own a smoker, I highly recommend smoking your meatloaf. It is incredible and it’s so EASY to do! Here are the steps:

  1. Preheat your smoker to 250-degrees F.
  2. Follow the recipe below to step 4 (but don’t put the meat in a loaf pan).
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form your meat mixture into a loaf shape.
  4. Insert meat thermometer and smoke at 250-degrees for 45 minutes.
  5. Brush with ketchup (or BBQ sauce) and continue to smoke basting every 30-60 minutes until the internal temperature is reaches 160-degrees. This will take up to 3-4 hours.
  6. Remove and allow it to rest for 10 minutes or so before slicing.

What to Serve with Meatloaf

This meatloaf goes great with just a baked potato and a simple green salad, or with any of these delicious side dishes:

Meatloaf sliced part-way through

How to Make Meatloaf

meatloaf on a plate

Best Meatloaf Recipe

4.84 from 30 votes
This meatloaf recipe will change the way you think about meatloaf! Rich, moist and loaded with chopped vegetables, this hearty dish is sure to become a family favorite!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8

Video

Equipment

  • Loaf pan

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place ground beef and pork in a large bowl. Stir breadcrumbs and flour into the meat. Set aside.
    Meatloaf ingredients including bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, and salt in a bowl
  • Heat oil in a frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper, and carrot. Sauté until onions are translucent.
    Carrots, peppers, and onions cooking in a fry pan
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk eggs with milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
    stirring eggs, milk, and spices in a small bowl
  • Stir the whisked egg mixture, the sautéed veggies, and ½ cup ketchup into the meat. It will be thick, so use a strong wooden spoon or your hands to mix it all in (Tip:Use kitchen gloves to keep your hands clean!). Press the seasoned meat into a loaf pan, as pictured.
    Raw meatloaf in a loaf pan
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and spread ¼ cup ketchup over the top of the loaf. Bake an additional 45 minutes or until internal temp reaches 160-degrees.
    Cooked Meatloaf in a pan
  • Allow to rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve!
    Meatloaf dinner on a plate

Nutrition Information

Calories: 424kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 24gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 986mgPotassium: 523mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 1719IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 3mg

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This recipe was inspired by our Mom’s best meatloaf recipe, the delicious meatloaf served at Claim Jumper Restaurant and Saloon, and Todd Wilbur’s Top Secret Recipes.

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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Comments

  1. I have always used oats and very much not so. And it makes tastier than breadcrumbs or croutons.

    1. I used to detest my mom’s meatloaf because she used oats but it could have been that she used too much to stretch it. Texture had that… I don’t know, kinda slimy oatmeal feeling and very tasteless. Another problem is she couldn’t eat onion so who knows what the problem really was. I tend to substitute Ritz or townhouse crackers for breading in meatloaf. Tasty! One day I might get brave and try oats. I’m sure it’s a healthy choice!

  2. I rarely leave comments. I have over 10K recipes and I can’t find the directions for this recipe. No bueno

  3. My recipe is simalar. But I cut a piece of waxed paper 14″ long. I spread the meat mixture out about 1/2 inch thick the length of my baking pan. Then I put sliced Swiss cheese on the mixture. Sometimes I also put sliced sandwich ham over that.
    Then I roll it up like a jellyroll.
    Put it in the pan a d bake it.
    When sliced you’ll have meatloaf with a swirl of cheese or cheese and ham.
    Enjoy.

  4. 5 stars
    I use ketchup but I mix it with brown sugar.
    Makes a bit of a sweet glaze that goes perfect with your meatloaf…

    1. At the beginning of the video what is the second powdery stuff? It says breadcrumbs then she adds another bowl of something different with no title

      1. Thanks for catching that! We think that might have been an error by our video creator, and we are looking into it. Our recipe is only made with the listed ingredients.

  5. 5 stars
    I liked this recipe, very similar to my standard recipe. For gluten free folks, plain potato flakes-NOT potato buds or granules- are a great substitute for the breadcrumbs or crackers. I use Idahoan brand potato flakes. This hint is from Americas Test Kitchen book-How Can It Be Gluten Free.

  6. 5 stars
    Such a delicious recipe. Came out perfectly. We usually have trouble with meatloaf falling apart for some reason but this one was great! Delish!

  7. 5 stars
    This is pretty much my recipe but I don’t add ketchup to the mix, sometimes I might add a a couple tsps of bbq sauce if I want to go with a bbq flavor, but I always add a couple of tbs of milk and a couple tsps of worcestershire sauce instead of the ketchup to the mix. If someone doesn’t want to add ketchup, the milk and worcestershire will keep it moist as well. I also add a tsp of thyme to the mixture and add a couple tbs of brown sugar to the ketchup on top, it makes a big difference in my opinion. The pepper and carrot finely chopped put the flavor over the top though. Thanks for the great recipes!

  8. Instead of using ketchup, i usually use Worcester sauce i usually add approximately 1/3 of a cup. This replaces the milk also.

  9. 5 stars
    I have been married for 47 years, my husband loves meatloaf, but has never Liked any that I have tried to make. I found this one and made it for a Friday night dinner with our daughter and family. They all fav ed over it and said it was the best meatloaf ever. Thanks I will make this again!

  10. I learned over 50 years ago, that when using a glass or corning wear pan to decrease the temperature of the oven by 25 degrees.

  11. I want to try this recipe, but there are so many mixed reviews! Couple things….does tomato paste substitute for ketchup, one less thing to buy if so. Also if I’m using a glass pyrex loaf pan does the cooking time/temp differ? The recipe doesnt specify the pan material type. Thanks

    1. Hi Courtney- the loaf pan shouldn’t make a huge difference. If you are using glass, maybe you want to raise the heat a little but just so you can get those nice cooked edges. Tomato paste isn’t the best substitute– it is a bit thicker than ketchup and not as sweet. If you add some brown sugar to it and mix it with tomato sauce you might be able to pull it off though! Hope this helps!

      1. Family loved it. I found it a bit too sweet. I grew up with tomato sauce used on meatloaf. Maybe I’ll try it next time or a combination

  12. I followed the recipe, except did not add the catsup inside the meat. Baked 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees and cooled 10 min. It came out so dry and crumbly, could not slice it. Husband and I both did not like this meatloaf. Is there something amiss that I didn’t do? Parts of it were burned and sticking to the sides of the pan. So disappointed, lots of work and money? Judith

    1. Hey Judith, the ketchup is what adds a lot of the moisture to the meatloaf. Leaving it out is probably what caused it to be so dry. I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out!

      1. Leave the catsup in or leave the catsup out. Which one is it? Best to proofread I guess and ask questions before I go to the expense of making a recipe. It is disappointing, though, to spend a lot of money and time and then have a failure because of this. Judith

        1. Our recipe above says to mix the 1/2 cup of ketchup in with the meat, and then spread any additional ketchup that you would like on the top. I’m so sorry if the wording was confusing!

  13. The amount of liquid called for in this recipe has to be off. I added the amount it said and I ended up with a meat soup that would have never formed into a loaf. I added more than twice the amount of breadcrumbs and flour to fix this issue so I could make it into a loaf . After cooking it the flavor was pretty good, but the loaf broke apart instead of slicing.

  14. Wow, was SO disappointed in this tonight. Followed the recipe exactly and it was a disaster. Way too wet to even hold together, after it baked to 200+ degrees internal temp and sat for 20+ minutes, still came out as a pile of mush. We tried eating it anyway and all it tasted like was breadcrumbs and flour. What a bummer.

    1. I am so sorry that this didn’t turn out for you! What kind of breadcrumbs did you use? We have never had it turn out like mush before. I honestly don’t know what could have gone wrong 🙁

  15. 5 stars
    I made this last Sunday and it was a hit with the family. They liked it so much I am making it again this Sunday. Thanks for the recipe, it will now be my go to recipe for meatloaf.

  16. i wish to try this recipe but need the grade of beef you use and do you have to use pork…most people just say ground beef and never say the grade of beef and that does make a difference ..thank you.

    1. I had your meatloaf today. It was delicious! I want to try and make it. What is those green flakes @.

  17. 5 stars
    My 10 year old loves this, and could eat half the load by himself if I let him. On days when it’s going to be packed with activities, I mix the meatloaf up and plop it in the crockpot on low. I just put the ketchup on at the beginning, which keeps it moist, and it’s ready when we are! It takes about 8 hours or so.

      1. Recipe says to “Add egg and milk mixture, sauteed veggies, ketchup and mix it up with your hands. Press the mixture into a meatloaf pan or a large loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then spread ketchup over the top of the loaf. Ketchup “in” mixture or “on” mixture?

        1. Thank you for pointing that out! I just adjusted it on the recipe. You mix ketchup in the meatloaf and spread additional ketchup on top after it bakes for 30 minutes.

    1. Yes, this will freeze well. I use a heavy duty freezer bag or wrap it in plastic wrap, then in foil. Thank you for asking!

  18. I stopped making meatloaf because it crumbled when I tried to slice it … seems like any recipe I tried did the same thing. Before I try this, does it slice well?

    1. It does slice very well. The breadcrumbs and the eggs in the recipe act as a binder and keep the meat from falling apart. I always let it sit for about 5 minutes before slicing as well.

  19. My mom has made meatloaf this way for as long as I can remember, and I learned from her. We don’t use any flour, so I’m curious why the flour…. and what does it do for the meatloaf?

    1. Flour or oatmeal is used in meatloaf recipes as a binder and an extender. The flour and/or oatmeal also absorb excess liquid as the meat cooks. Thanks for asking!

      1. Haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I’ve always used 1 egg for the binder. I’ve always made Jimmy Dean meatloaf, hubby loves it. Will try this one next time!!!

  20. 5 stars
    I just added this recipe to caloriecount.com and if you pair it with organic, lean, grass-fed beef, it is less than 200 calories per serving! (assuming 6 servings per loaf.) Made it for dinner and it was delish!!!!! Thanks!

  21. 5 stars
    OK, so last night was the third time I’ve made meat loaf for my husband. (We’ve only been married for 3 years so it’s not that big of a deal). He is so picky about it (but LOVES it when it’s good) and both pervious times i’ve made meatloaf, with a different recipe, he hated it. It was so sad. Well I stumbled upon this and you wrote “I’m not even a huge fan of meatloaf, but this is DELICIOUS!” That caught me right there! He LOVES meatloaf, but i’ve never found a good recipe.

    RESULTS from last night:

    HE LOVED IT!!!! And I LOVED it! It was seriously the BEST meatloaf we’ve EVER EVER had! The only thing I did differently was I took out the pork (I didn’t have any) and I used sausage instead. It was seriously so good. Thank you thank you thank you for posting this! I seriously LOVe your site and I have your book. (PS you should make another recipe book!!)

    1. Thank you, Kristina! This meat loaf has always been a hit with my family too. I’m so glad it passed the test at your house. It’s great to hear you are enjoying our site and our cookbook!

  22. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE CLEAR. I HIGHLIGHTED THE RECIPE FIRST THEN COPIED WENT TO MY MIRCO-SOFT WORD THEN PASTED. THEN I
    COPIED IT. I HOPE THIS HELPS YOUI OUT.

    1. left click highlite from beginning to end right click next then u get the “print” option in the menu

  23. I love your recipe for meatloaf except for the catsup. I hate ketchup
    I use tomato juice in mine or V8 . I will try your recipe but w/o catsup.

    1. 5 stars
      Loved your recipe as in.
      Only thing, I added additional ketchup. (It’s the best part of AMY recipe or meal. I even have 2 copy cat recipes that call for V-8, but after trying them I decided it was a shame to waste all those ingredients. Switched it out with ketchup and it made the angels sing.
      Glad you too the time to compare and combine the recipes to come up with this. I’ve made it for family, church, friends/funerals and guests.

    2. This is nothing like claim Jumpers meat loaf. Sorry. Not even close. Probably good but not Claim Jumpers.