The Best Meatloaf Recipe

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The best Meatloaf Recipe is one that is easy to make and full of flavor. 

Ground beef, seasonings, onions, and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs with a zesty topping (my favorite part)!

Below I share my favorite tips to ensure a flavorful meatloaf that is tender, holds together, and will get rave reviews every time.

sliced meatloaf on a wood board

This easy meatloaf recipe is a family favorite and is pretty simple to make!  Serve with a side of mashed potatoes or mac and cheese for the perfect comforting meal.

Ingredients

  • GROUND BEEF: We use 80/20 ground beef for meatloaf. This provides enough fat to keep it juicy without being greasy.
  • Breadcrumbs & eggs help hold the loaf together and give it the perfect texture. Seasoned/Italian breadcrumbs are best as they add extra flavor.
  • Seasonings – Onions, parsley, Italian seasoning, and salt & pepper. Simple but delicious.
  • Topping – This is the best part! A zesty combo of ketchup and chili sauce (with a hint of brown sugar) is a favorite topping.

ingredients for making meatloaf on the counter

Meatloaf Sauce

My favorite sauce for meatloaf is a flavorful zesty topping that caramelizes and gets a bit sticky to glaze the meatloaf as it bakes. I use a combo of chili sauce and ketchup (just like my mom always made) and a pinch of brown sugar.

Chili sauce is not spicy, it is similar to very zesty ketchup with more tang and less sweetness. (Find chili sauce near the ketchup). Mixed with ketchup, it creates a beautiful topping. (It’s also great mixed 50/50 with BBQ sauce for burgers and ribs).

Variations

  • Brown Sugar Meatloaf Glaze: Skip the chili sauce and combine equal parts brown sugar and ketchup with a dash of cider vinegar.
  • Brown Gravy:  Skip the topping altogether and serve the meatloaf with brown gravy (homemade, leftover, or packaged).

steps for making meatloaf

How To Make Meatloaf

  1. Soften the onion in a pan (per recipe below).
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Form into a loaf and bake (cook times below based on the size of the loaf).
  4. Top with the meatloaf sauce and bake until bubbly.

cooked meatloaf on a baking pan

Tips for Perfection

  • Do Not Overmix: Mix until everything is just combined. Over mixing will create a dense loaf!
  • Use Lean Meat: Use lean beef (but not extra lean). 80/20 is the best mixture for meatloaf. You need a bit of fat for flavor but don’t want it swimming in grease so lean beef is the perfect option.
  • Add flavors and moisture: Adding in seasonings and soaking the breadcrumbs in milk keep every bit of this meatloaf flavorful and moist.
  • Skip the Loaf Pan: Using a baking sheet to cook your meatloaf gives the best results. If you cook in a loaf pan you’ll get steam (and nobody wants steamed meat) and nowhere for the drippings to go.  Form your own loaf on a foil-lined pan.
  • Rest the Meatloaf: With any meatloaf recipe, it should be rested once it comes out of the oven.  This helps redistribute the juices and makes sure it won’t fall apart when you cut it!

meatloaf served with mashed potatoes and broccoli

How Long To Cook Meatloaf

A 2 lb meatloaf (recipe below) will cook at 350°F for about 55-65 minutes or at 375°F for 45-55 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.

Meatloaf Cooking Times

If you are making half of a recipe (or increasing it) you can use the cook times below to cook at 350°F. A thermometer is the best way to ensure the meatloaf is cooked through yet perfectly tender.

  • Bake a 1lb meatloaf for about 45 minutes total.
  • Bake a 2lb meatloaf for about 55 minutes total.
  • Bake a 3 lb meatloaf for about 1 hour 20 minutes.

Kitchen Tip Always let meatloaf rest for 10-15 minutes before you slice it. This helps it retain its juices and ensures it doesn’t fall apart when you slice it.

How to Freeze Meatloaf

Before Cooking  To freeze meatloaf before cooking, place in a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap (or form a loaf on a pan). Freeze completely, seal well. Defrost raw frozen meatloaf in the refrigerator 24 hours. Bake as directed.

After Cooking Once cooked and cooled, freeze individual slices on a parchment-lined pan. Once the slices are frozen, transfer to a freezer bag.  This makes it easy to grab one slice or several to reheat! Simply reheat in the microwave or in the oven.

Did you make this meatloaf? Be sure to leave a comment and review below!

sliced meatloaf on a wood board
4.95 from 641 votes
Review Recipe

The Best Meatloaf Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8 servings
This is the best meatloaf recipe ever! It comes out juicy every time, and it seriously couldn’t be easier. 

Ingredients

  • ½ medium onion diced
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¾ cup Italian breadcrumbs or seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup or chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

Meatloaf Sauce

  • ½ cup chili sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar optional

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Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a foil lined baking tray with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a small pan, cook onions in butter over medium low heat until tender. Cool completely.
  • In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, and breadcrumbs. Allow mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Add the ground beef, onions, 1 tablespoon of ketchup or chili sauce, Italian seasoning, parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Mix until just combined.
  • Form a 8"x4" loaf on the prepared baking tray. Bake for 40 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, combine the chili sauce and ketchup (and brown sugar if using). Spread mixture over the meatloaf and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until cooked through and the meatloaf reaches 160°F. Broil 1-2 mintues if desired.
  • Allow meatloaf to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 

Recipe Notes

Optional: 1 tablespoon dijon mustard can be added to the beef mixture. Onions can be added without cooking but may not soften as well and will have a stronger flavor.
Do Not Overmix: Mix until everything is just combined. Over mixing will create a dense loaf!
Use Lean Meat: Use 80/20 for great flavor without making it greasy.
Add flavors and moisture: Don't skip the seasonings and soaking the breadcrumbs in milk keep every bit of this meatloaf flavorful and moist.
Skip the Loaf Pan: Using a baking sheet to cook your meatloaf gives a nice crust. Cooking in a loaf causes the meat to steam and there is nowhere for the drippings to go. 
Rest the Meatloaf: With almost any meat recipe, allow it to rest once it comes out of the oven.  This helps redistribute the juices and makes sure it won't fall apart when sliced!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 262, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 112mg, Sodium: 640mg, Potassium: 599mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 415IU, Vitamin C: 5.8mg, Calcium: 73mg, Iron: 3.7mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Course Beef, Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
The Best Meatloaf cut into pieces on a cutting board with a title

 

The Best Meatloaf plated with a title
The Best Meatloaf sliced on a cutting board with a title
The Best Meatloaf sliced and plated with a title

A whole beef meatloaf glazed with a zesty topping and sliced on a wood cutting board

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About the author

Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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Comments

  1. I’ve made a lot of meat loaves, this is my absolute favorite. I stick exactly to the recipe, except for adding a couple of teaspoons of A1 Steak sauce. Just because I like it, and I had to substitute Seafood Cocktail sauce in place of chili sauce this time.5 stars

  2. Absolutely delicious! Definitely will be making this again. I didn’t have chili sauce so I added some chili powder for the topping. Worked well. Very tasty!5 stars

  3. This meatloaf was really good and very easy to make! I did make a few adjustments based on ingredients I had already but they aren’t worth mentioning. I think you can use the recipe exactly as is or make a few tweaks to it and you will love it! I was using 3 lbs of ground beef because I was feeding my in-laws also. As I pulled out enough to make a loaf for them, I thought why not just make it all into smaller loaves so it cooks more quickly. I ended up making 4 loaves and just sat them all on the cookie sized baking sheet. This actually worked great and really cut down the baking time! I served it with mashed potatoes, baked beans, and steamed broccoli. Just pinned this recipe so I have it the next time!5 stars

  4. Made this for the first time and my boyfriend and I were very pleased. I usually call my mom to ask for recipes but I wanted to try something different. I also can say I didn’t realize until after that I have used recipes from this site before and loved them. One of my personal favs is the chicken salad go check that one out too!5 stars

  5. Hi! First I want to say that my family absolutely loves all your recipes!
    Do you think ritz cracker crumbs could be subbed for the breadcrumbs?
    Thanks in advance for your time!

    1. Aww thanks, Amy! We are so happy your family is enjoying them. The crackers should work well in place of breadcrumbs. We would love to hear how it turns out for you!

  6. It’s a good recipe, no doubt, but I leave out the ketchup (except for the glaze) and the milk, and substitute two 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce (from Kroger w/no salt added – it contains onions and bell peppers) and I add three tablespoons of Kentucky Bourbon (e.g., Jim Bean – you don’t want anything above 80 proof). It gives it a little twang! And BTW, I use venison, which is a very lean meat. Taste as good or better than ground beef.4 stars

  7. It was good!! However, maybe next time I’ll add a little less bread crumbs, so it tastes more meaty rather than loafs. Possibly just a personal preference. My eggs were jumbo so I don’t know if that made a difference.

  8. 350° for 40 minutes is not enough time for 2 lbs of meat. It was still raw when I pulled it out of the oven and ended up having to bake for another 20 minutes, resting 10 minutes. Huge damper on supper considering everything else was ready to go except the meatloaf.

    1. The recipe says to cook 40 minutes and then an additional 15 minutes or until it reaches 165°F after adding the sauce. You can see this information in step 6.

  9. I also add a grated potato and/or shredded carrots to help keep the meatloaf moist. Plus it’s working in some vegetables in with your meal.
    For the topping, my family always enjoys this topping. I use about a cup of ketchup and add 1-2 tablespoons of ground mustard (ground dry mustard from the spice section of the grocery store). You would think it would be very odd, but it gives a great sweet and tangy flavor and very easy to make.5 stars

  10. My vote was overridden. I think it’s a little too spicy by the BF and Daughter said it was perfect.
    My daughter said she wants this for Christmas. So, there ya’ go. Family really lived it. TY for the recipe. I added a little extra salt and dry mustard.5 stars

    1. Hi Laila, depending on the Italian Seasoning you are using I would add about a ¼-½ teaspoon of salt to the mixture.

  11. Best meatloaf recipe I have ever used.
    Soaking the breadcrumbs in milk is a great idea.
    Have served it to company several times.
    Every one loves it!
    The sauce went over well also!
    Thank You for sharing.

  12. Absolutely delicious. Super tender, not dry in the slightest. Big fan! I will be cooking this again. Great job.5 stars

  13. I tried this recipe last night. It was a definite hit for the entire family! I came back to write the recipe down for next time. I realized today that I forgot to add ketchup in the meatloaf, but I thought it was great without it. Mine stayed together very well and didnt dry out. Next time we are stuffing it with cheese =) Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

      1. Ooh, that sounds delicious Leanne. I have not tried this recipe with pork rinds but I would love to hear how it turns out for you!

  14. Meatloaf was so delicious. Thank you..my only question is that mine didn’t seem to hold together well while slicing. I used the recommended eggs and breadcrumbs. Wondering if I need to increase egg?5 stars

    1. Hi Anthony, we find the mixture in the recipe to work well. Make sure you are letting the meatloaf rest before slicing to ensure it doesn’t fall apart.