The very best Easy Meatloaf is a treasured family favorite. With the perfect blend of savory beef, onions, and breadcrumbs and a thick, tangy ketchup glaze, this is a recipe every family needs in their collection!
The Best Easy Meatloaf Recipe
No website dedicated to ground beef recipes would be complete without a traditional meatloaf recipe. This one comes from my mom, and though I might be a tad biased, I think it’s the best around.
Want to know the secret? Don’t use dried breadcrumbs! Fresh breadcrumbs soaked in milk are the key to a great tasting meatloaf that’s never dry.
Here’s why you’re going to love this recipe:
- It’s super simple. This easy meatloaf recipe with few ingredients only takes ten minutes of prep work before tossing it into the oven.
- While it's baking, you have time to cook sides or desserts—or even kick back and read a book!
- This recipe is perfect for a family dinner, and also works well as a meal to take to new moms or grieving families.
- It makes the BEST leftovers! Cheesy Meatloaf Sandwich, anyone?
I can’t wait for you to try this family favorite!
Key Ingredients And Substitutions
- Ground Beef - I use 80 to 90% lean meat to keep it moist. You can substitute part of the ground beef with ground pork if you want to add a twist to this classic.
- Onion - Onion enhances the flavor of beef AND adds moisture, so don’t skip them!
- Breadcrumbs- The key is to use fresh breadcrumbs from soft white or Italian bread. To make the breadcrumbs, place sliced bread in a food processor and pulse until small crumbs form.
- Eggs - This binding ingredient will give it some structure.
- Milk - Adding milk soaks the breadcrumbs and keeps everything nice and moist.
- Ketchup, Brown Sugar, and Mustard - This trio is for the glaze, and you won’t believe how tasty it is!
How To Make This Traditional Meatloaf Recipe
- Mixing your meatloaf - Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, onions, and beaten eggs to a bowl. Put the breadcrumbs on top and pour the milk over top to soak them. Use your hands to gently mix all the ingredients together.
- Form the meatloaf - Gently pat the mixture into a loaf pan or free form it into a loaf on a baking sheet.
- Making the glaze - Whisk the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard together. Then spread it on top of the meatloaf.
- Bake - Let it cook in your oven for a little less than an hour. You’ll notice the glaze caramelizing when it’s done.
- Serve - Let it rest for a few minutes, and then serve it with your delicious side dishes.
Tips & Faqs
How to Shape Meatloaf
The size and shape of your meatloaf is up to you! You can pat it into a loaf pan or a square pan, or use your hands to shape it free-form on a sheet pan or in casserole dish. I tend to like mine a little thinner and wider, so I use a bigger casserole dish or a sheet pan.
How to know when meatloaf is done
The best way to tell when meatloaf is done is to use a meat thermometer, like this one. The meatloaf can be pulled from the oven when a thermometer registers 155 degrees at the thickest point, then rested for 10 minutes before serving.
Note that the thicker your meatloaf is, the longer it will take to bake. Meatloaf made in a loaf pan will likely take around an hour. Thinner meatloaf may be ready in as little as 45 minutes.
How to store and reheat meatloaf
Cool the meatloaf completely, then wrap up any leftovers and store in the fridge. I think it gets even better the second day!
Individual slices of meatloaf can be reheated in a microwave, covered with a damp paper towel.
If you’d like to reheat a larger portion, place it on a baking sheet or leave it in the loaf pan, add a spoonful of beef broth to help it retain moisture, cover with foil, and reheat at 250 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Can meatloaf be made ahead of time?
The meatloaf can be prepared then refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance. Add the glaze right before baking.
Can you freeze meatloaf?
You can freeze the unbaked, unglazed meatloaf tightly wrapped in saran wrap for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then add the glaze and bake as usual.
Gluten Free Meatloaf Option
Almost a decade ago, my mom discovered she needed to maintain a gluten free diet to help with ongoing health issues. It was difficult for a woman who loves to cook to find variations on some of her favorite recipes, but over the years, she’s managed to do it!
To make it gluten free, substitute the fresh breadcrumbs with either fresh breadcrumbs made from gluten free bread OR quick oats.
Side Dishes for Meatloaf
My ultimate meatloaf dinner includes these Creamy Mashed Potatoes and either this garlicky Green Beans Recipe or Sauteed Spinach and Onions. Sometimes I sub the potatoes for a slice of buttered Amish White Bread.
More Easy Ground Beef Recipes
Now that you’re in love with this recipe, check out my Cheesy Mini Meatloaf. The kids love it because they’re small!
Best Easy Meatloaf
For the meatloaf:
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 small onion (finely diced)
- 2 cups fine bread crumbs (from about 4 slices white bread, NOT dried breadcrumbs)
- 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
For the glaze:
- ¾ cup ketchup
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, or use a 9 inch loaf pan.
- Place the ground beef, onions, and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Pour the milk and eggs directly over the breadcrumbs, allowing them to soak in the moisture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently combine and bring the mixture together.
- Form the mixture into a loaf shape on the baking sheet, or pat it into the loaf pan.
- In another bowl, whisk together ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard. Slather the mixture all over the top of the meatloaf, then bake for 45-60 minutes or until the glaze is caramelized. (A larger, shallower loaf will take less time to bake, and the loaf pan will be on the longer side.) The meatloaf is done when a meat thermometer reads 155 degrees. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.