26 Meat Loaf Recipes That Are Anything but Boring

Updated: May 19, 2024

Meat loaf may get a bad rap, but these much-loved meat loaf recipes are proof it's come a long way. Topped with bacon, ketchup or cheese—any way you slice it, meat loaf is comfort food at its finest.

If the very thought of meat loaf for dinner makes you shudder, it’s time to rethink the recipe you’re used to. Long gone are the days of dry, flavorless loaves; modern-day meat loaf abounds with bold flavors, innovative toppings and secret ingredients that could rival any of our other best ground beef recipes.

From remixed versions and gourmet riffs to stuffed meat loaf ideas, the classic dinner has never been better—or easier to make—than it is now. What’s more, you can add some of these loaves to your easy vegetarian recipes collection. That’s right, we’ve included vegetarian options for lentil loaf and savory veggie-packed loaves where you can simply omit the beef, pork or turkey and still wind up with a delicious dinner.

Get your favorite ketchup brands ready for topping, then check out the meat loaf sides that pair great with this American classic.

1 / 26

Mom’s Meat Loaf

Learning how to make meat loaf comes down to using the right meat and adding a few binding ingredients. This crowd-pleasing recipe does just that and wins every time—whether it’s served with mashed potatoes and buttery homemade rolls or sandwiched between two pieces of bread for lunch.
2 / 26

Air-Fryer Meat Loaf

There’s nothing our trusty air fryer can’t handle, including making a killer meat loaf. Juicy and well-seasoned, it cooks in about half the time as an oven-baked loaf and employs a gorgeous glaze to boot.
3 / 26

Moist & Savory Meat Loaf

This savory meat loaf checks all the delicious boxes for a dinner the whole fam will love. With a sweet, tangy sauce baked onto the top and crushed-up cheese crackers studded throughout, everyone will be reaching for seconds.
4 / 26

Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves

Everything is better in mini form, including meat loaf. Whether you’re whipping up a batch for the kiddos or trying to serve smaller portions to the adults, these tiny cheddar loaves are sure to hit the spot and are ready in under an hour. Pair them with these mini pies and tarts for an equally cute dessert.
5 / 26

Copycat Cracker Barrel Meat Loaf

IYKYK when it comes to Cracker Barrel’s legendary meat loaf, and this copycat version is a tried-and-true dupe that, dare we say, might even beat the original. Packed with melty cheese, chopped veggies and buttery Ritz crackers, there’s a reason this is one of our most-clicked recipes.
6 / 26

Meat Loaf from the Slow Cooker

Making a meat loaf from scratch may seem daunting, but not when you have a set-it-and-forget-it appliance like a slow cooker to do all the work. This hands-off dish cooks in the background, and cleanup is effortless—no wonder it’s one of our favorite ground beef slow-cooker recipes.
7 / 26

Home-Style Glazed Meat Loaf

You’ll never have to worry about dry meat loaf again once you taste this glazed beauty. It’s perfectly moist in the center and smothered in a silky sauce on top. Instead of topping the loaf with ketchup alone, we simmer ketchup, brown sugar and Dijon mustard together, then coat it for an unforgettable sweet and tangy flavor.
8 / 26

Grilled Meat Loaf

Grilled meat loaf is the perfect summertime twist on a comforting family favorite and only requires 10 minutes of prep time. A bit of ketchup brushed over the smoky meat lends a sweet note to each slice and oats sneak in an extra dose of protein. Be sure to use quick-cooking versus old-fashioned oats since they’re precooked and will soften with the moisture of the meat loaf.
9 / 26

Ham Loaf

Never heard of ham loaf? This retro recipe is said to have originated in Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch communities when butchers turned leftover ham into loaves that families could purchase to glaze and bake at home. You could even add pineapple to the mix for extra sweetness or hot pepper jelly for a kick.

If you like the sound of this ham loaf recipe, don’t miss our favorite vintage recipes from the ’50s.

10 / 26

Cheeseburger Meat Loaf

We love comfort food mashups, and cheeseburger meat loaf definitely falls into that category. Take your favorite part of a burger (ahem, the cheese!), roll it into the meat and top the roll with it. Just add a side of homemade french fries to round out the meal.
11 / 26

Ina Garten's Meat Loaf

What’s more comforting than a classic, family-favorite meat loaf? The Barefoot Contessa‘s unfussy recipe recruits ground chuck, onions, breadcrumbs and fresh thyme to craft a simple loaf, with ketchup spread over the top.
12 / 26

Instant Pot Meat Loaf

Instant Pot meat loaf captures all the flavor of a traditional meat loaf, yet it’s so easy to make, thanks to a fast cooking method that seals in moisture. Although cooking time may vary depending on your appliance, you’ll know the loaf is ready to glaze once the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
13 / 26

Lentil Loaf

You won’t even miss the meat in this vegetarian loaf that’s ideal for meatless Mondays, Lent or any time when you’re eating plant-based. Sauteed vegetables, savory lentils and mushrooms, and melty mozzarella make for one seriously satisfying meal.
14 / 26

Onion Meat Loaf

The secret is out: A packet of Lipton onion soup mix is the key to a well-balanced, perfectly seasoned meat loaf. The best part? No measuring spoons required. While Lipton is our favored brand here, you can use any brand of mix for this recipe or make your own onion soup mix from scratch.
15 / 26

Meat Loaf Muffins

Meat loaf doesn’t usually work for passed party apps, but in this case, mini meat loaf muffins are bite-sized morsels everyone will be clamoring to get their hands on. Considering they bake up in under 30 minutes, you’ll be able to whip up another batch on the fly when the first runs out.
16 / 26

Meat Loaf with Oatmeal

Hearty and wholesome, this is one loaf oatmeal lovers are sure to enjoy. Swapping out the usual bread crumbs with quick-cooking oats makes for a healthier alternative with a wonderful texture. But whatever you do, don’t skip the Worcestershire sauce. That’s the holy grail ingredient needed for a superior loaf.
17 / 26

Mini Meat Loaves

This freezer-friendly mini meat loaf recipe makes dinnertime a breeze. Corn-and-rice cereal adds crunch to the loaves while helping them maintain moisture. If your family likes extra sauce, double the ketchup topping recipe, and reserve the leftover sauce for dipping.
18 / 26

The Pioneer Woman's Favorite Meat Loaf

While Ina’s meat loaf errs on the simplistic side, Ree’s goes the over-the-top route. Wrapped in bacon and topped with a zippy sauce, The Pioneer Woman’s meat loaf is a true masterpiece. What truly sets it apart (other, than ahem, that saucy bacon crust) is that it’s made with milk-soaked bread rather than bread crumbs. Chef’s kiss would be an understatement.
19 / 26

Italian Meat Loaves

If your family loves American classics with an Italian twist, this recipe is proof of how to do it right. It yields 10 miniature loaves for individual servings, so you can cook what you need for dinner tonight and freeze the rest for later.

Serve this pork meat loaf with your favorite Italian bread and a side salad, or keep it traditional and pair it with creamy mashed potatoes.

20 / 26

Smoked Meat Loaf

Meat loaf naysayers can say what they want about bland, tasteless loaves, but it’s likely they haven’t met this bursting-with-flavor, slow-smoked loaf that’s fragranced by hickory and mesquite and melts in your mouth. Pro tip: When it comes to slicing, use a serated knife so you don’t make a mess of the delicate brick.
21 / 26

Venison Meat Loaf

Even wild game skeptics won’t be able to resist this tender, flavorful meat loaf with a brown sugar-mustard topping. This recipe features 100% ground venison, but you can also opt for a ground venison-pork-beef mix.
22 / 26

BBQ Meat Loaf Minis

For a fun play on traditional meat loaf, try these mini barbecue loaves that can be sprinkled with cheese, then baked for 18 to 22 minutes in a muffin tin. There are a couple of ways to guarantee a juicy barbecue meat loaf every time: Don’t overmix the meat when combining the ingredients, and don’t overcook the loaves. The longer the loaves cook, the tougher the meat can become.
23 / 26

Turkey Meat Loaf

While beef and pork may be the go-to meats for meat loaf, turkey is a wise choice for a leaner option. Fat-free milk, shredded carrots, oats and ketchup also impart lots of flavor, without spiking the caloric counts in this recipe.
24 / 26

Taco Meat Loaves

Tired of the same old taco Tuesday fare? Toss a few Mexican-inspired ingredients—like Picante sauce, olives, corn and south-of-the-border seasonings—with ground beef, mold the mixture into a loaf, then let it bake up under a layer of melty, gooey cheddar cheese for the ultimate taco-style meat loaf.
25 / 26

15-Minute Microwave Meat Loaf

Given all the ways to cook meat loaf that we’ve highlighted in this list, using the microwave to make a loaf probably hasn’t crossed your mind. Don’t discount this useful kitchen tool, however; a flavorful microwave meat loaf is actually ideal for busy nights since it only takes 15 minutes to execute.
26 / 26

Mozzarella Meat Loaf

If you can’t get your kids to eat their meat loaf, try “dressing up” the usual recipe with pizza toppings. Peppers and mushrooms sauteed in butter, melted mozzarella cheese and a lacquered layer of pizza sauce will change their minds immediately.