If you like a meat loaf, you’re probably going to love a ham loaf. The idea is the same—ground meat combined with bread crumbs and seasonings, baked into a sliceable loaf—but this one is made with smoky, salty ground ham. It’s topped with a sticky glaze that adds a wonderfully sweet, caramelized top to the loaf.
There are many great loaf recipes out there (like Ina Garten’s meat loaf recipe) made with ground beef and pork. Sadly, we tend to forget about a vintage ham loaf. It’s thought that the ham loaf recipe originated in Germany and then came to the United States as an oft-made dish in Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch communities. It was a popular menu item at church suppers and lunch counters. Butchers turned leftover ham into loaves that families could purchase to glaze and bake at home. If you like the sound of this ham loaf recipe, don’t miss our favorite vintage recipes from the ’50s.
Ham Loaf Ingredients
- Cooked ham: As the name suggests, ham is the star ingredient here. It gives the loaf a smoky and sweet flavor.
- Bread crumbs: Just as you’d find in most meat loaf recipes, bread crumbs are added to help bind the meat mixture together. Opt for homemade bread crumbs if you can spare a wee more time.
- Milk: Milk soaks into the bread crumbs and keeps the loaf moist during baking.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar lends the sugary goodness to the sweet glaze that gets basted over the loaf.
Step 1: Make the meat mixture
Begin by heating the oven to 350°F. Start the meat mixture by whisking up the eggs in a large bowl, and then whisk in the milk. Stir in the bread crumbs and the ground pepper until the crumbs are moistened. Then, fold in the ground ham and ground pork; combine using a large wooden spoon or your hands.
Step 2: Shape and start baking
Press the ham mixture into a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Shape the loaf so that it’s slightly domed in the center and with space down the sides. That way, when you add the glaze it won’t pool in the middle. Rather, it will coat the whole loaf. Place the pan in the hot oven, and bake the loaf for 30 minutes.
Editor’s Tip: You can grease the pan before putting the ham mixture in there to make sure the loaf comes out nice and easy later.
Step 3: Add the glaze
Meanwhile, whisk together the brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, ground mustard and water.
Once the loaf has baked for 30 minutes, pull it from the oven, and spoon the glaze over the top. Put the ham loaf back in the oven, and bake for an additional 40 minutes, until a thermometer reads 145°F in the center, basting occasionally with glaze.
Editor’s Tip: When you first spoon the glaze over the loaf, you can reserve a little glaze off to the side. Then, while the loaf continues to bake, use that reserved glaze to baste the loaf one or two times during baking.
Step 4: Let rest, then slice
It’s best if you let the finished ham loaf rest for at least 10 minutes. Then, slip the loaf from the pan onto a serving platter, spooning the glaze from the pan over the top. Slice the loaf into thick pieces, and serve.
Ham Loaf Variations
- Swap out milk for another liquid: Instead of milk, other liquids can be used in the ham mixture to give it a unique flavor. Try chicken or vegetable stock, or nondairy oat or soy milks. Give the loaf extra sweetness by using apple cider or even cola (or use these in the glaze).
- Add pineapple: Ham and pineapple are a classic combination. Top the ham loaf with pineapple rings. As it bakes, the pineapple will caramelize and infuse the meat with sweetness and tropical flavor.
- Try some mix-ins: To amp up the savory flavor of your ham loaf, add whole-grain mustard to the meat mixture and the glaze. Diced onions can be folded into the meat to flavor it from within. Hot pepper jelly or sliced habanero peppers added to the glaze will give the meat a real kick. Other tasty additions suggested by Taste Of Home cooks include chopped kale and ground ginger.
- Play up the sweetness: To play up the sweetness of the brown sugar glaze, add spices such as cardamom, clove or allspice. Clover honey or a little orange zest are delicious, too.
How to Store Leftover Ham Loaf
Once the leftover ham loaf is completely cooled, wrap it tightly, and store it in the fridge for up to five days. Slices can be reheated quickly on a baking sheet in the oven, in a skillet on the stovetop, or on an aluminum foil-lined tray in a toaster oven or air fryer.
Can you freeze ham loaf?
Yes! Once the loaf is baked, allow it to cool completely. Wrap it tightly, then slip it into a resealable freezer-proof bag or dish. Keep it in the freezer for up to three months. To reheat, place the frozen ham loaf, still wrapped, in the fridge, and let it thaw overnight. Transfer the loaf to a baking pan, add a few tablespoons of water to help keep it moist, and cover the pan with foil. Reheat it in a 250° oven for about 30 minutes, until the internal loaf temperature reaches 165°.
Another option is to freeze the ham loaf unbaked, pressed into a foil loaf pan and sealed well. Allow it to thaw completely in the fridge before baking.
Ham Loaf Tips
Where can you get ground ham?
Some groceries will carry packaged ground ham in the meat case. Canned ground ham is another option, and it will be in the same aisle as other canned meats and fish. You can also request ground ham from your local or grocery store butcher—or grind your own at home.
How do you grind ham for ham loaf?
The easiest way to grind ham is to use your food processor. Slice cooked, cold ham into small chunks, and add them to the bowl of the food processor. Use the pulse function to chop the ham in short bursts until the ground meat has a fluffy texture. Don’t overdo it or the ham will end up too smooth (like a puree). If you have a meat grinder, use the medium-texture plate to grind the ham chunks to the right texture.
What can you serve with ham loaf?
When it comes to deciding what to serve with your ham loaf, the possibilities are endless. Consider comforting sour cream noodles, colorful spring asparagus or easy, dump-and-go side dishes like creamed corn or acorn squash.
How do you make mini ham loaves?
To make mini ham loaves, simply replace the loaf pan with a muffin tin, and divide the meat mixture among the cups. Fill any empty cups with water before putting the tin in the oven. Bake as directed, but check for doneness after 30 minutes.
Why did my ham loaf fall apart?
This usually happens when the loaf is sliced when it’s still piping hot right from the oven. Instead, let the ham loaf rest out of the oven for at least 10 minutes to allow the juices to settle back into the meat. That helps the whole thing stay together. After this rest, it’s ready to unmold and slice.