When it comes to comfort food, meat loaf often tops the list. There are lots of ways to make it, and it’s simply delicious. The downside of making meat loaf, though, is that it can take an hour or more to cook. That’s where these meat loaf muffins come in.
Cooked as individual portions, these hearty little meat loaf muffins bake up in under 30 minutes. They’re great with all your favorite side dishes from mashed potatoes to corn and green beans. This muffin-tin meat loaf recipe is also an excellent make-ahead freezer meal for busy weeknights.
Ingredients for Meat Loaf Muffins
- Ground beef: This recipe calls for 90% lean ground beef. Our guide to the best beef for burgers is a good place to learn about different fat contents in ground beef if you want to switch it up.
- Vegetables: Chopped onion and green pepper contribute to the flavor of the meat loaves.
- Egg: An egg adds moisture and acts as a binder to prevent the meat loaf muffins from falling apart.
- Bread crumbs: Use your favorite dry bread crumbs, or sub in a gluten-free variety. If you don’t have any on hand, try one of these genius substitutes for bread crumbs.
- Barbecue sauce: Go as sweet, smoky or spicy as you like. These are our Test Kitchen’s picks for best barbecue sauces.
- Ketchup: A generous slathering of ketchup on each muffin helps prevent the meat loaves from drying out while baking. It also adds some tangy flavor!
Step 1: Make the meat loaf muffins
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together the egg, bread crumbs, onion, green pepper and barbecue sauce. Add the beef, and stir together until just mixed. Press about 1/3 cupful into each of the 12 greased muffin cups.
Editor’s Tip: Be careful not to overmix the meat mixture, as doing so could result in a tough meat loaf.
Step 2: Bake the meat loaf muffins
Bake for 15 minutes. Brush the tops of the loaves with ketchup. Continue baking until a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of each loaf reads 160°, five to seven minutes. If desired, serve with additional ketchup.
Editor’s Tip: To prevent any grease from overflowing onto the floor of the oven, set the muffin tin on top of a rimmed baking sheet. To gauge the temperature of the loaves, an instant-read thermometer is a kitchen must-have. Here are some picks for best meat thermometers in our Test Kitchens.
- Try different meats: Use a mix of lean ground beef and ground pork, or substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for the beef. Just be sure to cook to the safe temp for whichever meats you use.
- Add more veggies: This is a great recipe to hide vegetables inside. Consider adding 1/2 cup finely grated carrot or other vegetable to the mix.
- Surprise filling: Place a small cube of mozzarella or cheddar cheese inside the center of each muffin before cooking.
- Italian twist: Stir 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese into the meat mixture.
- Mashed potato topper: Fit a piping bag with a large star tip, and top each muffin with a creamy mashed potato swirl.
- Extra spicy: If you like things on the spicier side, replace the ketchup with your favorite chili sauce.
How to Store Meat Loaf Muffins
Leftover meat loaf muffins can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Can you make meat loaf muffins ahead of time?
Meat loaf muffins can be assembled one day ahead of cooking. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Can you freeze muffin-tin meat loaf?
You can freeze a muffin-tin meat loaf. Bake the muffins as directed, but skip the step where the ketchup is added to the tops. Let the muffins cool to room temperature, then place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, and freeze until firm. Transfer the muffins to a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag or other airtight container, and freeze for up to three months.
To use, let the muffins thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Place the muffins in a greased shallow baking pan, and top each muffin with ketchup. Bake at 350° until the center of each muffin is heated to 165°, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meat Loaf Muffins Tips
What’s the secret to great meat loaf?
The secret to great meat loaf lies in the binder. Bread crumbs blend well with eggs and the meat’s natural juices, helping create a tender and juicy meat loaf. Also, don’t overmix the meat, or it can come out tough. And once your muffin-tin meat loaves are done baking, let them rest for 10 minutes before cutting into them. The meat will hold together better.