Old Fashioned Meatloaf

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This Old Fashioned Meatloaf recipe is tender, juicy, and covered in a tangy topping – just the way Grandma made it! It’s a classic made with ground beef and oats for an easy weeknight dinner that’s oh so comforting. 

Overhead view of slices of tender meatloaf over mashed potatoes with a spinach salad.

*Originally published October 2016. Photos and text updated.*

It’s hard to beat a really comforting meal of old fashioned meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes, and oven roasted green beans. Throw in a couple of savory pumpkin rolls or garlic cheddar biscuits and you have one highly comforting meal!!

This recipe is actually my Grandma’s, but I added garlic, the saucy topping that so many love, and a little cayenne (don’t worry, it doesn’t make it spicy… just adds a little something). It’s the best way to eat meatloaf!

Why you’ll love this classic meatloaf recipe:

  • It’s moist and juicy! I use oats for this recipe, not bread crumbs, because I find that they do a better job of keeping the meatloaf juicy.
  • It makes a really fast and easy weeknight dinner, but still has that completely homemade, comforting feel to it.
  • This is a good recipe to make ahead or freeze for a quick dinner in the future.

Ingredients you’ll need:

Meatloaf ingredients are very simple. You will need onion and garlic to start, then milk, oats, and an egg to help bind everything together. Next you’ll need cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and lean ground beef. For the saucy topping, you just need ketchup, brown sugar, and dijon mustard.

Ingredients needed to make Old Fashioned Meatloaf: ground beef, onion, garlic, egg, oats, milk, brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard.

How to make Old Fashioned Meatloaf:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the meatloaf: In a large bowl combine the onion, garlic, milk, oats, egg, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes to soak up the liquid. Then add in the ground beef and mix gently with your hands, just until combined (this should only take about 30 seconds, really!).

Shape the meatloaf: Place ground beef mixture on a large baking sheet and shape into a loaf with your hands.

Make the topping: If using the topping, combine the ingredients in a small bowl, then spread over the top of the meatloaf.

Bake: Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes, or until it reaches 160 degrees F. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Four pictures showing the steps to making the meatloaf.

Tips for making this recipe:

  • Use lean ground beef to avoid a greasy meatloaf, but not so lean that it will be dry. I prefer a 85/15 ratio. I have uses a 90/10 ratio successfully as well, but I suggest sticking with 85/15 if possible.
  • Make sure to soak the oatmeal for a full 5 minutes. If you mix the oats in dry, they will pull moisture away from the meat, causing it to be dry and crumbly.
  • Don’t overmix or it will be tough. Mix it gently by hand (a mixer will overwork it) until it is just combined.
  • Let the meatloaf rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing it. Just like with other meats, this helps it hold on to all those precious juices. It also helps it maintain its shape.
Two overhead pictures showing the whole meatloaf fresh from the oven and the second picture showing slices sprinkled with parsley.

FAQs:

Can meatloaf be prepped ahead?

Yes, you can make Old Fashioned Meatloaf ahead. Make it then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Before baking, let it come to room temperature on the counter and spread with topping. Also, to make storage easier you can refrigerate it in a loaf pan.

Can meatloaf be frozen? 

Yes, you can make the meatloaf, add the topping, then cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bring to room temperature before baking.
To freeze cooked meatloaf let it cool fully, then wrap tightly and freeze for 3-4 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Can I make it in a loaf pan instead? 

Yes, you can form the meatloaf on a sheet pan or bake it in a loaf pan instead.

When is meatloaf done? Can meatloaf be pink?

Meatloaf is done when it has reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees F. It may be slightly pink in the middle, even though it is fully cooked at this temperature. This is normal for ground beef. I don’t suggest cooking it much past this point as it will dry out.

Why did my meatloaf fall apart?

If your meatloaf fell apart or was crumbly, you may not have soaked the oatmeal long enough. Or it might be overcooked, or you might have cut it too soon without letting it rest.

Easy mushroom gravy spooned over 3 slices of Old Fashioned Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Other comfort food recipes:

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4.67 from 12 votes
Overhead view of slices of tender meatloaf over mashed potatoes with a spinach salad.
Old Fashioned Meatloaf
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

This Old Fashioned Meatloaf recipe is tender, juicy, and covered in a tangy topping – just the way Grandma made it! It’s a classic made with lean ground beef and oats for an easy weeknight dinner that’s oh so comforting.

Course: Beef, Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Classic meatloaf, Comfort food, easy dinner, Easy meatloaf
Servings: 8
Calories: 264 kcal
Author: Malinda Linnebur
Ingredients
Meatloaf
  • ½ cup (70g) minced or grated onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup (120ml) milk
  • ¼ cup (27g) quick oats or old fashioned
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds ground beef
Topping (optional)
  • ¼ cup (65g) ketchup
  • 1 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine the onion, garlic, milk, oats, egg, salt and peppers. Let sit for 5 minutes to soak up the liquid. Add in the ground beef and mix gently with your hands, just until combined (this should only take about 30 seconds, really!)
  3. Place ground beef on a large baking sheet and shape into a loaf. Combine topping ingredients and spread over the top and a small amount around the sides of the meatloaf. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until you have an internal temperature of 155°F. Allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Recipe Notes
  1. Use lean ground beef to avoid a greasy meatloaf, but not so lean that it will be dry. I prefer a 85/15 ratio. 
  2. Make sure to soak the oatmeal for a full 5 minutes for a moist meatloaf that doesn’t crumble. 
  3. Don’t overmix or it will be tough. Mix it gently by hand (a mixer will overwork it) until it is just combined.
  4. This can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for 3-4 days. 
  5. I also like to add a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce and 1 teaspoon of beef bouillon when I have it. 
  6. FREEZER FRIENDLY: Freeze raw meatloaf for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the fridge and bring to room temperature before baking. Freeze cooked meatloaf for 3-4 months and thaw before reheating. 
Nutrition Facts
Old Fashioned Meatloaf
Amount Per Serving
Calories 264 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 95mg32%
Sodium 456mg20%
Potassium 470mg13%
Carbohydrates 11g4%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 25g50%
Vitamin A 84IU2%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 46mg5%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the information shown is just an estimate.

38 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Meatloaf”

  1. 5 stars
    I have a great meatloaf recipe that I use a lot, but wanted to try another version just for the heck of it, and I found that I like yours equally as well! My old recipe does use bread crumbs, and I’ve found that oatmeal can kind of make it a little “gooey” in texture, but the one fourth cup wasn’t a problem in that regard at all. I think that one full cup of oatmeal, as someone suggested, would make the texture too gummy, though. I followed your recipe exactly….used 85% lean ground beef and all, didn’t overmix it etc., and had no problems whatsoever with it holding together. I also noticed that the garlic flavor came through, though not overwhelmingly so…..we love garlic around here. I’m glad to have a couple of meatloaf recipes that we love and are yet a little different…..thanks for a great recipe for these meatloaf lovers!

    Reply
  2. 5 stars
    Hi Malinda, how long do you recommend soaking the oatmeal for? Should they be soaked prior to adding to the meatloaf mix?

    Reply
    • Sorry for not responding to your question sooner, I have been in and out of the hospital. The oatmeal is soaked for about 5 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      Reply
  3. 5 stars
    So glad I found a recipe without bread! And so simple without a dozen different ingredients. I used goat’s milk and a mix of beef and lamb meat and the result was delicious. Thank you!

    Reply
    • I am so glad you liked it!! I was so scared when publishing this family recipe because it doesn’t use bread!! Thanks for sharing!!

      Reply
  4. Hi,

    Can I use this recipe without using the egg? My mother doesn’t like eggs so I’m trying to make a meatloaf without it. If not what would you recommend as a substitute?

    Thanks,

    Mike

    Reply
    • Hi Mike! I haven’t tried substituting anything for the egg. It helps to hold the meatloaf together and doesn’t add any egg flavor. However, you could try leaving it out. Let me know how it works out for you and sorry I couldn’t have been more helpful. I do know people use flax meal and chia as egg substitutes but I don’t have any experience with them.

      Reply
  5. 5 stars
    Hi. I have celiacs disease and am always on the hunt for recipes i can use. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe. I actually used brown maple gluten free oatmeal for oats. I did use the topping. I will be making this a staple in my house. Would you hapoen to knowvtge califie count on this?
    Thank you again for sharing. I hope you grandmother is smiling knowing how happy she has made many homes through her recipe
    Carla

    Reply
    • I am so glad you enjoyed the meatloaf!! I don’t have a calorie count as of right now, but I am working on fixing that and hopefully later this summer I will have nutrition information for all of my recipes. Thank you so much for your comment!!

      Reply
    • Hi there! So sorry I didn’t reply to your comment sooner!! No, the steel cut won’t work very well in this recipe. Thanks for asking and I hope you enjoy!!

      Reply
  6. 3 stars
    I found only 1/4 cup oats to not be enough to hold the loaf together and give it a nice texture. It seems closer to a cup of starch would be right for 2 pounds of meat. Is this a typo or do you actually use that little for 2 pounds?

    Reply
    • I do only use 1/4 cup of oats for this meatloaf and I haven’t had any problems. But always feel free to adjust ingredients to suit your needs/tastes! Thanks for asking!

      Reply
    • 3 stars
      It’s because the recipe calls for lean meat. Actually, meat with a higher fat content makes the best meatloaf, in my opinion. Which is why 1 cup of oatmeal is best.

      Reply
  7. I was looking for a meatloaf recipe that was easy and that tasted like what I grew up with. This recipe has so much flavor and moisture. It tasted exactly as the name reads. Old fashioned. I was skeptical about the topping but it was so delicious. I added a little extra and will fully double it next time. It’s that good.

    Reply
    • I want to thank you so much for your kind comment. It brings joy to my heart knowing other families are enjoying these recipes as well!! Again thank you so much and I am so glad you enjoyed this!!!

      Reply
    • The picture shows a mushroom topping but nothing mentioned in the recipe about mushrooms. Do you add mushrooms to the topping listed in the recipe or is this a mushroom gravy? If this is a mushroom gravy is it just a store bought gravy or homemade?

      Reply
      • Yes, it is a homemade mushroom gravy. There is a link in the post at the top for it or you can search “mushroom gravy” on the site. Thanks for asking and I hope you enjoy! 🙂

        Reply
  8. Good tips, I’ve made some pretty good meatloaf many moons ago that was my Dad’s recipe and I didn’t know these things, thanks.

    Reply

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