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Easy Meatloaf Recipe, 5‑Ingredient Weeknight Dinner

Meat­loaf. I can’t think of a more clas­sic fam­i­ly meal. Clas­sic meat­loaf recipes are as var­ied and unique as the fam­i­lies that enjoy them. 

My gluten free meat­loaf recipe with oat­meal is a sim­ple five-ingre­di­ent fix. It’s hard to believe an easy meat­loaf recipe with few ingre­di­ents could pack so much deli­cious fla­vor. But, friend, it’s SO good! I’m guess­ing it may become one of your go-to week­night din­ner recipes, too.

meatloaf sliced on platter
Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

This easy meat­loaf recipe is savory com­fort food at it’s best. You’ll have this deli­cious ground beef din­ner in the oven in just about 5 min­utes. It’s such a sim­ple meat­loaf recipe that you can turn the kids loose to make it.

I add a sweet and tangy brown sug­ar sauce over the top of our favorite easy meat­loaf, but that’s a com­plete­ly option­al step. I add it dur­ing the last few min­utes of bake time, so it gets thick and caramelized. Clas­sic meat­loaf nev­er tast­ed so good!

Two of the five ingre­di­ents in my easy meat­loaf recipe with few ingre­di­ents may seem some­what non-tra­di­tion­al. But, that’s because I don’t like meat­loaf with “chunks” of stuff in it. lol So, this recipe devel­oped in order to be able to serve my hus­band meat­loaf, just with­out clumps of sog­gy bread, bread crumbs or big pieces of soft-baked onion. 

Just try it. I promise you are going to love this mouth­wa­ter­ing meat­loaf and put it into your reg­u­lar meal rotation.

How Do You Keep Meatloaf from Being Dense?

If you haven’t read many of my posts, yet, you’ll soon learn that tex­ture is a HUGE deal to me. lol Like so big, if the tex­ture is wrong, I can’t eat it. I know. There’s prob­a­bly a group for that.

raw ground beef on parchment paper sitting on a wooden cutting board

This clas­sic meat­loaf recipe has beau­ti­ful tex­ture! There are no chunks of mushy, sog­gy or over­ly soft any­thing it it. Yet, it is ten­der and moist with­out being dense. And it slices well, if it’s rest­ed when it comes out of the oven.

The right tex­ture, in an easy meat­loaf recipe with few ingre­di­ents, starts with good qual­i­ty beef. It needs some fat for fla­vor and for keep­ing the meat­loaf recipe from being to com­pact. 85% is about per­fect, though I have made accept­able meat­loaves with 90%. Less than 85% gets pret­ty greasy. More than 90% is just too dry. 

I real­ly do have issues with buy­ing ground beef local­ly, since COVID. The best ground beef I have found is deliv­ered to my door. I use both Butch­er Box [refer­ral link] and Porter Road with equal success. 

Porter Road ground beef [affil­i­ate link] is our absolute favorite, just because I pre­fer their grind. Both have excel­lent fla­vor, but the Porter Road ground beef [affil­i­ate link] has a larg­er, more coarse grind that improves tex­ture in my fin­ished dish­es. It’s fan­tas­tic in clas­sic meatloaf.

Add in addi­tion­al mois­ture to the meat­loaf, as well. Those liq­uid ingre­di­ents aren’t just for fla­vor. So, don’t skip the eggs and toma­to sauce. You could also use things like ketchup, Worces­ter­shire sauce, or even bar­be­cue sauce as sub­sti­tutes or to add more moisture.

Meatloaf

The rest of the tex­ture secret for clas­sic meat­loaf is all down to not over­work­ing the meat. Use a fork to break up the eggs, giv­ing them a light “whisk” before start­ing to stir the loaf togeth­er. Then your meat­loaf ingre­di­ents will incor­po­rate eas­i­ly with­out over­mix­ing. Mix only until every­thing is com­bined. I usu­al­ly mix with my hands so I can feel that every­thing is being han­dled lightly.

Gath­er the meat togeth­er, gen­tly. Try not to com­press it as you add it to the loaf pan. It will firm up in the oven. I promise!

The Ingredients

meatloaf ingredients labeled - rolled oats, onion soup mix, tomato sauce whisked with eggs
  • ground beef
  • toma­to sauce
  • onion soup mix
  • eggs
  • rolled oats

While spe­cial condi­ments or top­pings are not required, my fam­i­ly loves a sim­ple sauce that I caramelize on top of ours, dur­ing the last fif­teen min­utes of bak­ing. The ingre­di­ents are pantry sta­ples _ ketchup, yel­low mus­tard and brown sug­ar. Instruc­tions are includ­ed in the notes of the recipe, below.

FAQ’s About Making Meatloaf

What makes a meat­loaf fall apart?

Usu­al­ly it’s because you did­n’t add enough bind­ing agents, i.e. eggs, oat­meal, bread or bread crumbs. They are what holds the best meat­loaf togeth­er and keeps it togeth­er. Meat­loaf falling apart can also hap­pen if the meat­loaf is not rest­ed prop­er­ly before try­ing to slice it.

Why is My Meat­loaf So Tough?

It was prob­a­bly over­worked in the mix­ing stage. It’s key to ten­der, juicy meat­loaf to com­bine the ingre­di­ents and then just stop. Don’t pack it or com­press it. Keep the mix­ture loose­ly formed as you shape it and lift it into the loaf pan. 

meatloaf mix in a clear mixing bowl
How Can You Tell if Meat­loaf is done?

A meat ther­mome­ter insert­ed into the cen­ter of the best meat­loaf will read 155° F when it is time to pull it out of the oven. Take it out and allow it to rest for 10 to 15 min­utes. The rest time will allow the meat to reach the USDA rec­om­mend­ed 160° as it con­tin­ues to cook from resid­ual heat. This rest peri­od also allows for the redis­tri­b­u­tion of juices and for the meat­loaf to set up more firmly. 

The Onion Soup Mix

dry onion soup mix on a white plate

The brand isn’t real­ly impor­tant when it comes to the onion soup mix. It’s being added 100% as sea­son­ing. It will go in dry and will meld with the meat as the fats ren­der out dur­ing bak­ing. Choose an inex­pen­sive store brand if you don’t need gluten free. 

It’s a deli­cious way to devel­op that savory, uma­mi fla­vor that makes meat­loaf so crave­able, with­out hav­ing chunks of soft onion float­ing in there.

For a good gluten free onion soup mix, try this one from Nat­ur­al Earth. [affil­i­ate link] It’s still in the devel­op­ment stages, but I’m work­ing on a recipe for a home­made onion soup mix that is gluten free and has no arti­fi­cial ingre­di­ents. I’ll let you know when I have it perfected.

The Elephant Oatmeal in the Room

I know oat­meal is NOT tra­di­tion­al in a delec­tably fla­vor­ful, best meat­loaf recipe. But, trust me it brings the tex­ture we’re look­ing for and holds mois­ture in the meat­loaf, with­out get­ting sog­gy or being “in your face” with big chunks. It real­ly is becom­ing more main­stream in meat­loaf ingre­di­ents, nowadays.

rolled oats spilled on the counter

Old Fash­ioned (Rolled) Oats are my replace­ment for pieces of milk-soaked bread or bread crumbs in this sim­ple meat­loaf recipe. Quick cook­ing oats can tech­ni­cal­ly be used, but they dis­in­te­grate into the meat­loaf, as it bakes, rather than hold the mois­ture and pro­vide pleas­ing texture. 

Plus, oat­meal is a gluten free option that every­one at my table is able to eat. Check your labels and be sure yours is cer­ti­fied gluten free if you need it to be. Some oat­meal is processed in machin­ery that also process­es wheat. Cross con­t­a­m­i­na­tion can be a huge prob­lem if you are mak­ing a gluten free meat­loaf for some­one with celiac. 

So, if you don’t need your meat­loaf to be gluten free, you can tech­ni­cal­ly sub in some bread crumbs for the oat­meal. Just know it’s hurt­ing my heart a lit­tle, though. lol No seri­ous­ly, though. I still love you. You do you. And, use what you have on hand.

How to Make Classic Meatloaf

For­tu­nate­ly, there’s no big mys­tery to mak­ing meat­loaf. It comes togeth­er eas­i­ly and quick­ly, which is impor­tant for busy week-nights.

  1. Use your hands to break apart the ground beef into small chunks in your bowl.
  2. Whisk the eggs and toma­to sauce togeth­er, before pour­ing them into the ground beef. That brings the meat­loaf togeth­er, eas­i­ly, with­out hav­ing to overmix.
  3. Add the onion soup mix.
  4. Now, gen­tly use your hands or a fork to mix every­thing togeth­er. You want a nice­ly homog­e­nized mix, with­out com­press­ing or com­pact­ing it. Mix just until every­thing comes together.

Meatloaf Mix in a metal loaf pan
  1. Loose­ly shape the ground beef meat­loaf mix­ture into a loaf and place it into the loaf pan. Don’t com­press it. It real­ly will firm up in the oven. Just light­ly tap and coax it out to the edges of your 10x5 loaf pan. There will be a gap or two. (You can also bake this in an 8x8 or 9x9 bak­ing pan if your loaf pan is too small. Adjust the cook­ing time, since the loaf will be thin­ner. I would start check­ing the inter­nal tem­per­a­ture at about 35–40 min­utes for the thin­ner meat­loaf.)
  2. Bake at 350° for 50–60 min­utes. Cook until a meat ther­mome­ter reg­is­ters an inter­nal tem­per­a­ture of 155°. 
  3. I add the sauce sug­gest­ed in the recipe card, below, dur­ing the last 15 min­utes of bak­ing. This is an option­al step, but enhances the fla­vor of your scrump­tious meat­loaf even more.
baked and glazed meatloaf
  1. Rest the meat­loaf on a cool­ing rack for 15 min­utes, before try­ing to slice it or remov­ing it from the loaf pan. (See how that sauce has caramelized on top and around the edges? Delish!) 
  2. Then, trans­fer it to a serv­ing plat­ter. Slice it and enjoy!
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Meatloaf

Easy Meatloaf Recipe


  • Author: Glen­da Embree
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 10 serv­ings 1x

Description

My easy meat­loaf recipe will become a week­night din­ner sta­ple. 5 ingre­di­ents & 5 min­utes of prep. Easy, deli­cious & kid-friend­ly!  Clas­sic meat­loaf nev­er tast­ed so good!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 22.5 pounds ground beef, lean-ish (80–85% is perfect)
  • 8 oz can toma­to sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 envelopes onion soup mix
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • option­al: sauce, condi­ment or top­ping of your choice

Instructions

  1. Break apart the ground beef into small chunks, using your hands.  Place the pieces into a large mix­ing bowl.
  2. Whisk the eggs and toma­to sauce togeth­er, before pour­ing them into the ground beef. That brings the meat­loaf togeth­er eas­i­ly, with­out hav­ing to overmix.
  3. Add the onion soup mix to the bowl, as well.
  4. Gen­tly use your hands or a fork to mix every­thing togeth­er. You want a nice­ly homog­e­nized mix, with­out com­press­ing or com­pact­ing it. Mix just until every­thing comes together.
  5. Loose­ly shape the ground beef meat­loaf mix­ture into a loaf and place it into the pan. Don’t com­press it. It real­ly will firm up in the oven. Just light­ly tap and coax it out to the edges of your 10x5 loaf pan. There will be a gap or two. (You can also bake this in an 8x8 or 9x9 bak­ing pan if your loaf pans are too small. Adjust the cook­ing time, since the loaf will be thin­ner.)
  6. Bake at 350° for 50–60 min­utes. Cook until a meat ther­mome­ter reg­is­ters an inter­nal tem­per­a­ture of 155°.   (If using a square bak­ing pan, start check­ing for done­ness at the 35–40 minute mark.  Because it’s thin­ner, your meat­loaf will bake faster than in the loaf pan.)
  7. Add the sauce sug­gest­ed in the recipe card, below, dur­ing the last 15 min­utes of bak­ing. This is an option­al step, but enhances the fla­vor of your scrump­tious meat­loaf even more.
  8. Rest the meat­loaf on a cool­ing rack for 15 min­utes, before try­ing to slice it or remov­ing it from the pan. (See how that sauce has caramelized on top and around the edges? Delish!) 
  9. Trans­fer to a serv­ing platter.
  10. Slice and enjoy!

Notes

Our fam­i­ly loves a saucy top­ping on meat­loaf.  Ketchup or bar­be­cue sauce, both work fine, but if you’d like to try what we use, it’s very sim­ple.  I mix 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 Table­spoon yel­low mus­tard and 1/2 cup brown sug­ar to form a sauce.  I pour it over the meat­loaf dur­ing the last 15 min­utes of cook­ing time to let it become thick and caramelized.

This easy meat­loaf recipe can be baked in any size pans you like.  I’ve done it in an 8x8 or 9x9 and I’ve also used a 9x13 and cut into squares or baked in muf­fin tins, for indi­vid­ual meat loaves.  The thin­ner your meat­loaf mix­ture is in the pan, the short­er your bak­ing time.  So adjust it accordingly.

  • Prep Time: 5 min­utes
  • Cook Time: 60 min­utes
  • Cat­e­go­ry: Main Dish, Beef
  • Cui­sine: Amer­i­can

If you enjoyed this clas­sic meat­loaf recipe, I think you’ll like these oth­er min­i­mal prep week­night din­ners, too. 

Easy Crock-Pot Roast Beef is five sim­ple ingre­di­ents and 5‑minutes of prep to get the ENTIRE MEAL into the crock-pot. When you get home in the after­noon, din­ner will be ready and waiting!

crock-pot roast beef

My Fam­i­ly Favorite Enchi­la­da Casse­role recipe is anoth­er 5‑ingredient dish that will have your taste buds danc­ing! Be sure to check out this quick and easy recipe, too!

enchilada casserole

Egg Roll Bowls are anoth­er quick and easy week­night din­ner option.

egg roll in a bowl served in blue stoneware dish

30 thoughts on “Easy Meatloaf Recipe, 5‑Ingredient Weeknight Dinner”

  1. Your meat­loaf is old school yum and I’m crav­ing it right now. There’s a rea­son it’s a classic!

    Reply

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