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Easy Meatloaf Recipe, 5-Ingredient Weeknight Dinner

Meatloaf. I can’t think of a more classic family meal. This meatloaf recipe is quick and easy. The meat is tender, savory and utterly delicious!

easy meatloaf served and sliced on a white platter with parsley garnish
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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.

This easy meatloaf recipe with few ingredients 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 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. Serve it up with this over-the-top delicious Smoked Mac and Cheese, and you’ll be a hero!

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.

I hope you'll enjoy our Favorite Sweet Cornbread recipe, as much as we do.  It's the perfect complement to so many dishes like my Creamy White Chicken Chili, or Easy Meatloaf Recipe or even scrumptious Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken.  It can add the sweet balance to your favorite savory meals.

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 10×5 loaf pan. There will be a gap or two. (You can also bake this in an 8×8 or 9×9 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!

The Recipe

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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 10×5 loaf pan. There will be a gap or two. (You can also bake this in an 8×8 or 9×9 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 8×8 or 9×9 and I’ve also used a 9×13 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 Beef 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

glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

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