Explore the endless variations on this versatile American classic.
Not just delicious, meatloaf is also easy and inexpensive to make. The mixture can be stretched with veggies, bread, and grains. Meatloaf’s small amount of meat feeds a large number of people, and all the non-meat additions make the meatloaf taste even more delicious!
For the all-important “meat” part of your meatloaf, pure ground beef might be the standard, but you could also use any combination of ground beef, pork, turkey, veal, lamb, chicken, or sausage. Add fresh or dry bread crumbs, seasoned stuffing mix, crushed crackers, rolled oats, textured vegetable protein, or bulgur that’s been plumped in warm water.
In the vegetable department, try:
- Grated carrots or potatoes
- Diced onions, celery, or bell peppers
- Chopped tomatoes or spinach
- Asparagus spears
- Minced garlic
- Canned, roasted, or fresh chiles
- Corn kernels
- Dry soup mixes or dry salad dressing mixes.
Try a little crumbled blue cheese or feta, or grate some Parmesan or Cheddar into the mix. Toss in one or two of your favorite condiments to boot: ketchup, mustard, steak sauce, and Worcestershire are just the beginning! Don’t forget the fresh or dried herbs; a little spice is nice, too. For really juicy meatloaf, mix in about 1/4 cup of liquid such as broth, vegetable juice, tomato sauce, wine, beer, or milk. Add a beaten egg to help bind the mixture.
To add a little extra excitement to your meatloaf, use half of the meatloaf mixture to form a bottom layer a couple of inches thick, then lay a few rows of long, thin strips of blanched vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, or asparagus spears down the length of it. Use the rest of the meatloaf mixture to cover up the veggies–be sure to seal the edges completely. When you cut into the meatloaf, each slice will have bright, appetizing stripes of color through the middle. You could even try this trick with a few hard-cooked eggs lined up end-to-end!
Lighten Your Loaf
Comfort food does not always have to be super-fattening food. Meatloaf can taste as delicious as it ever was while still being lower in fat. To lighten it up, use half or all ground turkey, use less meat and more veggies, and cook the meatloaf on a rack or broiler pan to allow the grease to drain off (or drain it from a loaf pan midway through baking). You can also buy a disposable aluminum pan and poke holes in the bottom of it: set this pan in a larger baking pan on top of a rack and the grease will still drain off while the loaf cooks.