Cracker Barrel Meatloaf

Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf

The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 65 mins
Rest Time: 15 mins
Total: 100 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 1 meatloaf
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
605 Calories
37g Fat
25g Carbs
42g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 605
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 37g 48%
Saturated Fat 15g 74%
Cholesterol 177mg 59%
Sodium 886mg 39%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 42g
Vitamin C 11mg 54%
Calcium 295mg 23%
Iron 5mg 25%
Potassium 609mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

It's surprisingly easy to replicate the delicious taste of a Cracker Barrel meatloaf at home. Requiring a few special ingredients, this recipe creates one of the most flavorful and moist meatloaves you can bake. It can even please people who don't typically enjoy meatloaf.

What makes Cracker Barrel's meatloaf special? The not-so-secret ingredients are sharp cheddar cheese and buttery, salty crackers (namely Ritz Crackers). Along with diced onion and green bell pepper, and a sweet-tangy glaze made of ketchup, brown sugar, and yellow mustard, you can recreate their famous meatloaf in your own kitchen.

To retain the Cracker Barrel menu theme, serve this meatloaf with classic, simple sides like green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, or fries. You can also try Cracker Barrel's hash brown casserole.

Ingredients

For the Meatloaf:

  • 45 cracker butter crackers

  • 2 pounds ground beef, 80 percent lean

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup green bell pepper (finely diced)

  • 1/2 cup yellow onion (finely diced)

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

    Ingredients for Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  2. Place the crackers in a food processor and pulse until finely crushed. You should have about 1 1/2 cups.

    Crushed Ritz Crackers for Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  3. In a large bowl, add the ground beef, cracker crumbs, cheese, bell pepper, onion, milk, eggs, salt, and pepper.

    Mixing Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  4. Mix just until combined.

    Making Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  5. Form into a firm loaf and place in the prepared pan.

    Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  6. Bake for 30 minutes then remove from oven.

    Baked Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard to create the glaze.

    Topping for Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  8. Spread the glaze over the meatloaf. Bake for another 30 to 35 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a food thermometer in the center of the loaf; it should read 160 F.

    Baked Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  9. Remove from the oven and let the meatloaf rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

    Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  10. Serve and enjoy.

    Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

How to Store and Freeze

  • Leftover cooked meatloaf can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for two days once it has cooled; reheat slices in the microwave or a frying pan.
  • You can also freeze meatloaf either before or after cooking for up to six months. For food safety, only freeze raw meatloaf if the meat was not previously frozen or thawed in the refrigerator. Let cooked meatloaf cool completely.
  • To freeze uncooked or cooked meatloaf, wrap in foil and place it in a freezer-safe container or bag. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before heating it up in a 350 F oven to an internal temperature of 160 F (about 1 hour). Add extra glaze before the last 15 minutes.

Tips

  • The foil is not required in a baking dish but it makes cleanup a lot easier.
  • You can crush the crackers manually: Place them in a zip-top bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into fine crumbs.
  • This meatloaf can be cooked in a loaf pan. Grease it with a nonstick cooking spray first. You can either form a traditional meatloaf shape with a rounded top or pack the mixture into the pan for a flat top.
  • Reserve a small portion of the glaze if you want to freshen up the topping after baking.
  • This meatloaf may be cooked in a slow cooker as well. Line the slow cooker with heavy duty foil and cook for 2 to 3 hours on high or about 5 to 8 hours on low.

Recipe Variations

  • These particular crackers can be quite salty. If you prefer to lower your salt intake, look for low-salt butter crackers or reduce the recipe's salt to 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Though not true to the Cracker Barrel recipe, plain ketchup can be used for the meatloaf glaze. Alternatively, use canned tomato sauce mixed with the recipe's brown sugar and mustard.
  • If you prefer, use a mixture of ground beef and either pork or turkey (around 80 percent to 85 percent lean). One pound of each works well in this recipe. If there is poultry in the loaf, cook to at least 165 F.

Why Did The Meatloaf Fall Apart After Cooking?

There are a number of factors that can cause meatloaf to fall apart when you slice it. Your vegetables and other add-ins should be chopped as finely as possible to minimize gaps; use a food processor or chopper if you like. The recommended 80/20 beef has enough fat to form a solid loaf, so using leaner meats can cause issues with the loaf as well. Finally, make sure you let it rest so the meat continues to soak up the juices.

What's the Secret to Moist Meatloaf?

Between the vegetables, cheese, and milk, this meatloaf recipe is moister than most. While there's little chance that it will dry out, there are a few things you can do to ensure a moist meatloaf. One key to preventing tough, dry meatloaf is to avoid overmixing. Remember that it will mix a little more as you form the loaf, so stop when the ingredients are combined. Also, be sure to use ground meat with 20 percent fat and whole milk and don't overcook the meatloaf.

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