Old-Fashioned Homemade Meatloaf

Homemade Southern style meatloaf recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  • Total: 87 mins
  • Prep: 12 mins
  • Cook: 75 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
794 Calories
30g Fat
65g Carbs
62g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 794
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30g 39%
Saturated Fat 11g 53%
Cholesterol 377mg 126%
Sodium 1448mg 63%
Total Carbohydrate 65g 24%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Protein 62g
Calcium 106mg 8%
*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 hard a resist a good meatloaf, especially on a cold day. This ultimate comfort food is a great meal to make when your want to fill the house with some good savory smells and go about your business doing something else while dinner cooks away.

The ultimate side dishes to serve with this old-fashioned meatloaf might as well be mashed potatoes, but green beans or corn are great choices, too.

It's not hard to make a good meatloaf—flavor and moisture are the key factors to prevent a dry, lackluster meatloaf. The vegetables in this mix will add flavor (along with the ketchup and/or barbecue sauce). But if your beef is quite lean, add some ground pork to the meat mixture to keep it moist.

Leftover meatloaf can be used in sandwiches or sliders. Or freeze it in individual portions for lunches. You can even eat this comfort dish if you're on the keto diet, with keto meatloaf.


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 20 saltine crackers, crushed
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon​ paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon​ Worcestershire sauce
  • For Topping:
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.

    Ingredients for southern style meatloaf
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan or line it with foil and then lightly grease it. Alternatively, for a free-form loaf, line a rimmed baking pan with foil.

    Grease loaf pan
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with the crushed saltines, onion, green pepper, egg, paprika, garlic powder, salt, thyme, black pepper, 1/3 cup of ketchup, milk, and Worcestershire sauce.

    Combine ground beef and saltines
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Pack the meat mixture into the loaf pan or shape it and place it on the baking pan.

    Pack meat mixture
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  5. Bake the meatloaf for 1 hour. Carefully pour excess grease into a can or jar (dispose of it in the trash after it cools).

    Pour excess grease in pan
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  6. Spread the meatloaf with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of ketchup or barbecue sauce and continue baking for 15 minutes longer, or until the meatloaf registers at least 160 F on an instant-read food thermometer inserted into the center. (If you have instead swapped ground turkey or chicken for the beef, cook the loaf to an internal temperature of 165 F.)

    Spread meatloaf
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  7. Let the meatloaf rest for ten minutes before slicing so it holds together well. Then, serve and enjoy!

    Let meatloaf rest
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

What Can I Use in Meatloaf Instead of Milk?

If you don't have or can't use milk in this meatloaf recipe, feel free to swap out equal parts of any of these following ingredients:

  • Nondairy milk such as soy, oat, or almond
  • Water
  • Beef, vegetable or chicken stock

How Do You Keep Meatloaf Moist?

There are several factors that keep a meatloaf moist. First, using ground beef with a higher percentage of fat, as this recipe calls for, is key. Egg, milk, and Worcestshire sauce also add some liquid, and the veggies in the mix will add some moisture as well. Using ketchup and/or barbecue sauce also contributes flavor along with moisture—especially the last bit that gets brushed across the top while baking.


  • Meatloaf can be tough if overmixed, so mix it lightly with your hands or spoon. 
  • If you want to make sure the seasoning is to your taste, fry a small amount of the mix. Taste and adjust the seasonings in the raw mixture.

How to Store and Freeze Meatloaf

If well-wrapped in foil or an airtight container, meatloaf will keep for up to 5 days. Reheat individual slices gently on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding a little more barbecue sauce or ketchup to keep it moist.

You can freeze individual slices of meatloaf in foil to defrost and reheat for sandwiches or quick meals, or freeze the rest of the loaf. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in a low oven until completely heated through, adding more barbecue sauce and/or ketchup if desired.