Savory Meat Loaf

Savory Meat Loaf

I used to make meat loaf all the time. Somewhere along the way I stopped, distracted perhaps by other recipes, newer recipes promising quicker, tastier meals. The poor meat loaf got forgotten, pushed to the back of my mental storage cabinet.

Then one day I was going through one of my old recipe folders and saw a long forgotten meat loaf recipe. It’s standard to most meat loaf recipes except instead of bread crumbs I use crackers, and instead of ketchup, I do a combination of regular ketchup and sriracha (or any spicy) ketchup. I think these are the two most critical ingredients to give a meat loaf a nice savory taste.

Greg loves it, and it is absolutely phenomenal in a sandwich. So satisfying!

Here we go. Maria’s Meat Loaf

Ingredients shown are for a double batch.


• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 3/4 cup milk
• 2/3 cup crushed saltines (savory crackers work too)
• 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
• 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet bell pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon sage
• 1 teaspoon of salt
•  Pepper to taste
• 1-1/2 pounds very lean ground beef
• 3/4 cup regular ketchup
• 1/4 sriracha ketchup  (See Tip 2 below.)
• 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, crackers, onions, peppers, sage, salt and pepper. Add the beef, mixing thoroughly but don’t overwork it. It will be a slightly sloppy mess.

In another smaller bowl blend the two ketchups, Worcestershire sauce, and the brown sugar. Pour all but 1/3 cup of this mix into the beef mixture. Now you really have a sloppy mess. 🙂 Don’t worry.

Mold into a loaf tin, then take the 1/3 cup of leftover ketchup mixture and frost the top of the loaf.

Bake for at least one hour or until the meat thermometer reads 160°.

It is very important that you use the leanest ground beef you can find. 90% lean is best. Anything less and you’ll be left with a lot of grease at the bottom of your pan. I use a loaf tin with the removable liner. If there is grease at the bottom it makes it very easy to lift and remove the meat from the grease.

This meat loaf is very juicy and savory. The crackers give it a lighter texture than bread crumbs. Bread crumbs make a meat loaf too dense and lumpy if it’s not mixed right. When I switched to crushed crackers the lighter texture and improved flavor was immediately noticeable.

Tip 1: We usually have leftover crackers from parties or from cheese and cracker nights. I freeze them and incorporate them with the saltines when I make this dish.

Tip 2: Specialty ketchup (like sriracha) is unnecessary. Modify the recipe to a scant cup of ketchup with several good squeezes of sriracha sauce. You can also change it up with other hot sauces or even BBQ sauce. You can tilt the flavor base just by changing the sauce.

Tip 3: Because it’s a sloppy mess, I usually make two or more meat loaves at a time. A lot of work, but now I can have meat loaf any night I want. If you freeze extra meat loaves, spray your loaf pan with cooking spray, then line it with plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer. When it’s hardened, take it out and fold the plastic wrap over the top then slip it into a freezer bag. It keeps its shape without having to use up your loaf pans.

I usually serve meat loaf with mash potatoes and kernel corn. Meat loaf sandwiches for leftovers.

Let me know if you try this recipe.







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  1. Stacy McKitrick

    I use the meat loaf recipe out of my Betty Crocker cookbook. I like it the best because it doesn’t have bell peppers (yuck!). Of course, it calls for stale bread to tear apart and soak in milk. I buy pre-made bread crumbs, so they’re finely crumbled (no soaking needed) and I never had a problem with it making it lumpy or anything. In fact, the recipe is my favorite of all meat loaves (I hated my mom’s because she used peppers).

    Now I’m in the mood for meat loaf. And yes, I serve mine with mashed potatoes, too (although I prefer to have peas with it–Hubby does not, he likes corn).

  2. In the 101 Things To Do With a Pound of Ground Beef cookbook I used extendsively when Stan and I were first married and on a very limited budget, there was a recipe for Banana Meatloaf. It was a basic meatloaf with the tomato sauce/ketchup replaced by mashed over-ripe bananas. I would serve it to people and ask them to guess the secret ingredient. No one ever guessed banana but everyone loved it. We still make it.

    • Linda: i remember that book! I don’t know whatever happened to my copy. It’s probably in the same box with 101 Ways to Make Chicken.

      I must admit, I don’t think I have the nerve to try it with bananas. And if you ever make it for me, don’t tell me. Bananas are not my favorite.

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