Is there anything more comforting than Grandma’s home cooking? We’re gonna go with no. One of our all-time fave comfort foods is meatloaf, and we've got tips you can use to make it picky-eater approved. You’re going to LOVE this classic meatloaf recipe!

plate of classic meatloaf and green beans, from Shelf Cooking

As the weather starts to cool down, we love turning the heat up in the kitchen! Old-fashioned meatloaf is one of the most filling foods around, and it's perfect for fall and winter.

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This classic meatloaf recipe is team member Jenny's great grandma's recipe! It'll soon become your family favorite, so we recommend buying enough ingredients to make two or three batches. We'll show you how to freeze these, customize them to suit your family, and substitute with other ingredients you already have on hand. Are you ready?!


bacon-wrapped meatloaf with mashed potatoes, from Shelf Cooking

The thing we love most about meatloaf (aside from the flavor) is that it is oh so versatile. The shelf cooking philosophy applies perfectly to meatloaf! Don't like onions? Don't have any quick oats? Feeding lactose intolerant kiddos? No problem! Here's how to make this recipe your own.

  • Wrap It in Bacon – You can never go wrong wrapping your meatloaf in bacon! Wrap it around the loaves, then add the sauce on top of the bacon.
  • Add Some Peppers – If you don't have onions, or you're just looking to add some spice, dice them and toss them into your meat mixture!
  • Quick Oats Substitutions – All out of quick oats? Chop up regular rolled oats on a cutting board or sub in bread crumbs in a slightly smaller amount. You can also use crushed up crackers in a pinch.
  • Dairy Substitutes – Can't handle lactose? Instead of shredded cheese, you can toss in an equal amount of vegan cheese. Or, you can leave it out altogether. Instead of milk, use unflavored almond milk.
  • Use a Different Meat Ground turkey or chicken works just as well in meatloaf, though it does tend to dry out a bit! You can toss in a bit of ketchup to add some moisture. If you have venison or bison on hand you can use that, too.
  • Sauce Substitutes – All out of ketchup? You can make your own in a pinch! Here's a ketchup recipe from Allrecipes. No time for that? Try using a smoky barbecue sauce that you already have on hand and make your own southwest version of meatloaf.

You can always sneak other veggies into your meatloaf, too! Try shredded carrots or zucchini. Just be sure to wring the zucchini out in a cloth towel or napkin to remove any excess moisture.


ground beef and other meatloaf ingredients, from Shelf Cooking

Now that you know how to make this recipe your own, let's get to cooking! First, a little prep work.

  • Caramelize the Onions – If you have picky eaters, you can hide the onions by caramelizing them first! (Plus it tastes delicious.)
  • Let the Meat Set – Take your meat out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before you plan to start prepping. We usually take ours out when we preheat the oven. Letting the meat warm slightly helps the ingredients mix together better, and if you're doing it by hand (which we recommend), it saves your fingers from freezing!
  • Use Your Hands You can use a spoon if you'd like, but we strongly suggest getting your hands dirty with this one! Mixing by hand tends to yield the best results.

Pro Tip: Try using a muffin tin to perfectly portion and bake your mini meatloaves! Make sure you spray with plenty of cooking oil so they're easy to remove.


We're just going to warn you. This recipe is so yummy, if you want leftovers, you may need to double the recipe. Now that we've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, here's what you need to know about storing and reheating your leftovers:

  • Storing the Leftovers – Be sure to refrigerate within two hours of cooking. Store in an airtight container or wrap snugly in plastic wrap and in tin foil.
  • How Long They Last – When refrigerated, leftover meatloaf will last about three to four days. If you're looking for creative ways to breathe new life into that meatloaf, boy do we have some ideas!
  • Freezing Uncooked Meatloaf – Want to prep ahead? Follow the recipe, form into eight mini loaves, place them each in a mini disposable tin dish, put the lid on, and place in the freezer. It's best to leave the sauce off the uncooked loaf.
  • How to Freeze Cooked Meatloaf – Allow your meatloaf to cool completely, then wrap in foil and place in a freezer-safe bag. Use within five to six months.

Now for the best part! Heating up those yummy leftovers.


One of the best things about this classic meatloaf recipe is that it freezes beautifully! It's also just as yummy the day after making it. Here's how to reheat to perfection:

  • Baking Frozen Uncooked Meatloaf – Thaw overnight in your refrigerator, unwrap, then bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Make sure to heat the loaves to an internal temp of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • How to Reheat Frozen Cooked Meatloaf – Preheat your oven to 350°F, unwrap, then bake for 90 minutes.
  • Reheating in the Oven – Put your leftover refrigerated meatloaf in an oven-safe dish and add a splash of water. Cover with foil and bake at 250°F for 20-25 minutes.
  • Microwave Instructions– Place your leftover refrigerated meatloaf in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and heat for 90 seconds. Turn the loaf over, then microwave for another 90 seconds., or until heated to your liking.
  • Reheating on the Stove – Slice your refrigerated or thawed meatloaf and add it to a skillet. Cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes.

Now for some fun ways to reuse those leftovers!


dish of stuffed peppers, from Shelf Cooking

When it comes to meatloaf, think beyond your normal dinner! You can reuse your magical mini loaves in all sorts of ways. Here are a few of our favorite ideas!

Pro Tip: If you decide to make chili, you can turn that into SO many different snacks and meals. Chili tots, dogs, and fries are just a few of our faves. Baked potato bars are great, too! Here are all our favorite ways to use chili.


We're so thankful Jenny shared this recipe with us so we can share it with your family, too! And since we're all family, make sure to invite us over when you make this delicious dish, mmmkay? Are you ready for the most addictive, sure-to-please-a-crowd classic meatloaf recipe? Drumroll, please!

plate of meatloaf and green beans, from Shelf Cooking

Classic Meatloaf Recipe

This hearty recipe is so filling and delicious! We guarantee your family will be asking for seconds. Double (or triple) this recipe and freeze some for later.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Mini Loaves


For the Meatloaf

  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp Salt

Sauce for Topping

  • cup ketchup
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp mustard


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Finely chop onions.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and milk with a whisk.
  • Slowly fold in meat, cheese, oats, onions, and salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
  • Divide mixture into 8 equal portions and form 8 mini loaves, then place in a greased glass 9×13 dish or pan where they don't touch.
  • Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  • While your meatloaves cook for the first half, prep the sauce by mixing the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard in a bowl.
  • After the loaves have been cooking for 20 minutes, remove from oven and top with the ketchup mixture. Put back in the oven and cook for an additional 25 minutes or until heated to 160°F.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve and enjoy!


You can also bake this recipe in a whole loaf, we just happen to think the mini loaves add to the magic. Be sure to extend the cooking time if you do it in a larger loaf! Start with 55 minutes total and cook until it's heated to 160°F.
Keyword ground beef, quick oats

Doesn't that sound SO yummy? We're pretty much drooling over here.

And there you have it! Everything you ever wanted to know about an American classic. We hope your family loves this old-fashioned meatloaf just as much as we do.

Drop a comment below to let us know how you use up your leftovers!

Classic meatloaf recipe on a plate, from Shelf Cooking

Looking for a few side dishes to round out your meal?