Save on Pinterest

Traditional Meat Loaf

Topped with a sweet sauce, this traditional meat loaf recipe tastes so good that you might want to double it so everyone can have seconds. It also freezes well. —Gail Graham, Maple Ridge, British Columbia
  • Total Time
    Prep: 15 min. Bake: 1 hour + standing
  • Makes
    6 servings


  • 3 slices bread
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • GLAZE:
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Tear bread into 2-inch pieces; place in a blender. Cover and pulse to form coarse crumbs; transfer to a large bowl. Stir in egg, milk, cheese, onion, carrot, salt and pepper. Add beef; mix lightly but thoroughly. Transfer to a greased 9x5-in. loaf pan.
  • In a small bowl, mix glaze ingredients; spread over loaf. Bake 60-75 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
    Freeze option: Bake meat loaf without glaze. Securely wrap cooled meat loaf in foil, then freeze. To use, partially thaw meat loaf in refrigerator overnight. Prepare and spread glaze over top; reheat on a greased shallow baking pan in a preheated 350° oven until heated through and a thermometer inserted in center reads 165°.

Traditional Meat Loaf Tips

Do you have to put milk in meat loaf?

No. While milk is a popular ingredient in meat loaf, you can use other liquids such as vegetable juice or broth, or even finely chopped mushrooms, which release a great deal of moisture. The milk or other liquid binds with the bread crumbs and eggs to create meat loaf’s familiar, sliceable, homey texture. Our popular Sweet-and-Sour Meat Loaf recipe uses tomato sauce as its liquid ingredient. 

What does bread do in meat loaf?

Bread is a binding agent for meat loaf—the magic happens when it’s mixed with eggs and liquid.

How do I make my meat loaf moist?

To ensure moist meat loaf, avoid overmixing the ingredients. Overmixing can make meat loaf tough instead of tender. Also be sure to use a fatty enough cut of meat—you want a meat or combination of meats that’s 90% lean or less.

Should meat loaf be cooked covered or uncovered?

It depends on the recipe. Glazed meat loaves like this one tend to get a bit sweet and caramelized when you bake them uncovered—and that’s exactly what you’re looking for in a tomato and brown sugar topping. For other variations, check out more meat loaf recipes.

Research contributed by Christine Rukavena, Taste of Home Book Editor.
Nutrition Facts
1 slice: 394 calories, 21g fat (10g saturated fat), 128mg cholesterol, 843mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (15g sugars, 1g fiber), 28g protein.


Click stars to rate
Average Rating:
  • Hilary
    Feb 19, 2021

    I didn’t alter this recipe as I was making it for the first time. I wouldn’t change a thing except I always use meatloaf mix when making meatloaf & meatballs. The carrots got too mushy when I finely shredded them so I put the rest in my chopper which worked great. To those who left out the carrots, you can’t really taste them so your vegetable haters won’t even know they’re in there. They enhance the nutrition of the meatloaf. This is a keeper.

  • Carmen
    Feb 17, 2021

    I almost didn’t put the cheese in the mixture because I never add cheese to meatloaf recipes. Then I decided make it exactly as submitted. This is a very tasty meatloaf. I like the texture and flavors. Don’t grate the carrots too small. It’s hard to incorporate mushy carrots into the meat mixture.

  • Sally
    Feb 16, 2021

    Can use the packaged meat loaf mix that they sell in stores?

  • Andras
    Feb 16, 2021

    OK, but much better using a beef-pork-veal mix in decreasing quantity. Mixing in a can of Golden Mushroom soup is also a great taste enhancer.

  • Robin
    Feb 16, 2021

    Looking at the recipe and what my mothers recipe and now mine, is not a traditional recipe that we are use to, and I am talking about 55 years of tradition ?? we use tomato sauce not ketchup in ours, even though this does look nice.....

  • redcow
    Feb 16, 2021

    This is now my go to meatloaf recipe. Don't be afraid to add the grated carrots. My husband really like meatloaf and this is now his favorite.

  • Mark
    Feb 16, 2021

    Impossible Burger is appearing in some advertising with this recipe. I've had Impossible Burger (as a burger) and it is very tasty. Has anyone tried Impossible Burger for this recipe?

  • islandgirl77
    Feb 16, 2021

    I’ve made my meatloaf similar to this for years. I used grated Parmesan in place of cheddar. I shred my carrots, diced my onion and add shredded zucchini and chopped garlic. I sauté this mixture in evoo, most times to carmalized but as long as cooked down. I cool and then start the meatloaf process. A good way to hide veg and because already softened they blend into mixture and the kids never knew they were there

  • Letoem
    Feb 16, 2021

    We love this meatloaf! We have this often and we always make an extra batch to put in the freezer. This recipe is SO good, even my picky 3 year old loves this!

  • abashu
    Jan 21, 2021

    We loved this recipe for meatloaf, I am not sure my grandchildren would like it because of the vegetables. I do prefer using Panko bread crumbs rather than bread though.