15 Ingredients That Will Take Your Meatloaf To The Next Level

meatloaf on plate
meatloaf on plate - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Old-fashioned meatloaf is one of the few dishes that can suffer more from simplicity than complexity. Tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil may be the only three ingredients you need to make a note-perfect Caprese salad, but there is nothing inherently delicious about turning ground meat, breadcrumbs, and eggs into a baked log. Meaty, rubbery, and tasteless, the worst meatloafs may have you convinced that it's time for this recipe to cede the floor and disappear like all the other foods from the '70s that should never come back. (Ham and bananas hollandaise, anyone?)

Before we unceremoniously usher meatloaf out the door, however, let's address the elephant in the room: A lot of people actually love meatloaf. It isn't a universally despised recipe even though it has an old-fashioned reputation, and that's because there are many, many ways to make it. Chances are, if you know someone who adores meatloaf, it's probably because they've found a recipe with all the right ratios and a few secrets up its sleeve. With this in mind, we've gathered some of the best additions that will make your baseline meatloaf recipe sing, because anything that can put this retro classic in its best light shouldn't be kept a secret. Even those who usually turn up their noses at meatloaf will find something to get excited about.

Read more: Frozen Meatball Brands Ranked From Worst To Best


bacon-wrapped meatloaf
bacon-wrapped meatloaf - Koss13/Shutterstock

Whenever you're trying to upgrade a recipe, bacon is a good place to start. In fact, in many cases, bacon is the first and last addition you need. Smoky, fatty, and crispy, it adds flavor, aroma, richness, and texture all in one. In other words, it's something of a miracle ingredient. When adding it to meatloaf, the most common option is to use it as a wrapper, showing off the mouthwatering ingredient as the kitchen fills with its seductive aroma.

Our bacon wrapped meatloaf recipe opts for a striking presentation, not only covering the loaf with strips of crispy pork but turning it into a lattice pattern and coating it in a sweet and savory sauce made of ketchup, mustard, garlic powder, and brown sugar. If this sounds too labor-intensive, you can opt for a simpler bacon-wrapped meatloaf recipe that calls for laying strips of bacon onto the loaf one-by-one instead of weaving them together.

Curry Spice And Potato Chips

spilled bag of potato chips
spilled bag of potato chips - Mark Gillow/Getty Images

One of the upsides of the relatively mild flavor of classic meatloaf recipes is that it doesn't take much to transform them. You don't need to overhaul the recipe or raid your spice rack. One or two additions here and there can make all the difference. Take, for example, our recipe for Rachael Ray's meatloaf with a twist. Made with ground pork, beef, and a ketchup-based glaze, it looks for all the world like any other meatloaf recipe. But with two high-impact additions, it is anything but ordinary.

Instead of breadcrumbs, you'll be diving into a bag of chips. Not only do they absorb moisture and help bind the ingredients, but they also add saltiness and a slightly crunchy texture. As for the seasoning, less than a teaspoon of curry powder added to the ketchup and brown sugar glaze will infuse the dish with a sweet, spiced aroma and flavor.

Taco Seasoning, Cheese, And Salsa

sliced Mexican meatloaf
sliced Mexican meatloaf - Liz Capozzoli/Mashed

When you can't decide between Mexican food and meatloaf, why not choose both? This easy Mexican meatloaf recipe incorporates all your favorite taco flavors into the classic American dish to create something surprisingly harmonious. Instead of simply making a standard meatloaf and covering it with taco fixings like cheese and salsa, this recipe combines them so the meat is suffused with flavor.

To start, mix ground beef, breadcrumbs, canned diced tomatoes with green chiles, taco seasoning, and eggs in a bowl, shape the mixture into a loaf, and bake it for 40 minutes. Then, smother it in salsa and Monterey Jack cheese and let it bake for a final 10 minutes. When the cheese is melted and starting to turn brown and crispy, pull it from the oven, sprinkle it with fresh cilantro, and get ready to fall in love with the results. Recipe developer Liz Capozzoli recommends serving it with sour cream and Mexican-style rice.


raw venison on cutting board
raw venison on cutting board - Mironov Vladimir/Shutterstock

An easy way to upgrade a meatloaf recipe without adding any ingredients is to swap some of the meat for venison. With its gamey, earthy flavor, it adds a layer of complexity to the familiar dish, laying the groundwork for a sophisticated meal that still leans into old school comforts. Aside from its intense flavor, venison has a lot going for it. It has fewer calories than chicken and only a third of the fat found in beef. It is also higher in protein than any other red meat.

Our easy venison meatloaf recipe doesn't rely solely on lean meat, however, because meatloaf should be rich and a little fatty. To balance out the leanness of the venison, it calls for ground pork, which is equally full of flavor but higher in fat. Other notable additions include celery, fresh thyme, fresh chives, and fresh parsley, all of which give the meatloaf a bright, peppery flavor that is as aromatic and delicious as it sounds. The sauce is also unique, made with butter and garlic instead of ketchup. As such, it is more of a dressing than a glaze, seeping into the cooked meatloaf to provide an even more intense flavor and juicy texture.

Stuffed Jalapeños

spicy grilled meatloaf slices
spicy grilled meatloaf slices - Stephanie Rapone/Mashed

There is no shortage of sweet and spicy recipes to liven up the taste buds and show off your cooking skills. From sweet chili salmon to spicy margaritas, the possibilities are practically endless. Despite all the options, however, this spicy grilled meatloaf recipe stands out. Not only does it provide a pleasurable flavor contrast, but it also has a tangy, creamy center that is aesthetically striking and so delicious that you'll be heading back for seconds before you've finished your first slice.

From the outside, this meatloaf looks like any other meatloaf -- a block of ground meat coated in a deep, reddish brown glaze. Once you cut into it, however, the mouthwatering center reveals itself: jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese, chili powder, and shredded cheddar. Just make sure to wear gloves while you're making it to prevent jalapeño hands. As if this upgrade were not enough, the glaze is made with brown sugar and chipotles in adobo sauce, providing yet another layer of sweet, smoky heat.

Mashed Potatoes

bowl of mashed potatoes
bowl of mashed potatoes - New Africa/Shutterstock

Mashed potatoes are often served as a side dish with meatloaf, so why not just combine them in a single dish? Baked Alaska meatloaf does just that. Named after the towering dessert of cake covered in meringue, this recipe replaces the cake with traditional meatloaf and meringue with mashed potatoes. It's rich, creamy, and flavorful, and exactly the combination that will liven up an old-fashioned meatloaf recipe while still appealing to traditionally-minded eaters.

Another thing this recipe has going for it is convenience. Using nothing but spices and dried chives for seasoning, you won't have to do any chopping unless you want to make the mashed potatoes from scratch. Once you've combined your meatloaf ingredients and shaped the mixture in a baking pan, cover it with the mashed potatoes and let it bake for 55 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 F. Remove it from the oven, cover it in shredded cheddar cheese, and let it bake for another few minutes until the cheese is fully melted.

Chorizo And Edam

meatloaf ring in cast iron
meatloaf ring in cast iron - Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

As much as we love meatloaf, sometimes it's best to throw out everything you know about the recipe and try out something completely new. This recipe for capela, a meatloaf from Macau, will do just that. Made with four types of meat -- ground pork, ground beef, chorizo, and bacon -- this recipe is full of unexpected ingredients including olives, pine nuts, toasted almonds, and grated Edam cheese. More decadent and elegantly presented than most styles of meatloaf, this is a recipe to save for special occasions when you and your dinner guests can fully appreciate its flavor and decadence.

Instead of being shaped into a loaf, capela is cooked in a ring-shaped cake mold. Not only does this provide it with a unique look, but it also helps the excess fat from all the meat drain instead of sitting in a puddle at the bottom of the plate. If it all sounds a bit rich, don't worry. Lemon zest and lemon juice provide a bright, citrusy flavor that elevates the recipe even further.


bowl of pesto with ingredients
bowl of pesto with ingredients - Elena Kabenkina/Shutterstock

Pesto and meatloaf might not sound like a natural fit, but this classic meatloaf recipe with a twist proves otherwise. Instead of having to procure individual seasonings, simply grab a jar of pesto (store-bought or homemade) and add a few spoonfuls. The recipe includes all the standard ingredients -- ground beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce -- but complements the pesto flavor with salsa, Parmesan, scallions, and parsley. While regular meatloaf tends to taste meaty and slightly sweet from the ketchup glaze, this version is full of garlic, onion, and herbs. The contrast is mouthwatering and may even convince you to keep a jar of pesto on-hand at all times.

Once this delicious meatloaf is out of the oven and rested for 10 minutes, you can serve it with classic meatloaf side dishes like mashed potatoes and green beans. On the other hand, playing on the Italian theme could make for an even more enjoyable departure from your standard meatloaf meal. Pasta, garlic bread, and creamy Instant Pot polenta will all add an Italian flair to take this classic American dinner to the next level.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

egg-filled meatloaf
egg-filled meatloaf - Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

Most meatloaf recipes use eggs as a binder for the meat and seasonings, but it turns out that eggs can take center stage in the recipe to delicious and visually striking effect. Around the world, adding hard-boiled eggs to meatloaf is standard practice. Italian-style meatloaf, for example, is almost identical to the American version but features a line of boiled eggs in the center so that when you cut into the loaf, there is a ring of white around a perfectly round yolk. The Filipino style of meatloaf, embutido, follows a similar formula but includes raisins, sausage, and sweet relish for a sweeter, meatier dish.

Making egg-filled meatloaf is not as tricky as its impressive appearance might suggest. Mix your usual meatloaf ingredients and then layer half of the mixture into a loaf pan. Then, line up four hard-boiled eggs end-to-end in the center of the pan lengthwise and cover them with the other half of the meat mixture. Bake the meatloaf for about 45 minutes until it has reached an internal temperature of 160 F.

Phyllo Dough

Halloween mummy meatloaf
Halloween mummy meatloaf - Petar Marshall/Mashed

One of the criticisms leveled at traditional meatloaf is that it lacks textural variation. Sure, it has plenty of flavor contrast when you add a sweet and vinegary ketchup glaze or a hint of heat with paprika, but it's still just one mass of ground meat. For an option that provides texture and flavor without much effort, grab some readymade phyllo dough.

The easiest way to add pastry to a meatloaf recipe is to make your favorite meatloaf recipe from start to finish, wrap the baked loaf in dough, and bake it again until the pastry is cooked. Make sure to brush both sides of the dough with egg wash to help it stick to the meatloaf and ensure that the outside has a glossy golden sheen. The resulting loaf will be half meatloaf and half beef Wellington, the perfect combination of American and English comfort foods.

To take things to the next level (and then some), use phyllo dough to make a Halloween mummy meatloaf. Although it looks impressive, it is actually pretty straightforward to create. Once the meatloaf is baked, remove it from the oven, cut the phyllo dough into bandage-like strips, and wrap the loaf as if it were a mummy. Bake it again until the pastry is golden, and add candy eyes if desired. Brush it with ketchup and mustard sauce and let it bake again for about 10 minutes.

Nuts And Mushrooms

sliced meatless meatloaf
sliced meatless meatloaf - Nina Firsova/Shutterstock

If there's one thing that's guaranteed to be in meatloaf, it's meat ... or so you'd assume. But these days, culinary innovation knows no bounds, and there are plenty of delicious recipes for fully vegetarian "meatloaf" that rival their meaty namesakes. This mushroom-mixed nut vegetarian meatloaf is a primary example. Full of buttery, crunchy ingredients and umami-rich flavors, it demonstrates just how delicious and filling meat-free recipes can be. To make it, you'll need onions, celery, carrots, cremini mushrooms, garlic, walnuts, pecans, cashews, soy sauce, tomato paste, oregano, paprika, dried thyme, veggie stock, breadcrumbs, eggs, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. Once it all comes together, it features a deliciously varied texture and plenty of protein.

If you'd rather lean into the smooth texture and mild flavor of mushrooms, this vegetarian mushroom meatloaf recipe from Tasting Table is just what you're looking for. Made with caramelized mushrooms, bread, oats, walnuts, and lots of herbs, it's hearty and flavorful with a deliciously springy texture just like traditional meatloaf.

Soy Sauce And A Raw Egg Yolk

Cantonese meatloaf on plate
Cantonese meatloaf on plate - Go With Stock/Shutterstock

The Cantonese version of meatloaf is hardly recognizable for anyone accustomed to the American style of the dish. Made by steaming a thin, round patty of ground pork, it is often served over rice and features bold flavors. At minimum, the pork is mixed with soy sauce, eggs, fish or shrimp paste, and cornstarch. Ginger, shaoxing wine, and sesame oil are common additions, while dried squid, dried orange peel, and fish are sometimes present as well.

One of the most common and delicious accompaniments to this style of meatloaf is a cured egg yolk. Before you start preparing the meat mixture, separate an egg, reserving the white to help bind the meat. Then, set aside the yolk in a bowl of soy sauce to cure while you prepare the meatloaf. Once you have steamed the meatloaf and it is ready to serve, place the egg yolk on top and dig in. Salty, spongy, and bursting with umami-rich flavors, Cantonese meatloaf will win over lovers of American meatloaf and probably even those who avoid it at all cost.

Olive Tapenade

bowls of olive tapenade
bowls of olive tapenade - Geshas/Shutterstock

Like pesto, olive tapenade is a high-impact ingredient, hitting multiple flavor notes with just a few spoonfuls. This olive tapenade meatloaf recipe has just four ingredients but is chock-full of flavor. It's also highly adaptable; if you already have a favorite meatloaf recipe, start with that as your baseline and add ⅓ cup of olive tapenade to the meat mixture before shaping it into a loaf and baking it for about an hour.

If you have the time and ingredients, making your own olive tapenade will yield even more delicious results. Our olive tapenade recipe takes only 15 minutes to make and is bursting with salty, tangy flavors that store-bought options can't beat. To make it, you'll need pitted black olives, pimento-stuffed green olives, olive oil, minced garlic, horseradish mustard, dried thyme, and dried oregano. Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor until they are finely chopped but not pasty, add ⅓ cup to your meatloaf recipe, and save the rest for snacking. Recipe developer Kristen Carli suggests serving it with chips or water crackers and notes that it also tastes delicious as a sandwich spread. That said, it might be so delicious that you want to spoon it over the cooked meatloaf in addition to mixing it with the ground meat.


boxes of Cheez-Its
boxes of Cheez-Its - KK Stock/Shutterstock

Combining two of your favorite foods doesn't always work (we're still recovering from the Pumpkin Spice Fries that once graced the McDonald's Japan menu), but when it comes to Cheez-Its and meatloaf, it absolutely does. Improbable as it may sound, tossing in a few handfuls of the orange snack will produce deliciously cheesy, salty results. Instead of using the relatively flavorless standby of breadcrumbs, opting for Cheez-Its transforms the flavor of your meatloaf while also serving as a binder.

If you don't already have a preferred recipe, our traditional meatloaf recipe is the perfect solution. Start by mixing the ground meat and eggs in a bowl. In place of the standard breadcrumbs, use crushed Cheez-Its. You can crush them by putting them in a plastic bag and gently rolling it with a rolling pin. Irregular pieces are preferable to a fine powder -- try to mimic the size of breadcrumbs and you'll be on the right track. Shape and bake the meatloaf as usual, making sure that it reaches an internal temperature of 160 F before serving.

Lamb And Tzatziki

tzatziki in bowl
tzatziki in bowl - Mara Ze/Shutterstock

Taking inspiration from international cuisines is one of the best and most reliable ways to upgrade a familiar recipe. When you're looking to put a new spin on a meaty dish, Greek food is an obvious place to turn. With its emphasis on fragrant spices and meat, it provides all the inspiration you need to make something truly special. When you're adapting a meatloaf recipe with Greek flavors, there are multiple directions you can take it. For starters, you can swap the ground beef in the recipe with lamb. Since it typically has a higher fat content, lamb will produce an even richer flavor and texture. It also has a more pronounced earthy flavor than beef with a gamey edge that steals the show.

You can stop at this simple swap of meats, but to bring the Greek influence into the spotlight, spices are a necessity. Start with a mixture of herbs and warming spices, such as oregano, parsley, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Last but not least, swap the usual ketchup glaze with homemade tzatziki, a garlicky yogurt dip that perfectly complements the gamey flavor of lamb and adds moisture.

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