Simple meatloaf recipes

Oh meatloaf how do I make thee? Let me count the ways.

Meatloaf is an American classic; a comfort food for those who grew up on the frugal favorite. It has earned its spot on the menus of  American housewives because it is a simple and relatively economical main dish.

Simple meatloaf recipes, classic to exotic

How do you make a good meatloaf? There are about as many meatloaf recipes as there are cooks who make it. In fact some of the best meatloaves don't have a recipe. They are the ones that loving hands put together with the items they happen to have on hand at the time. The most simple meatloaf recipes involve only a handful of ingredients; ground meat, liquid, spice, and filler.

Start with the barebones meatloaf recipe. Pretty simple recipe don't you think? The classic meatloaf, what I grew up with, and what I more typically make now, involves a few more ingredients, but really is still a very simple recipe.

Barebones meatloaf

2 pounds ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup tomato sauce
salt & pepper

Combine all the ingredients and shape in a loaf pan.

Bake at 350°F for one hour.

Classic meatloaf

2 pounds ground meat
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
3/4 cup ketchup, split
1/2 cup milk
1 onion chopped fine
1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Mix all together, reserving 1/2 cup ketchup. Put in a loaf pan, frost with remaining ketchup, and bake at 350°F for one hour.

Ingredients for meatloaf

In general leaner meats are best, but if you use meat with a higher fat content simply drain the fat off after the loaf is baked. Try making your meatloaf with one of the following or going with half hamburger and half of another kind of meat.

The meat

Hamburger
Sausage
Ground turkey
Ground lamb
Ground veal
Ground pork
Canned salmon
Vegetarian mince

The liquid

Ketchup
Barbeque sauce
Chili sauce
Milk
Tomato sauce
Salsa
Broth
Teriyaki sauce
Egg (optinal)

Filler

Bread crumbs
Cracker crumbs
Oatmeal
Rice (cooked or raw)
Cornmeal

Spices

Italian spices
Taco seasoning
Chili powder
Curry

Topping

Bacon
Ketchup
Barbecue sauce
Cheese
Condensed cream of mushroom soup
Coffee meatloaf sauce

Just mix to your taste, and match your spices with the other ingredients. The choices are unlimited. You don't need to put anything on top of the loaf before baking, but it does add flavor and visual appeal.

A piece of meatloaf and some meatloaf slices.

Some favorite variations of the classic recipe

As good as classic meatloaf may be, we all like a little variety now and again. The above  simple meatloaf recipes are easily adapted to create a wide variety of tastes. Change up the meat, the liquid, the filler, the spices, and/or the topping to create a new favorite from the classic model. You may have to adjust quantities slightly when using different ingredients.  Just remember that you want to be able to form the mixture into a loaf. Here are some ideas.

Tamale loaf - Add one can of corn, use cornmeal instead of bread crumbs, and add chili powder.

Salmon loaf - Use two cans of salmon, bread crumbs, milk, onion, salt, and pepper.

Barbecue loaf - Barbecue sauce in the loaf and top with bacon!

And some more exotic ideas:

Asian loaf - Use ground turkey, rice, teriyaki sauce, and season with ginger and garlic.

Mediterranean loaf - Use half beef, half lamb, tomato sauce, rice, and fresh herbs.

Stroganoff meatloaf - Use chopped mushrooms and bread crubms as filling, cream as liquid and season with paprika.

Vegetarian loaf - Use vegetarian protein imitating ground meat, tofu or chopped cooked beans and add egg to hold it together.

The possibilities for making meatloaf are never ending. Whether you like the traditional beef and ketchup, or prefer to add variety to the old classic, meatloaf is a simple, delicious and frugal main dish to serve your family.

A frugal way to make your own bread crumbs is to save the heals, day old pieces or other odds and ends of bread in the freezer. When you need bread crumbs simply process the scraps of bread in the food processor.

Stroganoff basket meatloaf.