This Cracker Barrel meatloaf recipe creates a flavorful, juicy loaf, just like the restaurant version. Make this comfort food meal tonight!
Meatloaf is one of our favorite comfort foods. And, there are so many different ways that you can make one that I never run out of ideas.
Best Meatloaf Ever with Balsamic Glaze is amazing comfort food! Moist and delicious, this recipe comes together quickly and freezes perfectly.
Bacon Double Cheeseburger Stuffed Meatloaf is bursting with bold steak flavors! Just the thought of the ultimate comfort food is just about enough to make my mouth water.
Southwestern Turkey Meatloaf is a lighter version of this classic meal. It is a great low-calorie option as it only has 267 calories per serving and 8 grams of fat.
How to make the Cracker Barrel Meatloaf Recipe
This Cracker Barrel Meatloaf Copycat is an easy and delicious comfort food meal to put together. Also, the leftovers are delicious and easy to reheat.
Recipe ingredients and substitutions
- Ground beef – This recipe calls for 20% fat ground beef. You can use leaner ground beef if you want to. However, the lower fat may result in the loaf being dry. Similarly, you can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken as a healthier option.
- Crackers – I use crushed Ritz crackers because that’s what the restaurant uses. Although, any variety of crushed crackers will work, as will breadcrumbs, crushed croutons, or torn slices of day old bread.
- Sauce – The dish is topped with a ketchup-based sauce that gives it the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, while also adding moisture to the dish. However, ketchup or barbecue sauce are great substitutes..
- Bell peppers – I use green bell pepper in this recipe. You can substitute any color of bell pepper, or leave them out entirely.
- Cheese – Sharp cheddar cheese is what I use, but feel free to use your favorite variety for this dish. It will work just fine. Just be sure to buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself. The anti-caking ingredients in pre-shredded cheese absorbs moisture. As a result, the loaf will be dry. Also, pre-shredded cheese does not melt very well.
Why does my meat loaf fall apart?
This dish gets its structure from a combination of ground beef with binding agents. Specifically, the crushed crackers and eggs.
If your meatloaf is crumbling you likely need to add more binders to it.
Another reason that it may fall apart is that you haven’t worked the ingredients together well enough.
Of course, you don’t want to over mix them, but they should be well combined.
How to prevent meatloaf from drying out
- Include enough fat. The best meatloaves are moist and juicy because they have the best ratio of meat to fat.
Beef that is 85/15 is the best choice. This means it is 85 percent beef and 15 percent fat. You could also use 80/20. However, using any leaner than 85/15 will cause the loaf to be dry.
- Use enough liquid. Also, the addition of liquid plays a big role. I prefer to use milk, tomato sauce, or even barbecue sauce.
- Avoid overcooking it. If possible, use an instant-read thermometer to determine when your meatloaf is cooked.
Ovens rarely cook evenly, and some are known to be hotter than others. For this reason, rather than cooking the loaf for a set amount of time, it’s best to cook it to an internal temperature of 155 degrees.
- Allow time for the dish to rest. Be sure to allow the meatloaf to rest for 10 minutes before cutting it. This allows the juices to redistribute into the loaf so the juices don’t run out when you cut into it.
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Should I cover meatloaf during baking?
If you’d like to cover the loaf while you make it, you can. But, be sure to uncover it during the last 15 minutes of baking time for the best results.
With love from our simple kitchen to yours.
Cracker Barrel Meatloaf Recipe + Video
- 1 1/2 pounds 80/20 ground beef, 24 ounces
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers, about 1 1/2 sleeves
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced (you can use red too)
- 3 cups fresh shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Add ground beef to a large bowl and using a spoon start breaking it into large crumbs.
- Add the rest of the ingredients from the “Meatloaf” list to the ground beef and mix well to fully combine. You can use your hands to combine everything.
- Cover a baking dish with aluminum foil and grease with cooking spray. Transfer the beef mixture into the center of the baking dish, and shape in into a loaf. Also, the beef mixture can be added to a 9×5 inches meatloaf pan.
- Bake the meatloaf in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, add all the “ Topping” ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine.
- Spread the topping onto the meatloaf and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes. Until the top is golden brown and or until meatloaf is cooked through with an internal temperature at the center of 160 degrees F.
- Remove from the oven and let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published July 2019, updated and republished September 2020
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