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This Brown Sugar Glazed Meatloaf Recipe is moist, flavorful and incredibly easy. The easy ketchup glaze and secret ingredient make this the best meatloaf!

brown sugar meatloaf sliced on plate with potatoes & peas.

This moist brown sugar meatloaf recipe will cause a frenzy! You will be positively inundated with praise, requests for seconds and demands to make it again! It is easy to pull together and I even share how to make it in 10 minutes with the air fryer!

A delicious brown sugar glaze adds the perfect amount of sweetness to this familiar comfort food! This will be the new family favorite! Serve this easy weeknight dinner with creamy mashed potatoes to catch the extra sauce and roasted cauliflower.

Why this is the best meatloaf recipe:

  • The right fat ratio: No matter the ground meat you choose make sure there is between 3-10% fat in the mix. That little bit of fat helps keep the meatloaf moist, but too much fat will just make for a greasy meatloaf. No one wants that.
  • Flavorful: There is flavor from the inside out! The onions and spices flavor the inside and the brown sugar meatloaf sauce and fresh rosemary flavor the outside!
  • Saltines: The crushed saltines add a bit of salt and they absorb the milk and some of the juices from the cooking meat. This holds all the moisture INSIDE the loaf rather than letting it all run out.
  • Liquid: Just enough milk to add a bit of moisture, soften the saltines but not take away from the structure.
  • Flavor locked in: Not only is the sauce delicious but it also locks in all that moisture and keeps the top from drying out. Even if you don’t double the sauce, make sure you have enough to cover the top of the loaf. 

What is the secret to moist meatloaf?

This brown sugar meatloaf isn’t complicated, but a few key points will ensure that it is moist, juicy and flavorful!

  • Percentage Fat: Choosing a ground beef that is between 3-10% fat will have enough fat to flavor and moisten the loaf but not so much to make it greasy.
  • Crushed saltines: Crushed saltines or coarsely ground breadcrumbs will absorb the moisture from the milk and the juices from the meat. This will keep it moist. Breadcrumbs can do the same but it will make a more dense loaf.
  • Saucy: The sauce on the top does more than just add flavor; it locks in the moisture and keeps the top from drying out!
  • Cooked just right: Over baked meatloaf will be dry meatloaf. Bake just until an instant read thermometer registers 160°F.
  • Give it a rest: Letting the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes will allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat and will keep it moist just like with steaks and chicken.

Ingredients

meatloaf ingredients on marble.
stuffed shell on spoon in dish.
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  • Brown Sugar: You can use dark brown sugar or light brown sugar. You can reduce the amount of sugar if you’d like, but keep a little for that caramel molasses flavor.
  • Ketchup: Any brand of ketchup will suffice. I like ketchup without a lot of added flavorings, dyes, or ingredients. This is the body of the meatloaf sauce and key to locking in the flavor.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: I may pronounce it wrong every time, but Worcestershire sauce rounds out the flavor of the sauce. It balances the sweetness of both the ketchup and brown sugar and adds a nice depth and warmth.
  • Ground Sirloin: No matter the ground meat you choose, ensure there is between 3-10% of fat in the mix. In the video I use a blend of ground beef, veal and pork like I do for these ricotta meatballs.
  • Milk: Any milk will do. I have used everything from whole milk to skim milk, and most recently I made it with unsweetened almond milk. It was still phenomenal! My husband wasn’t any the wiser.
  • Eggs: These whole eggs are the binders. They work with the connective tissues in the meat to hold everything together.
  • Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is less salty than table salt, and a teaspoon of salt weighs less than other finer ground varieties. It heightens the flavor and will make the meat more tender.
  • Spices: Ground black pepper and ground ginger bring the flavor. You can’t taste either distinctly, but you would notice if they weren’t there.
  • Onion: Finely diced onion is obviously here for flavor, but it also adds to the moisture of the final meatloaf. As it cooks, it releases its inherent moisture, which flavors the meatloaf inside out and adds to the moisture retained by the saltine crackers.
  • Saltine Crackers: Unlike bread crumbs, crushed saltine crackers add a bit of salt, but also absorbs the milk and some of the juices from the meat that is cooking. This holds all the moisture INSIDE the loaf rather than letting it all run out.
  • Chopped Rosemary: A sprinkle of chopped fresh rosemary pairs beautifully with the sauce and the fragrant meatloaf. You could also mix some into the ground beef mixture to bump it up a notch.  

Meatloaf Recipe Variations

  • Meat Choice: I have made this same recipe with turkey, chicken, ground beef, and a mix of beef, veal, and pork. It is exceptional every time.
  • Cracker Magic: You know what is also awesome in this meatloaf? Ritz crackers. I don’t like to play favorites, but Ritz crackers are everything. Just substitute for the saltines and make sure you have an extra sleeve for snacking.
  • Brown Sugar Meatballs: Why yes, you can make this meatloaf into meatballs. Give ‘em a little sear and pouring the double batch of the brown sugar sauce over the top and simmer until cooked through. Make a sub, top rice or stab them with a toothpick for an easy appetizer.

Mini Meatloaves: Short on time? No problem. Make 4-6 mini meat loaves instead. They cook in under 20 minutes! Life happens, but nothing should stand in the way of your meatloaf dinner.

How Do You Cook Meatloaf Using an Air Fryer?

You can make mini meatloaves using an Air Fryer baking oven! Make 4-6 mini loaves, top with the meatloaf sauce and bake in a preheated air fryer oven set at 385°F for 8-10 minutes.

Cleaning Tip: I lined my air fryer baking sheet with aluminum foil then spray with nonstick cooking spray for a simple cleanup.

Recipe Substitutions

  • Turkey or Chicken: This recipe is also fabulous with turkey and/or chicken. For the best results, choose ground poultry with 3% fat. This is especially important with leaner proteins like chicken.
  • Non-Dairy Milk: I have successfully made this with unsweetened almond milk. Any non-dairy milk will do! Just make sure it’s unsweetened and unflavored. No one wants their meatloaf to taste like vanilla.

How to Make

Follow these easy instructions to make flavorful, moist meatloaf with an easy brown sugar glaze! Exact measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F

Prepare the sauce:

Step 2: In a bowl mix ketchup, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce together in a small bowl. I like to double it to have extra for serving.

Prepare the meat mixture:

Step 3: In a large bowl add ground beef, milk, eggs, salt, pepper, onion, ground ginger, and crushed saltine crackers. Mix together with your hands or a wooden spoon.

brown sugar meatloaf glaze ingredients.
Meatloaf ingredients in bowl unmixed.

I like to continue to knead the mixture until it forms a cohesive ball. This activates the meat proteins. It only takes an extra minute, but it will help your meatloaf stay together and hold in all those juices keeping the meat extra moist and tender!

Step 4: Shape the meat mixture into the shape of a loaf that will fit your pan. For me this means approximately 9 inches by 4 inches. There is no wrong shape. You will just have to adjust the baking time. Place meatloaf in loaf pan or 9×9 inch baking dish.

Step 5: Generously spread the ketchup glaze mixture on the top of the loaf and allow it to run down the sides.

Allowing the glaze to run down and coat the sides will help keep the meat moist while also adding flavor.

meatloaf mixed in white bowl.
unbaked glazed meatloaf in pan.

Bake meatloaf:

Step 6: Bake in preheated oven until the internal temperature reads 160°F on an instant read thermometer. This will take approximately 60 minutes. You can also check by poking the center with a cake tester, letting it sit inside for 20 seconds and then touching it below your bottom lip. It should be hot. If it is hot, it’s done! Just a little pro tip as a former line cook.

Extra Sauce: If you did decide to double the sauce, place remaining sauce in a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil then simmer on low until reduced slightly.

brown sugar meatloaf baked in pan.

Step 7: Allow the meatloaf to rest 10 minutes before serving. If you made mini loafs, just 5 minutes will do. Sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary. This is optional but it really is sensational!

Meatloaf with two slices sliced off over a white plate on a wood slate background.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

Allow the meatloaf to rest 10 minutes before serving. This gives the juices time to reabsorb and settle, keeping your meatloaf moist!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to cook meatloaf so it drains the excess grease

There are several ways to keep the meatloaf from being too greasy. Bake it in a loaf pan with a removable perforated bottom. The bottom will allow the grease to drain. I prefer to bake my meatloaf in a 9 x 9 inch dish so that the grease drains away from the meatloaf. Alternatively, you could bake the meatloaf on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking dish.

How to store meatloaf?

Cool meatloaf and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I like to store mine in a baking dish with a lid because plastic wrap will pull the glaze off the top! Meatloaf will last 4 days refrigerated or one month frozen. The faster you cooled and stored the meatloaf properly, the longer it will stay fresh.

How to reheat meatloaf?

Reheat in a covered baking dish in a 350°F oven. The sauce will help keep it moist. I am usually too lazy for this option and I either eat it cold on a sandwich or reheat it in the microwave smothered in sauce!

Can you freeze baked meatloaf?

Yes, you absolutely can freeze baked meatloaf. Bake an extra one for a meal later that month! I wouldn’t recommend freezing raw meatloaf because it will actually take longer to get dinner on the table.

brown sugar meatloaf sliced on plate with rosemary.

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

brown sugar meatloaf on white plate with sauce.
4.89 from 45 ratings

Brown Sugar Glazed Meatloaf

This Brown Sugar Glazed Meatloaf Recipe is moist, flavorful and incredibly easy. The easy ketchup glaze and secret ingredient make this the best meatloaf!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8 people

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Mix the brown sugar, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce together in a small saucepan or mixing bowl. I typically make twice the amount of sauce so there is extra for serving.
  • In a large bowl add ground beef, milk, eggs, salt, pepper, onion, ground ginger, and crushed saltine crackers. Mix together with your hands or a wooden spoon. I like to continue to knead the mixture until it forms a cohesive ball. This activates the meat proteins, which will help keep it from falling apart.
  • Shape the meat mixture into the shape of a loaf that will fit your pan. For me this means approximately 9 inches by 4 inches.There is no wrong shape. You will just have to adjust the baking time. Place meat loaf in loaf pan or 9×9 inch baking dish.
  • Generously spread the ketchup mixture on the top of the loaf. Allow the ketchup mixture to drop down the sides of the loaf. This will help keep the meat moist while also adding a variety of delicious flavors.
  • Bake in preheated oven until the internal temperature reads 160°F on an instant read thermometer. This will take approximately 60 minutes. You can also check by poking the center with a cake tester, letting it sit inside for 20 seconds and then touching it below your bottom lip. It should be hot. If it is hot, it’s done! Just a little pro tip as a former line cook.
  • While the meat cooks, bring the extra sauce to a boil and simmer on low. Drizzle the the extra sauce over the meatloaf. Add freshly chopped rosemary to taste.

Video

Notes

Presentation – You can make mini meatloaves using an Air Fryer baking oven! Make 4-6 mini loaves, top with the meatloaf sauce and bake in a preheated air fryer oven set at 385°F for 8-10 minutes.
TechniqueI suggest doubling the sauce. Trust me. You want to double the sauce. Or at least 1.5x! 
Storage Store cooked meatloaf in a sealed, air-tight container in the refrigerator. 
Adapted from Allrecipes.com’s meatloaf recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 310kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 101mg | Sodium: 743mg | Potassium: 398mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 163IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Calories: 310
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I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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159 Comments

  1. Hi Lindsey, have you tried the Cheez It meatloaf yet?its a meatloaf recipe that uses a box of Cheez It crackers in place of regular saltine crackers you can use any flavor of Cheez it crackers, I recommend that you use four cheese Italian flavor Cheez It crackers,or cheddar bacon Cheez It duoz crackers, both Cheez it crackers have more flavor and spices that makes your meatloaf tastes much better, then you add onion soup mix,one forth cup of water to dissolve the soup mix and one egg to hold the meatloaf together when you mix the meat together you don’t add ketchup until the meatloaf is done,now you can add the ketchup glaze half way when you cook the meatloaf or after you slice individual portions before eating. When you eat the meatloaf with out the ketchup,it will be beefy taste,with the ketchup glaze on top of the meatloaf,you’ll get the cheesy flavor of Cheez it crackers with a smoky bacon flavor from the Cheez It crackers.Right now I’m trying to see the recipe for sour cream and onion burger on both all recipes and Food websites Some viewers tried it and said it reminds them of a meatloaf, so I don’t know if you can take a burger recipe and make it into a meatloaf,it’s a simple recipe using onion soup mix a cup of sour cream,egg hamburger and bread crumbs (or oatmeal,saltine crackers) when you cook these burgers up you get a sour cream and onion flavor burger that is moist,not dry its the new rage in cooking burgers that is different.

  2. I made meatloaf with a ketchup glaze like you described in this recipe,however, I couldn’t get enough brown sugar for mixing it with ketchup and mustard to make the glaze, so since I had leftover glaze that went to a holiday ham, I used with the ketchup glaze and baked the meatloaf with the glaze, the end result! The brown sugar glaze (when mixed with ketchup) gave a little sweetness and more moisture that made the meatloaf tasted a bit better and enjoyable.

  3. This recipe looks amazing! Going to have a go at it tonight. We’ve used the same sauce as a substitute bbq sauce on bqq roasted chicken and pork chops. It never disappoints! How long would I cook it if I doubled the meat quantity? I’m going to try it with pork and ground beef to give it more juiciness!

    1. Hi Nessa, Just bake it until an thermometer reads 165 degrees, which is the recommended internal temperature for ground beef. That is the easiest way to tell!

  4. Do you have a link to the original recipe? I’ve made it several time and it was amazing. I remember rosemary in it though. I wanted to make it again but wasn’t sure if anything else was changed in the new version.

    1. Hi Marina! The only difference between the original and this one is actually the rosemary! Great catch. The original recipe said “fresh, chopped rosemary for serving, to taste” and everything else is the same. I’m so glad you enjoy this recipe, it’s one of my favorites!

    2. Hi Marina, nothing else in the recipe changed just a little note at the bottom that said ” Lindsey’s Secret Ingredient: chopped fresh rosemary for serving. It’s not necessary but it takes the dish to a whole other level!” I will put it back in 🙂 Thank you for catching my error when I updated the post! Don’t worry, it’s still the same delicious meatloaf just semi-nicer pictures

  5. These meatballs are so good. My family loves them…kids included. They’ve become my “go to” turkey meatball recipe. I’ve made them quite a few times and finally decided I should say thank you for a good recipe. Thank you

  6. Thank you for this post. I’ve always believed that chicken had to be cooked to 180 using an instant read thermometer to be safe. Always dry. I do more grilling outdoors, but I’ll definitely have to look for one of those pans. Should be good for any type of meat.

    1. Hi Ashley, Chicken needs to cook to 165F, but there is also no chicken in here! Just pork, veal and ground beef. You can totally substitute chicken if you’d like. It might be a little drier.

  7. I enjoyed your video. This meatloaf recipe is similar to my mother’s method. She put milk in the bowl, adds the egg and beats the egg. She added the onions and crushed saltines (btw Zesta is ze besta). She lets the crackers soak in the milk mixture while she sprinkles over the top salt, pepper, oregano, and poultry seasoning. She adds the meat and mixes it all up. Part way through baking she added tomato sauce to the top and finishes baking it. Yes, she make flat meatloaf. It cooks faster. I make it a little different, but it’s closely the same. She, too, mixed it with her hands and there would always be a layer of fat over her hands after mixing it up. I guess that is the difference in ground beef then vs. now . . . less fat, more water.

    Your recipe reminded me of my mother and times in our family when we were all together at home enjoying her good cooking and each other’s company. I make a very similar meatloaf now for my family and grandchildren, and they love it. I keep adding more and more meat, so we can have leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches, but no matter how much meat I put in, they eat it all up. I’m really interested in your sauce. It sounds so good and looks good. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I’ll be making this.

    1. I substitute with barbecue sauce. This is a favorite meal in my house. Nobody eats ketchup, and I’ve never enjoyed meatloaf before this. Hope that helps!!