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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!
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.
Table of Contents
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.
In the video I use a blend of ground beef, veal and pork like I do for these ricotta meatballs. It was EVEN better than just the ground beef that I usually use. This is optional but feel free to use whatever you have on hand!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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Brown Sugar Glazed Meatloaf
- ½ cup dark brown sugar loosely packed
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ pounds ground sirloin 3-10% fat
- ½ cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper rounded generously
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger rounded generously
- ¾ cups finely crushed saltine crackers ~12 crackers
- chopped fresh rosemary for serving Lindsey's secret ingredient. It’s not necessary but it takes the dish to a whole other level!
- 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.
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