5 Ingredients or Fewer

Easy Meatloaf

March  4, 2019
42 Ratings
Author Notes

This all-beef meatloaf has very few ingredients and a whole lot of tricks up its sleeve. Serving it with mashed potatoes is optional, but highly recommended. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This is one of our Big Little Recipes. Read more here: For Better Meatloaf, Use This Big Little Trick. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Easy Meatloaf
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions (about 10 ounces each), finely chopped
  • 2 English muffins
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup, plus more for glazing
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef (preferably 15 to 20% fat)
In This Recipe
  1. Add the butter to a very large skillet. Set on the stove over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions. Season with a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat as needed, for about 15 minutes, or until they’re soft and lightly golden. (It’s okay if they stick to the bottom of the pan a little, but you don’t want the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan to burn—they’ll come in handy soon.)
  2. While the onions are cooking, make the bread crumbs. Tear each English muffin into chunks, then add those to a food processor. Pulse until very fine.
  3. When the onions are done, turn off the heat, then add the ¾ cup water to the pan. Use a spoon to scrape up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil.
  5. Add the bread crumbs to a large bowl, along with the eggs, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 1 tablespoon salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine. Add the ground beef and stir until mostly combined (you can use your hands, too!). Add the cooled onion-water mixture (it’s okay if it’s slightly warm still—you just don’t want it hot). Don’t overmix, which can make the meatloaf tough.
  6. Dump the meatloaf mixture onto the lined sheet pan. Form into a loafish shape, roughly 9x5-inches. Add lots of ketchup and rub all over (you can use a brush but I just use my hands).
  7. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, rotating halfway through, until the center is firm to the touch and reads 150° to 155°F on a thermometer. (I like to start checking at 45 minutes just to be safe.) Let rest for about 15 minutes before slicing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • tastysweet
  • Lorraine Washburn
    Lorraine Washburn
  • Krispyecca
  • Karen Rajnish
    Karen Rajnish
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

52 Reviews

Glenda September 9, 2020
Made this for supper tonight... With a few changes😎 instead of water I added a can of diced tomatoes and When the onions were almost done I added a medium minced green pepper ( fresh from my garden). This was the first time I have ever used ketchup on a meatloaf and I really enjoyed it. It was tender and flavorful. My family loved it!!! My son and daughter have already claimed the leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches. Wonderful recipe Emma, Thank you❣️
tastysweet April 30, 2020
I need to cut this recipe in half. The only ingredient I can’t half is the egg. How do I use 1 1/2 eggs other than buying the liquid eggs in a carton.
Kevin K. April 30, 2020
You can do one of three things, any will work: use 1 egg instead, (you can add a little extra moisture in the form of water, milk or Worcestershire sauce - helpful, as this recipe is a bit lacking); use two eggs (add a touch more breadcrumbs to compensate for the extra moisture); or beat 3 eggs well in a measuring cup then use half that amount in the recipe, saving the rest in the fridge for something else.
tastysweet April 30, 2020
Thanks Kevin. Will try the 3 eggs. Good choice to use the extra for say....breakfast!☀️☀️
Rosalind P. June 21, 2020
Instead of beating all three eggs, measuring and using half (then you're left with a lot of egg) -- I break the third egg into a measuring cup, beat it and see what it measures. Weighing is best -- easy to remove half.
But if you don't have a scale you can measure the volume and carefully pour out half, by tablespoons.
Lorraine W. April 30, 2020
This meatloaf is on point! I had my doubts with the short ingredient list and easy (read:short) list of ingredients but I'm a fan. Thanks for this lovely little recipe!
Krispyecca March 26, 2020
I really enjoy this meatloaf and it has become my go-to recipe. Adding the water gives a great fluffy texture. Most meat loaves remind me of a giant hamburger, texture-wise, but this is much nicer. Of course everyone has their favorite ways to flavor meatloaf (I’m partial to horseradish) but this one tastes great as is. I always enjoy how the Big Little recipes get full mileage out of each ingredient.
Author Comment
Emma L. March 27, 2020
Thank you so much!
Parvin January 16, 2020
I can't see the reason of using 1/3 of a package of English muffins, costing nearly a $1.00, when any firm bread would do (or oatmeal, crackers...) Still the sane 5 ingredients. It's not like English muffins add any special flavor. The show point is to lighten, bind and disappear into the meat.
Author Comment
Emma L. January 20, 2020
Hi Parvin! I write about why I love using English muffins here: https://food52.com/blog/23880-easy-classic-meatloaf-recipe-5-ingredients-big-little-recipes. And for what it's worth, any leftovers freeze really well (I usually put one on the counter to thaw before I go to sleep, then toast it in the morning).
Lorraine W. April 30, 2020
Funny story: I didn't have any English muffins so I processed a pita and it worked great!
Rosalind P. June 21, 2020
Here's an outlier: I make a sort-of English muffin with my sourdough discards. Freeze them because they do pile up, but they would fit the bill here.
Glenda September 9, 2020
I have always used saltines crackers ( except one foray with pork rinds... Never again) before this recipe. But I did enjoy the the way the English muffins were dispersed throughout the meat loaf. And if you have an Aldie's near you 1/3 of a package is only .43¢
Janice L. July 6, 2019
Many thanks for this delicious recipe! Instead of English muffins, I used two Portugese rolls (not very crusty on the outside and big crumb on the inside). The rolls made wonderfully moist crumbs in my Cuisinart and give a great, soft texture to the loaf.
Emma - I was wondering whether there is a way to make this with either ground turkey or chicken? I know they have a lower fat content - so I would love your advice on if/how to compensate. Many thanks!!!!
Author Comment
Emma L. July 8, 2019
Hi Janice, glad you liked it! I'm not sure how this recipe would fare with ground turkey or chicken. It might work if you find ground dark meat (or grind dark meat yourself). Another thought is doing half turkey or chicken, half beef or pork. If you give it a try, please report back!
Elaine R. June 3, 2019
I cook for a lady on the keto diet so the English muffins are a no - no. Any suggestions for a low carb substitute would be greatly appreciated. Thank you ;-)
Author Comment
Emma L. June 4, 2019
Hey Elaine! I'm not well-versed in the keto diet, so it's hard for me to recommend a best substitute. I imagine that cooked quinoa would work well in the meatloaf, but not sure if that's keto-friendly? Maybe cooked cauliflower rice? (But that mind cause binding issues.) Curious to hear if other readers have ideas here!
Elaine R. June 4, 2019
There are too many carbs in quinoa but I surely do appreciate the suggestion. I'm intrigued by what the English muffin adds in texture and flavor. Perhaps a search of keto boards will turn up a source or recipe. I will definitely let you know what I find and how it turns out. In the meantime, thank you all for your help.
Elaine R. July 13, 2019
I made crumbs out of toasted keto bread. It worked well and my ladies loved the meatloaf. Next time I will use some herbs.
Stacey M. September 20, 2019
You can use pork rinds as a substitute for keto ;)
Elaine R. September 21, 2019
Pork rinds were considered. I'll give them a try next time. Thank you Stacey.
Karen R. June 1, 2019
I love a basic meatloaf I add a small can of drained mushrooms and use bout 1/4 cup of milk this is like my mom's but never tried with water.
Also. Never have enough leftover for sandwiches.
Poppy Q. May 8, 2019
My usual meatloaf has more ingredients (mushrooms, bacon, bourbon, garlic, celery), but the key is make a long thin loaf or two on a sheet pan, maximum diameter 2 and 1/2 inches, cook at 400 degrees, done in 25 minutes. You wouldn't bake hamburgers or meatballs for over an hour, why punish your meatloaf! Adding a bit of soy sauce and brown sugar in your ketchup glaze is ok. And chile sauce works too. The onions are non-negotiable!
Lulu May 8, 2019
The original recipe is a great base and good for when you have limited ingredients. This recipe is fun to play with, and your version Poppy is making my mouth water. Going shopping later to get the bacon and bourbon. Thanks.
tastysweet March 26, 2019
Made this last night. My husband and I really liked it. It was moist and flavorful. I had to half the recipe since it was just for the two of us. The only thing I did differently is that I went with a reviewer’s suggestion and used Chili Sauce in the mix inlieu of ketchup. On the outside of the loaf I smeared on Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. Perfect. Cooked it about 48 minutes.
Kathy March 20, 2019
I am cooking my first meatloaf using this recipe, as I write. I cooked a small patty, as suggested to check and see if anything needed adjusting. It didn't, and judging by the sample, this will be my go-to recipe for meatloaf. I could have cut the recipe in half for one person, but I'm glad I didn't. I even set up an account here so I could leave a review.

I made two small changes-white pepper for the black I can't have, and I attempted to use
Sourdough English Muffins. but as they have no sourdough taste at all, it will be as if
I have used regular muffins. Next time, I will try a different brand of sourdough English Muffins and see what the taste difference is.

This recipe is the closest I have seen to the meatloaf my college made. It was very oniony and I loved it. I do think that they used raw onions, though.

To all of you naysayers who have left reviews saying you have to use this, that, or the other or not use something else in your meatloaf, give it a try first, and try it as written before you mess with it. Who knows, you might surprise yourself and actually like it. I think Emma nailed it, and I am very picky about my meatloaf.

Like Erika, who reviewed this yesterday, I thought it was going to be WAY too many onions, but they cook down quite a bit, and it's just the right amount, and as she says, "The onions are everything!"
Author Comment
Emma L. March 20, 2019
Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback, Kathy!
Erika March 19, 2019
The onions are everything! I made this tonight and it did not disappoint. Easy, super tasty, and the kids ate it. What more could a busy mom ask for?! I didn't have English Muffins on hand, so just used dried breadcrumbs that I had in the pantry and it was still great. I also thought it was going to be way too much onion and it isn't. Just give it a try!
Author Comment
Emma L. March 20, 2019
Onions are my everything <3
Lulu March 17, 2019
This is really the best meatloaf. So delicious, juicy, soft and easy. Great flavor. I put the leftover two slices crumbled on my homemade pizza then added whole milk mozzarella over all. Wow! Thank you so much. Definitely going in my rotation.
Author Comment
Emma L. March 18, 2019
So glad you liked it, Lulu! And even gladder that you turned the leftovers into pizza!!
Renee March 17, 2019
I've been making different meatloaves for decades. This is now my fave. I don't understand the comments about it being bland. The only thing I added was some dry mustard. I also increased all the ingredients to make a big 3+ pound loaf. My family flipped! The texture is perfect. I believe the English muffins are a must. This meatloaf hit all my happy places. Full of flavor. Perfect!
Barbara March 13, 2019
Agree with Kevin.. Um no.... Dense with little favor. Way better meatloaf recipes out there!!!!
Mary March 13, 2019
Made this meatloaf this evening. Huge Success! I've tried so many different meatloaf recipes and this is by far the BEST! I did everything to the letter and it turned out perfect, albeit I did add a little bit of green/red bell pepper. When I saw the amount of onions and salt needed, I was afraid it was way too much; to my surprise, it wasn't. I like the fact it was full of flavor and moist but held together just right without it being too dense or loose. Additionally, clean up was a breeze. Best of all, my family loved it... first time ever! They were so afraid it was going to become another meal for our dogs. Thank you so much for this recipe. It is a keeper.
BJ T. March 10, 2019
My recipe very similar to yours! My secret ingredient “French Fried Onion Rings” (of green bean casserole fame). The grown kids come from near and far for the affectionately called “Loaf”
Author Comment
Emma L. March 11, 2019
Whoa! You mix the crispy onions into the meatloaf? That sounds so good.
Kevin K. March 10, 2019
Um, no. Just no. All beef is nowhere near as good as a beef-pork-veal or beef-pork-turkey mix. Lose one of the eggs. Ditch the ketchup (both in and on; glazed meatloaf always tastes cheap - just like this one) and add some minced carrot, minced red bell pepper and a much needed herb (thyme) to the onions at the outset of cooking them. Add a splash of Worcestershire (better than the ketchup silliness) and, for the best flavor and texture, cook the meatloaf in the morning (or even a day before); allow to cool, slice; reheat by sautéing slices in a butter-oil mix till cut sides are lightly caramelized; serve.
Marsha S. February 25, 2021
I've been saute' the onions for years..in oil,,butter sounds even tastier and I never use ketchup in my meatloaf,I use marinara about 2 TLBS. and halfway through the baking process I add marinara on top of the meatloaf.I also add 2 TLBS. of milk to the meatloaf mixture..a few drops of worsterchire sauce, and a little onion powder, salt and pepper. And seasoned bread crumbs but I would love to try english muffins and switch out with the bread crumbs every now and then!!!!
Robert H. March 10, 2019
This is a terrific recipe! It is good just as it is, but make it once (I did tonight) and you will immediately understand how you can riff on it for your own taste. It's as easy as, um, well, meatloaf.
Traveler March 9, 2019
I cant eat eggs. Is there something else I can use such as cream for a binder?
Author Comment
Emma L. March 11, 2019
Hi! Your best bet would probably be a vegan egg substitute, like a flax egg. I haven't tried this myself with meatloaf—but if you give it a go, please report back!