5 Ingredients or Fewer

Easy Meatloaf

March  4, 2019
55 Ratings
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
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

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Easy Meatloaf
  • 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)
  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.

  • Deb Howe Allen
    Deb Howe Allen
  • Steph
  • rbrock1225
  • tastysweet
  • Lorraine Washburn
    Lorraine Washburn
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

73 Reviews

LouLou56 December 31, 2022
Your recipe is so similar to mine (my Gramma's, really). The one main difference is that I add green peppers. It really gives it a unique flavor! Thanks so much for your recipe.
Deb H. January 22, 2022
I put all the ingredients in the food processor after sauteeing the onions and adding water; pulsed till well-mixed. Then added the beef and just pulsed very briefly to mix (so no need to handle raw meat with your hands). Placed some plastic wrap inside an 8 x 4 loaf pan, pressed the mix into it firmly, put the foil-lined larger pan over it, and flipped it so the formed meatloaf is in the larger pan for baking. Also, will add a bit of Worcestershire sauce the next time; that always adds a nice bit of umami to dishes like this...
Lauren C. December 6, 2021
Mine cooked very uneven - even after one hour. I’ll try again but may prefer the in a loaf pan too. Do you suggest halving the recipe if I use a pan?
Steph October 25, 2021
Dark Horse Organic Ketchup. Trust me.
AlwaysLookin October 21, 2021
You forgot a TSP of Horseradish and a 1/2 Cup of Milk. I like the idea of grilled Onions, that's a nice sweet touch ... but Ketchup, naw, I'll pass.
[email protected] October 21, 2021
Was just wondering if anyone has tried the recipe with Beyond Meat, the plant based meat substitute?
txchick57 October 19, 2022
Impossible, yes. But here's anothr idea. The website Chef Steps has a plant based ground beef subsititue made with mustrooms. cauliflower and walnuts. I'm going t o try it with that.
rbrock1225 October 21, 2021
Nice recipe, but like almost everyone else I tweaked it a bit...

A couple of years ago, I became a fan of cooking meatloaf in a sheet pan (would that make it a meatsheet? sorry, not sorry). I have a 14-C Cuisinart, so I created the bread crumbs, dumped them into a bowl, then used the FP to chop the onions and got them cooking. When the onions were done, I moved them off the heat, added the water and sprinkled the surface w/~1 t of unflavored gelatin. Stir & let sit. While the onions were cooling, I went back to the FP, and purposely mixed the ground beef w/the egg, and added the onions & seasoning. Mix well, and add the bread crumbs.
Spread into a 1/4 sheet pan. To the catsup, I added a bit of brown sugar/cider vinegar and heavily glazed. Bake. When it's almost done, broil the top a wee bit.

So I've become a fan of re-chopping the meatloaf mixture so that it has a finer texture. It comes out with more of a pate texture. That bit of gelatin gives the meatloaf a better "mouthfeel". I cook it in a 1/4- or 1/2-sheet pan (depending on the amount) because you get more of the crusty goodness. Plus it's easier to serve -- and makes _excellent_ meatloaf sandwiches.
tastysweet October 21, 2021
How long did you cook your sheet pan meatloaf and temp.?
rbrock1225 October 21, 2021
I bake in a 350 df until it reaches a temperature of 160-165 df. I usually check it ~30 minutes. I keep an oversized square pizza stone on a third oven rack at the lowest rack setting to help keep the temperature constant (plus it gives me a place to store the stone. I move the stone to the upper & middle racks when baking pizza or pies.) When I go to broil the top, I move it to the top rack of the oven. I miss my old convection oven (:
Rosalind P. November 7, 2021
I've been trying to get that very texture you describe, and experimenting with gelatin, baking soda, all manner of things. Never quite got it. I'll try your way. yay! (And i've been using a sheet too -- fat goes away from the meatloaf. Thans for your technique.
Pen August 8, 2021
UK based Brit here - and meatloaf is not part of our culture, although I have read about it often. But I tried making this and it was delicious. I made a few changes - subbed milk for water, used English crumpets (despite the name we don't have English muffins in England!), added quite a lot of garlic, and used barbecue sauce instead of ketchup. I'm gluten free too so my crumpets were gf ones.

The result was totally delicious, partner and I enjoyed every last bite. We're getting married in the autumn and I'm planning to make some mini meatloaf bites to serve as part of the buffet afterwards.
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.
Emma L. March 27, 2020
Thank you so much!
Donald 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.
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¢
Arrxx October 31, 2021
English muffins freeze really well~!
Sharon November 7, 2021
I totally agree, Parvin. I always make a panade using whatever day old bread I have (usually a baguette) and milk. Going out to buy bread to make a meatloaf defeats its entire, thrifty reason for being!
Smaug January 26, 2022
Alright, read the blog, not convinced. "English muffins" is not exactly specific anyways, there's a huge variation in them. Commercial muffins nowadays are generally intended to be toasted in an upright toaster so the crust is very light; if crust is what you want you'd get more from just about any sort of roll, much more from a baguette or similar bread. Another option is to use something like shredded zucchini, which will add moisture and texture as well as flavor, in place of a starchy filler.
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!!!!
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!
Jade D. October 20, 2021
I have a meatball recipe by Melissa Clark where one of the comments mentioned adding a tablespoon give or take of olive oil (or I guess you could use a neutral-flavored oil, too) to add a little more fat to the mix since chicken and turkey are leaner than beef. I suspect this would work with meatloaf as well.
Shwillary October 22, 2021
what are your thoughts on lamb as a substitute? Maybe too gamey, but do you think it would serve well or how might you modify? I have some waiting in the fridge. Thanks!
Hippo F. November 3, 2021
Personally I love the taste of lamb so I know I would enjoy it in this recipe. It has a similar fat content to beef so that would not be a problem.
Shwillary November 4, 2021
thanks !! I'll try it soon, the evenings are begging for it :)
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 ;-)
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.
Wendy K. October 20, 2021
You can try almond flour. I would toast it first in a fry pan, stirring it over medium heat til it colors a bit.
Elaine R. October 20, 2021
That's a great idea! Thank you Wendy.
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!"
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!
Emma L. March 20, 2019
Onions are my everything <3