This is a turkey meatloaf recipe that isn’t trying to be gluten-free—it just happens to be. That’s because in place of the more traditional bread crumbs, I’ve called for a couple tablespoons of rolled oats, which I always have lying around in my pantry.
A few key features ensure that this homemade meatloaf is both moist and markedly flavorsome: First, I use heavy cream instead of milk or water because the extra fat (and lactic acid) helps to tenderize the ground turkey, which, let’s be real, is pretty lean to start with. Second, I lean into the base protein’s leanness (and in fact celebrate its clean, tabula-rasa flavor) by injecting it with an umami bomb: caramelized onions, ketchup, ground cumin, celery seed, and lots of salt and pepper. This aromatic tangle of veg, sauce, and spice means that the meatloaf bakes up gorgeously tender and fully seasoned throughout.
The pièce de résistance is the glaze, which is a simple concoction of ketchup, yellow mustard, and brown sugar—sweet though it is, for me it imparts not only that classic diner-meatloaf look, but also that comforting, familiar taste. Because when I want meatloaf, I want the meatloaf of my childhood. And this is it.
This recipe has been developed for my solo dining column, Table for One, so it makes a single portion. But should you wish to cook this for a larger group, simply multiply the amounts by the number of mouths you need to feed. —Eric Kim
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, stir together the cream and oats and set aside.
Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until softened. Reduce heat to low and add the ketchup, cumin, celery seed, and oat-cream mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in the smallest container you’ve got (I use a ramekin), stir together the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard.
Once the onion mixture has cooled a bit, add the ground turkey to the bowl and stir gently with your fingers until well combined. Form meat mixture into a loaf with your hands and transfer to a greased foil or parchment-lined quarter sheet pan. Smear top with glaze mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
Let the meatloaf sit a couple minutes out of the oven before plating and serving with mashed potatoes, green beans, and/or a side salad.
Eric Kim is the Table for One columnist at Food52. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he is currently working on his first cookbook, to be published by Clarkson Potter in Spring 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at Saveur, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times and follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho. Born and raised in Georgia, Eric lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson.