turkey meatloaf

Turkey meatloaf

7 September 2011

It may be a homely dish, but there is something charmingly comforting about meatloaf. I never thought i’d grow up to be a fan – I’m not a big meat eater, and I’ve always had an unsettled suspicion about ground beef. But this Barefoot Contessa recipe using ground turkey has become a staple in my house during colder months. It’s a wonderfully flavorful foil for comfort veggies such as mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables or braised greens, and leftovers make an amazing sandwich.

I had a pre-season hankering for turkey meatloaf this summer in California, but I didn’t want to post the recipe while the rest of the country was fainting in 100 degree heat. In Ohio the temperature dropped 30 degrees over Labor Day weekend, and we went from blasting air conditioning to curling up in fuzzy blankets. Suddenly the remains of summer produce in the stores are wrinkled and wilted, and lemonade in the fridge sits lonely. After being ignored in the shadows of summer’s bright colors, humble fall favorites sound good again. Meatloaf season has arrived.

I often cook for a crowd, but even for me the Barefoot Contessa recipe, which calls for five pounds (!) of ground turkey, is a bit much. I’ve pared down the recipe to a home-sized portion of one pack of ground turkey (1.25 pounds). But the original recipe is fantastic for an un-fancy dinner party.

I collect my loaf ends in the freezer for making fresh breadcrumbs. But you can use prepared breadcrumbs or whatever you have on hand. I’ve also used almond meal for a gluten-free version.

Cook up some onions. Season with salt, pepper and thyme.

Add Worcestershire sauce (use Lea & Perrins for gluten-free), chicken broth and a bit of ketchup. Cool for a few minutes.

Time to mix the meatloaf. Turkey (93% lean), egg, breadcrumbs.

Add cooled onion mixture.

Meatloaf is most efficiently mixed with your hands, if you can get over the yuck factor. It is a bit gooey-squishy, but resist the urge to squeeze the meat. Mix lightly until just combined. Overmixed meatloaf gets tough when cooked (something about the juices getting squeezed out).

Pour out the turkey mixture and shape into a loaf. The Barefoot Contessa cooks her giant meatloaf on a baking sheet. The Pioneer Woman cooks hers on a broiler pan, which seems like a smart idea. I thought this baking dish would be okay with my small loaf.

Everyone’s favorite part – the ketchup on top. Baking turns it into a lovely, tangy glaze.

If you like more excitement, my mother-in-law, whose meatloaf is a family favorite, lays thin slices of bacon over the loaf before spreading the ketchup. And if plain ketchup seems too boring for you, you can also use your favorite barbecue sauce or Paula Deen’s topping (1/3 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard).

Spread around evenly.

Maybe I should have used a different pan – there’s a lot of collected juice here. Usually I use a rimmed baking sheet, which gives the cooking juices more room to cook out. As with all meat, it’s good to let it sit for 15 minutes before serving so that the juices can reabsorb evenly.

Cooking at a low temperature (325 degrees) takes a bit longer, but the meatloaf turns out nice and moist. Here the meatloaf sits outside in the California summer (not enough light in my narrow galley kitchen), but it’ll look perfect at your fall kitchen table.

Favorite sides

Other ground turkey recipes

Turkey Meatloaf
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe, which is in her first cookbook. The original recipe, which uses five pounds of ground turkey for an enormous meatloaf, can also be found at foodnetwork.com. I’ve modified to make a home-sized portion here.


  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon table salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (scant 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey breast (93% lean)
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup ketchup


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well (if you can get over the yuck factor, using hands is most efficient) and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan.
  4. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.)
  5. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.


  • For a gluten-free version, use almond meal for flour. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is gluten free.
  • For more excitement, try laying thin slices of bacon over the meatloaf before spreading the ketchup. Or if plain ketchup seems too boring on top, try Paula Deen’s topping (1/3 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard).
  • If you like, a bit (1/4 cup) of parmesan cheese mixed in would be a nice addition.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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