Here’s a simple recipe for Turkey Meatloaf made with stealthy veggies mixed in for moisture and to make it more healthy, and it’s topped with a sweet and tangy glaze. Serve it for Sunday supper or make it ahead and bake it on a weeknight. Just make sure to save the leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches!
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In my mind there are two reasons to make meatloaf, number one is that it’s a classic comfort food you know the whole family will love. My family is now included in those that “love” meatloaf thanks to my revelation/discovery of using a sweet glaze on top. But the number two reason to make meatloaf, is to have the leftovers for sandwiches. Amiright or Amiright?! Don’t get me wrong, I really do love hot meatloaf for dinner, it’s just that a cold meatloaf sandwich on sourdough with lettuce and mayo and pickles on the side is one of my top foods ever.
Meatloaf for me is one of those weekend meals I make regularly. I love how when I serve it and we all sit down, Jase will say “Wow Katers!” Which translates to, wow you really spent a lot of time on dinner tonight. Which I find kind of funny, and don’t correct him, even though the whole amount of hands on time I spend actually chopping and stirring is about the same as for my weeknight meal recipes. The only difference is the meatloaf has to roast for 40 minutes or so, meanwhile while it is roasting you’ll find me over on Pinterest collecting recipes for my Comfort Food Board. Let’s just let him think I was slaving away the whole time, mkay?
Then happily there will be leftovers for Monday’s lunch! You guessed it, cold meatloaf sandwich! And then I die of happiness!! The end.
Tips For Making Healthy Turkey Meatloaf
Start with lean ground turkey
As you probably know if you’ve been reading here for awhile, I am watching my saturated fat, which means less dark and red meat, and more white meat and poultry. That means I sub in turkey for beef when I can. With meatloaf, you can get great results, the key is in the right ratio of meat to fillers. I like to start with turkey labeled 95% lean. Any leaner than that, say the 99% lean, and you end up losing some of the flavor and the meatloaf can become dry and sawdust-like.
Add Stealthy Vegetables For Moisture, Flavor and Bulk
To the turkey I add in a good amount of vegetables. The reason I do this is four fold.
One is for added nutrition. If you are aiming to get your 5 to 9 servings of produce a day, adding veggies to your recipes will help you get there. Here peppers, which are high in vitamin c, onions and mushrooms which are high in antioxidants
And inflammation fighting selenium are my veggies of choice.
Vegetables are relatively low in calories per volume. What I mean by that is two ounces of bell pepper for example, is much lower in calories (23 calories) than two ounces of turkey (about 107 calories.) So subbing in some of the volume of turkey for the veggies is going to reduce the overall calories of the final dish, but not the portion size.
Even though the onions and mushrooms virtually disappear into the turkey, they add so much savory flavor to the meat, you would miss them if they weren’t there. This is particularly important with lower fat meats, as fat is a flavor carrier, so with less of it, you need to amp the flavors with veggies and seasoning.
The vegetables are naturally high in moisture content, so when they are mixed with the vegetables, they add natural moisture to the meatloaf.
Note For Pepper Haters:
I grew up with peppers in meatloaf, so I am always expecting peppers in mine. I love them in fact. But if you do not expect them, or you don’t like them, simply omit the peppers and use 1 ½ cups total onion and 1 cup total chopped mushrooms.
Add Fillers/Binders for Texture
- Egg and breadcrumb are what make a meatloaf a meatloaf. Without them you’d have more of a meat brick. The breadcrumbs and egg help to bind and bulk the meatloaf giving it a nice soft texture that is not too dense. The problem is that you can’t necessarily treat turkey as you would beef. Because turkey is leaner and soft and sticky compared to beef, you have to be more cautious with your fillers.
- If you watched me making this recipe on Instagram, then you know I had to play around with the ratio of the breadcrumbs. I started out with too much breadcrumbs to turkey, and the result was spongey. To fix the problem I backed off just enough to let the moisture of the ground turkey and vegetables to come through, but not so much that the proteins in the turkey created a sad and impenetrable meat rock. The resulting texture is moist and soft, but not spongy.
- A note about Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs: You can absolutely use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make this turkey meatloaf but I cannot say with 100% certainty that it will come out the way it would with traditional breadcrumbs. That is because there are many different brands made from different ingredients. Some have corn some rice etc. I would recommend trying this recipe with 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of your favorite brand, and then adjusting from there. If it seems dry, you may need slightly less.
How to Make Turkey Meatloaf
Sauté the Vegetables First:
- As much as I would prefer to eliminate this step because it adds 20 minutes to the total prep time, this is a necessary step for the best texture. Not only does it soften the vegetables so they melt right into the meat and become unnoticeable, but it also reduces the amount of moisture they add. Yes there could be too much of a good thing! The mushrooms in particular have a lot of water in them so they need to be cooked on the stove top before going into the turkey mixture.
- At the end of the cooking time I add in the herbs to give them a little boost. Heating them up lets them give off their essential oils which contribute flavor to the overall dish.
Let the Cooked Vegetables Cool:
It’s tempting to add the hot vegetables into the meat, but it is best to let them cool before mixing them into the meat and egg. Otherwise they would start to cook the egg and meat and give the meatloaf an uneven texture. Instead, let the veggies cool for about 5 or 10 minutes.
I like to spread them out over the surface of the mixing bowl (yes even up the sides) so they come in maximum contact with the cold bowl and air to cool them off as fast as possible. When they are in a single layer they won’t insulate themselves holding in the heat.
Mix with a Spatula or Spoon First Then Clean Hands
Mix the turkey and the fillers and veggies together first with a silicone spatula. I am not a huge fan of having my hands in raw meat (is anyone?) so by mixing it together with the spatula first, we limit the amount of time we’re digging right in.
Next I will take my clean hands (use gloves if you like) and work the turkey, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire (for umami flavor) and vegetable and egg mixture in the bowl until the ingredients are evenly distributed. With turkey meatloaf you don’t have to worry about overworking it. Because it is so soft, you actually can’t really over work it.
Shape the Meatloaf on a Pan
- My mom (and grandmother) always made meatloaf in a loaf pan, but ever since I was an adult I have made mine on a sheet pan, mounded into a loaf shape. I learned this at one of the restaurants where I was a prep cook when I was in my early twenties. I adopted this method as soon as I learned about it because my favorite part of meatloaf has always been the crust and glaze, so when the meatloaf baked on a sheet pan it has more surface area for optimal crust and glaze.
- Additionally as it is cooking, excess moisture seeps away onto the pan, so that the outside of the meatloaf doesn’t simmer in it’s own juices. It also means that you can make it much bigger than a loaf pan (I use two pounds) so you can be assured there will be enough for leftovers, which means meatloaf sandwiches is key to living a happy and fulfilled life!
- I also love how easy it is to clean up when I line the sheet pan with foil. Yay, less time washing dishes!
- To shape the meatloaf, I just take handfuls of the meat mixture and pile it in the center of the foil on the sheet pan. Then I pat it until it forms a nice 12-inch long loaf shape. It’s about 4-inches wide and then just patted down to an even thickness across.
How to Know When Meatloaf Is Cooked
The best way to know the meatloaf is cooked is to use an instant read thermometer. That way there is no guesswork as to whether or not the turkey is safe to eat.
Insert the probe of the thermometer horizontally into the length of the meatloaf so the center reaches the innermost part of the loaf. Allow the temperature to max out on the thermometer, then slowly remove the probe. Use the lowest internal reading. You want your meatloaf to be 165. Note that the temperature will rise slowly as it bakes at first, then rapidly for the last 15 or so degrees.
How to Make Turkey Meatloaf In Advance
- You can make the turkey meatloaf through step three up to 1 day ahead. Just cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one day.
- Then remove the cover, preheat your oven and continue with step four.
- Note that because it will be colder, you will likely need to add an additional 5 to 8 minutes to the cook time. Just go by the internal temperature to know when it is cooked through. (A safe internal temperature of 165 degrees is what you’re looking for.)
What To Serve with Turkey Meatloaf
- The fall flavors in the Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes would compliment the turkey and oregano flavors in this meatloaf.
- A obvious and classic compliment to meatloaf is mashed potatoes. Try my Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes or simple buttermilk mashed potatoes.
- For something a little different try these Roasted Fingerlings with Tahini Yogurt Sauce. The creamy sauce is so good!
- My family will always cheer for these Green Beans with Walnuts and Balsamic. They’re classic and so easy to make.
- A simple stove top veggie option is broccoli with lemon and garlic.
- Just thinking about these Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts and Sage makes my mouth water! They taste so good with turkey!
Thanks so much for reading. If you make this recipe, please come back to leave a star rating and review. I appreciate it so much.Print
This turkey meatloaf is lean and healthy and yet juicy and flavorful with a sweet and tangy glaze. It has finely chopped and sautéed vegetables to add moisture and nutrition.
1 tablespoon avocado oil or organic canola oil
1 cup diced onion
¾ cup diced bell pepper, green or red
¾ cup finely chopped mushrooms (not sliced)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 ½ teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 pounds ground turkey, preferably 95% lean
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon dry breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoon brown sugar or maple sugar
4 to 10 dashes Tabasco sauce
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper, mushrooms and garlic and cook stirring often until the onion is starting to brown and the vegetables are soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in oregano and thyme and remove from the heat. Scrape into a large bowl, spread out as much as possible and let cool for about 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat it lightly with cooking spray.
- Add egg to the mixing bowl and mix to combine with the veggies. Add the turkey, bread crumbs, Worcestershire and salt and gently knead with clean hands until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pat the turkey meatloaf mixture into a loaf shape, about 12 inches by 4 inches on the prepared baking sheet.
- Stir ketchup, brown sugar and Tabasco in a small dish. Spread over the meatloaf and transfer the meatloaf to the oven. Bake until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center reads 165 degrees F, 38 to 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Serving Size: 1 8th loaf
- Calories: 246
- Sugar: 7 g
- Fat: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 15 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 26 g