Your whole family will love this exceptionally tender Brown Sugar Meatloaf. It is loaded with the rich flavors of Worcestershire and French onion and painted with a sweet and tangy brown sugar glaze. This is comfort food at its finest. Taste why readers are calling this the best meatloaf recipe ever!
Is there any dinner entrée name that sounds more appealing than "Meatloaf"? Think about it... Loaf of meat. Mmm, tantalizing... I guess it is a perfectly descriptive name. Truth in advertising, if you will. However, growing up I never really had meatloaf. What I was served would be more aptly named "meatbrick". It was a largely flavorless, overly dense, hunk of meat, that sent me running from the idea of meatloaf for years.
My family, however, loves meatloaf and routinely asks me to make it. I developed this brown sugar meatloaf recipe for them, and guess what? I love it too! Who knew meatloaf could taste good! Well, I guess everyone but me knew that. So, I guess I may be the last one to the party, but at least I have a tasty meatloaf recipe to show for it!
I have since gone on and even created a Smoked Meatloaf and a Cheeseburger Meatloaf recipe. They taste insane, you'll want to check them both out!
How to Make Brown Sugar Meatloaf
This recipe is similar to a classic meatloaf (mom's meatloaf), but with an added secret ingredient. I add one powdered onion soup mix packet to the meatloaf mixture. I got the idea from my father-in-law, who uses it in his burgers. It really adds a great depth of flavor to the meatloaf, without being overpowering at all.
The best meatloaf is tender, not a dense brick. Adding breadcrumbs and milk helps keep the meatloaf tender while adding moisture, and the egg will bind it all together. One cup of breadcrumbs and one cup of milk in this easy recipe makes it exceptionally tender. If you like a firmer meatloaf you can cut back on these amounts slightly.
To make the meatloaf all of the meat mixture ingredients get combined in a small bowl or mixing bowl. This is then formed into a loaf, typically using a loaf pan. All of the brown sugar sauce ingredients get similarly mixed and then are painted on top of the loaf as a sweet and tangy glaze, as well as inside the loaf pan. At this point, the raw meatloaf is ready for baking!
At what temperature should I bake Meatloaf?
The best temperature for baking meatloaf is in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees. It is a low enough temperature to allow the interior of the meatloaf to heat up before the exterior dries out.
How long to bake meatloaf
When baking meatloaf in a bread loaf pan it takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. However, it is important to note cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your meatloaf, using a digital oven thermometer will ensure you remove the Brown Sugar Meatloaf as soon as it is done baking. No one wants to eat overcooked dry meatloaf!
I understand that not every kitchen is stocked with each ingredient you need, and sometimes you forget to grab the right items at the store. Here are some easy substitutions for this recipe.
- Meat - Rather than using lean ground beef, this would also work excellent as a venison meatloaf. Ground turkey is also a lean meat that can be used to make your meat loaf. Finally, ground pork can also be used. Ground pork works well by itself or blended with your ground beef (Frankly, that would be an amazing combo with the BBQ sauce in my BBQ Meatloaf recipe).
- Breadcrumbs - Rather than traditional breadcrumbs you can use panko breadcrumbs instead, or make your own bread crumbs from crumbling toast or saltine cracker crumbs! I do not recommend using Italian bread crumbs or you will throw off the flavor.
- Milk - Feel free to substitute beef broth.
- Worcestershire sauce - You could add a little soy sauce, or eliminate this ingredient completely.
What hamburger should I use?
The best hamburger to use in meatloaf is the traditional 80/20 blend of meat/fat, such as ground chuck. This is the same blend the best burgers are made from. If you go with lean ground beef, like a 90/10 ground beef, your meatloaf will not have enough moisture and will lack juiciness and flavor. Conversely, too much fat would lead to a big greasy mess. 80/20 beef is the sweet spot where there is enough fat to be juicy but not so much that the meatloaf turns greasy.
The meatloaf glaze is what separates a good meatloaf from a great meatloaf. In a pinch you can certainly use a plain ol' ketchup glaze, however, adding brown sugar and cider vinegar to your ketchup mixture adds an enticingly sweet and sour component that your family won't be able to get enough of.
The brown sugar glaze is exceedingly simple to make, just mix together ½ cup of ketchup, ¼ cup of brown sugar, and a quarter cup of cider vinegar and paint it on the meatloaf before it goes in the oven.
Yes, you can mix the meatloaf in advance and store it in the freezer prior to baking. I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and placing it in a freezer safe bag to prevent freezer burn. Also plan on letting it thaw out in the refrigerator for a day or longer prior to baking.
Leftover meatloaf can be reheated at the same temperature as baking it (350 degrees). However, I do recommend covering it with aluminum foil so it doesn't dry out. It will reheat faster than it initially cooked, so check on it periodically. Use leftovers to make a phenomenal meatloaf sandwich the next day.
Using a loaf pan is the most common way to make meatloaf, but you can certainly make it on a baking sheet as well if you don't have one available. The loaf just needs to be formed with your hands and it will generally keep its shape. You can also use a muffin tin to make individual meatloaves.
What to serve with it?
Mashed potatoes! There is no greater side dish, or more classic pairing to make a complete meal with meatloaf than fluffy mashed potatoes! This is a great pairing not only because they taste great together, but also because the mashed potatoes can be prepared on the stove top while the meatloaf bakes. You could even make some buttermilk cornbread to serve with the meatloaf. Cornbread can be made in advance and warmed prior to serving, or you can bake them with the meatloaf, even though the oven temperature may not be perfect.
Try any of these vegetables on the side:
- Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
- Southern Fried Corn
- Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower
- Lemon Roasted Green Beans
- Southern Fried Cabbage
- Roasted Asparagus
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Brown Sugar Meatloaf
- Bread loaf pan
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 ounce packet onion soup mix
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 teaspoon table salt (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Gently crumble ground beef in a large bowl, breaking up into small pieces. Add remaining meatloaf ingredients to the bowl and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.
- Mix all sauce ingredients together and spread half of the sauce along the bottom and sides of a bread loaf pan.
- Add meatloaf to a loaf pan and press firmly into a loaf shape.
- Liberally paint remaining sauce over the loaf.
- Place meatloaf in the oven and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees.
- Let rest for five minutes, then slice and serve.
This recipe was originally published on FoxValleyFoodie.com on April 7, 2017.
do we use dark or light brown sugar ? I’ve made this before and it is amazing but I can’t remember which brown sugar to use
Fox Valley Foodie
I've used both. Whichever one you have on hand will work perfectly.
i love meatloaf. havent had it in a long time but after reading this post I definitely want more soon.
What other liquid(s) can be substituted for the milk?
Fox Valley Foodie
Beef broth would be my next choice.
I recently make a turkey meatball recipe that used Amy’s chunky tomato bisque for the sauce and I put it over spaghetti squash, you could also make the recipe using lot’s of different farmers market veggies.
I saw this meatloaf recipe and it looked pretty easy. Who doesn’t like easy so I started reading the reviews to see the complaints. What do you know everyone had great things to say. So I made it and it was perfect! It will be my go to meatloaf recipe.
This is the only meatloaf I will make. My husband loves this and the leftovers are great for cold meatloaf sandwiches. Never have a negative comment. Really can't understand the negative comments on the sauce, it complements the meat perfectly. Thank you and I will be sharing.
P.S. I made a double last night!
This recipe is excellent. I do cut back the cider vinegar just a bit.
My family devours it. In the past they did not get real excited about meatloaf. This is now the only meatloaf recipe I use. It is always moist and full of flavor. I always get compliments if I serve it to others who have not had it before.
If I want to use only 1 on of meat what all would you cut short?
Fox Valley Foodie
I think this meant to say 1 pound of meat. If so, you would have to adjust back all of the ingredients an equal amount. Change the "Servings" in my recipe card to "3" and it will automatically adjust the quantities for you to be close enough to work well.
This was the most wonderful meatloaf I ever made! I use venison or deer as we say in the South-deer meat. My husband loved it! He said this is a keeper for sure! Almond milk was milk I used and it was great! Thank you for sharing your fantastic recipe!!
I'm making this tonight, I only have panko, can I substitute that for the bread crumbs? Will it still work?
Fox Valley Foodie
That will work fine.
I found this to be a very good recipe. The only thing I changed was the topping. I deleted the vinegar and added 1/4 cup mustard with the ketchup and brown sugar. Just mix together and put on top of meatloaf . Bake as recommended and enjoy.
Made this for dinner tonight and oh wow so yummy! I'm not a meatloaf lover but this recipe is not tough and dense at all. The sauce was the perfect touch! I went ahead and did 2 lbs of meat and we do not have any left overs. I also made your mashed potatoes with the meatloaf and those were the bomb! Thanks so much
Why the hell would you put that much ACV in the sauce?! Or any at all?? The meatloaf itself tastes amazing but DO NOT add ACV to the sauce...I had to scrape it off and make a new sauce of my own.
It was good to me 😌
The ACV was so bad. It smelled the kitchen up, my husband didn’t even want to try it because he could smell the vinegar so potent.
I made this tonight with mashed potatoes & steamed green beans, it was pretty amazing. I'll definitely be making this again.
This is the best recipe for meatloaf. Family loves loves it. The people who don’t like the sauce just don’t like ACV and this is the reason that I love this meatloaf. The sauce is just wonderful and have used it on other recipes. Thank you for posting this meatloaf.
This is one of my family's favorite meal. We are 3 generations in one home, so we have picky old ladies and picky kids to contend with. There are very few meals that I can make that EVERYONE eats it. This is one of them. Even my proud mother in law, who thinks her cooking is God's gift to us (it's not, she fears spices outside of pepper and the Hamburger mix from McCormick so its very bland) gets excited when I mention making this meatloaf. She even abandoned her own recipe for it! So thank you for this. It's so wonderful to see my family all sit down together and eat one meal that they love. That doesn't even happen on holidays! The only change I make is to use the Beefy Onion soup mix. I've got this in the oven right now and everyone is racing home for dinner!
Forgot to say. Even though it cooked faster in the Dutch oven. It didn't take away from the tendency or the juicy flavor. They both turned out amazing. Give it a try yourself. See what you think. I also added alit'l garlic and 1/2 tbsp of Hickory flavor. But other than that I did the recipe exactly. Great dinner night. Thx again.
Great recipe!! I done this in the oven. And in a Dutch oven on the hot coals of a fire. The Dutch oven of course, cooked 1st faster. But both were delicious. I cantvsay either way which was better. Cuz they both rocked. I wasn't a meatloaf person til this recipe. Thanks for sharing.
Can a green onion flavored packet be used instead of onion soup flavored packet?
Fox Valley Foodie
It will change the taste, so it would be a great substitution, but it may still work.
I tried to print the brown sugar meat loaf but wasn't successful. I tried a number of times. Can your recipes be printed and is this website free of charge?
Fox Valley Foodie
I am sorry to hear that. Did you click the "Print Recipe" button at the top of the page? The Print Recipe button is also found in the recipe card. All recipes are free to print.
I have always been a fan of meatloaf, as long as it was good meatloaf. I have a recipe that I've been using for years. I took a look at your recipe and thought that I would give it a try. It was, far and away, the best meatloaf I've ever had. I stuck to the recipe with one exception. Instead of 1½ pounds of ground beef, I used 1 pound of ground beef and ½ pound of ground pork. Regardless, everyone loved it. This will be my new recipe from now on. Thank you for this fantastic meatloaf.
This was priceless. What a wonderful dish. I too had the meatloaf brick in my past but I liked it. Now love enters the equation. I have subscribed and will try some of your other creations. You Sir are batting at a perfect score.
This is the only meatloaf my family will eat. I add a little bbq sauce to the sauce and it taste wonderful.
My go to Meatloaf recipe!! It is the BEST meatloaf I have ever had...a little sweet & sour sauce makes it perfect!!! It is a 10+. 😋😋❤️