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Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf

Cracker Barrel’s Classic Meatloaf Recipe has onions, bell peppers, cheddar cheese, buttery Ritz crackers, and the best meatloaf glaze for topping!  Make this old fashioned comfort food at home and serve it with buttery biscuits or mashed potatoes!

Love Cracker Barrel recipes?! Try their Copycat Hashbrown Casserole or my Chicken Fried Steak recipe next!

Cracker Barrel Meatloaf on a pile of mashed potatoes with green beans in the background.

Cracker Barrel Meatloaf

I’ve got a secret: Not all meatloaf is created equal. Just because you’ve had meatloaf in the past that you may not have enjoyed, doesn’t mean you should it out forever. A few simple changes, and you’ve got a completely different texture and flavor!

What makes this Cracker Barrel meatloaf recipe unique are the tender vegetables that are included in the mix, cheddar cheese, and using Ritz Crackers instead of breadcrumbs.

While meatloaf is undoubtedly easy to make, there are lots of questions that can arise when you actually get down to it.

  • How do you make sure it’s tender, moist, and not dry?
  • Do you use a loaf pan or are other methods better?
  • How do you drain the grease?
  • What kind of meat is best?
  • How do you know when it’s done?

Let’s go over everything you need to know!


Ingredients

See the bottom of this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Canola Oil
  • Onions
  • Bell Pepper
  • 80% Lean Ground Beef- (or a 3 meat combo, see notes in recipe card.)
  • Ritz crackers
  • Eggs
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Whole milk
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

For the Topping:

  • Ketchup
  • Brown sugar
  • Yellow Mustard

PRO TIPS

  1. Don’t overwork the meat. This can ruin the tender consistency of the meat and cause it to become tough.
  2. Place it over a few slices of fresh bread before baking. The bread will act as a sponge and soak up excess grease. OR, use this loaf pan to lift it out and drain the grease.
  3. 325-350°F is an ideal baking temperature for tender results. Higher temps will dry out the meat.
  4. Pull it from the oven once it hits 155°.
  5. Let it rest for 15 minutes before you slice in. The internal temperature will increase 8-10° more during this time.
  6. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the middle is 160°F before you slice in.

Loaf Pan or No Loaf Pan for Meatloaf?

Some people swear that using a loaf pan is the wrong way to go, theorizing is that it creates steam and makes the meat more dense.

Others say LOAF pan all the way.

I’ve done it both ways, here is my vote: USE A LOAF PAN. (OR, make my mini meatloaf recipe with no loaf pan required!)

#1. It keeps it from falling apart. Unless you have a binder that can hold the loaf together, like the bacon does in The Pioneer Woman’s meatloaf recipe, it’s very likely the meat won’t hold it’s shape and you’ll end up with a big blob of meat on a baking sheet. (I say this from experience.)

#2. The heat circulating around the loaf pan is necessary for it to cook. Otherwise, it takes so long that it inevitably becomes dry.

PRO TIP: This loaf pan allows you to lift the loaf from the pan easily without disrupting its shape, and it allows excess grease to drain out.


The Best Meat to Use

  • 80% lean ground beef is a good choice. Leaner meats tend to dry out.
  • A combination of ground beef, pork, and veal will also give you very tender and flavorful results. You’d use an equal amount of each.

PRO TIP: Some grocery stores have this meat combination already packaged up in the meat section, specifically for making meatloaf and/or meatballs.


A Perfect Freezer Food

Meatloaf is great for freezing either after it’s been baked and cooled, or when it’s still raw in the loaf pan. Wrap it tightly in foil and freeze it for up to 3 months.

Reheating after it’s been baked: Let the loaf defrost in the fridge overnight. Wrap it in fresh foil and bake at 350°F until heated through, 20-30 minutes. You may want to make some extra sauce topping to add to it.

You can also slice it and microwave individual slices.

Heating up frozen/unbaked Meatloaf: Let the loaf defrost in the fridge overnight. From there, bake it according to recipe instructions as if you had just made it. (Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, brush with topping, bake for 30-40 more minutes.)


What to Serve with Meatloaf

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Two slices of Cracker Barrel meatloaf over mashed potatoes with green beans in the background.

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Cracker Barrel Meatloaf with glaze topped with ketchup sauce on top of mashed potatoes.

Cracker Barrel Meatloaf (Copycat)

5 from 61 ratings
Make Cracker Barrel's super popular meatloaf recipe right at home! This is a perfect replica of the original, with a tender meat mixture and flavorful topping the family will love!

Ingredients

  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 pounds 80% lean ground beef, see notes for alternative meat suggestion
  • 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

For the Topping:

  • 1/2-3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. yellow mustard

Instructions

  • Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
  • Sauté the diced peppers and onions in a small pan with the olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. This gives them a more subtle flavor and texture. Set aside and let cool.
  • Combined the whisked eggs, crushed crackers, onions, bell peppers, cheese, milk, and salt/pepper in a large bowl.
  • Add ground beef and mix until just combined. Don't overwork the meat, we want tender results.
  • Form it in a loaf and place it into a loaf pan. Not using a loaf pan can result in the loaf falling apart. It also takes much longer to cook, which causes it to dry out.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Combine the topping ingredients while it bakes and set aside.
  • Remove the meatloaf and brush on the topping. Bake for an additional 30-40 minutes. (Pull it once it reaches 155 degrees.)
  • Let it rest for 15 minutes in the loaf pan prior to slicing in. It will increase 8-10 degrees in temperature during this time. Slicing in too early also causes the juices to leak out. Ensure the middle is 160 degrees before you slice it.
  • Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and enjoy!

Notes

  • I like to use a 3-meat combination of ground beef, pork, and veal- equal parts of each. Many grocery stores have this meat combination already packaged, specifically for making meatloaf and meatballs. Ask the grocer if they carry it! The results are super tender and flavorful.

  • Some people like to place the meatloaf over a few slices of fresh bread, the bread acts as a sponge and soaks up any excess grease.

  • This loaf pan allows you to lift the loaf from the pan easily and allow excess grease to drain out.

  • Meatloaf can take 15-20 minutes longer to cook through if you're baking at a higher altitude. To cut down on time, try my mini meatloaf recipe!

Nutrition

Calories: 445kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 31g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 13g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 117mg, Sodium: 628mg, Potassium: 446mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 566IU, Vitamin C: 13mg, Calcium: 164mg, Iron: 3mg

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186 comments on “Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf”

  1. Hi~ wanted to share that my hubby was the ‘go to’ for when I wanted to make meatloaf. We all considered his THE best but since I found the Crackle Barrel Meatloaf recipe, even he wants it rather than his! Don’t get me wrong, his is awesome but in a ‘different’ kind of way. At any rate, I see here that this recipe you post is pretty much the same as mine with just a couple differences, which I’d like to share just so we can compare. As we may already know, this recipe is everywhere on the net and each one says, ‘Copycat’ on it but they seem to vary a little here and there. I’m glad mines worked out but may try yours to see if there’s a taste or end product difference. The differences I have are the following:

    mine: 1-1/2 sleeves Ritz (haven’t measured by cup) yours: 1 cup
    mine: 3 eggs; yours 2

    That’s it! I also noticed that the ends of mine dry out and I’m wondering if that’s due to it not being ‘enclosed’ in a pan, rather than shaped into a loaf in the center of a 9×13? Might try the pan next time. I like the bread idea too!

  2. Excellent recipe. I just added a large bag of real bacon bits to make it perfect.

  3. Made exactly according to the recipe (I just halved it). My husband isn’t a meatloaf fan, but he liked this. Will make it again.

  4. Great recipe

  5. I’m going to make this and half the recipe do you know the cook time? 

    • Hi Maddy! 35 to 45 minutes per pound of meatloaf is a general rule to follow. I’d lean toward the 45 minute mark, and let it stand 15 prior to serving. Ensure it’s 160 degrees in the middle before you slice in if you can!

  6. excellent !! Best ever family said so !!

  7. I’ve made this at least 5 times over the last year and it’s really as close as you can get to the CB meatloaf. I follow the recipe to a T and it’s always come out perfect! We love it! 

  8. Do you cover it with foil when cooking it.

  9. I made this recipe tonight, I used ground turkey it was delicious!! Will definitely make again, I did follow instructions to a T except type and amount of meat I halved the recipe, but made full amount of topping!!

  10. What can i substitute if i don’t have brownsugar for the topping.

    • You can skip it altogether, or you can just use ketchup for the topping (I’ve heard that’s actually what Cracker Barrel does do), or you can top it with BBQ sauce 🙂

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