The Cozy Cook

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 55 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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169 comments on “Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf”

  1. Love it….have made this at least 3x do far…love the crackers used and the topping is great….it is a keeper for sure…thanks 

    • I’m so happy you’re enjoying this one Suzette!😃 I love the topping on this too! My husband used to hate meatloaf until he tried this one out. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  2. I’ve been comparing copy recipes of Cracker Barrel meatloaf. The original copy kat recipe calls for a can of diced tomatoes. I’m truly looking for a genuine Cracker Barrel meatloaf. Thoughts on diced tomatoes? 

    • Hey Natalie! I had a Cracker Barrel Employee comment on this recipe once and the only modification he mentioned was that the topping was made of ketchup only, (vs. a glaze made with multiple ingredients). I’ve never heard of them using tomatoes, I think it’s bell peppers and onions as far as veggies go. It might be hard for the meatloaf to hold up well with that addition but I haven’t tried it. I hope that helps! -Stephanie

  3. Thank you for this recipe. I plan to try it tomorrow. It looks delicious!

  4. This meat loaf is fantastic! Seriously, my husband gets so excited when I make it! Didn’t change a thing on the recipe and it comes out perfectly every time; thank you!

    • I’m so happy to hear this Barabra! My husband used to hate meatloaf until he tried this recipe. Now he asks for it all the time! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review!❤️

  5. I made this delicious recipe and it tastes just like Cracker Barrel. Love it.
    I used Stove Top cornbread stuffing mix in the amount you called for using the Ritz Crackers and did everything else the same. Just in case you do not have the Ritz in the house this an alternative.
    It was so moist and good.
    This is my new recipe to make meatloaf at my home.
    Thank you so much.

    • I’m so happy you liked this one Mary! This is the recipe that converted my husband into a meatloaf lover!❤️ Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

    • This is an amazing recipe we don’t use onions but it’s so delicious either way I love the topping! Thank you for sharing 

      • Hey Chelsey! I am so happy that you enjoy this recipe! I absolutely love this recipe as well, we make it often. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review, I really appreciate it! -Stephanie

  6. In S. America we have no yellow onions. So I modified the onions, and caramelized them, modified ketchup, added more egg and shredded carrots to hold it together. Thanks for the cracker count. I used about 45 instead. You see our beef is very low in fat. Stuff doesn’t stay formed very well.  It did take longer to cook. And midway I drained the extra fluids off. Cheese here is definitely not sharp or aged. In spite of these challenges it is so delicious. Fabulous. Served with homemade skins ON mashed potatoes and fresh string beans and julienne carrots. 

    • Hey Garnett! I am so happy that you were able to make this work based on what you had, thank you for sharing these modifications that you made! You can also use heavy cream instead of milk to try to make up for some of the lack of fat content in the meat! 🙂 I do that when I make turkey meatloaf. Thank you again for the review! -Stephanie

    • Stephanie suggested heavy cream. That’s a great idea for flavor texture and consistency. I’ll try that.
      To make the ketsup more flavorful I used tomato “salsa de tomate” added 2 generous tablespoons of white vinegar seasoned mustard like spicy poupon and a few drops of smoky flavor. I made double the quantity and cooked it for 5 minutes to thicken my mix to the right consistency. We have panela which is less refined than brown sugar or a light brown sugar that is low on taste. I used ground panela. In other words the recipe was a skeleton and I had to modify it like crazy. OMG delish! Served with skins on Mashers sand fresh vegetables. What a meal!  

      • 1 cup sugar +1 tablespoon molasses = light brown sugar
        I never purchase brown sugar because I just make it myself. Use more molasses for dark brown sugar.
        I use a fork and just blend it in.

  7. Thank you for this recipe!!  I love it!!

  8. This is by far the best meatloaf I’ve ever made! Will use this recipe from now on – thanks for sharing

    • I’m so happy to hear that, you’re very welcome! Everyone who I make this for agrees this is the best meatloaf. My husband never even liked meatloaf until this recipe!😋 Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  9. 2nd time making this recipe. i add bbq sauce and black olives. good recipe

    • I’m so happy you’re enjoying this meatloaf Christopher! Some bbq sauce and black olives sounds yummy!😋 Thanks so much for leaving a review!

  10. This looks like a great recipe.  Would it be ok to mix it together the night before and then bake it the next day? 

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