One rule that is undoubtedly true when it comes to feeding children is that size matters. Put a big old hunk of meat on a four-year-old’s plate and you might as well just move it directly to a storage container because it will not be touched.
But if you take the exact same mixture and make it into something bite-sized, it’s instantly more accessible for a kiddo. Like these BBQ Meatloaf Bites, for example!
These small meatloaf bites also have the added benefit of being easy to freeze and reheat. And they are the perfect size for a meatball sub.
Classic Meatloaf, But Bite-Sized!
The base of this recipe is a very standard meatloaf and one that I make often. This version has delicious, tried-and-true add-ins, like celery and carrots, with a BBQ glaze.
You could in fact bake this as an actual meatloaf in a loaf tin and glaze it with the BBQ glaze and be in really good shape!
How to Make These Meatloaf Bites
The method for making these bites, though, is important.
First, use a muffin tin to bake them. This recipe makes 18 bites, so you'll need two standard 12-cup muffin tins for this.
I recommend lining your muffin tins with foil before stuffing them and baking the meatloaf bites. This will prevent you from cursing my name as you scrub meatloaf bits out of the corners of your muffin tins. Foil equals easy cleanup!
Also, because these are smaller, they cook much faster than a larger loaf. If you made the mixture a day in advance and stick it in the fridge, which you definitely can, these just need about a half hour in the oven instead of the 60 to 75 minutes that a full meatloaf would require.
How to Serve the Meatloaf Bites
I serve 3 to 4 of these meatloaf bites for adults and older kids. Children can try one chopped up a bit.
How to Freeze Leftover Meatloaf Bites
These meatloaf bites freeze well. Bake them as directed and allow them to cool completely. Then place them on a baking sheet and freeze until frozen solid. Wrap each bite tightly in foil and store in a freezer safe bag for up to three months.
Reheat frozen bites either in a muffin tin in the oven for 15 minutes at 350°F or until warmed through or in the microwave for about 2 minutes on high (not in a muffin tin).
The Dad Add: "Meatball" Sub
This dinner is pretty great as-is, so instead of dreaming up something else to add to it, I went the leftovers route for the Dad Add this week.
Eating the leftovers in a sub sandwich is awesome. Layer some marinara, provolone, a few meatloaf bites, and some banana peppers in a soft sub roll and bake it! YUM.
The Kid Report Card
I need to explain some things about this photo. First, my kids eat with chopsticks occasionally. This was not my idea and while they are getting better at using them, it takes them forever to eat with them. But, they do seem to eat more when they use them because it’s a game, so I’m fine with it.
Also, you might have noticed that my two-year old is wearing a bike helmet. That’s because she refuses to take it off after we ride home from school. It’s not a fight I’m willing to have.
As far as how the actual meal went, this was a good one for my family. I chopped up the bites a bit for my two-year old but BOTH kids ate it, which is actually unheard of at my house.
Total win. High fives all around.
More Best Meatloaf Recipes!
BBQ Meatloaf Bites
These meatloaf bites freeze well. Bake them as directed and allow them to cool completely. Then place them on a baking sheet and freeze until frozen solid. Wrap each bite tightly in foil and store in a freezer safe bag for up to three months. Reheat frozen bites either in a muffin tin in the oven for 15 minutes at 350°F. or until warmed through or in the microwave for about 2 minutes on high (not in a muffin tin).
If you want to make mini meatloaf bites, divide the mixture into mini muffin tins. You will get about double the amount (my kids liked the smaller ones). It’s pretty impossible to line a mini muffin tin with foil, though, so cleanup will be more intense unless you're using nonstick muffin tins. Also, total baking time will be shorter, about 20 minutes.
- For the meatloaf bites:
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (no more than 10% fat)
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 small white onion, 1/2 cup diced
- 1 stalk celery, 1/3 cup diced
- 1 medium carrot, 1/3 cup diced
- 1/2 green pepper, 1/3 cup diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- For the BBQ Glaze:
- 1 cup barbecue sauce (I like Stubbs)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
- DAD ADD: "Meatball" Sub (makes 1 sub)
- 1 soft French roll
- 2 to 3 cooked meatloaf bites
- 2 tablespoons marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade
- 2 ounces provolone cheese
- Banana peppers
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Make the meatloaf mixture:
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, carrot, celery, green pepper, garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well—I think using your hands works best.
Fill the muffin tin with meatloaf:
Line a muffin tin with foil for easier cleanup, and then divide the meatloaf mixture between the muffin tins. I like to use about 1/4 cup of meatloaf mixture for each muffin tin, which ends up being about 3/4 full on each muffin tin. You should get about 18 meatloaf bites out of the recipe.
Bake the bites:
Place the meatloaf-packed muffin tins in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
Make the glaze:
Stir together the barbecue sauce, brown sugar and, if using, hot sauce in a small bowl. After the bites have baked for 20 minutes, remove and brush the glaze right on the meatloaf tops.
Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until meatloaf bites are cooked through. If you have a meat thermometer handy, the meatloaf bites should reach an internal temperature of 160°F.
Remove meatloaf bites once they have cooled slightly and serve with steamed veggies and potatoes. The meatloaf bites should hold together easily and not crumble.
Make the Dad Add Sub with the leftovers:
Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut open a soft French sub roll and slather on a few tablespoons of marinara sauce. Top with provolone cheese, a few meatloaf bites cut in half, and a few banana peppers.
Bake the sub for 6 to 7 minutes until it’s the edges are crispy and the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve while warm.