Turkey Meatloaf

Family-FriendlyComfort FoodGround TurkeyMeatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf! Make it with grated zucchini and carrot for moisture and an extra serving of veggies, then brush some sweet chili sauce on top for flavor. Freezes and reheats beautifully.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Ah, meatloaf…the classic American supper! Despite her desperate five o’clock scramble, my mom – an artist and mother of four — always managed to pull off a mean meatloaf.

I remember her frantically pulling apart a slice or two of bread to make crumbs, and then throwing them into a bowl with an egg, some ketchup, grated onion, and ground beef. And then there was the grated carrot, which qualified as a vegetable (along with the ketchup).

She shaped it into a mound, threw it in the pan, drizzled the top with more ketchup and tossed it into the oven. Phew! Let’s just say her motto was “I’d rather be painting.”

Turkey Meatloaf

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The Inspiration for This Turkey Meatloaf

On a recent rainy weeknight, my plan for grilling turkey burgers turned into a meatloaf meal with turkey instead of beef. I used my mother’s eyeball method, and tweaked her “recipe” by adding some sweet chili sauce and lemon. (We were low on ketchup that night.)

I liked the result, which I hereby share with you.

Meatloaf is one of the easiest meals to get on the table. Sometimes it’s good to change it up, though, so why not try it with ground turkey?

Turkey Meatloaf

The Best Ground Turkey for Meatloaf

Dark turkey meat has more flavor and a bit more fat that light meat, and I prefer it in this meatloaf if you can find it. It’s a little easier to find mixed dark and light meat or just light meat in most grocery stores, and they’re perfectly fine to use as well. Ground chicken would also work here.

Sneak Some Veggies into Your Meatloaf!

I swapped out my mother’s onions for some Thai sweet chili sauce, which gives the meatloaf some sweetness and spice. You could substitute ketchup for the chili sauce if that’s what you have in your fridge or if you have picky eaters to contend with.

I also added grated zucchini to sneak in another vegetable, plus it adds moisture so the loaf doesn’t become dry.

Bake this Meatloaf Free-Form

I usually bake this as a free-form, football-shaped loaf in a casserole dish, rather than in a loaf pan. This way you get more glaze over the top and the loaf also forms a nice crust. Don’t worry about the ends drying out — they won’t!

This said, if you would prefer to bake your meatloaf in a loaf pan, then this should work just fine. Cooking time will be roughly the same.

What to Serve with Turkey Meatloaf

Mashed potatoes are a classic side dish for meatloaf, of course. You could also bake some russet potatoes alongside the meatloaf in the oven.

Take a deep breath. Don’t be a 5 o’clock like my mom — just enjoy this tweaked version of her meatloaf. And also relish the real reason to make it: meatloaf sandwiches for lunch the next day!

Storing and Freezing Turkey Meatloaf

Meatloaf leftovers will keep for about 5 days in the fridge. Warm them gently in the microwave, or serve them cold in a meatloaf sandwich!

Like all meatloaf recipes, this one freezes well:

  • To freeze the unbaked meatloaf: Prepare the meatloaf mixture and either shape it freeform on a parchment covered baking sheet, or place in a parchment-lined loaf pan. For either, transfer to the freezer. Once solid, transfer from the baking sheet or loaf pan, wrap in plastic and foil, and freeze for up to three months.
  • To thaw and cook unbaked meatloaf: Thaw overnight in the fridge (place loaf-shaped meat loafs back in the loaf pan). Once thawed, bake following the recipe instructions, adding a few extra minutes to account for the chill from the fridge.
  • To freeze baked meatloaf: Cool completely, then wrap in plastic and foil. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Unwrap from the foil and plastic, transfer to a casserole dish or loaf pan, cover loosely with foil and bake until warmed through.
  • To freeze baked meatloaf slices: Cool completely, then slice the meatloaf. Lay the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then stack the slices with parchment between them, wrap in plastic and foil, and freeze for up to three months. Thaw individual slices overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave.

Love Meatloaf? Try These Other Recipes!

Updated January 28, 2020 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

Turkey Meatloaf Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ground chicken can be substituted for the ground turkey.

For a gluten-free option: Substitute gluten-free bread or gluten-free oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 2 slices sandwich bread (white or whole wheat)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 small zucchini (10 ounces), grated to make about 2 cups
  • 1 small carrot, coarsely grated to make about 3/4 cup
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion, optional
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce, divided (or substitute ketchup)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

Special equipment:

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Set a rack in the middle of the oven.

2 Make the breadcrumbs: Tear the bread into 2-inch pieces. Pulse in the food processor to make coarse breadcrumbs. (Or tear into small crumbs with your fingers.)

Tear the bread for Turkey Meatloaf into pieces and add to a food processor Pulse the bread for Turkey Meatloaf in a food processor

2 Make the meatloaf mixture. In a large bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, zucchini, carrot, parsley, lemon zest and juice, mustard, and 2 tablespoons of the chili sauce. Mix until fully blended.

Add the ground turkey. Mix well, using your hands. Try not to overwork the meat.

Ingredients for Turkey Meatloaf: sandwich bread, egg, salt and pepper, grated zucchini, grated carrot, grated onion, parsley, lemon zest and juice, mustard Turkey Meatloaf ingredients mixed together Turkey Meatloaf ingredients mixed together with turkey added Turkey Meatloaf mixture in a mixing bowl

3 Shape and glaze the meatloaf: Form the meatloaf mixture into a rough football shape and transfer to the baking dish. Pat smooth. (Alternatively, transfer to a loaf pan to bake.)

In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup and remaining 2 tablespoons chili sauce. With a spoon or brush, spread the chili sauce evenly on top.

Turkey Meatloaf shaped like a football and in a casserole dish Turkey Meatloaf covered with sweet chili sauce glaze and ready for the oven

4 Bake the meatloaf for 1 hour. The loaf should register 165F in the middle with an instant-read  thermometer when done; continue baking if needed. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days and can be eaten cold or gently reheated.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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12 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Ania

    Unfortunatelly I didn’t like the lemony taste of this meatloaf. It is just so different from the classic meatloaf flavor that one expects.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Karen

    Question… do you have to squeeze the moisture out of the grated zucchini?

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Kathy

    I use 4C gluten free bread crumbs and you would never know the difference. Though that won’t cut the carbs.

  4. Mary Hershey

    My spouse & I are not spicy folks. If we would rather pass on the chili sauce, what’s a workaround?

    Show Replies (2)
  5. Jen

    Hey there
    Looks delicious!!
    Just wanted to see if anyone has a recommendation for replacing the bread for a gluten free, lower carb option?

    Show Replies (1)
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