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Southern Meatloaf Recipe (Cracker Barrel Style)

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Air fryer or oven-made, this southern style meatloaf tastes just like Cracker Barrel’s. This delicious meatloaf is made with green peppers, Ritz Crackers, onion powder, eggs, mustard, and more for a sweet, tangy flavor.

meatloaf with tomatoes and peppers inside, topped with a thick red shiny glaze
big, bold, southern meatloaf

country style meatloaf is the best

I make this southern-inspired meatloaf recipe at least once a month in our household. We love it because

  • it’s an old-fashioned style meatloaf, but full of sweet and tangy flavors
  • the thick glaze is savory and hearty
  • a copycat recipe of Cracker Barrel’s meatloaf
ingredients for southern style meatloaf including ketchup, ritz crackers, brown sugar, mustard, worcestershire sauce, eggs, onion powder and ground beef
simple ingredients combine for a delicious dinner

ingredients

You’ll always find a super thick glaze, bell peppers and heavy breading/crackers in my grandma’s meatloaf. It’s the best.

This simple meatloaf recipe is full of traditional meatloaf flavors brought out by the buttery Ritz Crackers, tangy sauce ingredients and sweetness of the brown sugar and ketchup.

Most of these ingredients are likely already in your pantry! Make this meatloaf in the air fryer or oven, no need to choose with two recipes in one!

oven instructions

Follow these simple steps for the best southern-style oven baked meatloaf. A loaf pan is strongly recommended for this recipe!

air fryer instructions

Follow these simple steps for the best southern-style air fryer meatloaf. Two mini loaf pans are recommended.

expert tips

  • If cooking in the air fryer, allow a few minutes to pre-heat.
  • The meat should not be overworked. This might cause the meat to lose its tenderness and become tough.
  • Use a thermometer to check the meatloaf. The center should read 155 degrees F.
  • Veggies may be sautéd for a few minutes before adding to the meatloaf if you prefer a softer texture.
  • Pieces of fresh bread or crackers function as a sponge and absorb the excess grease
  • Before slicing, make sure the meat is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit
overhead view of two meatloaves with fresh parsley as a garnish
meatloaf is even better the next day

faq

how to easily remove meatloaf from pan

To easily remove the meatloaf from the pan, cut a piece of parchment paper and place in the pan prior to adding the meatloaf mixture.

This not only prevents sticking, but also makes it easier to get the meatloaf out.

spatula holding up a slice of meatloaf

why did my meatloaf break apart?

No matter how hard you try, it will never break apart if you use a good binder for meatloaf.

Without a binder to hold the loaf together, the meat will likely not hold its form and wind up as a huge mess. Bread, crackers, and breadcrumbs make the best binders.

why is my meatloaf dry?

Tender results can be achieved by baking at 325-350°F. Anything higher may result in a dry meatloaf.

substitutions

  • use diced bread, breadcrumbs or saltines instead of Ritz crackers
  • ground turkey or chicken may be used instead of ground beef
  • use other veggies, such as onions and mushrooms
  • lean ground beef is not recommended; the fat in the meat helps hold the meatloaf together
  • instead of tomatoes and chiles, use diced Italian tomatoes
two plates with meatloaf, veggies, carrots, mashed potatoes
meatloaf is perfect with any veggie side

leftovers

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 months.

how to freeze meatloaf

Meatloaf can be frozen both after it’s been baked and cooled, and while it’s still in the loaf pan. Freeze it for up to three months by carefully wrapping it in aluminum foil.

thick, juicy meatloaf on a platter with parsley and veggies
an easy make-ahead dinner

thawing and reheating meatloaf

Unbaked: place it in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. After that, bake it as if you’d just made it, following the recipe’s directions exactly. Then bake for a further 30-40 minutes at 350°F, brushing the top with topping each time.

Baked, frozen: Defrost for 24 hours in fridge. Wrap it in new aluminum foil and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 30 minutes, until it’s heated through. Add a little additional sauce if you’d like to jazz it up.

You may also cut it into separate pieces and freeze/ microwave them individually.

plate with a slice of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and veggies
veggies and potatoes are the perfect sides for meatloaf

what to serve with meatloaf

Meatloaf goes great with a variety of side dishes, including:

thick glazed meatloaf sliced open revealing green peppers inside

Cracker Barrel Meatloaf

This Southern Style Meatloaf recipe is inspired by Cracker Barrel's recipe with Ritz crackers and a thick, savory glaze everyone will love.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8
Calories: 381kcal
Author: Amber

Equipment

  • air fryer or oven

Ingredients

meatloaf

  • 2 lb ground beef 80/20
  • 14.5 oz diced tomatoes Italian or with green chiles
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup ritz crackers

glaze

Instructions

oven instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350° and spray a bread pan with cooking spray.  Cut a small piece of parchment paper and place in the bottom of the pan.  Spray with cooking spray. Drain canned tomatoes and set aside.
  • Combine the meat, canned tomatoes, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, milk and pepper together in the bowl.  Stir in the crackers.
  • Evenly press the meatloaf into the pan.  Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Combine the glaze ingredients together in a bowl.  Spread over meatloaf and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  • Remove and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

air fryer instructions

  • Preheat the air fryer to 350°.  Spray 2 mini loaf pans with cooking spray and line with a small piece of parchment paper. Drain canned tomatoes and set aside.
  • Combine the meat, canned tomatoes, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, milk and pepper together in the bowl.  Stir in the crackers.
  • Evenly press the meatloaf into the mini loaf pans and place in the air fryer basket.  Air fry for 30 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  • Combine the glaze ingredients together in a bowl.  Spread over the meatloaves and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Remove and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness.  Thermometer should read 155, then remove and let rest and temperature will rise about 5 degrees.
  • You can use ½ beef and ½ pork if you want.  This can make an extra moist meatloaf.
  • Don’t use lean ground beef.  The fat in the meat helps it hold together. 
Storage:
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 381kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 123mg | Sodium: 322mg | Potassium: 504mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 223IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 3mg

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