Level Up Your Comfort Food Game with This Balsamic Turkey Meatloaf

Did you grow up eating meatloaf as a kid?

Vertical image of a whole meatloaf topped with ketchup and herbs on a wooden cutting board, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

I sure did. It was that easy recipe that my mom would pull out just about every week because it was easy to make, and the leftovers would last us a couple of days.

When you’re a single mom trying to make ends meet, you have to find a way to make dinners go the extra mile, so to speak.

I used to think that meatloaf could only be made one way, with one type of protein. Well, let me tell you that there are so many new ways to reinvent the classic recipe.

Recently, my mind has been blown away by a gluten-free version and a portion-controlled muffin recipe.

But when I say “forget everything you think you know about meatloaf,” I seriously mean it when it comes to this new recipe.

First of all, if you’ve ever made one with ground turkey, you know that there is one major challenge to overcome:


Vertical topdown image of a whole meatloaf with a ketchup glaze and herby garnish on a cutting board, next to colorful plates, a pile of forks, and glasses of wine.

Turkey is a very low-fat protein that I love using as an alternative in recipes like meatballs, chili, and more. But there is always a risk of whatever you make being dry when you use it as the main ingredient.

This loaf is particularly genius because there is plenty of moisture in there to keep the meat moist. There’s balsamic vinegar, milk, and egg, so the meat stays nice and juicy.

Of course, this means you then run the risk of watching all that liquid seep out when you bake it in the oven…

Vertical image of meatloaf partially sliced and topped with a ketchup glaze on a wooden board in front of glasses of wine.

That’s where the second genius part of this recipe comes in. Instead of being formed and baked on a sheet pan as many meatloaf recipes are, this one is baked in a loaf pan.

By keeping it contained in a loaf shape, you are helping the meat to retain all that moisture, so you get a nice and tender entree as a result.

The key to this is making sure that you let the it rest after baking. Like when you cook a cut of beef, if you slice it too soon, all the juices seep out.

This is very similar to what can happen with this recipe if you don’t leave it in the pan to rest after removing it from the oven.

Vertical image of a slice of meatloaf on a blue plate in front of a glaze of wine and the rest of the meal on a cutting board.

By letting it rest, you give the turkey the opportunity to lock all those juices in so when you remove it and slice into it, you don’t have to worry about it oozing the moisture right out.

Now let’s talk about flavor, because this meatloaf brings a whole new level of flavor to the party. That’s thanks to the balsamic vinegar that infuses it with a tangy flavor that seriously impressed me.

Sorry, Grandma. After you try this, you just won’t look at that plain old recipe that she used to bust out the same way anymore.

Vertical image of one slice of meatloaf on a blue plate with a metal fork.

I’m not aiming to ruin any childhood memories here, but sometimes those old dishes are due for a killer upgrade. That’s where recipes like our gluten-free meatloaf, or this turkey version, become go-to recipes for an alternative lifestyle.

Serving this to your family is going to be an absolute joy because they will eat it up like machines whose only job is shoveling it into their mouths.

It’s one of those comfort meals that you simply can’t deny the pleasure of enjoying – not to mention, it’s easy to make, inexpensive, and it will fill up the whole family with an extra bang of tasty flavor.

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Horizontal image of meatloaf with ketchup glaze on a wooden cutting board, surrounded by colorful plates, a metal fork, a knife, and two glasses of wine.

Balsamic Turkey Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Forget everything you thought you knew about the classic meaty comfort food, because this balsamic turkey meatloaf recipe will blow you away.



For the Meatloaf:

  • Cooking oil spray
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 cups dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

For the Glaze:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, and milk until combined. Stir in balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  3. Press into the prepared pan. Stir together the ketchup and brown sugar until combined; pour evenly over the top of the loaf.
  4. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the inner temperature reaches 170˚F and juices run clear when pricked with a knife.
  5. Let rest for 15 minutes in the pan before removing to slice and serve.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Meatloaf
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Comfort Food

Keywords: meatloaf, ground turkey, balsamic, comfort food

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep Produce, Beat Egg, And Measure Remaining Ingredients

Peel and chop one medium onion. Tired of those tears? We’ve got some tips for you to try.

Remove the rosemary stems and chop the leaves until you have 1 1/2 teaspoons total.

In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork or a small whisk.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients. You can use pre-made breadcrumbs, but I added three pieces of bread to a food processor, and pulsed until crumbs formed.

Horizontal image of ground turkey, breadcrumbs, vinegar, and other ingredients in various bowls on a wooden surface.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper to form a sling, with paper hanging over the sides. This makes for easy removal. Lightly grease with cooking spray.

Is this your first time baking meatloaf in a loaf pan? You’ll love it because it retains all the moisture from the egg and other liquids. Since turkey has a low fat content, you can avoid potential dryness by baking it in the pan.

Step 2 – Make Meat Mixture

Add the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, onion, beaten egg, and milk to a large bowl. Stir to combine. Sometimes this is easier to do with your hands, even though it’s messy.

Horizontal image of a raw ground turkey mixture with vegetables in a metal bowl stirred by a red spoon.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary until combined.

Step 3 – Make Sauce

Horizontal image of a metal bowl with a ketchup mixture.

In a small bowl, stir together the ketchup and brown sugar until combined. If you’re feeling ambitious and want to make this meal truly from scratch, try our recipe for homemade ketchup!

Step 4 – Bake

Horizontal image of a metal loaf pan with a food item topped with a ketchup glaze.

Press the turkey mixture into the prepared pan. Pour the sauce over the top.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. The inner temperature should reach 170˚F when done, as indicated by an instant read thermometer, and the juices will run clear when pricked with a knife.

Horizontal image of meatloaf with ketchup glaze on a wooden cutting board, surrounded by colorful plates, a metal fork, a knife, and two glasses of wine.

Maintaining Moisture and the Art of the Parchment Sling

One of the best tips I can give you for this recipe beyond trying out my loaf pan technique and ditching the baking sheet is to make a parchment sling to line the pan. It really does make removal ever-so-easy.

Horizontal image of a partially sliced ketchup-topped meatloaf on a cutting board.

Yes, it might feel like an extra step, and who has time for that? But getting a meatloaf out of a loaf pan intact isn’t always the easiest when you don’t have the added assistance of the parchment paper.

Trust me when I say, you won’t want to skip this step.

Looking for even more inspiration for baked dinners that are oh-so-simple? Here are some of our favorites:

The only question is, what will you serve alongside this meatloaf? Are you a mashed potato lover, or are you all about the green veggies? Why not have ’em both with this kale mashed potato recipe?

Tell us in the comments below and once you try the dish, be sure to come back to rate it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on February 22, 2010. Last updated: October 6, 2021 at 11:10 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

25 thoughts on “Level Up Your Comfort Food Game with This Balsamic Turkey Meatloaf”

  1. I had only had meatloaf as a kid made by my grandma until last year when I thought I’d try to make it myself. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the dish until I surprised myself with an awesome result! Although my grandma was a great cook with most things, the meatloaf had very little flavor (and frozen veggies tucked in the middle!) To my surprise, my version had tons of flavor.

    Excited about the rediscovery of the forgotten dish, I even made mini ones. They looked more like meatballs but tasted like meatloaf. I used turkey as well – I really prefer its taste to ground beef. And you just gotta love the caramelized tomato glaze. I totally see why it would also make a great sandwich!

  2. MMMmmm. I’ve been sick and meatloaf is such a comfort food. As soon as I’m well enough to rustle around in the kitchen again, I’m making this!!

  3. I did love meatloaf as a kid, and that is one childhood food love that has carried through to adulthood, albeit with upgraded tastes. I always use turkey, but love a bit of ground pork in the mix for flavor. Regardless of what goes into the meat, the top must be slathered with some kind of good sauce and liberally covered with sliced onions that bake and caramelize in the oven. I must. must. make two because the sandwiches, with the chilled slivers, are often better than the warm ones the night before.

    Oh dear…..good thing I’ve got ground turkey on hand. There must be a meatloaf in my future.

  4. I’m always loved my mom’s meatloaf. Especially with mashed potatoes to mix it all up together (kinda gross looking, but delicious). She would make a big batch and freeze up mini-loafs. I’m going to have to get her recipe.

  5. This looks delicious. I’ve actually been craving a good meatloaf recipe recently. Can’t wait to try this one. Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

  6. I haven’t had meatloaf in ages. I am SO making this tonight. Of course minus the toast and with gf bread crumbs, but still looking forward to it. 🙂

  7. You know… i’ve never eaten meatloaf before. never thought i would either. until now! you’ve provided a pretty convincing case to give it a whirl.

  8. damn! i need to try this recipe soon. i love meatloaf but never to the point i’d “write home about it.” thanks for sharing. i like allrecipes.com website too!

  9. not gonna lie, your tweet about meatloaf the other day was one of the reasons i made meatballs yesterday. i love how something as simple as ground meat can become such delicious comfort.

  10. tiina, ooh, little mini loafs sound fantastic! i have to say too, sandwiches are kind of the best way to eat meatloaf EVER. I may never go back to slices on a plate.

    Kim, Sorry you’ve been sick, but hope this meatloaf brings comfort. Get some rest!

    Kate, I like the way you said upgraded tastes. Yes! That is this meatloaf to a T.

    Whitney, You are one of those few people who had a good version growing up, bless you. You should thank your mom!

    dawn, right? mmmm.

    Sasa, Ha! OK, sounds good to me!

    Strawberry Cake, We got a big snowfall last night, too, and hearty comfort foods are so in order. Stay warm up there!

    Carrie, Oh, good! I love when that happens! Hope you enjoy this one!

    Joanna, I hope you like it! And brilliant to use gf bread crumbs. Can you have gf toast too? I’m telling you… the sandwich is soooo good. It’s the balsamic that makes it.

    My Spatula, NEVER!? Get out! Giao, you must do something about this. And I hope this version is just the ticket!

    Allison, Ha! I know, I know. This was the first meatloaf love EVER for me. (and my brother gets so many good picks from that site!)

    Jacqui, Aw, yay! And your meatballs looked seriously fantastic.

  11. okay, let’s make a deal. i’ll swap you a mini herb greenhouse for a big bite of your meatloaf sandwich! whaddayasay?!? 🙂

  12. giao, haha, it’s a deal!

    Jessica, I know! It’s like squattier because of the shape of the loaf pan I guess, but it worked! And thanks!

  13. I’ve never been a meatloaf fan. That and and my mother’s pork. Both have always been dry. My mother likes medium rare beef, but ground beef and pork were always as well done as can be… Being that I still unfortunately live at home, if I were to make either my way, I know my mother would be sooo insulted, so I have to wait until I move out… In the meantime, I can just come over your place and eat yours… 🙂

  14. love meatloaf, KNOW i’ll love this. and the sandwich thing? yep – meatloaf sandwiches are too good for words. can’t wait to try this recipe! thank you. 🙂 my stomach thanks you, too…

  15. I seriously LOVE meatloaf and I never understand when people say they don’t. Maybe it’s the notion of it being a loaf? And it’s crazy to stumble across this because I was just chatting with someone and telling them how badly I wanted and needed to make meatloaf. Can’t wait.

  16. Thank you for yet another delicious-looking recipe. Do you like it cold as well as hot from the oven? I’m thinking meatloaf and potatoes, with leftovers on cold sammies the next day?

  17. Niki, Ha! That made me laugh – I definitely understand about not wanting to offend your mom. I could tell you stories from my family, believe me.

    JessieV, Yay! Hope you enjoy this one!

    C, Yes. Yes. I honestly think it’s the whole loaf concept – it becomes this weird, ambiguous substance that doesn’t exactly look like meat anymore but then it kind of does, too. Thank goodness the taste makes up for it, well, at least in this case!

    Kim, Honestly? I like it cold on sandwiches best, maybe only. I should have said that, so thanks for asking! Nothing like cold meatloaf on toast. Mmmm

  18. I am a serious meatloaf cook–easy to make, inexpensive, very much appreciated by everyone and so flexible. The extras are in demand for sandwiches.
    I like your idea of using a parchment (foil works just as well) that I line the entire pan with–easy to take from the pan and no cleanup work.
    I also make them freeform. Place the meatloaf in a pan then tip it over an oiled baking sheet. That you can also surround with partially cooked potatoes and vegetables that roast with the loaf.

  19. George, Good to know about the foil and interesting about making your loafs freeform—have you done that with turkey? I only wonder because the meat is sooo soft? Thanks for the comment!

  20. No, I haven’t tried meatloaf with turkey–if the meatloaf mix is too soft, add more breadcrumbs or reduce liquid.
    The best meatloaf undoubtedly is the old-fashioned, traditional mixture of pork, beef and veal. I am buying meat from a small local butcher and he has 1-lb frozen packages of this mix. Other butchers may also have it or you can grind your own in the food processor.


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