Balsamic Turkey Meatloaf: A Quick and Easy Weeknight Meal

Meatloaf is one of those things it’s not hard to do badly, and we’ve all had the brown mush that proves it, the kind that blends enough vague ingredients to create an end product bearing no resemblance to real food. Try one bad enough, and you’ll never want to eat it again, I know.

An image of a delicious meatloaf still in a baking pan.

That’s probably why, until last weekend, I’d have been completely happy to live the rest of my life without it. I’d stick to things I could recognize, thank you very much.

But that has all changed. Hear me out: now that I’ve tasted how good a meatloaf can be — how crazy, crazy good it can be — I know I would have been severely missing out.

A piece of meatloaf on a wooden board.

I was wrong. I was blind. And before you make a similar mistake, try this turkey loaf, which uses ground turkey rather than ground beef to make a flavorful, moist, glazed kind of meatloaf unlike any I’ve had before.

Seriously? It’s enough to redeem the food forever, for all mankind.

A close up view of a tasty looking meatloaf on a wooden board.

It all started last weekend when I visited my brother and he pulled this dark, glazed version out of his fridge, slicing a thin piece to place on toast and top by spring mix and garlic balsamic dressing. The moment I bit in, tasting hints of rosemary and garlic and onion, the softness of the loaf complemented by the crispness of the greens, the sweetness of the dressing and the crunch of the toasted bread, I was sold.

A meatloaf-free world? Not for me, no sir.

A piece of meatloaf sandwich on a white plate with a glass of water in the front.

I loved it so much, in fact, that I not only ate the same sandwich the next day for lunch, raving about it to anyone who would listen as I closed my eyes and slapped my work desk and sighed, but I also asked Adam for the recipe so I could, less than a week later, make it again for myself.

This time, I forgot to add the balsamic to the turkey loaf, and it was still good. People. I think that’s what they call meant to be.

A turkey meatloaf sandwich on a white plate held by a hand.

I’ve been wrong before about things like these; I’ll be wrong again. But let my lesson be your own and make this. It changes everything.

Turkey Loaf (Sandwiches)
Adapted from
Here is the basic recipe for the turkey loaf, which is really best on toast, topped by spring mix and garlic balsamic. Try it.

I’m telling you: best meal I’ve had in a long time.

1 pound ground turkey
2 cups dry bread crumbs (I threw three pieces of bread in the food processor)
1 onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup garlic balsamic vinegar (I prefer an organic store-brand dressing from Jewel)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary

for the glaze:
1 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan (I also like to line it with parchment paper that overhangs on the sides, which makes for super-easy removal).

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground turkey, bread crumbs, onion, egg and milk. Season with balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary.

Press into the prepared pan. Blend together the tomato sauce and brown sugar; pour evenly over the top of the loaf.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, until the inner temperature reaches 170 degrees and/or juices run clear when pricked with a knife.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home,, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

25 thoughts on “Balsamic Turkey Meatloaf: A Quick and Easy Weeknight Meal”

  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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Shannalee, 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!

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. you know, shanna…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.

  7. 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 website too!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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!

  12. 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… 🙂

  13. 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…

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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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