Mini Meat Loaves

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I’ll spare you my standard speech about miniature food. Suffice it to say: If it’s small, I’m all over it. These mini meat loaves are no exception.

Based on Ina Garten’s fabulous recipe, these meat loaves pack huge comfort-food goodness in a small package. They’re a great thing to serve at a dinner party. I mean, come on: Who wouldn’t love a little meatloaf, made just for them?

Ina’s original recipe calls for all chuck (which is cheap and delicious).

I used a more traditional meatloaf mix of beef, pork, and veal. Use any mix of meat you like. Just be sure you wind up with 2 1/2 lbs. For the beef, definitely get ground chuck if you can. It has tons of flavor.

ground pork ground beef ground veal


I also swapped in panko bread crumbs for regular, which provide a nice texture.

Panko are Japanese bread crumbs (made from crustless white bread). Most major grocery stores carry panko these days. If you can’t find them in your area, hit up an Asian market or order some online.

panko breadcrumbs

Panko bread crumbs

These little loaves are moist and meaty and all-together nap inducing, like all good comfort food. They have a subtle sweetness from a few cups of caramelized sweet onions, and mellow, earthy notes from mushroom soy sauce and a generous amount of fresh thyme.

fresh thyme

The top gets covered in regular old ketchup. I like Heinz, but by all means, use your favorite.

heinz-ketchup

Barbecue sauce would work, too, though the flavor could be overpowering depending on what kind you use.

Command your own little meatloaf army

Even if it’s just for a little while. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Seriously, though, they’re kind of fun to make. Tell me I’m wrong. (Smoosh, form, paint with ketchup…)

unbaked mini-meat-loaves

Alrighty. To the kitchen!

Mini Meat Loaves

Based on Ina Garten’s recipe

1 Tbls. olive oil
3 cups sweet onions, chopped (from 2-3 large onions)
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
3 Tbls. mushroom soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 Tbls. tomato paste
1 lb. ground chuck (81% lean)
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup
fresh parsley, minced, for garnish

Yields about 6 mini meat loaves

Preheat your oven to 350.

Caramelize the onions

Grab your onions.

sweet-onions

Remove the peels and chop them up.

chopped sweet onions

Put the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium heat. Measure out 3 cups of onions. Toss them in the pan.

Add the thyme, black pepper, and a little kosher salt. (Go easy on the salt because you’re going to add mushroom soy, which is plenty salty, later on.) Stir to combine.

saute the onions with thyme, salt, and black pepper

Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent and brown. (Keep an eye on your heat and turn it down if need be. You want them to brown, but not stick to the pan and burn.)

caramelized onions

When they look about like this, yank the pan off the heat.

caramelized onions

Add the mushroom soy sauce, tomato paste, and chicken stock to the pan with the onions.

caramelized onions, chicken stock, soy sauce

Stir to combine. Set the pan aside for a minute or two while you deal with the meat.

stir the caramelized onion mixture

Make the meat mixture

Grab your meat. Toss it all in a large bowl.

ground meat

Add the panko bread crumbs.

add the panko to the ground meat

Quickly beat the eggs.

beat the eggs

beaten egg

Pour the beaten eggs into the bowl.

add the egg to the meat

And add the onion mixture.

add the onion mixture to the meat

Now, here’s the trick to making meatloaf that’s light and fluffy (i.e. not dense, thick, and heavy). Are you ready?

*dramatic music*

Don’t overmix it.

In fact, handle the mixture as little as possible—only enough to combine the ingredients together. Kind of the same way you make biscuits. That’s what you want to do here.

meatloaf mixture

So, with your hands (or a fork, if you’d rather not get your paws all gooey), gently mix the ingredients together until just combined.

gently mix the meatloaf mixture

Like this:

meatloaf mixture

Line a baking sheet with foil, then set a piece of parchment paper on top (if they stick, they’ll be much easier to get off the paper than the foil).

Form the loaves

Measure out 1 1/4 cups of meatloaf mixture. Plop it on your pan.

Shape the mixture gently, so that it resembles half a football. Again, you want to go easy here. Don’t mash the mixture together, which can make it tough and dense.

form the mini meat loaves

Repeat with the rest of your mixture, until you have 6 mini loaves.

six mini meat loaves

I made mine a little smaller, so I could have enough to experiment with baking them in ramekins.

meat loaves in ramekins

Grab your ketchup. Plunk a generous tablespoon on top of each loaf.

spoonful of ketchup

top the meatloaf with ketchup

With your finger (or the back of a spoon), spread the ketchup around so that it covers the top.

spread the ketchup on the meatloaf

Repeat with all your loaves.

top each meatloaf with ketchup

ready to bake meatloaf

individual meatloaf

Bake the meat loaves

Pop them into your preheated 350-degree oven. If you’re baking them in ramekins, set the dishes on a pan to catch any drips (mine bubbled over a little).

bake the meat loaves

Bake 40-45 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 155-160 degrees. Start checking them after about 30 minutes, as your final cooking time will depend on how thick your particular loaves are. When they’re done, yank them out of the oven.

160 degrees on an instant read thermometer

Now, depending on how fatty your meat is, your meat loaves are going to let out a little—or a lot—of juice. Don’t be alarmed if yours look like this. It’s kind of gross, I know. But it’s just fine.

meatloaf hot out of the oven

Just scoop them off the pan with 2 spatulas.

remove the meatloaf from the pan

Transfer them to a serving platter, and…presto! Little, picture-perfect rustic meat loaves. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

Oh, the meat loaves in the ramekins. They were good, but a wee bit on the greasy side. I’m not sure I’d do it again.

meatloaf ready to serve

Let me tell ya: These are fabulous straight out of the oven. I swear, though, they’re even better the next day, reheated with cheese on a toasted bulkie roll.

Enjoy!

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

37 COMMENTS

  1. I’m thinking individual ramekins of your Ultimate Mac N’ Cheese to go along with these. Maybe broiled cherry tomatoes with parmesan and Panko. Oh, and your Chocolate Caramel Tartlettes for dessert. Like you, I love mini anything. I grew up with meatloaf smothered in ketchup mixed with a small amount of brown sugar. Cold meatloaf sandwiches the next day. Yum! I bet my grandkids will love these, too. Thanks, Jessie. Another scrumptious recipe and fabulous photos.

  2. The last time I made meatloaf, I followed the Pioneer Woman’s advice and made them on a broiling pan. All the fatty juice leaked out, but it was still moist. I like how you do it, too- meatloaf should not be baked in a loaf pan, no matter how hard my dad tells me to think of the juice it’s floating in as “gravy”.

    • Oh, a broiling pan! That’s brilliant!

      Ya know, I *almost* put them on a rack, but didn’t because Ina didn’t recommend it in the original recipe. These were fine scooped off the way I did it, but I’ll definitely try the broiling pan next time. Thanks for the tip!

      +Jessie

    • Thanks, Katie!

      Ya know, I went back this morning and added a few notes about the ramekins. I loved the idea, too, but unfortunately they turned out a wee bit on the greasy side. I’ll have to look around. Someone must make special mini meatloaf pans with a grate in the bottom to catch the grease….Will let you know.

      Cheers!
      +Jessie

  3. I love making mini meatloaves and do so at least once a week .. my Dutch husband simply loves them! I’m going to try caramelizing my onions next time though .. they looked tasty!!!!

  4. Hey Jessie! I’ve always used the Ann Lander’s recipe..it’s the same one my mom used. Or sub out the ketchup with Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. I bought a great meatloaf pan at Walmart..it’s got holes in the bottom that drips into a larger meatloaf pan. It comes out nice and moist without the grease. I got a terrible mini meatloaf recipe off of allrecipes awhile back and haven’t made them since. I like the ingredients in this one. I’ll give it a try this week and let you know how it goes!

    • OH, your meatloaf pan sounds fabulous! Yeah, the ones in the ramekins came out on the greasy side. I wouldn’t do it again unless I had one of your special pans.

      For what it’s worth, I was thinking of adding in some sauteed mushrooms, too. Might try that next time.

      Let me know!
      +Jessie

  5. I love this recipe! I’ve made the turkey meatloaf version of it and it’s the best turkey meatloaf I’ve ever had. I will definitely be trying this…and I love that they are mini!

    • Thanks, Aggie, honey! Ya know, I don’t think I’ve ever made turkey meatloaf! Have you posted the recipe? I’d love to start with a good one 😀

      +Jessie

  6. What IS it about meatloaf ? First the word…and as I read your headline and say ” Oh goodie, Jessie is makin’ meatloaf”…..but the amazing photos…..girl, you have that skill down to a science!! And the clear, feel- like- one- is- standing -beside- you instructions have my TOTAL attention….

    So once again, I am hooked on your stuff!! Thank you.

    Hugs
    SAUCY

  7. Well Jessie, you have certainly won me over with this tempting recipe. I love caramalized onions and use them whenever I can. You photos are great, I just love how much detail you have gone into and having so many photos makes it easy for a novice cook to see the result they shoud have every step of the way.
    Great recipe – tasty & tempting.

  8. oh man. j loves meatloaf, and the first recipe i tried (and still use, a combo of a gramma recipe and a cooks illustrated/america’s test kitchen one) said to make it on a cookie sheet/broiling pan. i was all ‘BUT HOW CAN IT BE A LOAF?!’

    when i saw all that grease i was
    a.) so glad it wasn’t in a loaf pan
    b.) worried i did something wrong

    turns out that’s just what happens but i’m glad to know i’m not alone!

    ps, surprised there’s no garlic in here! ;p

  9. I made mini loaves with carmelized onions and peppers, added lentils, sauteed mushrooms.. to rund turkey breast.. NO FAT!. my fav part was stuffing the middle with grated cheese and chopped baby spinach.

  10. Another delicious recipe! Hungry Mouse – you are an awesome chef! Everything I’ve made from your site has been fabulous and these tasty meatloaves are no exception. Thanks!

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