Cracker Barrel’s Meatloaf Recipe is classic comfort food made with ground beef, onions, bell pepper, cheddar cheese, Ritz crackers and a sweet, savory glaze on top!
This copycat version is easy, delicious, and a crowd-pleaser that feeds the whole family at a fraction of the price. Plus, the leftovers are just as good the next day. But fair warning – with this recipe, it might not last long.
Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
Meatloaf often gets a bad rap. Especially if you’ve ever had the “mystery meat” that’s often served in school cafeterias.
But when you make it with love (and a few simple tips), this classic meal quickly becomes a comfort food family favorite.
What makes the difference between a meatloaf that turns out dry and bland versus one that is moist and delicious?
This is where Cracker Barrel gets everything right.
They use lean ground beef, sauteed vegetables, buttery Ritz crackers, sharp cheddar cheese, eggs, milk and a savory glaze made from ketchup and brown sugar.
Plus, there are a few trade secrets that will ensure your meatloaf turns out tender and juicy. We’ll reveal those in just a bit.
80% lean ground beef
Sharp cheddar cheese
For the topping:
The Best Meat to Use
People often complain that their meatloaf is too dry. This is often caused by using leaner meat. 80% lean ground beef is the best ratio for a moist, juicy meatloaf that cooks to perfection.
You can also use half ground beef and half ground pork to enhance the flavor and texture of your loaf. Sausage is another excellent option.
Tips & Tricks
1. Do not over mix the meat.
I’ve been guilty of this many times. But I’ve since learned from the error of my ways.
Mixing your ingredients too much will result in a tough, dry meatloaf.
One of the secrets to a juicy meatloaf is not to over mix your ingredients. If you’re a perfectionist like me, this one requires a bit of self-control.
But if it makes a better meatloaf, so I try and combat my OCD tendencies.
It’s also important not to compress the meat too much when you’re forming the loaf. When shaping your loaf, looser is better.
2. Don’t cook your meatloaf too high.
I’ve seen recipes that call for temperatures as high as 425 degrees F.
That tends to dry out the meat. Instead you want to shoot for 325 F to 350 F for a moist meatloaf.
3. Veggies are key.
The onion and green pepper make a huge difference when it comes to meatloaf. They add flavor, texture, and moisture. You can even add in some finely chopped carrots and celery as well.
It’s these little tweaks and additions that make all the difference between a bland, boring meatloaf and one that you’ll want to make again and again.
4. Give the meatloaf space in the pan.
For a long time, I made the mistake of filling up a 5×9 inch loaf pan from edge to edge. This causes the meatloaf to steam and results in what we call a “meat brick”.
It’s not the end of the world, but I’ve learned that you need to allow the meatloaf to breath while cooking. This allows the edges to caramelize and form a really nice crust.
Allow it to breath by using a baking sheet or large baking pan.
What to Serve With Meatloaf
A few side dishes can turn this simple meal into a family favorite.
- Mashed Potatoes – This buttery smooth starch pairs perfectly with the savory deliciousness of meatloaf. It’s a classic combo.
- Mac & Cheese – This is my personal favorite. Two classic comfort foods on a single plate. And the savory glaze pairs perfectly with the cheese.
- Roasted Carrots – Add some color to your plate with glazed carrots. Another hearty vegetable that pairs perfectly with meatloaf.
- Fried Okra – Ok. It may not be the healthiest. But this is one of my favorite sides at Cracker Barrel. I put it with almost everything. You can never go wrong with fried okra.
- Biscuits – A side of bread makes this meal complete!
You can pick and choose your side dishes to fit any occasion.
If you’re looking to add a few veggies, you can also use green beans, asparagus, broccoli, or a nice side salad.
Can You Freeze Meatloaf?
You sure can! Meatloaf freezes well. You can double the recipe and have meals ready-to-go for a few weeks.
Be sure to let it cool to room temperature first. Then wrap it in foil and place in a sealed plastic Ziploc bag. Can be stored for up to three months.
When you’re ready to pull it out, add additional sauce on top and place it in the oven at 350F for about 20 to 30 minutes or until hot.
Or if you’re lazy like me, you can let it thaw in the refrigerator (or the kitchen counter) and then warm it up in the microwave.
Fun Facts about Cracker Barrel
The first Cracker Barrel was opened off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee in 1969 by Dan Evins.
Since then, they’ve become an interstate institution. Famous for their checker boards, all-you-can-eat biscuits, tabletop peg games, and old-fashioned country store with vintage candy, games, and even rocking chairs.
Plus, all of those antique items you see hanging on the walls in the dining room are all vintage items inspired by local history. No reproductions allowed. In fact, Cracker Barrel now owns quite the antique collection, with over 100,000 items.
Growing up, my family went to Cracker Barrel nearly every weekend. It felt like a second home. So it was only natural that it became my first job as a hostess when I was in high school.
But it’s been years since I stepped inside a Cracker Barrel. Although just writing this article makes me crave those homemade biscuits and fried apples.
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 small finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced bell pepper (optional)
1 1/2 sleeves of crushed Ritz crackers (48 crackers total)
4 oz. shredded sharp cheddar or Colby cheese
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
For the topping:
1/2 to 3/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. mustard
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard. Place to the side. This will be used later as the topping.
3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, crushed Ritz crackers, cheese, milk, onion, bell pepper, salt and black pepper. Mix well.
4. Add in the ground beef. Mix well just to combine. Do not over mix.
5. Form into a loaf and place inside a baking pan or baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
6. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and spread the topping over the meatloaf.
8. Bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until the center is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Let it cool for 15 minutes before serving.
There are 32 crackers in a sleeve, so you'll need about 48 crackers total.
Looking for Additional Meatloaf Recipes?
Or how about some more Cracker Barrel Recipes?
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