How to Make a Copycat Cracker Barrel Meat Loaf Recipe That’s Just as Good as the Original
Get a taste of your favorite Cracker Barrel meat loaf recipe at home!
If you’ve never been a fan of meat loaf, we’re pretty sure this Cracker Barrel meat loaf recipe is about to change your mind. Why? Because we looked to the experts. While some homemade meat loaves tend to be dry and not-so-tasty, this copycat Cracker Barrel Meat Loaf is packed with flavor and melt-in-your-mouth good with every bite.
Cracker Barrel is known for serving the ultimate comfort food classics, like their Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole, so of course, we had to make our very own copycat version of the favored meat loaf—and we promise our rendition will not disappoint. It’s cheesy, it’s meaty, and it’s about to convert you into a meat loaf lover.
What Is the Best Meat for Meat Loaf?
While you could try various combinations of ground meats in your loaf (like ground pork, veal, lamb or turkey), experts do say that your loaf should consist of at least 80% ground beef. This will help give the meat loaf that juicy, greasy flavor that we love so much from ground beef dishes, and will help to not dry out the loaf entirely.
So if you’re looking to get creative, 1.6 pounds of the two pounds of meat in this recipe should be ground beef. The rest can be of your choosing!
Copycat Cracker Barrel Meat Loaf Recipe
Here’s what you need to make this Cracker Barrel meat loaf recipe right in your own kitchen.
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/3 cup 2% milk
- 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 sleeve crushed Ritz crackers (30 crackers)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon or yellow mustard
Step 1: Preheat the oven and gather the ingredients
To start, preheat your oven to 350°F. Prep all of your ingredients while the oven is preheating—chop the onions and peppers, crush the crackers, crack open the eggs and measure out the cheese, milk and seasonings.
Step 2: Combine the ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cheese, crackers, onion, green pepper, salt, garlic powder and pepper.
Step 3: Mix together
Mix the ingredients together until everything is evenly combined.
Step 4: Add the beef
With clean hands, crumble the ground beef over the mixture and mix lightly with a spatula. Mix thoroughly to combine, but do not over-mix—this is the key to a moist and tender meat loaf.
Step 5: Shape and place in a pan
Scrape the ingredients into a 13×9-inch baking dish and shape it into a loaf that is approximately 10×5 inches.
Step 6: Bake uncovered for 50 minutes
Why uncovered? This Cracker Barrel meat loaf will retain a crispier outside and a juicy inside, helping the meat loaf retain its shape. However, if you are looking for an even moister meat loaf, you can cover the pan with aluminum foil during this particular stage of baking.
Step 7: Get your sauce ingredients
While the meat loaf is baking, measure out your ketchup, brown sugar and mustard for the sauce. Both Dijon and yellow mustard work here, so feel free to use what you have.
Step 8: Stir together until smooth
You want the sauce to be smooth as silk before spreading it onto your meat loaf, so stir enough to make sure the clumps of brown sugar dissolve into the condiments.
If you’re dealing with hard or lumpy brown sugar, here are a few tips to keep brown sugar soft.
Step 9: Spread the sauce on the loaf
Using a silicone pastry brush, spread the sauce on the meat loaf until it’s completely covered. Feel free to be generous—you want an even layer on top and around the sides.
Step 10: Bake for another 10-15 minutes
You want the meat loaf to hit an internal temperature of 160°, so be sure to have a meat thermometer on hand. Your meat loaf will continue to cook once out of the oven, so if your internal temperature reads 155°, feel free to take it out. Let it stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
If you covered your meat loaf before, keep it uncovered for this last leg of baking.
Editor’s Tip: Serve with fresh parsley on top for an added herby burst of flavor!
Step 11: Serve with your favorite sides
We enjoy a thick slice of Cracker Barrel meat loaf with buttery mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts, but feel free to get creative! These roasted green beans could pair nicely, as well as these easy cheesy biscuits.
Have a lot of leftovers? Use up the extra slices in a meat loaf sandwich!
Tips for Making Copycat Cracker Barrel Meat Loaf
What type of pan should I use?
In order to catch the juices (and not get them all over your oven), the trick is to use a deeper baking pan instead of a cookie sheet. A 13×9-inch casserole dish works well for this recipe, as well as an oval or round pan with generally the same volume. This gives the meatloaf room to breathe while cooking, while still catching all of those tasty juices.
How should I store meat loaf?
To retain the moisture in the meatloaf, you want to make sure you store it in a shallow, airtight container for up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. You could also wrap up the meat loaf in aluminum foil, but that might be a bit messy with the sauce, so be wary.
If you don’t think you’ll eat all of the meat loaf in a few days, you can also freeze it for up to four months. Place the cooked meat loaf in an airtight, freezer-safe container, or wrap it up in aluminum foil or cling wrap. You can either thaw it in the fridge for up to 24 hours and slice it to heat it up, or you can heat up the whole thing from frozen by placing it in a 350°oven for about one hour.
Why is my meat loaf falling apart?
If your Cracker Barrel meat loaf is crumbly and falling apart, it is likely because you didn’t have enough binding ingredients to keep it together. While the crackers, cheese, milk and eggs do add more fat to the loaf, slimming it down will cause your meat loaf to fall apart and not form nicely. So while it may be tempting to change up the recipe and slim down these items, it may cause a crumbly meat loaf disaster in your pan.
If you’re looking for something slightly healthier, try subbing in some ground turkey to cut down on the fat—like with these Muffin-Pan Meat Loaves.
Don’t miss these other copycat Cracker Barrel recipes.