Mom’s Meatloaf Recipe

published Jul 26, 2023
The "Loaf" (Bev's Famous Meatloaf Recipe)

Miranda Lambert shares her mother’s legendary meatloaf recipe, made with a mix of breakfast sausage and ground beef and smothered in gravy.

Serves6 to 8

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Meatloaf on platter from Y'ALL EAT YET? by Miranda Lambert with Holly Gleason. Copyright © 2023 by Miranda Lambert. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Credit: Emily Dorio

When I was growing up, my mom’s meatloaf was legendary. We had it on birthdays because it was so delicious. We had friends come over on their birthdays because they wanted the Loaf too. 

A lot of people think of meatloaf as this gray, dry proposition, or something drowned in brown gravy that doesn’t taste like much of anything. It’s one of those school-lunch deals we’ve all had and never care if we eat again. That was not the Loaf. Not only is it the product of an actual three-part process — the meatloaf, the topping, and the gravy — but it also has all these secret things that make it taste like nothing you’ve ever had before. Plus, there are all the things going on when you taste it. There’s sweetness to it. The meat has so much flavor; it’s a little tangy. Then, the topping becomes almost this caramelized layer that makes the Loaf wicked juicy. Anyone who’s ever had it is going to want it again. Maybe it’s the breakfast sausage/ground beef mixture, or the brown sugar, or the green peppers and onions all chopped up. And the gravy — made with the juices from the meat, a few tablespoons of the leftover topping, a cup of water, and a lot of pepper and some salt — is literally the color of a pumpkin! You see it and wonder, then you ladle it on and have to repent it’s so delicious. It’s why when people think of my mom, they think of chicken salad, deviled eggs, and … the Loaf. 

Early in my career, my publicist was asked for a recipe for a feature Southern Living magazine does. Obviously, there was only one classic Bev Lambert to give them: the Loaf. The magazine’s concept was simple: her way and my (cough) healthier way. Looking for home-cooking comfort food for their February 2010 issue, they believed they were going to come up with a way to make it — I don’t even know the word — close? Because the Loaf is perfection. Absolute, total perfection. 

I remember the editors at the magazine were frustrated. They’d had several people make it and thought the recipe needed a few changes. They kept calling and saying their test kitchen couldn’t make it work, because they needed to guarantee that the people who try these recipes in their own homes will have them turn out great. All the Ya-Yas just know how much of everything to put in; nobody’s ever using a cookbook or a measuring cup or spoon. Mom’s measurements were more a clump of brown sugar, a squirt of Worcestershire, or a spoonful of mustard. The magazine’s staff couldn’t get behind Mom’s “use half a sleeve of crackers,” so they ended up with “use 32 saltine crackers.” I’m not sure now, but that’s what they finally decided they could replicate. And once they did, people all over the world started making my mom’s already plenty famous meatloaf. 

It sounds funny to say that, but, literally, every week people come up to tell me they’ve made it and how much everyone who’s had it loves it. People tell Mom all the time — folks she’ll meet traveling, who either clipped the recipe out of the magazine when it ran or had someone give it to them, or, much later, just went looking for it on the internet. You can actually Google my mom’s Loaf.

And it doesn’t matter who you are, the real deal about this meatloaf is this: It will get you married.

If you’re ready to get that ring and my mom is gonna ask, “Are you ready?” before she talks you through it — this is exactly the meal you cook!

I’ve done it, twice! Heidi’s done it. My best friend April’s done it. It really works.

When my friend Ashley Monroe (who people know from the Pistol Annies as Hippie Annie) made up her mind about her now husband, John Danks, who was playing baseball for the Chicago White Sox at the time, you can bet she called Lindale, Texas. My mom told Ashley step-by-step on the phone every last single bit of what she needed to do to create the exact Loaf: each ingredient, how to mix it, where to put the pan in the oven. Wasn’t too much later that Mom got the call: Ashley was engaged.

My mom thinks the Loaf works because this recipe really feels like home. Because when you put that first forkful in your mouth, it tastes so comforting and really feels satisfying to a man’s taste buds and appetite. It never fails. Sometimes I think a week doesn’t go by without some girl — but men have made it too — looking to lock down a partner, and that’s when they get serious about the Loaf. Heck, my brother, Luke, who’s been a vegetarian for years, even figured out how to make a vegan Loaf with Impossible “meat” and vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (it doesn’t have any anchovies) — and it’s delicious too. It doesn’t sound right, but when you follow the recipe, even my dad said, “Well, that’s pretty good.” Luke did make the original version for his boyfriend (now husband) before they became vegetarians.

For a while, my mom made Mini Loafs, enough for maybe a couple people for a single meal. She’d have a few of them all in the oven, bubbling up under that sweet, savory, almost-beyond-words glaze. She would send them to folks for a little meal when they were coming back to town or caring for a sick relative; she would occasionally freeze one. 

But her best way of making the Loaf smaller was her Muffin Loafs. Sometimes, when she entertains, she will actually take little mini-muffin tins, put a tiny cupcake paper liner in the holes, and fill each one up just like it’s a regular Loaf. When they come out, piping hot and delicious, she puts a little dollop of mashed potatoes on top. Just like people put whipped cream on their desserts, she uses her creamy mashed potatoes like frosting on a cupcake. People gobble those up in three little bites or two big chomps. It’s a lot of work for heavy hors d’oeuvres, but when you see the way people start moaning and hovering over the platters, you smile to yourself because you know: The Loaf is invincible. 

The Loaf also brings families together. It’s the first thing I made for my husband Brendan’s family. Then, when we decided it was time for our families to all meet — after Brendan and I had gotten married at my farm — it was Mother’s Day. I told Mom and Dad, “Why don’t you come up and meet Brendan’s family? No gun talk, no politics, but I’ll make the Loaf.” 

We introduced the Staten Islanders to the Loaf, which is like their chicken Parm. We were late getting there because of travel delays, and I think Brandon and I were both nervous, but we shouldn’t have been. When we walked in the door, everyone was all liquored up, having a big time, and laughing about family stories on both sides. It was awesome. 

And my mom, bless her heart, was staying at the impossibly hip SoHo Grand Hotel in lower Manhattan. She knew what the mission was, and she got out there, found a grocery store, and bought all the fixings. Travel delay or no, we were ready to go! And we went for it. That’s the thing: Whether there’s a marriage or a death, you can always count on the fact that there will be a pot or a casserole dish involved, but when it’s something you’re building to last, it’s always the Loaf. 

The "Loaf" (Bev's Famous Meatloaf Recipe)

Miranda Lambert shares her mother’s legendary meatloaf recipe, made with a mix of breakfast sausage and ground beef and smothered in gravy.

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds

    lean ground beef

  • 1 pound

    ground pork sausage

  • 18

    saltine crackers, crushed

  • 1/2

    green bell pepper, chopped

  • 1/2

    yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 2

    large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 tablespoon

    Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon

    mustard

  • 1/2 cup

    firmly packed light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    ketchup

  • 2 tablespoons

    flour

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Use a 11x7-inch baking dish.

  2. Add the ground beef, sausage, crackers, bell pepper, onion, eggs, Worcestershire, mustard, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar to a medium bowl. Mix with your hands until blended. Shape the mixture into a 10x5-inch loaf and place in the baking dish.

  3. Bake for one hour. Remove from the oven; drain the juices into a separate bowl and reserve for the gravy. In a bowl, stir together the ketchup and the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar for the glaze. Reserve 2 to 3 tablespoons of the glaze for the gravy. Spread the rest over the meatloaf. Bake for 15 minutes more, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 160°F. Pour the drained meat juices into a saucepan and heat until hot. Add the flour and stir until thickened. Mix 1 1/2 cups of hot water into the reserved glaze and add it to the saucepan. Cook until it starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and generously season with salt and pepper.

  4. Remove the loaf from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes. Then serve directly from the casserole dish, alongside your favorite mashed potatoes topped with the gravy.

Recipe Notes

From Y'all Eat Yet? by Miranda Lambert with Holly Gleason. Copyright © 2023 by Miranda Lambert. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.