Recipe: Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf

updated Feb 3, 2020
Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

This juicy turkey meatloaf has no intentions of being the boring, dry lump some meatloaves turn out to be, and that’s all thanks to the delicious tang of BBQ sauce that goes into the meat mixture and on top of it as a glaze. Yep! We’re doubling down on that BBQ sauce for flavor and performance. Make it ahead so you have dinner ready to go even after a busy day out — and make sure to save leftovers because this makes one mean meatloaf and mashed potato sandwich.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

This meatloaf is inspired by a family favorite recipe. To give it a twist of my own, for a lighter midweek meal, it swaps ground beef for lean ground turkey, and ups the tangy sauce to keep the meat moist.

If you have some extra time, I encourage you to go for the spiced, tangy homemade barbecue sauce. While it’s easy to pull together, it does ask for a couple hours of simmering. And for that it will reward you. It yields a batch larger than you’ll use for the meatloaf, but it lasts for quite a while in the fridge.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Tester’s Notes

Ready to up your meatloaf game? This turkey version is packed with flavor, thanks to homemade barbecue sauce. The barbecue sauce is a nice twist, although not totally necessary. So if that part of the recipe doesn’t work for you every time, don’t sweat it. I prefer to keep this a weeknight-friendly dinner by sticking with store-bought barbecue sauce.

Swapping in ground turkey as a substitute for beef can prove tricky since it’s typically much leaner. The lower fat content can mean less flavor, and it makes it easier for the meat to dry out. Neither are an issue with this meatloaf. The barbecue sauce that’s mixed into the meat keeps the loaf moist and injects just enough spice and tang to keep it flavorful. It’s a smart trick that would also work well with turkey burgers.

Kelli, March 2017

Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


For the meatloaf:

  • 2 pounds

    ground turkey

  • 1 1/2 cups

    barbecue sauce (store-bought, or homemade with recipe below), divided

  • 1

    medium onion, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup

    dry breadcrumbs

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 2

    large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

For the barbecue sauce: (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2

    medium onions, finely chopped

  • 2 1/2 cups


  • 1 1/2 cups

    chili sauce, such as Heinz

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1/3 cup

    dark molasses

  • 1/4 cup

    spicy brown mustard

  • 1 tablespoon

    Worcestershire sauce

  • Juice from 1/2 medium lemon

  • Juice from 1/2 medium orange

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper


  1. Make the barbecue sauce (optional): Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Cool and use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

  2. Make the meatloaf: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with aluminum foil.

  3. Place the turkey, 1 cup of the barbecue sauce, onion, breadcrumbs, garlic, eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir until the ingredients are well combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and gently press down.

  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°F. Spread the top of the meatloaf with the remaining barbecue sauce and bake until the internal temperature reaches 165°F, 35 to 40 minutes more.

  5. Let the meatloaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan by lifting out the aluminum foil. Drain the excess grease. Slice and serve with more warm barbecue sauce if desired.

Recipe Notes

  • Make ahead: The barbecue sauce can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Originally published November 2011.