Recipe: Turkey Meatloaf in a Pumpkin

published Nov 15, 2011
Turkey Meatloaf in a Pumpkin
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Credit: Lis Parsons

It was a lonely late fall a few years back. I had moved back to the apartment my husband and I owned to oversee its sale. Two thousand miles from family and with Thanksgiving fast approaching, I was just about to buy a last-minute ticket for a flight home when my big sister showed up on my doorstep and turned my frown upside down. We made turkey meatloaf in a pumpkin for our little two-person Thanksgiving – a Thanksgiving that now stands out in my memory as a favorite:

This is a dish that takes many of those traditional Thanksiving flavors and incorporates them into one. You’ve got the turkey, of course, and cranberries and pumpkin. Even a few hints of stuffing make an appearance, too. Plus, it’s easy to make – hardly even requiring more than one pan – and makes enough for a fun-to-eat, one-dish feast for two.

Add to the meatloaf and pumpkin a green side like Brussels sprouts and a go-to dessert like pecan pie and you’ve got yourself a knockout – albeit casual – Thanksgiving meal. This isn’t the fanciest holiday dinner you’ll ever have, but it’s one to consider if you’ve just moved to a new city, if you’re a student on a budget who isn’t going home for the holiday, or if you’re just – as I was – in an in-between place and celebrating with just one special person for whom you are so thankful.

Turkey Meatloaf in a Pumpkin

Serves 2-4

Nutritional Info


  • One 6-inch pie pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 small Granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan


  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut a lid off the top of the pumpkin in a zigzag pattern. Clean pumpkin of seeds and stringy interior, replace the lid, and bake on a roasting dish or deep baking sheet for 1 hour in about 1 inch of water. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it cool. Once cool, coat the inside with the mustard and brown sugar.

  2. While the pumpkin is baking, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery and apple and cook until just softened. Remove the skillet from heat and combine its contents with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.

  3. Stuff the meatloaf mixture into the pumpkin, leaving an inch of space at the top. Place the lid on top and bake at 400°F for 1 hour.

  4. Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe Notes

When cooked in a pumpkin, this meatloaf doesn't develop the crusty outer layer that so many love. However, this is a delicious meatloaf without the pumpkin, too. Simply bake the meatloaf mixture in a loaf pan at 375°F for 45 minutes.

(Images: Regina Yunghans)