Nothing says comfort food like meatloaf, and Easy Turkey Meatloaf is a healthier version of this classic dish. Swapping out fatty ground beef for lean ground turkey and using egg whites instead of whole eggs results in a lighter, lower calorie meatloaf. Adding Southwestern seasonings – including chipotle peppers in adobo, cumin and cilantro – keep it super flavorful with a subtle kick. Tomato sauce, both inside and on top, keep this Turkey Meatloaf moist, too!
Turkey Meatloaf Recipe
Meatloaf is one of those dishes that evokes feelings of heart-warming, home cooking. According to the LA Times, “in the United States, meatloaf has attained iconic comfort food status, right up there with fried chicken and mac and cheese, hamburgers and hot dogs.” I have loved meatloaf since I was a kid. In fact, it was one of the first dishes I learned how to make in a middle school cooking class.
I have several different delicious meatloaf recipes I make often, including my Cajun Meatloaf, Italian Meatloaf, and Mini Meatloaves Wrapped in Prosciutto. While I love all these versions, from time to time I want that same comforting feeling from a meatloaf that’s lighter – in calories, fat and Weight Watchers points – while still satisfying, moist and flavorful. This Easy Turkey Meatloaf fits the bill perfectly.
What is Meatloaf?
Meatloaf is one of the quintessential comfort foods in the U.S. The basic recipe calls for a combination of ground meat, seasonings, egg and breadcrumbs; often ketchup and/or tomato sauce are added on top. The mixture is then placed in a loaf pan, or shaped into a loaf, and baked. There are an almost infinite number of variations on this traditional approach – including wrapping mini loaves in bacon or prosciutto or baking individual portions in muffin tins, to mention a few.
Why This Healthy Ground Turkey Meatloaf Recipe Works
This Easy Turkey Meatloaf recipe is moist and full of flavor, with that perfect not-too-dense, not-too loose meatloaf texture. Here’s why:
- Lean ground turkey instead of ground beef. Ground turkey is a leaner, versatile, flavorful ingredient that works well in meatloaves, provided you mix it with other ingredients that add moisture and complementary flavors.
- Egg whites instead of whole eggs. Using just the whites lowers the calorie count while maintaining moisture in the meatloaf.
- Tomato sauce, both inside and on top. Tomato sauce inside adds needed moisture, keeping the meatloaf juicy, and also provides additional flavor. Brushing a tomato sauce, catsup and Tabasco mixture on top halfway through cooking adds color, brightness and a bit of spice.
- A loaf pan. With traditional fattier beef-based meatloaves, using a loaf pan can sometimes result in a greasy meatloaf. On the other hand, using a loaf pan to bake a meatloaf prepared with much leaner turkey helps to retain the juices, keeping it moist.
How to Make Turkey Meatloaf
This recipe is pretty foolproof, and super easy to prepare. Here are the steps:
- Purée the chipotle peppers.
Place chipotle chiles and their sauce in a small food processor or blender and blend until well puréed.
- Prep vegetables and fresh herbs.
Chop onion, cilantro, parsley and garlic.
- Prep oven and baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
- Mix ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix all meat loaf ingredients (puréed chipotle chiles through ground turkey) until well combined. Place leftover purée in a closed container and refrigerate for another use (will last for months in your fridge).
- Bake halfway.
Spoon turkey mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- Add sauce to top.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1/4 cup tomato sauce, ketchup and Tabasco. Brush mixture evenly over meatloaf, cover with foil and bake an additional 30 minutes or until thermometer registers 165 degrees.
- Let rest, then serve.
Remove meatloaf from oven and let sit at room temperature for around ten minutes before serving.
How do you make ground turkey moist?
There are three keys to why this ground turkey meatloaf is very moist:
- Use a mix of light and dark turkey meat. The latter has a higher fat content, which helps keep the finished product moist.
- Add tomato sauce both on top and inside. Tomatoes are made up largely of water. So, even when condensed into tomato sauce or ketchup, there still is a high water content.
- Don’t overcook it. Take the meatloaf out of the oven as soon as it reaches 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Overcooking will cause it to dry out.
What is the best temperature to cook meatloaf?
What temperature I use to cook meatloaf depends on the ingredients. Most often, I find 350 degrees is a good temperature – there is enough heat to cook the meatloaf completely without drying it out.
How long do you bake ground turkey meatloaf?
Bake turkey meatloaf until it reaches 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
What temperature should a turkey meatloaf be?
As mentioned above, the best temperature to cook turkey meatloaf is 165 degrees. At this temp, the turkey is done, but not overdone.
Turkey Meatloaf Variations
Here are some ways to vary the ingredients in this meatloaf:
- Make it gluten free. Use gluten-free chipotles in adobo sauce, gluten-free oats, and gluten-free bread crumbs.
- Make it even spicier. Use salsa in place of some/all of the tomato sauce.
Turkey Meatloaf Recipe FAQ
The answer to this question is, it depends on the recipe. For this turkey meatloaf, cook it uncovered for the first half, then cover it after I put the tomato mixture on top, to keep the topping from drying out.
The key to ensure your meatloaf doesn’t fall apart after cooking is to have enough “binding” ingredients. For meatloaf, these are breadcrumbs and eggs. These two ingredients help to hold the ground turkey meat together.
For this recipe, just double the amount of oats you are using – oats are an excellent substitute for breadcrumbs in meatloaf.
As mentioned above, the best binder for meatloaf – i.e., the ingredients to keep it from falling apart – are breadcrumbs and eggs.
To ensure your turkey meatloaf doesn’t get mushy, use a mixture of oats and breadcrumbs. Too many breadcrumbs can make it turn to mush. Also, if using homemade breadcrumbs, make sure they are not fresh. The drier the better!
What to serve with Easy Turkey Meatloaf
Here are my favorite side dishes to serve with this meatloaf:
- Mashed Potatoes with Parsley and Chives
- Golden Potatoes (Twice Baked Potato Casserole)
- Cauliflower Purée (in my cookbook “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®”)
- Roasted Root Vegetables
- Quick and Easy Sautéed Asparagus
- Broccoli Salad
- Broccoli with Bacon and Walnuts
- Lemon Dijon Green Beans
- Spinach Salad with Lemon-Pine Nut Dressing
- Coleslaw with Lemon-Mayonnaise Dressing
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Nothing says comfort food like meatloaf, and Easy Turkey Meatloaf is a healthier version of this iconic dish. Swapping out fatty ground beef for lean ground turkey and using egg whites instead of eggs results in a lighter, lower calorie meatloaf. Adding in southwestern seasonings keep it super flavorful with a subtle kick. Tomato sauce, both inside and on top, keep this Turkey Meatloaf super moist, too!
- 4 to 5 teaspoons puréed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce – see Note
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats – see Note
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 pounds ground turkey (mix of regular and breast)
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, mix all meat loaf ingredients (chipotle chiles through ground turkey) until well combined. Spoon into prepared loaf pan and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1/4 cup tomato sauce, ketchup and Tabasco. Brush mixture evenly over meatloaf, cover with foil and bake an additional 30 minutes or until thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature for around ten minutes before serving.
To make puréed chipotles in adobo sauce: Place 1 (7 ounce) can chipotle chiles and their sauce in a food processor and blend until well puréed. Place leftover purée in a closed container and refrigerate for another use (will last for months in your frig!).
Make ahead: Meatloaf can be prepared but not baked earlier in the day, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Can also be baked, cooled, covered and frozen for up to 2 months.
Note on oats: I prefer the texture from quick-cooking oats in this recipe, but you can also make it with regular.