When you want restaurant-quality comfort food without the restaurant price tag, you can’t miss with this copycat Cracker Barrel meatloaf. It’s made with all the good stuff: ground beef, onions and peppers, Ritz crackers, lots of shredded cheese, and of course, that glorious glaze of ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make meatloaf like Cracker Barrel, you’re in luck. This recipe is just as good, and now you’ll be able to make it whenever the craving strikes.
This easy meatloaf recipe is a real crowd-pleaser. It’s perfect for Sunday suppers with the family or making a meal for a friend or neighbor. It is the best meatloaf recipe you’ve ever had.
Serve it with our Cornbread Casserole, brown sugar glazed carrots, and Creamed Spinach. You can’t go wrong with a side of Creamy Mac and Cheese, green beans, or some buttered Buttermilk Biscuits, either.
This section includes ingredient notes and substitution options. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
This meatloaf recipe from Cracker Barrel doesn’t require any special ingredients. In fact, you probably have most of what you need in your fridge already. Here’s what you’ll need:
For the Meatloaf
- ground beef— When it comes to meatloaf, use 80/20 ground beef instead of the lean stuff. Lean ground beef will leave your meatloaf too dry.
- onions and green peppers— Yellow onion works best since the flavor mellows out when cooking. Dice both the green bell pepper and onion very small so they mix into the ground beef mixture more easily.
- Ritz crackers— They’re the secret ingredient! Crush them up and mix them into the meatloaf mixture. The Ritz crackers have a wonderful buttery flavor that works great for this recipe and for this Ritz Chicken Casserole. If you don’t have any, though, don’t fret. Just sub stale bread crumbs or other cracker crumbs (about 1 1/2 cups) instead.
- cheddar cheese— Sharp cheddar is preferred, but medium, or mild cheddar cheese works, too. Shred your own cheese or use the pre-shredded kind if you’re short on time.
- eggs— Eggs plus cracker crumbs help bind the meat together so it stays in its nice loaf shape.
- milk— Milk helps keep the meatloaf moist. There’s nothing worse than a dry meatloaf!
- salt and pepper— Use a bit of each to season the meatloaf. Freshly cracked black pepper is more flavorful, but ground pepper is good, too.
For the Glaze
- ketchup— Ketchup is both sweet and tangy, and this condiment is the base for the glaze.
- brown sugar— Brown sugar helps sweeten it up a bit and makes the glaze sticky and thick, just the way you want it.
- yellow mustard— For a little extra “zip” if you will. It’s just tangy enough to balance out the flavors of the ketchup and sugar.
You can add a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce to the glaze for extra flavor.
Equipment You’ll Need
You don’t need any fancy kitchen tools to make this cracker barrel meatloaf recipe with Ritz crackers. Grab a large bowl for mixing the ingredients, a sheet pan, and some aluminum foil (for easy cleanup).
If you’re shredding your own cheese, a good cheese grater comes in handy. And, of course, you’ll need a cutting board and knife to chop your peppers and onions.
How to Make Cracker Barrel Meatloaf
This section shows you how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions. For the full printable recipe, see the recipe card below.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and set it aside.
Step 2: In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, bell pepper, eggs, crushed Ritz crackers, sharp cheddar cheese, milk, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to mix the ingredients until they’re combined.
Step 3: Form the ground beef mixture into a loaf shape on the foil-lined sheet pan.
Step 4: Bake the meatloaf in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Step 5: While the meatloaf is baking, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard to make the glaze.
Step 6: After baking for 30 minutes, remove the meatloaf from the oven and spread the glaze over the top of the meatloaf. Return the meatloaf to the oven and cook for an additional 40 minutes.
Step 7: Allow the meatloaf to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Storage and Freezing
Store any leftover meatloaf in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
You can freeze leftovers or an entire cooked meatloaf in the freezer for up to 3 months. Wrap the meatloaf in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
You can reheat this recipe for Cracker Barrel meatloaf in the microwave, oven, or skillet. Make sure it’s completely thawed before reheating.
In the Microwave
For the microwave, slice the loaf into individual slices and place them in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Cover the meatloaf slices with a damp paper towel to keep the meat moist and to prevent splatter. Heat in 30-second increments for 1-2 minutes or until slices are warmed through.
In the Oven
This is the preferred method, if you have the time, because it helps you avoid the hot spots that occur when you reheat dense foods in the microwave.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and place the meatloaf into a shallow baking dish along with a tablespoon or two of beef broth or water to keep the meat from drying out. Cover with foil, place on the center rack, and reheat for about 30 minutes.
In the Skillet
Spray your skillet with cooking oil (or use a little oil or butter) and preheat the skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is warm, turn it down to medium-low, and add the meatloaf slices along with a splash or two of broth to prevent drying. Flip the meatloaf slices occasionally until warmed through.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Add your own twists. While this is a copycat recipe made to taste like Cracker Barrel, you can add your own twists. You can use BBQ sauce as a glaze if you like. You can also add garlic.
- Use a food processor for the veggies. Instead of chopping the veggies by hand, use a food processor to chop them finer before adding them to the meat.
- Lighten the green pepper flavor. Not really a fan of green peppers? For a lighter flavor, slice the green bell pepper and lay it on top of the meatloaf before cooking instead of adding it to the mixture.
- Do not overmix the meat. It can result in a tough and dry meatloaf. Instead, mix until the ingredients are just combined, and then stop.
- Ditch the loaf pan. While you certainly can bake your meatloaf in a loaf pan, it tends to steam the meat, making it bricklike. That’s why we prefer the sheet pan. It gives the meatloaf room to breathe, which also results in a perfectly caramelized glaze.
- Make mini meatloaves. Instead of one large loaf, bake the mixture into mini meatloaves for easier portioning. Just reduce the bake time a bit.
- Avoid overcooking the meat. Oven temperatures can vary slightly, and you know your oven best. If you think you need to adjust the cooking time, use a meat thermometer to make sure it’s been cooked to a safe internal temperature. For a beef meatloaf, that’s 160°F.
- Get a more caramelized topping. Prefer meatloaf with a really caramelized glaze? Add it to the meatloaf at the beginning of the bake time instead of the middle!
Additions and Variations
Make It With Turkey. While this Cracker Barrel meatloaf is more flavorful with ground beef, you can substitute ground turkey if you’d like. Cook the turkey meatloaf until a meat thermometer reaches 165°F in the center. Be careful not to overcook it, because it can dry out more quickly due to the lower fat content.
Whip Up Some Extra Glaze. If you like loads of glaze on your meatloaf, double the recipe for it. Use half for pouring over the meat and half as a dipping sauce to serve on the side. It’s also great drizzled over an open-faced meatloaf sandwich. Yum!
Add Extra Veggies. The green bell pepper and onions add flavor and texture, but they also help with moisture, too. If you’re not a fan of bell peppers or onions, though, you can shred some carrots and celery to add instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, according to their allergen guide, Cracker Barrel’s meatloaf is not gluten-free, and neither is this copycat version. To make the recipe gluten-free, you’ll need gluten-free crackers or bread crumbs.
Yes, you need yellow mustard to help balance out the sweetness from the ketchup and brown sugar.
No, the meat loaf at this restaurant does not contain pork. However, pork and veal are not uncommon ingredients in other restaurant meatloaf dishes.
The simplest reason your meatloaf falls apart is that you likely tried cutting it when it was too hot. Meatloaf is easier to slice after you’ve let it cool for at least 10 minutes. Room temperature or refrigerated meatloaf is even easier to slice. Another possibility is that you didn’t use enough binder, like eggs or cracker crumbs. Next time you make it, try increasing your cracker crumbs by a small amount.
Baking meat in the oven can dry it out quickly if there’s not enough moisture. Adding whole milk helps moisten the dry ingredients (cracker crumbs) and keep the meat mixture moist while it cooks.
Who needs meatloaf from Cracker Barrel when it’s this easy to make it at home? In about an hour and a half, you’ll be able to set this dish in front of your family for a hot and hearty meal.
Not ready to start cooking just yet? Pin this Copycat Cracker Barrel meatloaf recipe with buttery Ritz crackers to come back to it when you’ve got all your ingredients ready.
More Ground Beef Recipes
- 2 pounds of ground beef
- half of an onion, diced
- small green bell pepper, diced
- 1 ½ sleeves of crushed Ritz crackers
- ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
For the glaze:
- ¾ cup ketchup
- 2 ½ Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon yellow mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a sheet pan with foil and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, bell pepper, eggs, crushed Ritz crackers, cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until well combined.
- Form the meat into a loaf shape on the foil-lined pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard to make the glaze.
- Remove the meatloaf from the oven and spread the glaze over the top of the meatloaf.
- Return to the oven and cook for an additional 40 minutes.
- Allow the meatloaf to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
You can also freeze leftovers or an entire cooked meatloaf in the freezer for up to 3 months. Wrap the meatloaf in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 431
The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by a third party and intended to serve as an estimate only. The accuracy of nutritional information is not guaranteed.