The Best, Moist Turkey Meatloaf (2024)

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Ultra-satisfying comfort, with plenty for leftovers.

This moist turkey meatloaf recipe makes a big, juicy turkey meatloaf loaded with onion, carrot, and tons of flavor. This is the only turkey meatloaf recipe you’ll ever need.

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The Best, Moist Turkey Meatloaf (1)

The Best Turkey Meatloaf Recipe

My cooking moods tends to alternate between “try something fresh and new” and “fall back on the old favorites.” Nothing says “old favorites” — emphasis on old — like meatloaf. Rather than a big ump of red meat, however, this juicy, flavorful, moist turkey meatloaf recipe tastes comforting and moist, folded with hidden vegetables and lots of savory flavor.

You’ll also like: Salmon Burgers With Tzatziki and Classic Fettuccini Alfredo

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Interesting Food History: Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

Bon Appétit ran a great article a few years ago about the history of meatloaf, which is actually really interesting. Arguably, the first precursors of what our essential American comfort food began as a medieval dish that used up meat scraps.

Modern American meatloaf’s origins date roughly to the 1870s, with recipes for seasoned, baked scrap meat. These scraps would have been most often beef, since cows were slaughtered before winter made feeding them more difficult.

Meatloaf became increasingly popular in the 1890s with the rise of industrial meatpacking, and into the 1920s and 1930s. In this period, the Great Depression demanded that meat stretch as far as possible, as inexpensively as possible. Ground meat made an inexpensive dinner that minimized waste. By the 1950s, meatloaf had made its way into popular cookbooks, and became the popular and ubiquitous comfort food we all know.

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Juicy Turkey Meatloaf: Recipe Notes

In developing my recipe, I used Ina Garten’s turkey meatloaf recipe as a jumping-off point. Ina only uses onions as a vegetable, incorporates chicken broth, and uses a whopping five pounds of meat. I love her recipe’s technique of cooking the onions first, to get them soft. It’s an extra step, but worth it.

On the other hand, I use a combination of grated carrots, onion, and chopped celery. This increases the nutrition profile, and the flavor. And unlike Ina, I use water instead of chicken broth. Chicken broth would be great, but since the broth’s main purpose is to add moisture, water makes an easy and effective substitute.

Yes, I vote for ketchup on top.

Please do the ketchup on top! You don’t have to, but if you really want to achieve full retro meatloaf status, smear that layer of ketchup. It caramelizes on top as it bakes, and adds a good complementary sweetness to the savory meat. I have tried it both ways (as you can see from the photos), and definitely prefer the ketchup.

How to make turkey meatloaf moist

Above all, please do not — I repeat, do not — use extra-lean or all white meat ground turkey. The resulting turkey meatloaf will be dry and hard instead of soft and juicy.

I prefer 93% lean ground turkey. The fat, coupled with the water or broth used in the recipe, will make this turkey meatloaf very moist.

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Did you make this turkey meatloaf recipe? How did it turn out?

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The Best Moist Turkey Meatloaf

A perfect, tried-and-true recipe for a nourishing comfort food classic that's juicy and flavorful. Adapted from Ina Garten's famed recipe.

Prep Time25 minutes mins

Cook Time1 hour hr 30 minutes mins

Course: dinner

Cuisine: American

Keywords:: comfort food, dinner, easy, fall, how to make meatloaf moist, meatloaf, turkey, turkey meatloaf, turkey meatloaf recipe, winter

Servings: 6 to 8 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (tip: buy a tube of tomato paste for easiest use)
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, preferably panko
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F and grease or line with parchment a large casserole or half-sheet pan.

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion, celery, grated carrots, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened.

  • Stir in the tomato paste to coat the vegetables. Add the water and Worcestershire sauce and stir for one minute. Remove from heat, and let cool for several minutes.

  • Add the ground turkey, parsley, eggs, salt, pepper, and breadcrumbs to a large mixing bowl.

  • Add the vegetable mixture with the liquid to the mixing bowl with the turkey. Using your hands or a large spoon, stir to combine fully, but do not squeeze the meat or overmix.

  • Shape the mixture into an oblong ball, and gently roll it into the casserole or onto the sheet pan. Shape into a big oval loaf shape.

  • In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup and brown sugar, and spread it evenly over the meatloaf.

  • Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until the center of the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 162°F. Let rest, loosely tented in foil, for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. I suggest serving this with roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, or a big salad.

    Note: The F.D.A. recommends that poultry be cooked to 165°F. It is fine to remove the meatloaf from the oven a few degrees lower than that. Carryover heating will raise the temperature once it's removed from the oven.

Notes

The best way to tell your turkey meatloaf is cooked is with a probe thermometer, which I highly recommend for any cook. Take the temperature from the center of the meatloaf. It should register 162 degrees F.

The Best, Moist Turkey Meatloaf (2024)

FAQs

What is the secret to keeping meatloaf moist? ›

By adding finely diced or pureed aromatic vegetables to your mixture, you are adding additional moisture into the meatloaf. Not only does this make your final product juicier, but it also adds lots of extra flavor.

What can I add to ground turkey to keep it moist? ›

Mushrooms add moisture, mouthfeel, and umami (beefy) flavor to the otherwise dry ground turkey. When mushrooms are chopped up into little bits, they easily and evenly mix with ground turkey making the protein so tender and flavorful while also giving the dish a veggie boost.

Why milk instead of water in meatloaf? ›

Is it better to add milk or water in meatloaf? Without question, it is better to use milk in meatloaf. The added fat adds richness and moist texture to the meatloaf, and the added milk proteins encourage additional browning reactions (which means more flavor).

Why is my ground turkey meatloaf mushy? ›

The bread is likely to blame in mushy turkey meatloaf

In a thread, they explained that ground turkey has less structure than ground beef, so it's more apt to get soft and fall apart while baking. An easy solution is to always use breadcrumbs or bread that's at least a day old rather than fresh bread.

Is it better to cook meatloaf covered or uncovered? ›

Should I cook my meatloaf covered or uncovered? The meatloaf can be cooked uncovered. However, if you are concerned about it burning, you can cover the meatloaf with foil for the first 45 minutes and uncover it for the final 15 minutes to allow the meatloaf to brown on top.

How do you make meatloaf that isn't dry? ›

Add one or two eggs per pound of meat for a moist texture. Make Use of Milk: Soak breadcrumbs in milk before adding them to your mixture. This will keep your meatloaf moist during baking. Slather on Sauce: Add a layer of ketchup, barbecue sauce, or a mixture of both on top of your meatloaf before baking.

What is the secret to a moist turkey? ›

Well, think of brining as your insurance. If you're concerned your turkey might be dry, brining will keep it juicy and moist, even if you overcook it a bit. BUT– you won't overcook it due to Secret #3. During brining, the turkey absorbs extra moisture that keeps it moist during and after cooking.

How to cook ground turkey so it's not dry? ›

When overcooked, ground turkey quickly gets dry and crumbly, and loses its flavor. Follow this tip: Keep on eye on the time as you cook, and keep an instant-read thermometer handy. To prevent dry meat, cook ground turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

What does adding an extra egg to meatloaf do? ›

Eggs Add Structure

Egg yolks, which are mostly water but contain a good amount of protein and fat, add flavor, richness, and moisture. They also help bind the meat together and get the loaf to set in a stable form without the need to overwork the meat.

What is the secret to a great meat loaf? ›

How to make meatloaf
  • Use high-fat meat. The leaner the meat, the dryer and grainier the meatloaf. ...
  • Add moisture at every step. ...
  • Use soaked crustless bread. ...
  • Sauteed vegetables are key. ...
  • Don't play patty cake with the meat. ...
  • Taste-test the meat mixture. ...
  • Give the meatloaf space in the pan. ...
  • Glaze it up.
Sep 13, 2018

How do I make ground turkey more flavorful? ›

How do you add flavor to ground turkey? Turkey meat can be flavored with easy ingredients like kosher salt and pepper, bell peppers, garlic powder, and olive oil. If you're cooking meat, specifically turkey taco meat, hot sauce and enchilada sauce are your best mates.

Why does my turkey meatloaf fall apart? ›

Why Does My Turkey Meatloaf Fall Apart? You may find your meatloaf is crumbly or falling apart if you used too many breadcrumbs or not enough eggs. The eggs help bind a meatloaf while breadcrumbs improve the texture and make it more tender. Overcooking can also cause a dry, crumbly meatloaf.

What makes meatloaf too moist? ›

One of the most common reasons meatloaf is watery is an overabundance of liquid ingredients. Adding broth, milk, or eggs can enhance flavor and moisture, but too much can lead to a soupy consistency. Use these ingredients sparingly, and consider adding breadcrumbs or oats to absorb excess moisture.

How do you keep meatloaf from falling apart when you cook it? ›

When this happens, it's because you didn't use enough. Next time, try adding in an extra egg and/or some more breadcrumbs. Alternatively, rice, barley, corn flakes, crackers, and dried soup mix can also stand in as binding ingredients as well. Including larger quantities of these items should help solve the problem.

Why does my meatloaf come out dry? ›

Yet your meatloaf came out dry, overcooked, and tough. This is most likely a result of overmixing. Overmixing your meatloaf ingredients can ruin the texture, moisture, and structure of your meatloaf.

How do you keep meatloaf from getting soggy? ›

Meatloaf that isn't soggy

To solve this problem, make a free-form meatloaf. Shape it into a long mound on a sheet tray lined with parchment or foil, and the excess fat will drain away from the loaf during cooking.

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