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Healthier Meatloaf Recipe With Lean Ground Beef

The weather is turning cooler and it’s time to dig out the sweaters and the comfort food recipes. This Lean Mean Meatloaf recipe definitely hits the spot. Made with lean ground beef, this meatloaf recipe cuts the fat but still turns out flavorful and juicy. And isn’t the glaze the best part? This one has a secret ingredient.


Imagine sinking your teeth into a mouthwatering classic meatloaf recipe that is juicy, flavorful, and oh-so-satisfying. 

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When it comes to creating the perfect lean meatloaf, there are a few key factors that can spell the difference between a dry, tasteless disaster and a succulent, flavorful delight. 

We’ll dive into the secrets of choosing the right lean meat, the magic behind the meatloaf pan, and even a special secret sauce that will take your recipe to the next level. 

Say farewell to dry, lackluster meatloaf and get ready to impress your guests with the best meatloaf recipe out there.

Disclosure – I may get a small commission for purchases made through affiliate links in this post.

🔑 Keys to Success #1 – The Lean Meat

One of the most important factors to consider when aiming for a juicy and flavorful lean meatloaf is, of course, the lean meat itself. 

After all, it forms the foundation of this classic dish and provides all the protein-packed goodness that we love.

When it comes to selecting the right lean meat for your meatloaf, you have a variety of options to choose from. 

Ground beef, pork, ground turkey, chicken, or even a combination of meats can be used to create a delicious and healthy meatloaf. 

However, it’s crucial to pay attention to the fat content when selecting your meat.

To achieve a juicy meatloaf without the excess grease, opt for lean cuts of meat that have a lower fat percentage. 

Look for lean ground beef that is labeled as 97% lean or higher, or choose turkey or pork that is specifically labeled as lean or extra lean. 

These options will give you the perfect balance of flavor and moisture, ensuring your meatloaf doesn’t turn out dry and lackluster.


🔑 Keys to Success #2 – The Best Meatloaf Pan

When it comes to selecting a meatloaf pan, there are a few key factors to consider. 

First and foremost, you’ll want a pan that is sturdy and durable. 

A flimsy pan may warp in the oven, causing uneven cooking and potentially leading to a dry or overcooked meatloaf. 

Look for a pan made from heavy-duty materials like cast iron or steel that will hold up well under high heat.

Size is another important consideration. The pan should be large enough to comfortably hold your meatloaf mixture without crowding it. 

A crowded pan can result in uneven cooking and may cause the meatloaf to stick to the sides, making it difficult to remove intact. 

Aim for a pan that gives your meatloaf some breathing room, allowing it to cook evenly and easily slide out when it’s done.

Finally, consider the type of coating on the pan. 

Non-stick pans can make cleanup a breeze, preventing the meatloaf from sticking and making it easier to remove from the pan. 

However, some non-stick coatings can wear off over time and may not be oven-safe at high temperatures. 

If you opt for a non-stick pan, be sure to choose one that is specifically designed for use in the oven and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care and maintenance.

For the meatloaf fans, I highly recommend the USA Pan Meat Loaf Pan

It comes with a perforated insert that allows the fat and grease to drain to the bottom of the pan.


🔑 Keys to Success #3 – The Secret Sauce

The secret sauce is what adds that extra burst of flavor and juiciness to your lean meatloaf. 

It complements the meat and enhances its natural flavors, making each bite even more satisfying. 

An essential element of a great meatloaf sauce is a balance of acidity and sweetness. 

This can be achieved by incorporating ingredients like ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, or even a splash of vinegar. 

The saucy secret, though, is the addition of apricot preserves.

Apricot preserves adds a fruity touch and extra sweetness to the delicious meatloaf glaze.

As the meatloaf cooks, the topping gets all caramelized and takes the flavor to a whole new level.

Experiment with different combinations until you find the perfect balance that suits your taste buds.


🥗 What to Serve With Lean Meatloaf

Since meatloaf is a comfort food classic, it pairs well with hearty sides that complement its rich flavors. 

Consider serving it alongside creamy mashed potatoes, velvety mac and cheese, or buttery roasted veggies. 

These sides provide a comforting contrast to the lean meatloaf and add a variety of textures to your plate.

For a lighter option, you can also serve your lean meatloaf with a refreshing salad. 

A crisp Caesar salad or a colorful mixed greens salad with tangy vinaigrette can bring a fresh and zesty element to the meal. 

The brightness of the greens will balance out the richness of the meatloaf and provide a satisfying and well-rounded dining experience.

Finally, don’t forget the classic accompaniment to any meatloaf – a flavorful gravy. 

Whip up a velvety brown gravy using the juices from the meatloaf and serve it in a gravy boat for your guests to drizzle over their slices. 

This not only adds a burst of savory flavor but also keeps your meatloaf moist and delicious.


❓ Is lean ground beef good for meatloaf?

Absolutely! Lean ground beef is fantastic for meatloaf. Using lean beef can make your meatloaf healthier and packed with protein, while also allowing it to keep its shape while cooking. In fact, the best ratio to use for meatloaf is 97% lean ground beef, as it contains less fat and fewer calories than other varieties, making it a great choice for weight-conscious individuals.

❓ What can I put in meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs?

There are many things you could use instead of breadcrumbs in your meatloaf. Ritz cracker crumbs or crushed saltine crackers are great options that offer a rich texture and delicious taste. Additionally, you could try using rolled oats, quinoa, or even almond flour as a substitute for breadcrumbs, depending on your taste preferences. The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with different ingredients to find the perfect breadcrumb substitute for your meatloaf recipe!

❓ What temperature do you bake a meatloaf?

Great question! For the best results, I recommend baking a meatloaf at an oven temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is perfect because it allows the meatloaf to cook evenly without drying out or overcooking. Plus, it gives the opportunity for the flavors to meld together and create a delicious, juicy meatloaf that your family and friends will love.

❓ How long does it take to cook a meatloaf at 350?

Great question! When you cook a meatloaf at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, it typically takes about 90 minutes to cook all the way through. This is because the internal temperature of the meatloaf needs to reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant read thermometer in order to be considered safe to eat, and this takes time. Additionally, cooking meatloaf slowly at a lower temperature helps to ensure that it cooks evenly and stays moist and tender. So, the next time you make meatloaf, be sure to plan ahead for that 90-minute cook time – it’s worth it for the delicious end result!

❓ How do you not overcook meatloaf?

To ensure you don’t overcook your meatloaf, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 90 minutes. This will give you a moist and tender meatloaf with a crispy exterior. But, how do you know when it’s done? Use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meatloaf – it should reach 160 degrees F for safe consumption. Happy cooking!

📌 Get the Printable Recipe For Lean Meatloaf

Save this Meatloaf recipe to your favorite Comfort Foods board or your Beef Dinner Recipes board.

Lean Mean Meatloaf

Lean Meatloaf Using Lean Ground Beef

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Maybe it's magic but this meatloaf is juicy without being greasy. It has loads of delicious flavor without the extra fat and calories. 


For meatloaf:

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef, look for 97% lean
  • 1 cup Ritz crackers, finely crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

For topping:

  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 5X9-inch loaf pan.
  2. In large bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatloaf. Mix together well. 
  3. Press meat mixture into loaf pan. Set pan on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 1 1/2 hours.
  4. After 45 minutes, mix together ingredients for topping. Spread half the topping over the meatloaf and continue cooking until the meatloaf reaches 160 degrees F.
  5. Remove from the oven and let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before serving. Use the rest of the topping for dipping.


  • Use a food processor or a rolling pin to crush up the Ritz crackers into crumbs.
  • You can substitute equal parts bread crumbs for the cracker crumbs.
  • Store leftover meatloaf in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 560Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 169mgSodium: 1147mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 1gSugar: 26gProtein: 47g

Nutrition Information Provided For Educational and Informational Purposes Only.

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Thursday 9th of February 2023

Love this sauce! It has just the right sweet zing to it, and the meatloaf is wonderfully moist. I used 93% lean groundbeef, and peach preserves rather than apricot. I made this for two, so only used one pound of beef, and reduced the ingredients accordingly. Using one pound of beef, I was able to add the sauce right away. I tucked a couple slices of bacon over the top and it was done in 35 to 40 minutes. My husband gave it a two-thumbs up :)

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