Cracker Barrel Meatloaf Recipe

Transport yourself back to the comforting flavors of a beloved Cracker Barrel meatloaf with this delightful recipe. Crafted with lean ground beef, Ritz crackers, cheese, and a tangy ketchup-brown sugar topping, this homemade meatloaf captures the essence of a nostalgic favorite right in your own kitchen.


Prepare to embark on a culinary journey with these essential ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 small finely diced onion
  • ½ cup finely diced bell pepper (optional)
  • 48 Ritz crackers, crushed (about 1 1/2 sleeves)
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or Colby cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½-¾ cups ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard


Follow these simple steps to recreate the iconic Cracker Barrel meatloaf experience:

  1. Prepare the Topping:
    • In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard. Set aside; this delectable mixture will serve as the flavorful topping for your meatloaf.
  2. Preheat and Prep:
    • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line a loaf pan to ensure easy removal of the meatloaf once it’s baked.
  3. Mix the Ingredients:
    • In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the eggs, crushed Ritz crackers, cheese, milk, diced onion, bell pepper (if using), salt, and black pepper until well combined.
  4. Incorporate the Ground Beef:
    • Add the lean ground beef to the mixture and gently combine, being careful not to overmix. The goal is to incorporate the ingredients without compacting the meat too much.
  5. Shape and Bake:
    • Transfer the meatloaf mixture into the prepared loaf pan, shaping it into a loaf shape. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  6. Apply the Topping:
    • After 30 minutes of baking, remove the meatloaf from the oven and evenly spread the prepared ketchup-brown sugar topping over the surface.
  7. Continue Baking:
    • Return the meatloaf to the oven and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Rest and Serve:
    • Once fully cooked, allow the meatloaf to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. This resting period allows the flavors to meld and ensures juicy, tender slices.

Nutritional Information

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Calories: Approximately 350 per serving
  • Servings: 8

Serving and Storage Tips:

Serving Tips:

  • Classic Side Dishes: Serve your Cracker Barrel meatloaf alongside classic side dishes like mashed potatoes, green beans, or roasted vegetables for a complete and satisfying meal.
  • Sandwiches: Turn leftovers into delicious sandwiches by slicing the meatloaf and layering it between slices of bread or buns. Add your favorite condiments and toppings for a tasty lunch option.
  • Gravy: Drizzle homemade gravy over sliced meatloaf for an extra burst of flavor and moisture. Mushroom gravy or traditional brown gravy both pair wonderfully with this dish.
  • Garnishes: Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley or chives over the meatloaf before serving for a pop of color and freshness.

Storage Tips:

  • Refrigeration: Store any leftover meatloaf in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Make sure to allow it to cool completely before refrigerating.
  • Freezing: If you want to extend the shelf life of your meatloaf, wrap individual slices or the entire loaf tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before placing it in a freezer-safe container or bag. Frozen meatloaf can last for up to 2-3 months in the freezer.
  • Reheating: To reheat refrigerated meatloaf, slice it and warm it in the microwave or oven until heated through. For frozen meatloaf, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. You can also reheat slices directly from frozen by placing them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-25 minutes.
  • Creative Uses: Use leftover meatloaf in creative ways, such as crumbled over salads, mixed into pasta dishes, or as a topping for homemade pizzas. Its versatile nature makes it a convenient ingredient for a variety of meals.

By following these serving and storage tips, you can ensure that your Cracker Barrel meatloaf remains delicious and fresh for every serving, whether it’s enjoyed immediately or saved for later enjoyment.


  1. Turkey Meatloaf: Substitute ground turkey for beef for a leaner option. Turkey meatloaf pairs well with cranberry sauce or a tangy barbecue glaze.
  2. Vegetarian Option: Replace the ground beef with cooked lentils, black beans, or a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and vegetables for a vegetarian-friendly version. Ensure to adjust seasoning and binder quantities accordingly.
  3. Italian-Inspired: Add Italian seasoning, minced garlic, and grated Parmesan cheese to the meatloaf mixture for an Italian twist. Serve with marinara sauce and spaghetti for a comforting meal.
  4. Spicy Kick: Incorporate diced jalapeños, chipotle powder, or cayenne pepper into the meatloaf mixture for a spicy kick. Top with pepper jack cheese and serve with a side of creamy coleslaw to balance the heat.
  5. Asian Fusion: Mix in grated ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil to the meatloaf mixture for an Asian-inspired flavor profile. Serve sliced meatloaf with a drizzle of sweet chili sauce and steamed jasmine rice.
  6. Cheese Lover’s Delight: Experiment with different types of cheese, such as mozzarella, Gouda, or blue cheese, to add extra flavor and richness to your meatloaf. Layer slices of cheese between the meatloaf mixture for a gooey surprise in every bite.
  7. Gluten-Free Option: Use gluten-free breadcrumbs or crushed gluten-free crackers instead of Ritz crackers to accommodate a gluten-free diet. Ensure all other ingredients are also gluten-free and double-check condiments for hidden gluten.
  8. Sweet and Savory: Mix in a handful of dried cranberries or apricots and chopped pecans or walnuts for a sweet and savory contrast. Drizzle a balsamic glaze over the cooked meatloaf for an elegant finishing touch.
  9. Herbaceous Twist: Add chopped fresh herbs like parsley, basil, or thyme to the meatloaf mixture for a burst of freshness and aroma. Serve with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables for a comforting meal.
  10. Stuffed Meatloaf: Create a stuffed meatloaf by layering cooked bacon, sautéed spinach, and sliced cheese between two layers of meatloaf mixture. Seal the edges and bake as usual for a decadent and impressive dish.


  1. Can I use different types of crackers for the recipe?
    • Yes, you can experiment with different types of crackers based on your preference. However, keep in mind that the texture and flavor may vary slightly from the original recipe.
  2. Can I make the meatloaf ahead of time?
    • Yes, you can prepare the meatloaf mixture in advance and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours before baking. This allows the flavors to meld together for an even more delicious result.
  3. Can I freeze the meatloaf before baking?
    • Yes, you can assemble the meatloaf and freeze it before baking. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before baking as directed.
  4. Can I omit the cheese from the recipe?
    • Yes, you can omit the cheese if you prefer a dairy-free or lighter version of the meatloaf. However, keep in mind that the cheese adds flavor and moisture to the dish.
  5. Can I substitute ketchup with another sauce for the topping?
    • Yes, you can substitute ketchup with barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, or even a mixture of honey and mustard for the topping. Adjust the sweetness and tanginess according to your taste.
  6. Can I use ground pork or a mixture of meats instead of beef?
    • Absolutely! Ground pork, turkey, chicken, or a mixture of meats can be used in place of ground beef. Just ensure that the meat is cooked to the appropriate internal temperature.
  7. How can I prevent the meatloaf from becoming dry?
    • To prevent the meatloaf from becoming dry, avoid overmixing the ingredients and be sure not to overbake it. Additionally, adding a bit more milk or broth to the mixture can help keep it moist.
  8. Can I make mini meatloaves instead of one large loaf?
    • Yes, you can divide the mixture into individual portions and shape them into mini loaves. Adjust the baking time accordingly, as smaller loaves will cook faster than one large loaf.
  9. What can I serve with Cracker Barrel meatloaf?
    • Cracker Barrel meatloaf pairs well with classic side dishes like mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread, or a crisp garden salad. You can also serve it with your favorite gravy or sauce.
  10. Can I use an alternative to eggs in the recipe?
    • Yes, you can use alternatives like flax eggs, mashed bananas, or commercial egg replacers for a vegan-friendly version of the recipe. Adjust the binding agents accordingly to ensure the meatloaf holds together properly.

With this Cracker Barrel meatloaf recipe, you can bring the comforting flavors of a classic favorite to your dinner table any night of the week. From the savory blend of ground beef and cheese to the irresistible tanginess of the ketchup-brown sugar topping, every bite is sure to evoke fond memories and satisfy your craving for homestyle comfort food. So, gather your ingredients and get ready to enjoy a taste of nostalgia with this delicious homemade meatloaf.