Updating a Kitchen Classic: Making Meatloaf Gluten-Free

I used to have a poor opinion of meatloaf. I thought its throw-together preparation and cheap ingredients were the reason it became a hallmark of moms in a rush and budget-strapped school cafeterias. And I wasn’t able to eat it for a long time after my elementary school lunch lady slopped a dry gray slab of unknown meat covered in ketchup on my tray and called it “meatloaf.”  But, after being introduced to a variety of meatloaf filler ingredients and unique sauces, I’ve come to understand its classic comforting appeal. Meatloaf is easy to make, economical, hearty, filling, and (when cooked right) quite delicious! Of course, one of the main ingredients is bread crumbs, which are usually off limits for gluten-free diets. With a few substitutions, though, gluten-free meatloaf can be easily done!

One of the best things about meatloaf is that every cook has his or her own special family recipe. Therefore, plenty of solutions have evolved for replacing the breadcrumb filler in meatloaf with gluten-free ingredients.

Here are some breadcrumb substitutions you can try:

Bought or baked GF bread, sliced into bread crumbs. (Tip: If you make home-made gluten-free bread, save any “mess up” loaves for  crumbling into breadcrumbs to use in recipes such as meatloaf.)

  • Crushed GF crackers
  • Crushed corn tortilla chips
  • Crushed corn flakes
  • Dense vegetables such as mushrooms and zucchini
  • Quinoa
  • Cooked rice
  • Certified gluten-free oats

And here are 3 delicious gluten-free meatloaf recipes you can try:

1)      “Perfect Gluten Free Meatloaf” from Off the Wheaten Path is a classic meatloaf recipe with a ketchup & garlic sauce.

2)      “Sweet and Sour Meatloaf” from Gluten Free Mommy has a tangy flavor from bell peppers, mustard, and brown sugar.

3)      “Maple Meatloaf” from Gluten Free Goddess is savory and spicy, using nutmeg, allspice, curry, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

Or, save yourself time in the kitchen by using a pre-made GF meatloaf mix from Mixes From the Heartland. They sell a veggie-filled Garden Meatloaf Mix and a spicy Tex Mex Meatloaf Mix.

What do you use as a gluten-free meatloaf filler? Send us your GF meatloaf recipes in the comments section!

Note: Top photo courtesy of www.firehow.com


20 thoughts on “Updating a Kitchen Classic: Making Meatloaf Gluten-Free”

  1. And just wondering does the coconut’s sweetness affect the meatloaf’s flavor at all? I imagine you could do a tropical meatloaf, with pineapple on top, etc.

  2. I always save the crushed cereal at the bottom of a bag of Chex or corn flakes in a small container. These make instant bread crumbs for a meatloaf.

    I also recently started making a vegetarian version of my meatloaf using lentils and chick peas as the “meat”. It is a nice alternative.

  3. My name is Michelle too :). First, I usually use a combination of different binders for either my meatballs or meatloaf; my current favorite combo is coconut flour and chia seed meal with maybe a dash of almond flour or quinoa flakes; I tried cooked rice and it didn’t work as well. From making meatlballs/meatloaf routinely, I’m just aware of how the mixture should feel so I just add the binders until I’m satisfied. Second, I usually use ground all white meat (kosher) turkey.

    I don’t detect any coconut flavor in the final product. The recipes I use for meatballs/meatloaf have enough assertive flavors: sage, garlic, maple, diced veges, etc. I’ve made variations of Karina (Gluten free goddess)’s recipes and they are so delicious and family-friendly. I find that the coconut flour leads to an excellent texture – not too hard/dense, but it doesn’t fall apart into mush either.

    Please try it and let me know what you think!

  4. We started using crushed tortilla chips when my husband could not longer have gluten. Love the flavor but, of course, it contains quite a bit of salt. I just didn’t add any salt. I now usually use gluten free oats. I put celery, pepper, shredded carrot, onion, lots of spices, an egg, ketchup, small amt. of mustard, a little Worchestershire sometimes – and then the oats. Mmmmm. We just had some with corn on the cob and salad.

  5. I don’t use filler at all for my meatloaf. My mom taught me to make it as a kid (she hated squishing the meat) and all we use for the meatloaf is combination of ground beef and ground turkey, egg, ketchup, steak sauce, salt and pepper. Mix together, mold into the meatloaf lump and bake :) My grandma adds bacon to the top of her meatloaf – again with no filler.

  6. Thanks for the advice Rachelle! I didn’t realize you could skip the filler- the egg works as enough of a binder?

    And bacon on top…. your grandmother is a genius! =)

  7. These are all really great ideas! I love the carrots idea and I often use tortilla chips. I love sticking beans in my meatloaf too – it cuts the cholesterol and makes it less heavy, although meatloaf is still a pretty heavy dish. I love adding Tasty Bite’s Madras Lentils to my meatloaf- it has a smokiness and heartiness to it, almost like chili. It always turns out super-delicious when I make it with tortilla chips too. I definitely recommend trying this, as well as seeing what else Tasty Bite has to offer, because they have tons of gf options! Thanks for the delicious recipe and bon appetit!

  8. Your Welcome, Michelle :) I’ve never had a meatloaf fall apart on me yet by just using egg as my binding agent. I use 1-2 eggs depending on the size of the meatloaf.
    And bacon on top of the meatloaf is not only genius its totally delish!

  9. I pour a sauce on top that makes any meatloaf delicious. I’d love to take credit for it, but found it many years ago on a “Durkee Instant Minced Onion” label (along with a meatloaf recipe). Don’t know if they still print it on those labels or not. Every person who has eaten my meatloaf – without fail – has loved it – regardless of what I put in the actual meatloaf. It’s 1/2 cup catsup, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp prepared mustard, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup water. I realized early on that a double batch of this sauce was necessary, as it gets put on the meatloaf, spooned over the mashed potatoes and sopped up with bread to clean the plate. It even gets spread on bread for meatloaf sandwiches the next day. All gluten-free, of course.

  10. P.S. – I use only the very leanest of ground beef for my meatloaf so there’s very little, if any, grease around the meatloaf that can mix with the sauce.

  11. This suggests the use of crushed corn flakes. I recently looked at every brand of corn flakes in the grocery store and couldn’t use them because every one had malt in some form. Malt generally comes from barley which has gluten. There may be a gluten free brand of corn flakes somewhere. But I certainly did not find one.

  12. I’ve never seen gluten-free corn flakes in a regular grocery store, but have found them in most health food stores.

  13. We enjoy experimenting with whatever is in the fridge as ingredients, my favorite for easy deliciousness is to half cook frozen peas and corn then add them into the mix.

    They add great colour and flavour at the same time. Also at about the 75% cooked stage! we drain off excess fat and glaze with Ketchup to get a nice cooked on crust that also adds flavour and enhances the presentation.

    Cheers…….Dave

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