Meatloaf (Paleo, Gluten-Free)

27 Mar

Meatloaf is a dish that changes with age: it is often reviled by children and treasured by parents. It makes sense, actually. Kids like to know what’s in their food, and meatloaf is the antithesis of this idea; it’s just a brown hunk of mystery, coupled with a nagging feeling that there are vegetables inside. Adults like meatloaf because it’s a way to eat many ingredients at once, with minimal effort. Personally, I think that a perfectly-cooked meatloaf is appealing to both sides of the coin: easy to make but tasty enough for everyone to enjoy. To ensure a perfectly-roasted loaf, I developed a recipe that uses a water bath to keep the oven moist and cook everything evenly.

Meatloaf has origins in many countries, spread throughout the world. It’s universally considered a comfort food. Some of my favorite variations include Jewish Klops (made with boiled eggs inside), Czech Sekaná (with pickles and sausage inside), and Austrian Faschierter Braten (wrapped in ham or bacon before baking). The American variation rose to popularity during the Great Depression, when families tried to stretch food out to last longer. Americans typically added breadcrumbs to help bind and add volume to the dish, and the tradition persists today. The truth is that a well-cooked meatloaf doesn’t really need a breadcrumb binder – mushrooms work just fine, and add some great flavor as well.

processed filler ingredients

Meatloaf (Paleo, Gluten-Free)

  • Servings: 5
  • Time: 1 hr 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

2 tbsp butter or ghee (coconut oil okay)
1/2 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
4oz mushrooms, coarsely chopped
small handful fresh parsley
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 squirts (1/4 tsp) Tabasco sauce
2 lbs ground beef (see variations below)

1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp dijon mustard

1. Pre-cooking the onion and garlic will give your meatloaf a more even flavor. In a skillet, warm the butter or ghee on medium heat for a minute. Add the onion and sauté until translucent and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds, then add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer; simmer until most of the broth has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool, about 5 minutes.

2. Preheat your oven to 325F. Add the cooled onion/garlic, cauliflower, carrot, mushrooms, parsley, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco to a food processor or blender and pulse into tiny pieces, as pictured above. In a large bowl, combine the blended vegetables and ground beef with your hands. Be careful not to over-mix.

3. Pack the meatloaf into a loaf pan, gently pressing down to eliminate any air bubbles. Place the loaf pan into a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with enough water so that it reaches halfway up the loaf pan. Bake until it registers an internal temperature of 165F, about 90 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes to crisp the top. Remove from the oven, gently remove the loaf from the pan, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2″ slices (~10 slices total).

4. About 1/2 cup of liquid will have accumulated around the loaf when cooking. Pour the liquid through a fat separator, then combine half of the meatloaf liquid with the ketchup and dijon mustard. Add more liquid as needed get a sauce that’s thick but pourable. Pour the sauce over the meatloaf, serving with your favorite mashed root vegetable (I used potato, but mashed sweet potato, rutabaga, turnip, or parsnip would be equally delicious).

** Variations: instead of 2 lbs ground beef, try mixing 1 lb each of ground beef and ground pork for a less beefy flavor. Process some uncooked bacon (about 6oz) with the vegetables for an extra juicy and rich flavor (note that adding bacon may increase cooking time up to 30 minutes).

** We’ve experimented with other vegetables in the loaf to excellent result: broccoli, zucchini, and even bell peppers work well with this template.

** Note that Lea & Perrins Worcestershire has a fairly clean ingredients list: distilled white vinegar, molasses, water, sugar, onions, anchovies, salt, garlic, cloves, tamarind extract, natural flavorings, chili pepper extract. According to their website, this product is also gluten-free. I’m personally okay with minimal amounts of molasses and sugar in recipes, but if you are avoiding sugar altogether, fish sauce is an appropriate substitution. The whole “natural flavorings” ingredient thing is probably anything but natural, so again, if you have food sensitivities use fish sauce (or omit).

loaf pan in its water bath

30 Responses to “Meatloaf (Paleo, Gluten-Free)”

  1. Pennie D. March 27, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Sounds simple enough, and just maybe be a way to get my family to eat mushrooms. Thanks

  2. Alisha March 27, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Could I double this & freeze one for later?

    • Russ Crandall March 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

      Hi Alisha, I think it’d freeze well. Go for it!

  3. Alison March 27, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Yeah… so looking forward to trying this, and the ketchup recipe you posted a few days ago. I’m a ketchup addict and have found the loss of this condiment to be my biggest craving since going paleo. I appreciate the extra pictures you have included, they help me to build confidence in my cooking by assuring me when my food prep looks the same as yours. I know it’s a lot more work and time for you, thank you.

    • Russ Crandall March 27, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      Alison, thanks! Those extra pictures definitely make things more difficult, and starting in 2014 I’ve been only posting a few pictures per recipe. Previously, I was posting 15+ per recipe, and it was a lot of extra work. This new method lets me focus on getting fewer, better shots!

  4. pinkandpaleo March 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    This sounds simple and delicious! Hmmm wonder what kind of sides would go well with this. Maybe some roasted cauliflower?!

    • Russ Crandall March 27, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      Roasted cauliflower would be great – any roasted root vegetable would be good too!

  5. Fawn @ Cowen Park Kitchen March 27, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I agree that meatloaf doesn’t need a “binder/filler” (unless you’re low on meat!). I’ve done a number of different non-bread crumb methods–oats, oat flour, rice, rice flour, masa harina, lots of vegetables chopped finely. Nut meal also is on my radar to try!

  6. Tere March 28, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

    I’m so glad I found your website, I Love and when she posted one of your recipes I knew you were worth checking out. tonight I’m cooking your Kenyan dish and I will also prepare this meatloaf! can I use turkey meat instead of beef? I agree with Alison thank you for the pictures!!! it does help guide and reassure we are cooking things right!!

    • Russ Crandall March 31, 2014 at 6:46 am #

      Tere, turkey should work fine! I’m happy you found my site, too! :)

  7. Arianne March 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    You need to make sure that your Worcestershire sauce is gluten free, normal kinds are not. I cant have wheat or dairy for other health reasons, which is why Paleo is perfect for me, but you have to be careful. It’s surprising what has wheat, barley, malt, etc that all contain gluten.

  8. Jan W March 29, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    This looks AMAZING! Can’t wait to try it–meatloaf is one of my favorite comfort foods! Could you clarify what you mean by “half of the meatloaf liquid”, though? Do you mean that the fat should be strained out? I have a meatloaf pan that actually has a strainer/tray built in, so you just lift out the meatloaf on the strainer, and the liquid is left behind… Do you think that would work ok? Also, have you ever finished the meatloaf with the sauce baked, instead of poured on afterward? (Sorry for so many questions… can you tell I’m excited to try it?) ;-)

    • Russ Crandall March 31, 2014 at 6:26 am #

      When the meatloaf cooks, a lot of liquid will cook out of the loaf and remain in the pan, quite a bit. Some of it is oil, but a lot is precious, tasty liquid – that’s why I have you add it back into the sauce. Your strainer should work fine. Because my ketchup recipe is raw and fermented (with healthy bacteria!), cooking it would destroy the healthy bugs in the sauce. But you could definitely still brush it (or a different ketchup) on top before cooking!

  9. girlexpat March 30, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    I am salvitating here! It is virtually impossible to find lean minced me here (Tokyo) but, I wonder if I can use minced chicken instead and omit the butter (watching my fat intake)?

    • Russ Crandall March 31, 2014 at 6:21 am #

      Ground chicken should work okay, but you’ll want to watch the temperature like a hawk to make sure it doesn’t overcook!

  10. Danielle April 11, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    Hi, I made this just the other night and it was very very good. My (non paleo) boyfriend and I both really loved the flavor. One thing we were curious about though was the texture it was a bit crumbly. Would adding an egg or two help with that (I don’t have any problem with eggs) or does anyone have any ideas about if there is something else that would help it stick together a little better? Or did other people not have that problem and was there possibly just a problem with my ratios of veggies to meat? 1/2 of a head of cauliflower could vary a lot.

    • Russ Crandall April 15, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

      Danielle, you’re right that the amount of veggies you add can affect the texture. Adding bacon definitely makes it fall apart, at least every time we’ve tried it. It’s definitely not a dish we make to win any visual awards! :) Adding an egg would help bind it together a bit better.

  11. Barbara April 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Made this today as written and the flavor was great. I couldn’t get it out of the pan without breaking the loaf in three pieces, though. Is there a trick to this? I used two spatulas, one on each side. It wasn’t pretty, but, yum, it was good! Thank you!

    • Russ Crandall April 15, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

      Barbara, depending on the fat content of the meat and how many vegetables I add, we’ve had ours fall apart as well. I didn’t worry too much about it since it doesn’t affect the taste ;)

  12. Shupac April 20, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    At least in our oven….needed way longer than 90 minutes. Loved the taste…but might try at 350 or 375 next time??

  13. Amber April 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Just a tip on remove it from the pan – I line my loaf pan with a double folded sheet of foil with the ends hanging over the sides (imagine a sling). Then put the meatloaf in and cook it. When time to de-pan, just pick up the edges of the foil and lift it out. Only fold the foil over the sides, not the ends of the loaf pan so that the juices can run out into the pan as you slowly lift the meatloaf. I do my brownies this way too!

    • Russ Crandall April 29, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

      Amber, good idea, thanks!

      • Jennifer March 3, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

        Russ, I agree with the concept of cooking the onions and garlic before adding to the mix, but why stop there? Have you tried pre cooking the rest of the veggies as well? I’m really curious to know if there is a difference.

        • Jennifer March 19, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

          Russ, I posted that question about cooking the veggies WHILE I was making the meatloaf. I followed the recipe as written, and only cooked the onions and garlic. End result? I was surprised how much I liked this meatloaf! (I’ll admit, I added a concoction of store bought ketchup, barbecue sauce, and mustard), but the unsauced parts were still tender and delicious! Thanks!

  14. Sydney March 17, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    Thanks for this recipe Russ! I made this tonight and it was delish! I’m not too strict with condiments myself so I added a sneaky dash of sriracha and organic ketchup in my mix :)


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