Let’s talk meatloaf. Whether served for lunch at the school cafeteria or as Sunday night dinner, you've likely had more than your fair share. And though it doesn’t exactly have a reputation as the most interesting or attractive dish (how sexy can a baked pile of ground beef be?), when you throw in a few unexpected spices, leave out the gluten, experiment with alternative proteins, or bake it in muffin form, meatloaf recipes can become a hell of a lot more impressive. 

From Paleo versions to vegan interpretations, check out these 23 recipes that give the humble meatloaf a mouthwatering, Instagram-worthy makeover. 

Beef

Photo: Paleo Running Momma

Even without any grains to hold it together, this pork and beef-based meatloaf keeps its shape with the help of an egg. The easy maple-chipotle ketchup on top is optional but a great idea if you want to give the simple dish a sweet and spicy kick. 

Photo: Kiddielicious Kitchen

The zucchini and onion stirred into the meatloaf already boosts the veggie count in this recipe, but then it goes a step further by swapping out a traditional ketchup glaze for a sweet tomato basil sauce. Meal-prep worthy? We think so.

Photo: All That's Jas

The hidden egg in this dish may be a throwback move, but school cafeteria meatloaf, this is not. A pinch of nutmeg gives it some depth, only two tablespoons of ketchup keep it from being overly sweet, and the four slices of bacon wrapped around make it totally irresistible. 

Photo: The Seasoned Mom

Anything baked in a muffin tin is automatically more delicious, and these mini meatloaves are no exception. Using extra lean ground beef and whole-wheat bread crumbs, they’re protein packed, fiber filled, portion controlled, and portable. Doesn’t get much better.

Photo: Sinful Nutrition

With zucchini, spinach, carrots, onion, and tomato sauce in here, this is practically a salad in meatloaf form. Dead of winter or peak summer, it tastes great any time of year.

Photo: Trampling Rose

While ingredients for meatloaf are usually mixed and baked, this recipe cooks them in a skillet first to cut down on oven time and ensure that everything is properly cooked through. Cut the end result into wedges instead of slices and serve like a pizza! 

Photo: Blommi

A meatloaf you can set and forget? Sign us up! The ground beef and pork mixture is placed into the slow cooker alongside root veggies and left alone for five to six hours; this is the easiest meat and potatoes dish you’ll ever make. 

Photo: Downshiftology

Give your meatloaf a Neapolitan twist by adding in some dried Italian herbs and swapping out a ketchup glaze for a Parmesan and marinara coating. With no flour or bread crumbs in the loaf, it’s a gluten-free way to satisfy that craving for pizza. 

Poultry

Photo:

Here’s another Buffalo chicken recipe for your repertoire. This one promotes the famous combo from appetizer to entrée level by mixing the chicken, gorgonzola, and hot sauce with bread crumbs and an egg. It’s much more nutritious than a Buffalo chicken dip, but the flavors are all there.

Photo: Proud Italian Cook

With all the frying that goes on with a regular chicken Parm, it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of meal. But this meatloaf, using ground chicken, a baking method, and just enough cheese without going overboard, is light enough to eat (at least) once per week.

Photo: My San Francisco Kitchen

Even a baked meatloaf can taste fresh if you pack it with summery veggies and chopped herbs... and pour on a tangy balsamic sauce on top. This is one recipe that will fill you up without weighing you down. 

Photo: The Suburban Soapbox

When you have no time (or patience) to make enchiladas, make this meatloaf instead. It’s got the sauce, the beans, the corn, and the cheese—but no tortillas means no finicky assembly required. All you have to do is shape the mixture into a loaf pan and bake away.

Photo: Organize Yourself Skinny

While this recipe uses ground turkey for a leaner alternative to beef, a cardboard-like result is the last thing you’ll get. Marinara sauce and a touch of milk keep the dryness away, and with crumbled feta sprinkled in, this is no less hearty than any traditional meatloaf.

Photo: Just a Taste

An American favorite gets the Asian-inspired treatment with sesame oil and a hoisin glaze. It’s the perfect meal for when you want something comforting but also something slightly off the beaten path.   

Photo: Family Food on the Table

Next time you make turkey meatloaf, give it some south-of-the-border pizzazz by adding chilies and cheddar to the mix. Top with salsa, dig in, and never call meatloaf boring again.  

Photo: Breezy Bakes

This recipe is all about unconventional ingredients: crushed, gluten-free tortilla chips instead of bread crumbs, grated apples, and a brown sugar and sage topping. If you ever doubted the whole “opposites attract” thing, this meatloaf may just make you a believer.  

Meatless

Photo: Two City Vegans

This recipe may rely on a common meat substitute (tofu) for its base, but there’s nothing standard about this meat-free loaf. Pecans add texture, black-eyed peas provide an additional source of protein, and rosemary and thyme lend a depth of flavor.  

Photo: Apron Strings Blog

Spoiler alert: We’re going to blab the secret ingredient here because it’s too good not to share. Doing triple duty as a binding agent, a source of sweetness, and a texture enhancer, a full cup of dates is vital to making this meatloaf taste like no other. 

Photo: Smith's Vegan Kitchen

Not familiar with tempeh? Here’s the perfect way to use tofu’s more fermented cousin. With higher protein and fiber counts than its soy-based counterpart, it makes for one hell of a hearty loaf. 

Photo: Veganosity

Roasting the veggies first may be an extra step, but it’s totally worth it. They become naturally sweeter when caramelized in the oven, and when combined with the flavors of garlic and Italian seasoning, they make this vegan dish a meal even meat lovers will get into.

Photo: Contentedness Cooking

There’s a reason that sun-dried tomatoes and basil is such a popular combo—it works in pretty much any dish, and this one is no exception. Here, it adds plenty of flavor to the mixture of lentil and white beans standing in for the meat. 

Photo: Strength and Sunshine

There are few veggies more versatile than cauliflower. It can masquerade as rice, replace the spuds in mashed potatoes, form the base of a pizza crust, and now, it’s playing a major role in giving this meatloaf its hearty texture. Pair it with brown lentils, nutritional yeast, and lots of spices, and you won’t be needing more volume, texture, or flavor. 

Photo: One Ingredient Chef

With mushrooms, tofu, oats, and lentils, one slice of this is enough to keep you full for a while. There may not be any beef, pork, turkey, or chicken in here, but it’s so meaty that you could fool anyone who didn’t cook it themselves. 

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