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The Best, Moist Turkey Meatloaf

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Ultra-satisfying comfort, with plenty for leftovers.

This moist turkey meatloaf recipe makes a big, juicy turkey meatloaf loaded with onion, carrot, and tons of flavor. This is the only turkey meatloaf recipe you’ll ever need.

moist turkey meatloaf recipe

The Best Turkey Meatloaf Recipe

My cooking moods tends to alternate between “try something fresh and new” and “fall back on the old favorites.” Nothing says “old favorites” — emphasis on old — like meatloaf. Rather than a big ump of red meat, however, this juicy, flavorful, moist turkey meatloaf recipe tastes comforting and moist, folded with hidden vegetables and lots of savory flavor.

You’ll also like: Salmon Burgers With Tzatziki and Classic Fettuccini Alfredo

raw juicy turkey meatloaf recipe ingredients in bowl eggs breadcrumbs parsley turkey

Interesting Food History: Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

Bon Appétit ran a great article a few years ago about the history of meatloaf, which is actually really interesting. Arguably, the first precursors of what our essential American comfort food began as a medieval dish that used up meat scraps.

Modern American meatloaf’s origins date roughly to the 1870s, with recipes for seasoned, baked scrap meat. These scraps would have been most often beef, since cows were slaughtered before winter made feeding them more difficult.

Meatloaf became increasingly popular in the 1890s with the rise of industrial meatpacking, and into the 1920s and 1930s. In this period, the Great Depression demanded that meat stretch as far as possible, as inexpensively as possible. Ground meat made an inexpensive dinner that minimized waste. By the 1950s, meatloaf had made its way into popular cookbooks, and became the popular and ubiquitous comfort food we all know.

whole baked turkey meatloaf on wood in casserole

Juicy Turkey Meatloaf: Recipe Notes

In developing my recipe, I used Ina Garten’s turkey meatloaf recipe as a jumping-off point. Ina only uses onions as a vegetable, incorporates chicken broth, and uses a whopping five pounds of meat. I love her recipe’s technique of cooking the onions first, to get them soft. It’s an extra step, but worth it.

On the other hand, I use a combination of grated carrots, onion, and chopped celery. This increases the nutrition profile, and the flavor. And unlike Ina, I use water instead of chicken broth. Chicken broth would be great, but since the broth’s main purpose is to add moisture, water makes an easy and effective substitute.

Yes, I vote for ketchup on top.

Please do the ketchup on top! You don’t have to, but if you really want to achieve full retro meatloaf status, smear that layer of ketchup. It caramelizes on top as it bakes, and adds a good complementary sweetness to the savory meat. I have tried it both ways (as you can see from the photos), and definitely prefer the ketchup.

How to make turkey meatloaf moist

Above all, please do not — I repeat, do not — use extra-lean or all white meat ground turkey. The resulting turkey meatloaf will be dry and hard instead of soft and juicy.

I prefer 93% lean ground turkey. The fat, coupled with the water or broth used in the recipe, will make this turkey meatloaf very moist.

plate of sliced turkey meatloaf with root vegetables and bread

Did you make this turkey meatloaf recipe? How did it turn out?

moist turkey meatloaf slices

The Best Moist Turkey Meatloaf

A perfect, tried-and-true recipe for a nourishing comfort food classic that's juicy and flavorful. Adapted from Ina Garten's famed recipe.
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Course: dinner
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: comfort food, dinner, easy, fall, how to make meatloaf moist, meatloaf, turkey, turkey meatloaf, turkey meatloaf recipe, winter
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (tip: buy a tube of tomato paste for easiest use)
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, preferably panko
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F and grease or line with parchment a large casserole or half-sheet pan.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion, celery, grated carrots, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened.
  • Stir in the tomato paste to coat the vegetables. Add the water and Worcestershire sauce and stir for one minute. Remove from heat, and let cool for several minutes.
  • Add the ground turkey, parsley, eggs, salt, pepper, and breadcrumbs to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the vegetable mixture with the liquid to the mixing bowl with the turkey. Using your hands or a large spoon, stir to combine fully, but do not squeeze the meat or overmix.
  • Shape the mixture into an oblong ball, and gently roll it into the casserole or onto the sheet pan. Shape into a big oval loaf shape.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup and brown sugar, and spread it evenly over the meatloaf.
  • Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until the center of the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 162°F. Let rest, loosely tented in foil, for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. I suggest serving this with roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, or a big salad.
    Note: The F.D.A. recommends that poultry be cooked to 165°F. It is fine to remove the meatloaf from the oven a few degrees lower than that. Carryover heating will raise the temperature once it's removed from the oven.

Notes

The best way to tell your turkey meatloaf is cooked is with a probe thermometer, which I highly recommend for any cook. Take the temperature from the center of the meatloaf. It should register 162 degrees F.

24 comments

  • Can I prepare the meatloaf the day before, refrigerate and then bake the following day? Looking forward to trying your version. Love meatloaf but looking for a healthier version using ground turkey instead.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Lynne! I apologize for the late response to this comment; it got caught in the spam filter for some reason–I think a software update situation. In any event, yes, you can definitely prepare it a day in advance and refrigerate it. But because it will be very chilled, the baking time will increase slightly. I recommend having a probe thermometer handy to ensure the internal temperature reaches the correct doneness. For turkey meatloaf, that would be 164 degrees F. If using turkey, just avoid all-white meat, which will be too dry.

  • 5 stars
    Made it just as described in the recipe and it was delicious!

  • Jamie MacFaul

    5 stars
    excellent.

  • Ashley I.

    5 stars
    This is so good and I will make again.

  • 5 stars
    Made tonight and it was spectacular. This recipe is perfection, moist, with right amount savoury flavour.. Only variations I tried were 2 tablespoons tomato paste (instead of 1), and then 1 tablespoon brown sugar (rather than 2). Also used plenty of fresh thyme since it goes so well with poultry. I had to go back for more. My husband said it’s probably going to be our new favourite meatloaf recipe. I think he’s right!

    • Unpeeled

      Fabulous! I am so glad you enjoyed it. It’s definitely a staple recipe in my house.

  • 5 stars
    Great turkey meatloaf. My family doesn’t do red meat, and usually find turkey meatloaves to be dry. This was moist and when I have an 18 and 15 year old saying this recipe is a keeper, that says a lot.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Unpeeled

      Grat! Haha–high praise indeed. Please thank the kids for me 🙂

  • Marlene Riplinger

    I haven’t tried this, but I like Italian sausage added to the ground lean of my regular meat loaf recipe. Wondering what either adding Italian seasoning or using 1 1/2 lbs turkey plus 1/2 lb Italian sausage and some Italian seasoning would be like.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Marlene! I love the sausage idea. I also think Italian seasoning would taste very good. It is very adaptable. If you do Italian seasoning, I would personally think about skipping the ketchup on top, but you might be able to do it!

  • I happen to have 2lbs of ground chicken on hand (also the same percentage of fat as called for w/the turkey), can I successfully use that? And, if so, should I alter the baking time? Thank you-really enjoy cooking from your site.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi and great question. That should work as a great substitute. Turkey has slightly more flavor so you may need an additional pinch of salt or a little more onion, but I think you’re good! The thing I would caution against is swapping a super lean ground white meat for the dark meat/%fat. But it seems like you have a ready swap, so go for it.

  • Estella

    5 stars
    YEP! This is very, very good and moist, and I am so glad that it makes a lot because the leftovers are very helpful.

  • Just made it for dinner tonight and loved it! Next time, maybe half the brown sugar in the glaze. And I confess I didn’t have celery or fresh thyme. Just left the celery out and added more carrots and used dried thyme. Still delicious! Thank you.

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