BBQ Sauce Meatloaf

The great debate over meatloaf has always been tomato sauce vs. barbecue sauce on top. I’m not sure if it the two styles are indicative of a regional difference or if they’re the result of some other circumstance but I do know exactly which side of the debate I fall on for this one… barbecue ALL. THE. WAY. For me, there is no place for tomato sauce on meatloaf, ever. I’m team BBQ Sauce Meatloaf.

I grew up loving meatloaf. I don’t say that lightly; I really mean loving it. It was even my requested birthday meal every year straight through the age of 31. I still struggle to control my appetite when it’s being served for dinner. But if I see it on a menu at a restaurant and it has tomato jam on top rather than BBQ sauce, I can’t bring myself to eat it. It just isn’t the same.

The Ingredients for BBQ Sauce Meatloaf

Ground beef – I like to use a beef with a higher fat content for this recipe because it adds a little richness. Go with 80-90% lean meat if you can.



Egg – to bind it.

Ketchup – not on top of the loaf, but mixed into the meat.

Horseradish – feel free to use a heavy hand when measuring this.

Seasonings – dried onion, dried mustard, salt

BBQ sauce – I use Sweet Baby Rays but go with whatever your favorite sauce is.

The Recipe for BBQ Sauce Meatloaf

This recipe for bbq sauce meatloaf is very old fashion. It’s that down-home style of cooking that we expect of grandmas. That might actually be one of the reasons it’s so darn delicious. The recipe has been handed down 3 generations and it can never be replaced in our family. (Although, a short side anecdote: my mom did attempt to replace it with a food network chef’s recipe which included a bacon onion jam instead of the BBQ sauce. It was fine but paled in comparison to our family original recipe.)

Sliced meatloaf baked with barbecue sauce on top

How to Make Meatloaf Topped with Sweet Barbecue Sauce

Putting this meatloaf together is as simple as recipes get. To make bbq sauce meatloaf start by putting all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and then mix it until everything is combined evenly. I typically use my hands to mix it all together but if you don’t like the mess, a stiff rubber spatula or fork are probably your best options. Then shape it into a loaf, transfer it to a baking dish, spread on the sauce and bake it until done.

If you’re planning to make meatloaf and you need to give yourself a little extra time around meal prep, assemble the meatloaf earlier in the day then just cover the baking dish with foil and pop it into the refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake it, it can go straight into the oven.

Sliced meatloaf baked with barbecue sauce on top

FAQ’s & Recipe Tips

What can you use instead of ketchup on meatloaf?

Instead of ketchup, use bbq sauce on meatloaf. Spread it over the top of the loaf before you bake it.

How do you make meatloaf ahead of time?

Yes, you can make meatloaf ahead of time by assembling the meatloaf, even topping it with BBQ sauce, earlier in the day and refrigerating it. When you’re ready to cook it just place it in the oven and cook until done, about 1 hour for a 1 pound meatloaf.

What should I cook meatloaf in?

Any loaf pan or baking dish is fine for cooking meatloaf. I use a ceramic baking dish (either 9×13 or 7×10). This way there is less baked on crust to clean and also the sauce can cover the sides of the meatloaf.

Can I substitute BBQ sauce for ketchup in meatloaf?

Yes you can substitute BBQ sauce for ketchup in meatloaf. It will add an extra sweetness to the flavor.

What is the secret to juicy meatloaf?

The secret to juicy meatloaf is not overcooking it. Watch the temperature closely with a meat thermometer and take it out of the oven as soon as it is done. You can also add a few tablespoons of milk to the raw meatloaf mixture to give it some additional moisture.

The Recipe for BBQ Sauce Meatloaf

Check out the recipe below. If you try out my family recipe let me know in the comments below. Also let me know where you fall in the great tomato vs. barbecue sauce debate. Enjoy!

Meatloaf with sweet barbecue sauce

BBQ Sauce Meatloaf

This retro dinner is one that never goes out of style. Seasoned beef with a sweet BBQ sauce glaze is a comfort food dinner that you'll be adding to your dinner routine after just one bite.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tbsp dried onion
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 ½ tsp horseradish
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp dried mustard
  • barbecue sauce


  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Mix all ingredients except ground beef and barbecue sauce in a medium size mixing bowl. Then add ground beef and mix again. (I like to use my hands to mix the beef because it seems to work better.)
    1 cup breadcrumbs, ½ cup milk, 2 tbsp dried onion, 1 egg, 3 tbsp ketchup, 1 ½ tsp horseradish, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp dried mustard
  • Place beef mixture in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and shape it into a loaf.
    1 lb ground beef
  • Using a spatula or brush, spread barbecue sauce on the top of the loaf in an even layer.
    barbecue sauce
  • Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until cooked through.


To make in advance: assemble the meatloaf completely, even top it with the BBQ sauce, earlier in the day. When you’re ready to cook it just pop it in the oven and cooke until done. It should still take about 1 hour to cook. 
Keyword barbecue sauce, beef, meatloaf

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