This pumpkin barbecue meatloaf recipe with mashed sweet potatoes is the finale to my week of pumpkin-themed dishes. The pumpkin spiced topping has no added sugar and can be made sweet or savory to fit your taste preferences. If you have a weight loss goal, don’t miss my tips to lighten up this dish. Get cozy this autumn with some seasonal comfort food!
I’ve made a pumpkin barbecue meatloaf recipe for dinner every autumn for the past few years. It’s become a bit of a yearly tradition for us, along with picking apples and constructing Halloween costumes.
My original recipe for pumpkin meatloaf came from a fellow dietitian. While I love the recipe, I’ve always found it a bit too sweet for my taste buds.
Today I am going to offer you my reinvented version of the pumpkin barbecue meatloaf recipe. It has no added sugar and can be made sweet or savory by adding or subtracting pureed dates.
I know that it is somewhat strange to include dates in a meatloaf. However, they help to provide that touch of sweetness that is expected from BBQ sauce.
Additionally, the dates help to give the sauce a lovely brown color. Without them, the meatloaf appears to have been brushed with pumpkin puree straight from the can, even after broiling. An example of the cooked pumpkin topping without the dates can be seen below.
This recipe feeds a crowd, and if you have company over, I’d recommend adding the dates for aesthetic appeal. If you are on a low-carb diet or looking to lighten the meal, we felt it was fine to leave them out. The meatloaf will still taste great.
It’s not hard to lighten up this recipe if you have a weight loss goal
There are some easy ways to bring the numbers down on this meal. One straightforward approach that many healthcare practitioners would recommend is to have smaller portions of the meat and potatoes. Using a mini loaf pan to make the loaves is a strategy that may help with portion control.
However, there are other strategies to enjoy these comfort foods that might bring you greater satiety. If you have a weight loss goal, it’s wise to think about the approach that may work best for you. Here are the ways I would have modified this recipe if I was still trying to lose weight:
- Remove the hyper-palatable fat and carb combinations in the meal. One way to do this is skip adding the date puree to the pumpkin topping, as discussed above.
- This one may be a bit controversial, but I’d ditch the sweet potato side as well. The meatloaf and salad by themselves will make a delicious and satiating meal that is lower in calories. This tip is also the way to go if you follow a low-carb way of eating.
- Substitute the pound of ground pork in this recipe for another pound of 96/4 ground beef. This move will cut significant calories and fat from the dish. A word of warning though, your finished meatloaf will be a bit drier.
One final suggestion!
This recipe makes six generous servings. Unless you have a large family, I recommend packing leftovers into individual serving containers right away.
Having the leftovers packed up as individual meals makes it far less likely I’ll mindlessly snack on them later. I have a collection of glass food containers that I use; they last longer than plastic and are better for reheating. It’s a great way to prevent food waste and have a delicious lunch or dinner all set for later in the week!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let’s get cooking!
Meatloaf in Air Fryer (Recipe + Video!)
For the meatloaf topping:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup grated onion
- 80 grams pitted fresh dates
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 15 ounces canned pumpkin
For the meatloaf:
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 lb. ground beef, lean
- ½ cup rolled oatmeal, dry (plain old fashioned rolled oats or quick oats)
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 jalapeno, chopped (remove seeds for less heat or keep them if you like it hot)
- ½ cup canned pumpkin
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 10 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- cooking oil spray of choice
For the sweet potatoes:
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, chopped into 1½" cubes (no need to peel them)
- ¼ cup milk, 2%
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
- mixed greens and dressing of your choice (1½ cups greens and 1-2 tablespoons dressing per person)
To make the meatloaf topping:
- Sauté the grated onion in the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. It will take about 5 minutes for it to get translucent. You're not looking to brown the onion.
- Put the dates and red wine vinegar in a food processor. Blend into a smooth puree.
- Add the sautéed onion and all of the rest of the meatloaf topping ingredients to the food processor with the dates. Blend until smooth. (Turn the processor off and scrape down the sides with a spatula if the ingredients are sticking. Then turn the processor on again and continue blending.)
- Put the pumpkin sauce in a medium-sized pan and heat, stirring, for 20 minutes on medium-low. It will become as thick as ketchup. Set sauce aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
To make the meatloaf:
- Sauté the mushrooms in a cast iron pan, using the cooking spray if needed. This will take about 10 minutes. You can add a little water if the mushrooms get too dry.
- Use clean hands to thoroughly combine all of the meatloaf ingredients (including the mushrooms) in a large mixing bowl.
To air fry meatloaf:
- Mist two 8.5-inch by 4.5-inch metal baking pans with cooking spray.
- Divide your meatloaf mixture in half and shape it into two small loaves. (Alternatively, you can simply press the meatloaf out into a flat layer in each prepared pan.)
- Take the top tray out of the air fryer. Put the pans with the meatloaf mixture into your air fryer oven. In my air fryer, both pans were able to fit on an air fryer tray in the lower rack position.
- Air fry the loaves for 20 minutes at 375°F.
- Spread the meatloaf topping on the top of your meatloaves. You only need half of the topping for this recipe (i.e., use ¼ of the topping per meatloaf). Freeze unused topping to easily whip up more meatloaf in the future.
- Put the topped meatloaves back in the air fryer oven. Air fry for 10 minutes at 375°F. Then turn up the heat to 400°F, and air fry for 8-10 more minutes.
- Check your meatloaves with a meat thermometer to ensure they reached a minimum safe internal temperature of 160°F. Air fry them longer if needed.
- Let your air fried meatloaves rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
To oven bake meatloaf (alternative to air frying):
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Spray a rimmed baking pan with the cooking spray. Shape the meatloaf mixture into one large meatloaf on the pan.
- Bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Spread half of the pumpkin barbecue sauce over the loaf and bake an additional 10 minutes. (Freeze the leftover pumpkin barbecue sauce for future use.)
- After baking, broil the loaf on low for an additional 3 minutes.
- Check your meatloaf with a kitchen thermometer to ensure it has reached a minimum safe internal temperature of 160°F. Bake longer if needed.
- Let the loaf rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.
To make the mashed sweet potatoes:
- While the meatloaf air fries or bakes, put the sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with 1-2" of water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium, and simmer 20-30 minutes until soft.
- Drain the sweet potatoes well. Using a potato masher, mash all of the sweet potato ingredients together until well-combined.
- Divide the pumpkin meatloaf, mashed sweet potatoes, and salad greens with dressing among the dinner plates.
- Enjoy this delicious and comforting meal!
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). This is a nice moderate calorie meat and potatoes meal. That said, there are some easy ways to make it under 500 calories if you have a weight loss goal. Here are some tips: Make mini meatloaves. Use a mini loaf pan to help with portion control. You’ll need to oven bake the meatloaves if you do this. Most mini loaf pans won’t fit in the air fryer. (You may need to adjust the baking times if you do this.) Reduce the easy to overeat fat and carb combinations. One way to do this is skip adding the date puree to the pumpkin topping. You could also cut back on the amount of butter in the mashed sweet potatoes. (P.S. Though it’s thought of as more heart healthy, swapping the butter for an equal amount of olive oil would actually add MORE calories to the meal!) Skip the starch. You could skip the sweet potatoes entirely and fill up on the protein and non-starchy veggies. The meatloaf and salad by themselves will make a delicious and filling meal that is lower in calories. Pack the leftovers away, right away. This recipe makes six generous servings. Unless you have a large family, I recommend packing leftovers into individual serving containers right away. Having the leftovers packed up as individual meals can help prevent mindlessly snacking on them later. I have a collection of glass food containers that I use; they last longer than plastic and are better for reheating. It’s a great way to prevent food waste and have delicious lunches or dinners all set for later in the week! Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe, and includes the air fryer meatloaf and mashed sweet potatoes only. The salad and dressing are not included.
What are some of your favorite autumn comfort foods? Tell me in the comments, and be sure to leave a rating if you try this pumpkin barbecue meatloaf recipe with sweet potatoes!