Can you cook meatloaf in air fryer? Yes! Believe it or not, you can air fry meatloaf and the results are delicious! This air fryer meatloaf recipe has a no sugar pumpkin BBQ sauce and is served with mashed sweet potatoes. Get the directions to make a 2 pound meatloaf in air fryer oven or regular oven. Plus, I’ll give you tips on making keto meatloaf, making a weight loss friendly meatloaf meal, and more!
You've probably made Air Fryer Chicken Wings and Air Fryer French Fries, but have you ever made meatloaf in the air fryer? Meatloaf is typically a cold weather comfort food, reserved for when you don’t mind heating the house with the oven. With this air fried meatloaf recipe, you can enjoy meatloaf all year long.
It air fries in under one hour. Just think of the potential for lunch leftovers here! You can enjoy a cold meatloaf sandwich whenever you’re in the mood. It’s not just for autumn anymore!
That said, I get that not everyone has an air fryer. I'm giving you oven baking directions for this meatloaf as well. It’s a two-fer!
This meatloaf air fryer recipe is loosely adapted from a pumpkin meatloaf created by a fellow dietitian. While I love her recipe, I’ve been wanting to try dialing down the sweetness and air frying it!
What I’m offering you today is my reinvented version of the pumpkin BBQ meatloaf recipe. It has no added sugar and can be made sweet or savory by adding or subtracting pureed dates. (You can get details on making it keto in the FAQs below!)
- Meatloaf Topping Ingredients
- How to Make Meatloaf Topping
- How to Cook Meatloaf in Air Fryer
- Cooking Time and Temperature
- To Air Fry Meatloaf
- To Oven Bake Meatloaf
- What temp should meatloaf be cooked to?
- Tips for Air Frying Meatloaf
- What to serve with meatloaf?
- Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- More Air Fryer Meat Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
What are the nutritional benefits of meatloaf in an air fryer? Each recipe for meatloaf is going to offer something a little different nutritionally. Here are some reasons this is my new favorite meatloaf:
- Gluten free: A lot of meatloaf recipes include Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or other gluten containing ingredients. This recipe is different! As long as you use certified gluten free oatmeal, this air fryer meatloaf can be enjoyed by those on gluten-free diets.
- High protein: If you’re looking for an entrée that is packed with high-quality protein, this meatloaf is a great choice. It’s a great start for the makings of a hearty and satisfying meal!
- No added sugar: Even if the meatloaf itself is sugar free, the most popular meatloaf toppings typically contain added sugar. I’ve created a pumpkin BBQ sauce topping that is naturally sweetened with dates. It has no sugar added and will help you bump up your fruit intake. Truly a double-win!
- Rich in iron: This meatloaf provides an excellent source of animal-based heme iron, the type of iron your body absorbs more efficiently. Iron deficiency is fairly common and can leave you feeling run down. Ensuring you are getting adequate iron in your diet is one simple way you can help support your health.
- Comfort food: Oh, hey, did I mention that this dish is DELICIOUS? Because it is. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes definitely qualifies as comfort food in my book!
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make meatloaf in the air fryer:
- Finely chopped mushrooms (baby portobella or white mushrooms are fine)
- Ground pork
- Lean ground beef
- Dry rolled oatmeal (or plain dry quick oats)
- Large egg
- Garlic powder
- Chopped jalapeno (remove the seeds if you don’t want the heat)
- Canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
- Chopped onion
- Fresh thyme
- Dried rosemary
- Cooking oil spray
I like to use a mix of lean ground beef and ground pork in meat loaf. This mixture provides just the right amount of fat to keep the meatloaf from getting dry. However, the mix is lean enough that you shouldn’t get pools of oil in the meatloaf pan.
You could substitute the lean beef in this recipe for extra lean beef (96/4). This will cut some calories and fat from the dish without compromising on flavor or texture.
That said, I don’t recommend replacing the pork with extra lean ground beef because the meatloaf would be too dry. I also don’t recommend trying to make an air fryer turkey meatloaf with this recipe.
If you’re making a meatloaf with turkey, you will need to add more moisture to the recipe. Grated zucchini is a common add-in when you’re cooking with ground turkey. (It’s how I make my Air Fryer Turkey Burgers extra juicy!)
For the canned pumpkin, check your grocery store’s baking aisle. Pumpkin tends to be featured prominently in supermarkets in the autumn. However, you should be able to find it hidden away in U.S. stores (often on a very low shelf) year-round.
Meatloaf Topping Ingredients
This meatloaf features a sweet and savory pumpkin topping. Here is what you need to make it:
- Olive oil
- Grated onion
- Fresh pitted Medjool dates (from the produce section, not the dried dates sold in the baking aisle)
- Red wine vinegar
- Minced garlic
- Chili powder
- Black pepper
- Canned pumpkin
I know that it is somewhat strange to include dates in this recipe. However, they help to provide that touch of sweetness that is expected from a meatloaf topping 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.
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.
You can make this pumpkin spice meatloaf in the air fryer or in the oven. There are so many air fryer choices out there, aren’t there? There’s the Ninja Foodi, Power Air Fryer, Nuwave, Philips...
If you’ll be using an air fryer for this recipe, I recommend using an air fryer oven. Your air fryer needs to be large enough to put pans in it.
BTW, did you know that you can put pans in an air fryer? You can, but only if they fit! Many air fryer baskets are too small.
I used a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven for this recipe. It can fit two 8.5” x 4.5” small metal loaf pans, perfect for making two small meatloaves. (And you can use them for some tasty Air Fryer Cornbread too!)
Speaking of the metal pans, they’re another piece of equipment needed to air fry meatloaf. (Side note: some meatloaf recipes require you to cover the meatloaf with foil during baking. No foil covering is required for this recipe.)
You’ll need a food processor to make the pumpkin topping, as well as some super basic kitchen equipment (e.g., a good knife and small saucepan). If you’ll be making meatloaf in the oven, you’ll also want to have a rimmed baking pan on hand. The rim is important to catch drips that will burn on the bottom of the oven.
Hey, why not prevent messy kitchen clean up when we can, right? I love cooking but don’t love cleaning up the messes I make. Minimizing the mess when I can is definitely my goal.
One last thing to have on hand is a meat thermometer. You’ll want to check the temperature of your meatloaves to ensure they are thoroughly cooked.
How to Make Meatloaf Topping
Making meatloaf in an air fryer isn’t really any more difficult than baking it in the oven. You’re going to start by making the meatloaf topping.
You’re going to be making double the amount of topping that you need. Store the topping that you don’t use in the freezer. Having it ready will be a big timesaver the next time you want to make this air fried meatloaf!
Saute the grated onion in the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Cook it for around 5 minutes. You’re not looking to get it very brown.
Put the dates and red wine vinegar a food processor and blend it into a smooth puree. Now add the cooked onion and the rest of the meatloaf topping ingredients to the food processor.
Blend the topping until it is smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula if the ingredients are sticking.
Put the meatloaf sauce topping in a medium-sized pan and heat, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes on medium-low. It will become thick like ketchup. Set the pumpkin meatloaf topping aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
How to Cook Meatloaf in Air Fryer
Spray a cast iron skillet with cooking oil spray. Sautee the chopped mushrooms in the skillet for about 10 minutes. You can add a little water if they are getting too dry.
Using clean hands, thoroughly combine all of the meatloaf ingredients in a large mixing bowl. (This includes the cooked mushrooms, but not the meatloaf topping.)
If you’ll be air frying meatloaf, mist two 8.5-inch by 4.5-inch metal baking pans with cooking spray. If you’ll be oven baking meatloaf, mist a large rimmed baking pan with the cooking spray. Now you’re ready to cook!
Cooking Time and Temperature
Air fry meatloaf for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and then 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively, oven bake the meatloaf for one hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and then broil it for an additional 3 minutes.
To Air Fry Meatloaf
Divide your meatloaf mixture in half and shape it into two small loaves. For the nicest presentation, shape the meatloaves into oval loaf shapes in each of your oil-misted loaf pans.
Alternatively, you can simply press the meatloaf out into a flat layer in each prepared pan. (This allows it to take the shape of the pan.) The advantage of doing it this way is that the meatloaf will cook a little more evenly.
Put the pans with the meatloaf mixture into your air fryer oven. To help them fit, I took the top tray out of the 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 375F. Then spread the meatloaf topping on the top of your meatloaves.
You’ll be using ¼ of the topping recipe on each loaf (i.e., ½ of the meatloaf topping recipe will be used). Freeze the unused topping to use on future meatloaves.
Put the topped meatloaves back in the air fryer oven. Air fry for 10 minutes at 375F. Then turn up the heat to 400F, and air fry for 8-10 more minutes.
Let your air fried meatloaves rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
To Oven Bake Meatloaf
Preheat the oven to 400F. Shape the meatloaf mixture into a large meatloaf on the oil-misted rimmed baking pan.
Bake the meatloaf for 50 minutes in the top third of the preheated oven. Then spread half of the meatloaf topping over the loaf. (Remember, the other half of the topping should be frozen for future use.)
Bake the topped meatloaf for an additional 10 minutes at 400F.
Now set the oven to low broil. Broil the meatloaf for 3 minutes. Let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing. Voila!
What temp should meatloaf be cooked to?
Ground beef and ground pork should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit (FDA). I highly recommend checking the temperature of the center of your meatloaf after cooking with a meat thermometer. The meatloaf should reach 160F regardless of whether it was air fried or baked in the oven.
Tips for Air Frying Meatloaf
- Line your pans with parchment: If you don’t want your food to touch the aluminum baking pans, try lining the pans with parchment paper. This should help you get the fast, even cooking a metal pan promotes without the aluminum concerns.
- Make smaller meatloaves: We’re making two mini meatloaves out of the two pounds of meat used in this recipe. This helps the meatloaf cook more evenly. Large meatloaves can become overly dry on the outside when air frying, so keep them small!
- Don’t add the topping right away: Make sure to add the BBQ topping towards the end of cooking. Otherwise, it will burn!
- Let your meatloaf rest: Letting your meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes after baking gives it time to firm up. This should make it much easier to slice.
- Play around with the seasonings: If you don’t like the autumn flavors I’m offering up here, feel free to change things up! You can skip the cinnamon and spice up the meatloaf to better suit your tastebuds.
- Go in a different direction entirely: Air fryer meatloaf with bacon? Air fryer meatloaf with chorizo? All of these are possible (and more), so don’t be shy about experimenting!
- Leftovers: Leftover meatloaf freezes well, or you can store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. (Hello, cold meatloaf sandwiches! I love you so much. Haha)
What to serve with meatloaf?
I like to serve meatloaf with mashed sweet potatoes and large side salads. I’m providing a recipe for sweet potato mash with this recipe, so you can enjoy them the same way.
But what if you don’t like sweet potatoes? Luckily, there are many other delicious foods you can use as a side dish for meatloaf! Here are some additional ideas for you:
- Mashed potatoes
- Air fryer french fries
- Air fryer radishes (a low-carb potato substitute!)
- Cooked broccoli or cauliflower
- Air fryer squash
- Roasted mixed vegetables (Use what you have! Roasted red potatoes, onions, turnips, and fennel are a lovely combination.)
- Air fryer garlic bread
If you make the Chicken and Gravy over Rice recipe, I bet any leftover apple cider gravy would be SUPER with this meatloaf. I didn’t try this yet, but it’s in my future, for sure!
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
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 for mini loaves.)
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!
To make this a low carb meatloaf, you’ll need swap out the oatmeal for a lower carb binder, such as almond flour. You should also omit the dates in the pumpkin topping. (I tried doing this and it works.) For a keto meatloaf, you may want to skip the pumpkin in the meatloaf and use a different topping all together. Pumpkin is considered a starchy vegetable, though it is lower in carbs than many other starches (particularly grains).
You have lots of options if you want meatloaf with no oats! Try bread crumbs using homemade bread or store-bought bread, cracker crumbs, or almond flour. If you’re on a gluten free diet, keep in mind that some of these suggestions contain gluten.
I used a tomato-free BBQ topping for this recipe. However, most meatloaf toppings do contain tomatoes. Ketchup, BBQ sauce (no sugar or regular), and marinara sauce are some classic toppings for meatloaf. For this air fryer recipe, thicker toppings are best to help keep the meatloaf moist.
Make sure to use binding agents! Things like eggs, flour or breadcrumbs, and flax seed gel can help the other ingredients in meatloaf to stick together. After baking and letting it cool for a bit, your meatloaf should slice nicely with minimal crumbling.
Wondering how to reheat meatloaf in air fryer? Try slicing it and heating the slices at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in the top rack position for about 2-3 minutes. If it’s not warmed to your liking, air fry for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until heated through.
More Air Fryer Meat Recipes
Are you here for air fryer recipes using meat? If so, don’t leave without checking these out:
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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 nutrition 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 no sugar 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 (425 grams)
For the meatloaf:
- 1 lb. ground pork (454 grams)
- 1 lb. ground beef, lean (454 grams)
- 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 (283 grams)
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- cooking oil spray of choice
For the sweet potatoes:
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, chopped into 1½-inch (3.8 cm) cubes (907 grams; 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 8½-inch by 4½-inch (21.6 x 11.4 cm) 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 (190°C).
- 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 (190°C). Then turn up the heat to 400°F (200°C), 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 (71°C). 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 (200°C).
- 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 (71°C). 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 inches (2.54-5 cm) 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!