Whether you like it ketchup-slicked, enrobed with bacon, or with the perfected ratio of beef, veal, and pork, there’s nothing more classic and comforting than a meatloaf. It’s been an American favorite since the 1870s.
There are a seemingly endless number of meatloaf recipes online, and they’re all trying to achieve the very best: tender, moist, and soft but never ever mushy or dry. Delicious served on a mountain of mashed potatoes, then stacked between bread the next day. There’s a meatloaf recipe out there that’s a perfect match for all of us—mine is Sara Bir’s. It’s easy to make and delivers on flavor.
Though you may be happy with how your meatloaf turns out each time, what if I told you that there’s one simple ingredient you can add that takes it to the next level?
The idea comes from a Redditor who revealed that they add a shredded apple to their meatloaf. “Everyone says my meatloaf (turkey or beef) is the juiciest, most flavorful one they ever ate. I use a small shredding grater (like for cheese) and mix it in really well. My preferred apple is Fuji. 1 full apple per meatloaf. You don’t taste the apple at all, but the whole thing is sweeter and moister.”
As an ever-curious food person and fan of meatloaf, I had to test this out. I made two meatloafs, one with a shredded apple and one without. Then I asked my family to try both and vote for their favorite. It was unanimous—the meatloaf with the apple was more moist and tender, a little sweeter, and tastier. I’ll be adding an apple to my shopping list whenever I make meatloaf from now on.
How To Upgrade Your Meatloaf With an Apple
The vast majority of meatloaf recipes call for two pounds of ground meat, whether that’s beef, chicken, turkey, pork, veal, or any combination. I would recommend adding one medium apple for every two pounds of meat.
Grate the apple through the largest holes of a box grater. Leave the skin on and try to avoid the core and seeds. You don’t have to drain the shredded apple or parcook it—just dump it right into your raw meat mixture and proceed with your recipe. Adding an apple won’t change how long the meatloaf takes to cook.
Though I could get technical about what type of apple is best to cook with, it honestly doesn’t make a difference here. The purpose of the apple in the meatloaf is to add moisture, some texture, and sweetness, so it doesn’t matter if you use an apple that keeps its shape (Granny Smith or Honey Crisp) or becomes mealy mush (Gala or Red Delicious) when cooked. Use whichever you already have or you like to eat best.
Why Adding an Apple to Your Meatloaf Works
When I first read about this trick, I wasn’t surprised. Apples are porous, soft, spongy, and full of flavorful liquid. They are also sweet and slightly acidic. That’s why I often use apples (and pears) when making Korean dishes—the fruit flavors, sweetens, and tenderizes meats like bulgogi and kalbi beautifully.
Arguably the best meatloaf recipes call for some sweetness, like ketchup, BBQ sauce, brown sugar, molasses, etc. That’s because sweetness helps balance the meaty, savory flavors. The sweetness of the apple does the same job while providing a nice texture.
The meatloaf won’t taste like apple—you’ll just get a little sweetness. Though you may see small shreds of apple if you break the meatloaf apart with your fork, you won’t be able to tell what you’re eating.
My husband, the most all-American boy I know who grew up on meatloaf once or twice a month, took one bite and said, “This is the best I’ve ever had.” When the review is this positive, I have to keep my number one customer happy. I’m never making meatloaf without adding a shredded apple again.