Easy Air Fryer Meatloaf Recipe
How to Make Meatloaf in an Air Fryer in Under an Hour
This air fryer meatloaf recipe makes for a juicy, flavorful, quick dinner that you can throw together on a busy weeknight! Hearty and satisfying like an old fashioned meatloaf, comforting herbs that taste like Thanksgiving, and plenty of nutritious veggies thrown into the mix. I’ll show you how to make meatloaf in the air fryer in under an hour—and without a loaf pan.
Believe it or not, you can make a “free form” meatloaf (a.k.a. without a loaf pan) in the oven, too. Since a loaf pan won’t fit in most air fryers, I had to make this air fryer meatloaf free form. I’d personally never tried this method, so I was a bit hesitant and skeptical, but it turned out to be easier and more manageable than I anticipated.
The benefit of a free form meatloaf is that you get a nice, crispy crust all the way around the meat instead of just on top. And, in that regard, this air fryer meatloaf exceeds expectation! The texture inside is surprisingly and pleasantly airy, while the outside is crave-ably crisped with a sweet-tanginess from the ketchup and balsamic glaze.
With soft sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers, and sneaky zucchini thrown into the mix, this dish is the ultimate blend of comfort and nourishment. A fantastic kid-friendly dinner option and an easy meal to customize with your favorite ingredients. Switch up the veggies, change up the glaze, use a different ground meat—you can create and cook your best-ever meatloaf in the air fryer!
For some recipe inspiration, check out my healthy meatloaf recipe for the oven, made with celery, carrots, and peas! And, you can still follow the same procedure outlined below to cook that meatloaf in the air fryer, instead of the oven.
Air Fryer Meatloaf Recipe Notes
Do I have to saute the veggies first?
No, this is an optional first step. With any homemade meatloaf recipe, you can add vegetables into the meat mixture raw and uncooked, and they’ll soften as your loaf cooks in the oven. Sauteeing them first just changes the flavor and texture a bit, which is why I personally chose to do so with the veggies this air fryer meatloaf recipe. Add them in raw, use different vegetables altogether, serve roasted veggies or a salad on the side instead—you do you!
Can you put a pan in an air fryer?
Yes, anything ovenproof can safely go into the air fryer—if it can fit. The problem with using a loaf pan in this air fryer meatloaf recipe is that most machines won’t have enough room! If your air fryer does, go ahead and use a pan. If not, there’s a simple free form meatloaf method that you can use. (And, believe it or not, some people bake meatloaf in the oven this way, too.)
So, how can I keep my air fryer meatloaf from falling apart?
A free form meatloaf basically means we’re forming the meat mixture into a loaf shape with our hands, without the help of a pan to fill. You’re welcome to shape your meatloaf and then toss it straight into the air fryer as is, but I didn’t want mine to fall apart or for all of the juiciness to drip out of it while it cooked.
Instead, I used a few sheets of foil to create a makeshift foil ‘tray’ to hold my meatloaf while it cooked in the air fryer. You can do this before or after you’ve formed your loaf—whichever is easiest for you. Just make sure that the foil tray will fit inside your air fryer, and then shape your air fryer meatloaf to fit inside of that foil tray. Don’t worry, the meat will still crisp up beautifully all around the outside edges!
How do you keep meatloaf moist when cooking?
The best meatloaf is always a moist meatloaf that turns out juicy and tender after baking—never dry. For the juiciest air fryer meatloaf possible, here are some tips:
- Ground Beef or Pork vs. Turkey: With their higher fat content, a ground pork or ground beef meatloaf will turn out juicier and more tender. While a turkey meatloaf will still be delicious, the meat is a bit leaner and so it may turn out less juicy.
- Veggies: Besides the flavor and nutrients, the other benefit of adding veggies into your meatloaf is that they add lots of moisture! With their high water content, veggies like zucchini, mushrooms, and bell pepper help to keep your meatloaf moist while it cooks in the air fryer.
- Milk: Some people like to add a splash of milk into their meat mixture for moisture. Or, others will soak their breadcrumbs (or stale bread) in milk for 15 minutes before adding it into the meat mixture.
What can I put in meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs?
If you’re looking for a breadcrumb alternative in your meatloaf, there are plenty of options. For gluten free options specifically, go with gluten free breadcrumbs or make your meatloaf with oats!
Instead of ¼ cup regular or panko breadcrumbs, try substituting:
- ¼ cup chopped stale bread
- ⅔ cup quick or rolled oats
- ¼ cup cracker or pretzel crumbs
- ¼ cup crushed cornflakes or other unsweetened cereals
How to Cook Meatloaf in Air Fryer
Air Fryer Meatloaf Time and Temperature
Personally, I cooked my meatloaf in the air fryer at 380°F (195°C) for 45 minutes total: 35 minutes to start, then brush on the glaze, and continue to cook for 10 more minutes. Of course, there are other temperatures that you can try, but I find that this was a sweet spot—it didn’t take too long, and the temp wasn’t too high, so the meat still turned out juicy.
Do you cover meatloaf with aluminum foil when baking?
This depends on your personal preference, but it’s not necessary. Some people prefer to cover their meatloaf with a foil tent while it cooks to retain moisture, but I cook mine uncovered. With this air fryer meatloaf recipe in particular, I recommend keeping it uncovered so it gets that nice crispness around the outside edges!
Can I open the air fryer while cooking?
Yes, and you’ll need to do so for this recipe! After the first 30-35 minutes, open the drawer of your air fryer and spread on the ketchup glaze. (Mind your hands and forearms, because the air fryer drawer will be hot!) Then, close the drawer and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes. Once you close the air fryer again, it will continue cooking at the same temperature as before.
How can you tell if a meatloaf is done?
The best way to check your air fryer meatloaf for doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the center of the loaf, and when it reaches 160°F (71°C), it’s done. No worries if you don’t have a meat thermometer—the 45-50 total minutes in the air fryer will be plenty of time, as long as your air fryer is properly preheated at the start.
How long should meatloaf rest before slicing?
After it’s done cooking, remove the meatloaf from the air fryer and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes. Then, you can remove it from the foil tray and slice it. Giving it time to cool will help to prevent crumbling so the slices hold together better.
Can I freeze meatloaf after cooking?
Sure! Cut your air fryer meatloaf into slices and give them time to cool completely. Then, package into freezer-safe bags or containers. You can freeze all of the slices together as one batch if you plan to thaw them all at the same time, or package them separately as individual slices to thaw one at a time.