Italian Chicken Meatloaf is the best kind of comfort food! This meatloaf recipe is a twist on a classic and includes tomato sauce, onion, garlic, parmesan cheese and more. It’s ready and on the table in an hour, making it an easy weeknight meal that has fast become a family favorite.
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Italian Chicken Meatloaf
Homemade meatloaf is such a comfort food dish, and this Italian Chicken Meatloaf is a fun twist on the classic. Instead of a ketchup-brown sugar sauce on top, we’re using tomato sauce.
And the meatloaf itself features grated parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning and more.
In other words, this meatloaf recipe is a total flavor bomb and something that people young and old enjoy! I should know—this is a recipe my girls now request.
Homemade Chicken Meatloaf is an easy recipe to make for a weeknight—or a special weekend dinner, too. It requires a few basic ingredients, and you probably have most in your kitchen already.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Ground chicken—this meat is typically made from ground chicken breast and is lean and easy to flavor with various seasonings and additions. Because it doesn’t have much fat, you will need the binders, like egg and cheese so that it all sticks together.
- Egg—this is super important and is our main binder. Make sure that you’ve got a large one.
- Parmesan cheese—Purchase the real deal stuff, not a shelf stable bottle, OK? Our grocery store has pre-grated fresh parmesan in the cheese section. Save some extra to put on top of the meatloaf before baking.
- Panko breadcrumbs—I love panko because it’s extra crispy and light. These breadcrumbs help bind this chicken meatloaf together without weighing it down.
- Onion—a small white or yellow onion is perfect. We don’t need a ton, but it will add a lot of flavor and texture. If you don’t like onion, you can add half an onion.
- Garlic cloves—I used the biggest ones I had, but if you don’t love garlic as much as I do, use three small cloves. This adds to the overall flavor. Be sure to chop it small! Garlic powder can be used in a pinch, but fresh is always preferred.
- Fresh parsley—not only does this add color, but it adds some brightness and flavor to the meatloaf, too! If you don’t have fresh parsley, use dried parsley and measure in half of what the recipe calls for. Save a little of this for a garnish, if desired.
- Italian seasoning—this seasoning blend lives in my spice cabinet, but you can make your own if you don’t have it. It’s a combination of marjoram, basil, rosemary, thyme, savory and sage.
- Kosher salt—I like to use a medium grain salt for this one. You could also use a similarly sized sea salt. If you have a fine salt, use ¾ teaspoon instead to ensure the meatloaf is not too salty.
- Black pepper—to add just a little bit of heat.
- Tomato sauce—while I love homemade tomato sauce, if it’s easier to grab a can at the store, do that. It’s equally delicious and makes dinner even simpler on you! This is not the same as tomato paste (thicker) or marinara sauce (thinner), so make sure to get actual tomato sauce.
Here are also some acceptable substitutions for this recipe if you find yourself not able to find some of them above:
- Bread crumbs: If you don’t have (or can’t find) panko, replace those with regular breadcrumbs or even Italian breadcrumbs.
- Swap out the cheese: If you don’t like parmesan, feel free to use pecorino romano or even mozzarella. The flavor profile will be a little different, but equally delicious!
- Add some heat. Red pepper flakes will add a pop of heat, if you’re into that kind of thing.
- Meat Alternatives: Our goal was to get away from traditional meatloaf recipes, but feel free to use ground beef, ground turkey, ground pork or any combination of these meats.
- Saucy: This is an Italian recipes, so tomato sauce works best, but if you only have ketchup, go ahead and use it. BBQ sauce works too.
How to Make Italian Chicken Meatloaf
First and foremost, preheat the oven. Use nonstick baking spray to spritz your high-sided baking dish so that the meatloaf doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Prep your ingredients. Grate the parmesan cheese. Chop the onion. Mince the garlic. Chop the parsley.
- Pro tip! If you need a kitchen shortcut, purchase pre-chopped veggies from your local grocery or put them all in the food processor and give it a few pulses.
- Measure the ingredients. Place the ground chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, parmesan, onion and garlic on top of the meat. Season with parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
- Mix the ingredients. Scoop your fingers (with clean hands) beneath the meatloaf mixture and pull it up, combining it with the other ingredients, until the mixture is well-mixed. We want to make sure that every bite includes every ingredient—so take your time, get your hands messy and do this right. This is why you need a large bowl, to not make a huge mess.
- Form the meatloaf. Transfer the meat mixture to the prepared pan, and form it into a loaf. Mine was 6 ½” (L) x 3 ¾” (W) x 1 ¼” (H). The taller and thicker your chicken meatloaf is, the longer it will take to cook through, so be aware of this, cook times will vary. You can also use a standard loaf pan or meatloaf pan.
- Finish the meatloaf. Drizzle on the tomato sauce. It’s OK if some spills into the baking dish—this will soak up flavors. Sprinkle with additional cheese, too.
- Bake the meatloaf in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes, or until the meatloaf is cooked through.
- Pro tip: Use an instant read digital thermometer (meat thermometer) to check your meatloaf’s internal temperature to ensure it’s cooked through! To do this, insert the tip into the thickest spot of the meatloaf, careful not to poke all the way through. If the temperature reads 165°F, you’re good to go!
- Let the meatloaf rest for 5-10 minutes after you’ve removed it from the oven, then slice and serve with your favorite side dishes. To get moist meatloaf, you must let is sit for the liquids to distribute back into the meat fibers and hold them. Otherwise, you cut a meatloaf slice and all the juices will run right out.
How to Make a Meatloaf Sandwich
If you ask my husband, meatloaf the next day is better than the day it is made. Take your meatloaf leftovers and slice it to your desired thickness. Heat in the microwave for 30-45 seconds to warm through.
Butter two slices of bread, and place them in a skillet. Place the meatloaf in the skillet, too, and heat over medium heat.
When the bread and meatloaf are browned, flip and cook through on the other side. Once the other side is also browned, turn off the heat and build your sandwich.
Layer your sandwich with your desired toppings—tomatoes, lettuce, etc.—and enjoy immediately.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
If you’ve got leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. We like to scrape the tomato sauce from the bottom of the baking dish and store that with the meatloaf, as well, since it offers a ton of flavor.
Make ahead instructions: If you want to make this meatloaf easier, mix and form it the morning of OR the night before. Once shaped, place the meatloaf on the prepared baking dish and wrap tightly with plastic wrap before refrigerating. When it’s time to bake, top with the tomato sauce and parmesan, then bake for the specified time.
How to freeze: You can freeze this meatloaf! To do this, shape the meatloaf and gently place the raw meatloaf on a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap it tightly and transfer to the freezer. When ready to bake it, defrost the meatloaf in the fridge on a plate while still wrapped. Once defrosted, bake according to the recipe. Do not bake while frozen.
How do you know when chicken meatloaf is done? The internal temperature needs to reach 165°F. Use an instant read digital thermometer to check this.
Should meatloaf be cooked covered or uncovered? We cook this Italian Chicken Meatloaf uncovered. If the tomato sauce on top begins to brown or starts to burn, you can place some aluminum foil on top of it as it finishes baking, but this has not happened in testing.
What do you put in meatloaf to keep it from falling apart? We have a few ingredients that are known as “binders” to keep this meatloaf together. The egg and the breadcrumbs help hold it together!
What to serve with Chicken Meatloaf:
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Italian Chicken Meatloaf
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spritz a baking dish with nonstick baking spray and set aside.
- Place the ground chicken in a large bowl. Add the egg, parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs, onion and garlic on top of the meat. Season with parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
- Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until combined. This might take a few minutes and effort since you want to make sure that the ingredients are well-dispersed in the meat.
- Place the meat mixture into the prepared baking dish and form into a loaf. Mine was 6 ½” (L) x 3 3/4 “ (W) x 1 ¼” (H). The taller your meatloaf is, the longer it will take to bake.
- Pour the tomato sauce on top of the meatloaf, and sprinkle additional cheese on it.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the meatloaf is cooked through. The meatloaf’s internal temperature should reach 165°F at the thickest spot.
- Once out of the oven, let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving with your favorite sides.
- If you've tried this recipe, please come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings!