Made with bison, oats, and a homemade tomato topping, this healthy bison meatloaf recipe will quickly become a family-favorite.
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This bison meatloaf recipe is a healthier twist on the dinnertime classic
If there was one recipe that people feel their mom makes the best of, meatloaf would likely be it.
While I won’t even try to compete with your mother’s recipe, I will offer you this slightly healthier take on the mom-classic.
Now I fully admit that as a kid, I hated meatloaf. I’d eat the ketchup off the top and then ask for something else for dinner. So, once I got to college and started cooking for myself, I decided I’d never have to eat meatloaf again. That was until I met my husband.
This healthy bison meatloaf was developed as a way to satisfy my husband’s request for meatloaf and the dietitian side of me.
Not only is bison healthier than beef, but I find that it tastes better too! Let me show you how to make this healthier dinner classic!
How to make meatloaf healthy
Curious how to make this meat-heavy recipe healthier?
Here’s how I do it:
Swap lean bison for beef.
Use shredded carrot for sweetness, rather than sugar in the loaf itself (I do still add a tiny bit of sugar in the tomato topping).
Use soaked oats instead of breadcrumbs.
Reduce the amount of egg from 2 to 1.
Top the loaf with a homemade tomato topping, rather than ketchup.
Ingredients used to make this healthy meatloaf
Ground bison: Most large grocery stores sell ground bison. If in a pinch, you can also use 90% or 95% lean ground beef.
Rolled oats: I recommend using old fashioned rolled oats (the ones that take 5 minutes, not 1, to cook). If you’re gluten-free make sure to buy certified gluten-free oats.
Milk: I usually have unsweetened oat or almond milk on hand so that’s what I use. But regular cow’s milk will work too. I don’t recommend coconut or soy milk as I find their flavors to be too overpowering.
Egg: Just 1 egg is needed. If you’re egg-free, you can also use 1 flax or chia “egg”
Carrot: Shredded for sweetness. I recommend shredding it using a food processor.
Seasonings: I used salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, and dried thyme. You can use garlic powder in place of fresh and dried oregano instead of thyme.
Tomato paste: you’ll need just 1 tablespoon, so I recommend buying the kind that comes in a tube as it’s easier to store leftovers in the fridge.
Worcestershire sauce: Again, make sure if you’re gluten-free to use a brand that’s certified gluten-free, such as Colgin, French’s, WanJaShan.
Tomato sauce: The kind in the can, not pasta sauce.
Dijon mustard: I like the slight spiciness of dijon, but regular yellow mustard works too. You could also use honey mustard, but you’ll likely want to reduce the amount of brown sugar.
Brown sugar: Just 1 tablespoon to balance out the acidity in the sauce. You can also use coconut or maple sugar.
Is bison healthier than beef?
Yes, bison has half the amount of saturated fat as beef yet is higher in protein. It’s also lower in calories while still providing about the same amount of iron and zinc.
Plus, depending on where you live, it isn’t always that much more expensive. Especially when you take into consideration that bison is almost always pasture-raised and more likely to be grass-fed.
While bison is slightly sweeter than beef, the difference is so subtle that your family won’t likely be able to tell a difference!
How to make this healthy dinner recipe
If you’ve made meatloaf before, then this healthy bison meatloaf recipe is pretty straightforward. The only difference is soaking your oats in the milk for about 10 minutes, or until they’re softened.
Preheat the oven and soak the oats.
Mix everything for the loaf in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the topping ingredients.
Form your loaf, either free-hand or in a loaf pan (see tips below about this). Spread topping evenly over the loaf.
Cook for about 1 hour in the oven.
Cool slightly, slice, and enjoy!
Should you make bison meatloaf in a loaf pan or on a baking sheet?
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each!
Loaf pan pros:
Easier to form.
Holds it’s form while cooking.
The fat stays in one place, making it easy to drain out the fat while the loaf rests.
Loaf pan cons:
If you use too small of a pan you won’t get those carmelized edges around the loaf.
The fat drippings stay in the pan. While you may not care about this, I personally don’t love it.
Sheet pan pros:
Easier to slice and serve.
Fat drippings can go to other parts of the pan (see tip below for other options).
The edges tend to get a better caramelization on them.
Sheet pan cons:
Can be messier to clean.
Isn’t as easy to get that perfect loaf shape.
Tips for making meatloaf with bison
Be gentle when mixing the ingredients. Want to know how to avoid a tough meatloaf? When handling the meat, whether with your hands or a spoon, only mix until everything is just combined and don’t use too much force. Then, when you go to shape the loaf, also try to be on the gentle side. This will prevent overworking the proteins in the meat that can make it tough.
Use a broiling pan or place an oven-safe cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Both of these methods allow for the fat drippings to drip below the meatloaf rather than spreading out on the baking sheet with the loaf.
Let it rest. Anytime you make meat, you want to give it at least 10 minutes to rest before cutting otherwise you’ll lose a lot of the juices. Resting gives the meat time to redistribute the juices evenly in the meat, rather than having them all concentrated in the middle.
Make your loaf ahead of time. Personally, I think leftover meatloaf is better than when it’s fresh out of the oven. To get the best flavor, I recommend making your loaf in the morning and letting it cool all day in the fridge. When it’s time for dinner, slice and then quickly re-heat on the grill or in a grilling pan. This will make it a little crispy. Just be sure not to dry out the loaf!
1/2cupoatspulsed into smaller pieces but not into a flour, can also use quick-cooking oats (but not instant)
1/2cupunsweetened almond milkor milk of choice
1large organic egg
1small to medium carrotpeeled and finely shredded
Pinchsalt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Soak the oats in almond milk until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the egg in mixing bowl. Add the bison, minced garlic, onion powder, dried thyme, tomato paste, shredded carrot, Worcestershire sauce, and pinch salt and pepper. Mix until just combined.
Add in softened oats and milk. Mix until just combined.
Place meat mixture into a loaf pan. Or, to help some of the fat drain off during cooking, form the meat into a loaf shape and place either on a baking sheet or on an oven-save cooling rack over a baking sheet. See blog post for more tips.
In a small bow, make the tomato topping by stirring together the tomato sauce, mustard, and brown sugar. Spread over the top of meatloaf.
Place your baking sheet or loaf pan in the oven and bake 55-60 minutes, or until cooked through.
Let meatloaf rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.
I found the best way to re-heat leftovers was by cooking individual slices in a covered skillet with a splash of water, over medium heat. You can also grill leftover slices for a slightly crispier texture. Nutrition for ⅛ of recipe: 215 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 13 g carb, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 20 g protein
I am notorious for not reading through a recipe fully before cooking it! The same was true for this one. I added all the ingredients together and mix it thoroughly before reading that some of it was reserved for the topping only! I have to tell you, it turned out amazing! Try it! Moist and delicious. Cooking time and temp the same.
The Healthy Toast3 months ago
I’m so glad it still turned out well!! Thanks for the feedback Joy!
April Gering4 years ago
star star star star star
Just enjoyed the meatloaf! It was moist, delicious and sliced up like a dream. Thank you for the mustard clarification.
The Healthy Toast4 years ago
I’m so glad you liked it! You’re welcome – it’s always helpful when people ask questions as it’s easy to forget to specify.
April Gering4 years ago
Looking forward to trying this recipe! With the dijon mustard are you using whole mustard grains, ground up mustard or mustard in a jar?
The Healthy Toast4 years ago
Hope you like it! I used coarse dijon mustard from a jar.
I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!
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