The Smoky Alternative For Meatloaf That Will Appease Ketchup Haters

Along with ground meat, breadcrumbs, and eggs, many would agree that a meatloaf just isn't complete without a bright red, sweet, and sour ketchup glaze on top. This controversial condiment is essentially meant to balance the savory flavors of the meatloaf, adding sweetness and acidity to the otherwise umami-forward dish. Sometimes, it's even mixed into the loaf mixture itself. However, not everyone is a fan of tomato ketchup; in fact, many downright hate everything about it. If you're ever faced with feeding someone who loves meatloaf but not its traditional topping, consider reaching for barbecue sauce instead.

Ironically, many barbecue sauces are made with ketchup, but some ketchup haters don't mind because the smoky, vinegary profile of the former often masks the classic flavor of ketchup. You can also make homemade barbecue sauce using tomato puree or sauce. Ingredients like molasses and apple cider vinegar complement meatloaf in a similar way that ketchup does, hitting the sour and sweet flavor notes that taste so good with the dish that became America's favorite dinner at one point. With the additional smoky element that barbecue sauce adds to meatloaf, even ketchup fans may find themselves permanently swapping the classic topper for this sauce.

Meatloaf tastes better with a glaze

A meatloaf without a glaze would certainly be fine to eat, and there are indeed those who prefer to enjoy this diner classic unadorned with any kind of sugary coating. However, there is something particularly satisfying about combining a rich, fatty dish with a hint of sharp acidity and a little sugar, elevating the meal to another level of flavor. Barbecue sauce is an excellent option for a dish like meatloaf. While it's still quite sweet and has a nice tang, the smokiness adds an interesting layer that almost makes it taste as though it came off the grill.

If plain ketchup isn't necessarily your cup of tea but you don't have barbecue sauce for a substitute, there are ways to alter ketchup's flavor to make it less sweet. Although you can't remove the sugar, you can add fresh or dried herbs and seasonings, sauteed onions, hot sauce or chilies, or even a touch more vinegar to make your palate focus more on the savory elements. By doing so, you can even make ketchup a suitable substitute for tomato sauce in certain dishes.

Choose your barbecue sauce wisely

If you like the idea of swapping barbecue sauce for ketchup on your meatloaf, consider the flavor profile you desire, as the world of barbecue sauces offers a broader range than ketchup. There are several regional barbecue sauce varieties in America, but arguably, only a few are suitable for topping meatloaf. Cross off Memphis-style sauce, which focuses more on dry spice rubs than sauces, and Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce, which is vinegar-based and too thin to adequately coat a meatloaf.

Consider Kansas City-style, which is sweet, very smoky, and thick enough to stay on top of the dish without seeping into the meat. If you prefer a savory, tangy kick, Carolina Gold sauces, also known as Carolina mustard sauces, would be delicious on meatloaf, especially those with ground pork. These sauces feature a base of yellow mustard and include apple cider vinegar and sugar to counterbalance the acidity. The lesser-known Alabama white BBQ sauce, being mayonnaise-based, might absorb into the meatloaf if applied directly on top, but it could serve as a tasty side sauce.

Also, don't disregard barbecue sauces made with fruit, as many fruits naturally complement the flavors of roasted and baked meats, such as peaches, apricots, cherries, blackberries, and cranberries.