Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole Recipe

Introduction to Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole

The Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole is a dish that embodies the spirit of comfort food with a hearty twist. This culinary delight layers savory meatloaf and creamy mashed potatoes, topped with melted cheese, crispy bacon bits, and golden French fried onions. Its robust flavors and satisfying textures have made it a popular choice for family dinners, potlucks, and those evenings when only the most comforting of meals will do. The dish’s ability to combine simple ingredients into something spectacularly delicious is why it’s a must-try for anyone looking to elevate their mealtime experience. Its popularity isn’t just about taste; it’s about bringing people together around a meal that feels like home.

History and Origin

The concept of meatloaf has its roots in European cuisine, with variations of the dish appearing across cultures and centuries. Traditionally, meatloaf is a mixture of ground meat, binders like bread crumbs or oatmeal, and seasonings, baked into a loaf shape. However, the Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole is a distinctly American innovation, combining the traditional meatloaf with elements of a shepherd’s pie. This evolution reflects the American spirit of improvisation and fusion, creating a dish that is both familiar and novel. The “cowboy” aspect pays homage to the rugged, hearty meals that would have been appreciated on the frontier, where filling and nutritious dishes were valued for their energy-providing qualities. This casserole version takes the meatloaf concept and layers it with mashed potatoes, embodying the essence of comfort food while offering a nod to the cowboy culture of the American West.

Key Ingredients

The Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole is built on a foundation of key ingredients that each play a crucial role in its flavor profile and texture:

  • Ground Beef: The star of the meatloaf layer, ground beef provides a rich, meaty base that’s both flavorful and filling. Opting for a mix of lean and fat ensures the meatloaf is moist but not greasy.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes form the second layer of the casserole, offering a smooth contrast to the meaty base. The potatoes can be seasoned with butter, cream, and herbs for added flavor.
  • Seasonings and Spices: A blend of seasonings such as salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder adds depth and warmth to the dish, infusing the meatloaf and potatoes with a complex flavor profile.
  • Unique Additions: Crispy bacon bits and French fried onions introduce an element of texture and a burst of flavor. The bacon adds a smoky richness, while the fried onions provide a crunchy, savory topping that complements the softness of the meat and potatoes.

Together, these ingredients create a symphony of tastes and textures that make the Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole a standout dish, beloved by many and a testament to the enduring appeal of hearty, comforting meals.

Step-by-Step Recipe

Preparing the Meatloaf:

  1. Start with the Base: Combine 1 pound of ground beef with 3/4 cup of finely chopped yellow onions, 1/3 cup of seasoned dry bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of sweet honey barbecue sauce, 1 beaten egg, and 2 teaspoons of chili powder in a large bowl. Mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  2. Shape the Meatloaf: Press the meat mixture into the bottom of a greased 9-inch square baking dish, ensuring it’s evenly spread out.

Making the Mashed Potatoes:

  1. Cook the Potatoes: If using fresh potatoes, peel and boil them until tender. For a quicker option, use a 24-ounce package of pre-cooked mashed potatoes.
  2. Mash and Season: Mash the cooked potatoes with 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine, 1 (5-ounce) can of evaporated milk, 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder until smooth. For added flavor, gently mix in 1/2 cup of bacon bits and 1/4 cup of French fried onions.

Layering and Baking Tips:

  1. Layer the Casserole: Once the meatloaf is prepared and the mashed potatoes are creamy and seasoned, spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the cooked meatloaf base.
  2. Add the Toppings: Sprinkle 2/3 cup of Mexican-style shredded cheese over the mashed potatoes, followed by an additional layer of French fried onions for crunch.
  3. Bake to Perfection: Place the casserole in a preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. For a golden top, broil for the last 3-5 minutes.

Serving Suggestions:

The Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole is a hearty dish that can stand on its own, but it pairs wonderfully with simple, light sides to balance its richness. Consider serving it with:

  • A crisp green salad dressed with a vinaigrette to add freshness and cut through the richness of the casserole.
  • Steamed green beans or asparagus for a healthy, crunchy side.
  • Dinner rolls or garlic bread to soak up any delicious juices and add a comforting carb component.

Nutritional Information

The Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole is a calorie-dense meal, making it perfect for those needing a hearty and satisfying dinner. A single serving can contain:

  • Approximately 600-700 calories, making it a substantial main course.
  • About 30 grams of protein from the ground beef, contributing to muscle repair and growth.
  • Roughly 35 grams of fat, with a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats, providing energy and aiding in the absorption of vitamins.
  • Approximately 45 grams of carbohydrates from the potatoes and bread crumbs, offering energy and fiber.

This nutritional breakdown makes the casserole a fulfilling meal, but it’s also rich in calories and fats. For a balanced diet, consider serving smaller portions alongside plenty of vegetables or a light salad.

Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Casserole

Choosing the Right Ingredients:

  • Opt for 80/20 ground beef for the perfect balance of flavor and moisture. Too lean, and your meatloaf may end up dry; too fatty, and it could be greasy.
  • When making mashed potatoes, choose starchy potatoes like Russets or Yukon Golds for a creamy texture.

Cooking and Preparation Tips:

  • To ensure even cooking, press the meat mixture into the dish in a uniform layer.
  • Let the casserole sit for 5-10 minutes after baking. This rest period allows it to set, making slicing easier.
  • For a crispier top, broil the casserole for the last few minutes of cooking until the cheese is golden and bubbly.


  • Can I use ground turkey instead of beef? Yes, ground turkey is a great leaner alternative to beef. Just keep in mind that it might result in a slightly different flavor profile and texture.
  • How can I make this dish ahead of time? Assemble the casserole without baking, cover, and refrigerate for up to two days. When ready to serve, bake as directed, adding a few extra minutes to the cooking time if it’s coming straight from the fridge.
  • What are the best sides to serve with this casserole? Light sides work best to balance the richness of the casserole. Consider a simple green salad, steamed vegetables, or roasted Brussels sprouts.

Variations of the Recipe

Vegetarian Alternatives:

  • Swap the ground beef for a mixture of lentils and finely chopped mushrooms to mimic the texture and flavor of meat. Add smoked paprika for a hint of smokiness.

Using Different Types of Meat:

  • Mix ground pork or veal with the beef for a different flavor. You can also use all ground turkey or chicken for a lighter version.
  • For a spicier kick, mix some chorizo or spicy Italian sausage with the ground meat.

Experimenting with these variations and tips can help you tailor the Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole to your taste preferences and dietary needs, making it a versatile dish that’s perfect for any occasion.

Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole Recipe

The Cowboy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole is a hearty, comforting dish that combines savory meatloaf with creamy mashed potatoes, topped with melted cheese and crispy onions. Perfect for a filling family dinner, this casserole is sure to become a favorite.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Serves
Calories 700 kcal


  • 9-inch square baking dish
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Medium pot (for potatoes, if making from scratch)
  • Oven


  • 1 pound ground beef 80/20 mix
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1/3 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sweet honey barbecue sauce
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 24 ounces mashed potatoes pre-cooked or homemade
  • 1 tablespoon butter for mashed potatoes
  • 1 5-ounce can evaporated milk (for mashed potatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley for mashed potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder for mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup bacon bits
  • 1/4 cup French fried onions
  • 2/3 cup Mexican style shredded cheese mix


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9-inch square baking dish.
  • Mix the meatloaf ingredients: In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onions, bread crumbs, barbecue sauce, egg, and chili powder. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake the meatloaf for 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Prepare the mashed potatoes: If using homemade, mash cooked potatoes with butter, evaporated milk, parsley, and garlic powder. Stir in bacon bits and French fried onions.
  • Layer the casserole: Spread the mashed potatoes over the cooked meatloaf. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
  • Broil the casserole: Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Rest before serving: Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before slicing.


  • For a leaner option, substitute ground beef with ground turkey.
  • The casserole can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. Add an extra 10-15 minutes to the baking time if baking from cold.
  • Serve with light sides such as a green salad or steamed vegetables to balance the richness of the dish.
  • For a vegetarian version, replace the ground meat with a lentil and mushroom mixture and use vegetarian cheese.
Keyword Comfort Food, Cowboy Meatloaf, Family Dinner, Hearty Meal, Potato Casserole