Bento sized mini-meatloaves


Who doesn’t love a meatloaf? (If you eat meat, that is.) Sliced leftover meatloaf is great in sandwiches, and it’s also very nice in a bento box. Meatloaves also freeze very well, since they have a moistness to them.

While I do like to make a big meatloaf now and then, I also like to make these mini-sized meatloaves specifically for the bento freezer stash. I often reserve a couple for dinner, and wrap and freeze the rest.

You could use your own favorite meatloaf recipe for this, but here is one in case you need it. The key point here is the size, perfect for bento boxes and sandwiches.

See the mini-meatloaves in action in this bento!

Recipe: Mini-meatloaves

This makes 10 little meatloaves, each about 170g / 6oz. each

  • 1.5kg / about 3 1/4 lb combination of ground beef, veal and pork (500g / a bit more than 1 lb each)
  • 2 large sweet bell peppers
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 medium carrot
  • A 25cm / 8 inch length or so of celery stalk
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs from whole wheat sliced bread
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment paper for easier cleanup.

Chop up all the vegetables finely. A food processor is very helpful in this. Mix well with the breadcrumbs and egg to form a sort of slurry. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Put the ground meat mixture in a large bowl, and make a well in the middle. Pour the slurry you made above into the well, and mix the whole thing together very well with your impeccably clean hands.

Divide the mixture into ten equal amounts. Form each into a small loaf about 15cm/6 inches or so long, and about 5cm / 2 1/2 inches or so in diamater. Line them up on your baking sheet. (Use two sheets if they don’t all fit.)

Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 165°C / 330°C, and bake for an additional 30 minutes.


What if you don’t have an oven? You can cook these little loaves in a frying pan. Just brown on all sides by rolling around, put on a lid, lower the heat and steam-cook for about 10-15 minutes. When they are done, when you poke a fork in the middle the juices should run clear.


Cool down before wrapping up in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and freezing.


  • I find the 3-meat mixture to be the best for a moist meatloaf.
  • These are flavored rather neutrally, and are light on salt, so you can vary the flavors if you like. For instance, you can roll them around in a little ketchup and/or Bulldog sauce, or soy sauce, or your favorite barbeque sauce. In the photo at top I’ve just squirted a bit of ketchup on the slices.
  • The 6 inch / 15 cm long size is great for bentos and sandwiches. Sliced crosswise, the pieces are perfect for bento boxes, and sliced lengthwise they fit a sandwich very well.
  • For extra flavor and richness, not to mention fat, wrap the meatloaves in bacon and cook as described.

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Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

These look so cute!! I love meatloaf, we had it quite a lot as a kid. Mmmmm, cold meatloaf sandwiches are great! My mom made them with only beef as it was cheaper and the market didn't really have ground veal and pork anyway back then. So she would add some milk to the mixture which somehow made the beef more tender.

My daughter doesn't eat red meat because it bothers her stomach, but she can eat chicken and turkey. Would a mix of those two meats, ground, be a good substitute, or would do you think would they get tough?
I could try the milk trick and see how that works. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

My mother used to make turkey meatloaf all the time.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

I love meatloaf! What a great idea. I've been making and freezing bento stuff recently (potato oyaki, which aren't lasting long, turkey soboro, some onigiri) and I'm going to make a bunch of meatloaf with all the frozen turkey in my freezer :) Thanks for all the great recipes!

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Quick suggestion - My dad makes mini meatloaves in his muffin pan. He sprays the muffin tin well with cooking spray first, then presses the meatloaf mixture into the muffin tin with a spoon. He fills them about halfway and they take about 20 minutes to cook. He makes a ton of them in one afternoon and then puts them in the freezer on a cookie sheet. After an hour or so he transfers them to a freezer baggie. Then on nights when my parents have meetings they can just pop a couple into the microwave to reheat. He takes them in his lunch all the time as well. I think they would work very well in a bento.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Can these be frozen and reheated?

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Thank you for the recipe. I stumbled onto your site for the first time yesterday, made them last night and had one for lunch today. Yummy. I'm looking for new ways to make my lunch less boring and I look forward to exploring the ideas on your site.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Great recipe, just made up a batch! One question though, after defrosting do they need to be re-heated or can they be used straight away?

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

You can use it right away, like cold cuts. You could of course re-heat it if you want, or even crumble it up and use it in stir fries or whatever.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Hi! I borrowed your recipe and changed a few things (easier to get panko here than bread crumbs, etc) to make mini hamburgers to freeze for bento. It worked out really well! Thanks for the idea.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Hey, here's a tip for a really moist meatloaf. Add in about a 1/2 cup of Panko to your mix and it helps to hold the moisture in so wonderfully. The loaf practically falls apart. Also, I prefer to use Italian breadcrumbs rather than just plain ones or add in some Oregano and a little garlic if using fresh.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

How many calories are in this? let me know.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Each whole meatloaf is 400-500 calories depending on how fatty the ground meat is and how much oil you use in the cooking process. 1/2 a meatloaf is usually enough for a single bento.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves


Thanks for this recipe - I made them over the weekend, and they are really moist and tasty, and very cute. However, I have two boys who'd avoid eating vegetables unless forced to, and if I pack them in the lunch box the vegetables usually come home untouched. Although I've pulverized the veggies in the food processor for this recipe, there is still a detectable crunch in the texture of the meatloaf. Whenever my kids suspect that i'm trying to sneak in the veggies, they'd usually refuse the entire entree altogether.

Question - if i precook the vegetables before mixing them with the meat, will it dry out the meatloaf? And if so, would adding some mashed silken tofu remedy the issue?

Many thanks!

- Sharon

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

You can also grind up some mushrooms. I grind up onions, mushrooms and bread to put in all my ground meat (burgers, meatloaf, meatballs). I also add some egg as a binder and some Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasonings and garlic powder. I have a recipe for meatballs with mozzarella centers that would work very well for bento:

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Cooking the vegetables beforehand should work fine, and it should not make the meatloaf too dry. If you need to compensate a bit, try adding a bit of tomato juice or crushed tomato to the mix.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Someone else already suggested putting them in a muffin tin (which I do often and love!). I'd like to add that if you make a depression in the top of the meat-muffin with a spoon before baking it, you can add a sauce of your choice to the hollow. You can add it during the cooking process eat to immediately or wait and add warm sauce to the cold meatloaf for lunch. Either way, you get a delicious meat-sauce-volcano-effect. Yum!

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

I made one batch of these cute little things and LOVE them. I used turkey, chicken and beef as the meat mixture and Panko in place of the bread crumbs. (I live in a very small town and had to use what was available from my pantry/freezer and the local store.) I pan fried them in two batches. I will definitely be making these again and again. I sent the recipe to my s-i-l because they were so good. I will probably add a bit more salt and add garlic...which I love...the next time; however, the recipe as written is great.

It is just so wonderful to be able to pull one of the mini loaves out of the freezer and have a delicious meal in a very short time. I froze each cooked loaf in a separate bag and then put three of them into a larger freezer bag. They defrost/reheat in minutes and taste wonderful.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to vegetarian-ize this? I thought about using something like boca crumbles, but I feel like that wouldn't hold up well in a loaf.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

I have several recipes for vegan burger-type recipes that use beans and so on. Try doing a search for 'vegan burger'.

Re: Bento sized mini-meatloaves

Thank you! :] I can't believe I didn't think of using beans!

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