Old-Fashioned Beef Loaf

Meat loaf is the ultimate comfort food, so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old beef loaf recipe. This recipe is different from modern meatloaf recipes. In addition to ground beef, it contained ripe olives, oatmeal, canned tomatoes, and onion; and brought back memories of some meatloaf recipes served at family reunions when I was a child.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1917)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Beef Loaf

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


2 pounds ground beef

3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

12 ripe olives, chopped

1/2 small white onion, chopped

2 cups canned tomatoes (1 one-pound can diced onions)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


meat drippings from pan (approximately 1/4 cup)

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Shape meatloaf in a 9″ X 13″ or similar-sized baking dish (or put in a large bread pan). Place in oven, and bake until done (approximately 1 hour).

If desired, serve with gravy. To make gravy,  put meat drippings from the baking pan in a small  skillet. Heat to boiling. Sprinkle with flour and stir to combine. Slowly pour in the water while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the gravy thickens, then remove from heat and serve.

Cook’s note: My meatloaf had relatively few drippings which limited the amount of gravy that I could make. I used ground beef that contained very little fat. Ground beef with a higher fat content probably would provide more drippings.

I used less salt than called for in the original recipe. It called for 3 teaspoons of salt. I used 1 teaspoon of salt which seemed like plenty.

32 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Beef Loaf

    1. The oatmeal works very similarly to the bread crumbs used in many modern recipes. It’s a filler that extends the meat–and probably also helps hold everything together a little.

    1. I didn’t like it as much as my usual meatloaf recipe, but it was okay. My usual meatloaf recipe calls for dried onion soup, and I think that adds a nice flavor.

  1. This recipe looks amazing! Unfortunately, my husband and sons won’t eat meatloaf so I don’t cook it anymore. Neither do they eat olives. What is wrong with these people? lol I’m thinking I can cut the recipe in half and make a mini-meatloaf just for me! Thanks for sharing. Very unique recipe!

    1. I enjoy seeing how some recipes have changed across the years. It sounds like a good plan to cut the recipe in half. For just one person, dividing it by 4 might even provide about the right amount for a mini meatloaf.

  2. This is a childhood recipe for me too. Without the olives though. And we didn’t use oatmeal, but stale bread soaked in milk. It made the meat go further and gave it a lighter, less dense texture.

    1. It’s definitely different from modern meatloaf recipes, but if you are able to set aside preconceptions of what meatloaf should taste like, this is a good recipe.

  3. I’ve always used oatmeal in meatloaf, and so did my mother. I don’t know if I could bring myself to add olives: the holy trinity of peppers, onion, and celery always went into ours. We never added tomatoes, either. I guess we used a completely different recipe, now that I think about it!

  4. My mother’s meat loaf recipe included oatmeal, tomato soup, and onions.

    I don’t know if that’s a real endorsement of it. She was an awful cook. Having said that, it’s one of the things she did make when I was a kid that I recall liking quite a bit, and liking he leftovers as well.

    Funny thing about meat loaf, no two people have the same recipe for it.

    1. I agree- it sometimes seems like there are a zillion meatloaf variations. No two people seem to make it exactly the same.

  5. I’ve never heard of olives in meatloaf, but my mother used oatmeal in hers too. And I didn’t realize meatloaf was around 100 years ago. I have learned about so many dishes that were much older than I thought through your blog!

    1. I’m also often surprised by the recipes that I find. Meatloaf has been around for more than a hundred years – though my general sense is that people ate less ground beef a century ago than they do now because it was more difficult to grind meat back then.

  6. I tried your meatloaf recipe to make a dinner for my Dad and it turned out fantastic. Thank you so much for finding, testing and posting these recipes! Rachael

    1. Thanks for the kind note. I have a lot of fun doing this blog, and it’s wonderful to hear that you and your father enjoyed this recipe.

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