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Kalyn's Kitchen

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce

For this Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce, a little basil pesto in the meatloaf really bumps up the flavor! The meatloaf does have a little bit of whole wheat breadcrumbs but it’s still a pretty low-glycemic dish and also South Beach Diet friendly. Use Oven Dinners to find more recipes like this one.

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Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce found on KalynsKitchen.com

I’m a huge fan of basil pesto, so this year when my garden had lots of basil I went into pesto-making overdrive. Now I have an abundance of Basil Pesto with Lemon in my freezer, so I’ve been pondering new ways to use pesto. Pesto ideas had been swirling around in my head for a few days when I had the thought of adding some pesto to turkey meatloaf to bump up the flavor. Of course it’s hard to come up with a recipe that someone hasn’t thought of already, and when I searched for “turkey pesto meatloaf” I found that quite a few other people had the same idea.  The recipe here was adapted from Turkey Pesto Meatloaf at Culinate, although I did make quite a few changes for the version I ended up with.

My Turkey Pesto Meatloaf has a generous amount of pesto, and I used tomato sauce mixed with a little balsamic vinegar to top the meatloaf, a combination that went well with the pesto.  I loved this variation on meatloaf; hope other people will enjoy it too.

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce found on KalynsKitchen.com

Finely chop an onion and saute it until it’s starting to brown, then add minced garlic and saute about 2 minutes more. I freeze my pesto in bags that are sealed with a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer (affiliate link), so the pesto stays good all winter.   I freeze it in ice cube trays or mini muffin tins so you can take out a few cubes and reseal the bag. I used 1/4 cup of Basil Pesto with Lemon with 1.5 pounds of lean ground turkey for this recipe. Put the ground turkey, sauteed onions and garlic, pesto, Parmesan, salt, and whole wheat breadcrumbs in a bowl that’s big enough you can get your hands in there to mix the ingredients. Then use clean hands to mix the ingredients together just until they are combined.

I bake my meatloaf on a roasting pan like this one from the thrift store, which lets the extra fat drip down.  I love to make those diagonal slits in the top of the meatloaf, but they are totally optional!I cooked the meatloaf for 40 minutes before I started basting with the sauce. While the meatloaf cooks, mix together some low-sugar marinara sauce with a little balsamic vinegar. After 40 minutes I brushed on a thick coating of sauce and continued to cook.

It’s best to use a meat thermometer (affiliate link) for poultry, because at the time the inspiring recipe said the meatloaf would be done, mine had only reached an internal temperature of 141F, and ground turkey needs to be cooked to 160F to be safe. I continued to brush the meatloaf with sauce and cook for a total cooking time of 1 hour 20 minutes.

More Delicious Ideas with Basil Pesto:

Easy Baked Pesto Chicken from Kalyn’s Kitchen
5 Easy Ways to Use Basil Pesto from Kitchen Gadget Girl
Foil-Baked Salmon with Basil Pesto and Tomatoes from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Healthy Lasagna with Turkey, Pesto, and Peppers from Cookin’ Canuck
Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Pesto and Parmesan ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen

Weekend Food Prep:

This recipe has been added to a new category called Weekend Food Prep  to help you find recipes you can prep or cook on the weekend and eat during the week!

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce

This Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce has a little basil pesto in it that really bumps up flavor!


  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 T finely minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground turkey  (use ground turkey with less than 10% fat for South Beach Diet)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (I used my homemade Basil Pesto with Lemon, but good quality purchased pesto will be fine.)
  • 2 T finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup 100% whole wheat breadcrumbs (make in the food processor from 100% whole wheat bread if you can’t find whole wheat breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup low-sugar marinara sauce (I used Classico tomato and basil sauce)
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar


  1. Take the turkey out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
  3. Spray a roasting pan with olive oil or nonstick spray (preferably a pan with some slits to let any extra fat drip out.)
  4. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and saute the onion with medium-high heat until it’s starting to slightly brown, about 7-8 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, lower heat slightly, and saute about 2 minutes more.
  6. Using a bowl that’s large enough to get both hands into it, combine the ground turkey, sauteed onion and garlic, pesto (I used my homemade Basil Pesto with Lemon, Parmesan cheese, salt, and whole wheat breadcrumbs.
  7. Use clean hands to mix the ingredients, just until they are combined.
  8. Form the mixture into a loaf shape and place on the roasting pan.
  9. I like to use a butter knife to make diagonal slits into the top of the meatloaf, but that’s optional.
  10. Bake meatloaf for 40 minutes.
  11. While it bakes, stir together the marinara sauce and balsamic vinegar and after 40 minutes use a pastry brush to brush it onto the meatloaf, until it’s completely covered with sauce.
  12. Continue to bake, brushing with more sauce a few more times if you have some left, until a meat thermometer (affiliate link) shows a temperature of 160F/71C.  I cooked my meatloaf for a total time of one hour and twenty minutes before it got to that temperature.
  13. Serve hot.


This freezes well.  For best results, thaw in the fridge before reheating.

Recipe adapted from Turkey Pesto Meatloaf at Culinate.

All images and text ©

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
For South Beach Dieters, it’s important to use lean ground turkey, whole wheat breadcrumbs, and low-sugar marinara sauce if you’re making this recipe. I buy ground turkey that has only 7% fat, which is perfect for this. Make your own 100% whole wheat breadcrumbs if you can’t find any, and choose a marinara sauce with the lowest amount of sugar you can find.  With those ingredients, this would be approved for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet. Meatloaf with breadcrumbs isn’t going to work for a low-carb diet, but you could replace the breadcrumbs with almond meal and get a good result, and low-carb diets might prefer higher-fat turkey as well.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Nutritional Information?
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Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce found on KalynsKitchen.com

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    27 Comments on “Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce”

  1. is it possible to sub in gluten free breadcrumbs without losing flavour?

  2. We tried this tonight and it was really yummy! I was surprised at how good the glaze was considering it’s simplicity. I did put it in the food processor to smooth out some chunky tomatoes and I’m glad I did, though I would have skipped that step if the processor hadn’t already been out on the counter for other reasons. We did sub in 30% or so ground pork for a moister meatloaf and that was tasty (though we do not keep to any diet plan). My husband said it was “the best meatloaf he’s ever had.” We loved the contrast of the pesto-y meatloaf with the tomato-y glaze. A hit to repeat.

  3. Thanks Lisa, so glad it was a hit!

  4. very moist and flavorful….family really enjoyed with spaghetti squash and sautéed greens…thanks!