Use ground turkey or ground beef for this Pesto Meatloaf where pesto and tomato sauce really bump up the flavor! And I switched out the whole wheat breadcrumbs I used to use in this recipe for flaxseed meal to make this a low-carb pesto meatloaf recipe! 

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Square image for Pesto Meatloaf shown on serving platter.

I’m a huge fan of basil pesto, and one 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 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 Pesto Meatloaf I found that a few other people had the same idea. The recipe here was adapted from a meatloaf recipe that’s no longer online, and I did change the recipe up a bit for my version.

My 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.

What ingredients do you need?

(This is only a list of ingredients; please scroll down for complete printable recipe. Or if you use the JUMP TO RECIPE link at the top of the page, it will take you directly to the complete recipe.)

What pesto did I use for the Pesto Meatloaf?

Every summer I grow basil and try to stock up on Basil Pesto with Lemon in the freezer, so that would always be my first choice for this recipe. But if I don’t have any of that in the freezer I love Kirkland Basil Pesto (affiliate link). But any pesto that has good flavor will work for this meatloaf.

Should you use ground turkey or ground beef for the Pesto Meatloaf?

The pesto meatloaf in these pictures was made with ground turkey, and that’s a lower-fat option that really lets the flavor of the pesto shine through. But ground beef is also good for this recipe if that’s what your family prefers.

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce found on

How to Make Pesto Meatloaf:

(This is only a summary of the steps for the recipe; please scroll down for complete printable recipe. Or if you use the JUMP TO RECIPE link at the top of the page, it will take you directly to the complete recipe.)

    1. Finely chop the onion and cook in olive oil until it’s starting to brown, then add minced garlic and cook about 2 minutes more.
    2. I used 1/4 cup of Basil Pesto with Lemon with 1.5 pounds of lean ground turkey for this recipe.
    3. Put the ground turkey (or beef), sauteed onions and garlic, pesto, Parmesan, salt, and Flaxseed Meal (affiliate link) in a bowl that’s big enough you can get your hands in there to mix the ingredients.
    4. Then use clean hands to mix the ingredients just until they are combined.
    5. I like to bake meatloaf on a roasting pan like this one from the thrift store, which lets the extra fat drip down. 
    6. I love to make those diagonal slits in the top of the meatloaf, but they are totally optional!
    7. I cooked the meatloaf for 40 minutes before I started basting with the sauce.
    8. While the meatloaf cooks, mix low-sugar marinara sauce with a little balsamic vinegar.
    9. After 40 minutes I brushed on a thick coating of sauce and continued to cook.
    10. It’s best to use a meat thermometer (affiliate link) for ground turkey, 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 165F/75C to be safe. (Ground Beef needs to be cooked to 160F/71C.)

I continued to brush the meatloaf with sauce and cooked for a total cooking time of 1 hour 10 minutes, but if your meatloaf reaches a safe temperature sooner than that you can stop when it comes to temperature.

  • Serve hot. This freezes well and will keep in the fridge for about a week.


Pesto Meatloaf cropped image shown on serving platter.

More Delicious Ideas with Basil Pesto:

Weekend Food Prep:

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

Pesto Meatloaf cropped image shown on serving platter.
Yield: 6 servings

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Use ground turkey or ground beef for this Pesto Meatloaf that has a little basil pesto to bump up the flavor!


  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 T finely minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground turkey (or ground beef)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (see notes)
  • 2 T finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 cup Rao's Pasta sauce
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar


  1. Take the turkey or ground beef 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 or beef, sauteed onion and garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese, salt, and flaxseed meal.
  7. Use clean hands to mix the ingredients, just until they're 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 165F/75C for turkey or 160F/71C for ground beef.  I cooked my meatloaf for a total time of one hour and ten minutes before it got to that temperature.
  13. Serve hot.
  14. This meatloaf freezes well and will keep in the fridge for about a week.


I used my homemade Basil Pesto with Lemon, but good quality purchased pesto will be fine. Use a little more pesto if you prefer.

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

Recipe adapted from a Pesto Meatloaf recipe that's no longer online.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 391Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 120mgSodium 442mgCarbohydrates 8gFiber 4gSugar 2gProtein 35g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

Did you make this recipe?

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating (under the PRINT button in the recipe) or share a photo of your results on Instagram! THANKS!

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
The updated version of Pesto Meatloaf with flaxseed meal will be great for low-carb or Keto diets, no matter which type of meat you use. For the original South Beach Diet, it’s important to use lean ground turkey and low-sugar marinara sauce if you’re making this recipe. I buy Rao’s Pasta Sauce (affiliate link), which is the lowest carb sauce I’ve found.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Oven Dinners to find more recipes like this one. Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest, on Facebook, on Instagram, on TikTok, or on YouTube to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Historical Notes for this Recipe:
This recipe for Pesto Meatloaf was first posted in 2012. It was last updated with the option to use ground beef and more information in 2024.

Pinterest image of Pesto Meatloaf

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