The Great Pumpkin-Turkey Meatloaf

I confess: I don’t really like meatloaf. However, never before have I had a Harvest Turkey Meatloaf Baked in a Pumpkin with Spiced Cranberry Sauce. If you don’t like meatloaf (or even if you do) you must try this.

One day I was contemplating trying meatloaf again, maybe finding a better recipe (actually, I have even made meatloaf; it’s just that I don’t have many fond recipes of it from childhood). I think just about anything is better with pumpkin, so I thought maybe there was some recipe out there for meatloaf with pumpkin puree in it (and if not, I would make it up because that sounds really delicious and I bet it would be super moist!). So I was somewhat surprised when, instead of finding recipes for pumpkin in meatloaf, I found the opposite – meatloaf in pumpkin. If you look carefully, there are just a couple references to this idea online, so I am not sure where it originated. I think it may be somewhat of a forgotten recipe of the past, given that I could not find any current references or variations at popular recipe websites or blogs. So, I guess that means it’s up to me to bring it back!

With pumpkin as the backdrop to my meatloaf, I knew I could come up with a winning autumn concoction. Turkey, of course, not only because it screams fall but also because I’m not sure I have ever even bought ground beef. Lots of fresh herbs from the end of my garden – rosemary, sage and thyme. Mushrooms and onions for bulk. And cranberry sauce on top would make it perfect. The only other thing it needed was a splash of balsamic vinegar in the meatloaf to compliment the rosemary and cranberries.


I have to tell you, this is not a quick weeknight meal, and I realize that’s a bit different than most of my blog content. But, I promise it’s worth it. I actually planned to make it on a Sunday, but we got invited out at the last minute so I pushed it out to Monday. I prepared the turkey mixture on Sunday night and hollowed out my pumpkin. It needs about two hours to cook, so if you can head home and get it right in the oven and then go about your other business, it could work. My husband had to come home a little early today to meet an electrician, so it worked out perfectly that he could put it in the oven.
This meal was absolutely delicious. The pumpkin shell keeps the meatloaf extremely moist, and the flavors of the herbs and balsamic vinegar really came through and complimented both the pumpkin and the cranberry sauce amazingly well. Though it’s not the quickest meal to make, it’s certainly worth the effort when you have the time. And can I tell you how healthy it is too? I am going to post the nutritional information after the recipe. And let’s not forget, pumpkin is a superfood!
Before the recipe, one more note on the cranberry sauce. I have been dying to get my hands on some fresh cranberries to make my own sauce; they became available just in time. The reason I so badly wanted to make my own sauce was so that I could make it sugar-free. A serving (1/4 cup) of the canned stuff is loaded with sugar and has a whopping 110 calories; my version made with sugar substitute has only 25 calories in the same amount. I realize sugar substitutes are not for everyone, but if you like them, this is a great use!

Harvest Turkey Meatloaf Baked in a Pumpkin
3-4 lb sugar pumpkin, seeds removed (the weight of my pumpkin was 3.25lbs; after I removed the seeds and stem, it was 2.5lbs and that is what I used to calculate nutrition)

1 lb ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chopped mushrooms
chopped fresh rosemary, sage & thyme (I used about 1/4 cup total)
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1 egg

Cut the stem from the pumpkin and reserve. Scoop out all the seeds and stringy flesh.

Saute the onion and celery together in a skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more. Add garlic, fresh herbs, salt & pepper; cook 1 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in balsamic vinegar. Cool.

Beat the egg with the milk. Combine with turkey, oats, and onion mixture and mix well. Stuff the mixture inside the pumpkin and replace the top. Bake at 350 for 95-120 minutes. The pumpkin should be tender and the meatloaf cooked through. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing into wedges to serve. (Note, there will be some liquid released from the meat that you will need to pour off.) Serve with spiced cranberry sauce if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Info
Serving size: 1/4 of pumpkin
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 323.8
Total Fat: 10.2 g
Cholesterol: 133.4 mg
Sodium: 232.1 mg
Total Carbs: 31.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.4 g
Protein: 29.5 g

Spiced Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce
1 package (12 oz, or 3 cups) fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulates sugar substitute
1 tsp corn starch (this functions as a thickening agent, since sugar substitute does not have the same “gel”-ing properties of sugar
1/2 cup water
dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger

Stir together cornstarch, sugar substitute and water in a medium sauce pan until dissolved. Add cranberries and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add seasonings, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until skins are popped and berries are softened. Chill for 3 hours before serving. Makes 2 cups.

Nutritional Info
Serving size: 1/4 cup
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 24.7
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.1 mg
Total Carbs: 5.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.7 g
Protein: 0.0 g

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9 Responses to “The Great Pumpkin-Turkey Meatloaf”

  1. 1

    Cate — October 14, 2008 @ 3:24 am Reply

    One word: WOW. This looks all kinds of awesome! So unexpected but amazing all at the same time! And the BEST fall flavors you could ask for!

  2. 2

    Gretchen Noelle — October 14, 2008 @ 4:40 pm Reply

    What an interesting and creative idea! Fun combination!!

  3. 3

    Grace — October 15, 2008 @ 12:10 pm Reply

    what a fabulous creation! i’m not too keen on meatloaf either, but i’d devour this. looks like i know what i’ll be doing with that leftover thanksgiving turkey… :)

  4. 4

    Ashley — October 20, 2008 @ 8:23 pm Reply

    Do you think I could make the meatloaf and stuff it in acorn squash instead?

  5. 5

    Cara — October 21, 2008 @ 1:47 am Reply

    Ashley, yes, absolutely!

  6. 6

    Katherine — October 21, 2008 @ 8:06 am Reply

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. 7

    Kevin — October 21, 2008 @ 11:47 pm Reply

    This is such a great idea!! Good call with the cranberry sauce on top.

  8. 8

    Ashley — April 5, 2011 @ 1:22 am Reply

    Do you think I could make the meatloaf and stuff it in acorn squash instead?

  9. 9

    Cate — April 5, 2011 @ 1:22 am Reply

    One word: WOW. This looks all kinds of awesome! So unexpected but amazing all at the same time! And the BEST fall flavors you could ask for!

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