Onion Burgers and Meatloaf are two all-American classics that are adored by every Oklahoman and are also quite DELICIOUS! Being that I’m an Okie by marriage and education (GOOOOO SOONERS!), my love for these two dishes is strong so I decided to do a little mashup I like to call Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf.
Now, meatloaf may be centuries old with roots to dishes like scrapple, but Onion Burgers really are a child of Oklahoma. If you’d like the full scoop, check out this article by the Hungry Travelers that covers the history of Onion Burgers.
The gist is that Onion Burgers were first made in El Reno, Oklahoma on the now famous Route 66 at a place called the Hamburger Inn.
The cook there piled half an onion on top of a burger patty, pressed them together, and the Onion Burger was born. If you’ve never had an Onion Burger, than let me fill you in what makes them so damn tasty.
The mixture of the hearty flavors of ground beef and the sweet onion marmalade that forms after plenty of caramelization can’t be beat. You might be thinking, “So it’s just a burger with caramelized onions?”
Sort of, but not quite. It’s the quantity of onions to burger that really makes an Onion Burger, and I’ve kept that ratio intact when making my Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf recipe. It’s not all that unusual to find diced veggies, including diced onions, in a meatloaf recipe along with maybe peppers or celery, but my Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf is PACKED with onions.
If you’re starting to get worried about the onion-fire-breathing dragon you might become after enjoying this recipe, fret no more! There are 2 onions in the meatloaf recipe, but I wouldn’t dream of including them in the raw. If I did, this meatloaf might bring a tear to your eye.
Instead, I cook the onions down for about 30 minutes, first over medium heat to start the browning process and later turning the heat to low for a final caramelization process. This is when the onions go from your standard sautéed onions to buttery, sweet, jam-like onions.
This process ensures that the Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf has all the qualities you love about caramelized onions and none of the traits you hate about raw onions.
The addition of caramelized onions to the meatloaf also makes for a super moist meatloaf! Caramelizing the onions for my meatloaf is the only part of this recipe that takes any time. In fact, if you want to speed the recipe up to a weeknight dinner you can have on the table in less than 30 then try cooking the onions ahead of time. They will keep well in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
I really love the traditional ketchup-based sauce that is usually served over meatloaf, so I tend to stay pretty close to the original no matter what kind of meatloaf recipe I’m dreaming up. For my Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf, I spiced up the sauce with another classic burger condiment, mustard. A healthy dose of yellow mustard gives the sauce just the right added zip.
The recipe for Onion Burger Meatloaf was originally tested on my sister’s family which includes my two young nieces. I know that if they like a recipe, it’s a solid choice to be featured on the blog, but I wondered if the onions would be off-putting to a kid. Nope, that wasn’t the case. Even my younger niece, who can be picky, scarfed it down!
I can say that this recipe is kid-tested and approved!
Your options for side dishes that would pair well are pretty much endless. I made the recipe with herbed roasted potatoes and green beans when I tested it on my nieces. At home, we had them with baked sweet potato fries and a salad.
What I think would be the ultimate kid-friendly rendition (and a glorious nod to the OG Onion Burger) would be to serve Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf with French fries (think Ore-Ida oven-baked for an easy side) and pickles and screw the healthy vegetables!
This is totally your call, and around my house it really depends if it’s a quick, healthy weeknight dinner I’m planning for or a weekend treat type of thang. Both are totally acceptable, and Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf is perfect for either occasion. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Onion Burger Mini Meatloaf
- 2 sweet onions
- 2 Tb butter
- 1 Tb olive oil
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb 85/15 ground beef
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 egg
- 1/4 C Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/4 C ketchup
- 1 Tb yellow mustard
- 1 Tb brown sugar
- 1 dash of Worcestershire
- black pepper to taste
- Thinly slice the onions by removing the ends and cutting the onion in half before slicing. Heat the butter and oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and thyme sprigs.
- Cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions begin to brown. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the onions cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are caramelized.
- Once caramelized, remove from the heat and spread out evenly on a plate. Put the plate in the fridge for about 10 minutes or until no longer hot to the touch.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a muffin pan liberally with baking spray.
- While the onions cook, prepare the sauce. Add the ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire and black pepper to a small mixing bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside.
- While the onions cool, place the ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and garlic into a large mixing bowl. Once the onions are cool to the touch, add them to the bowl (be sure to remove the thyme sprig) and mix all the ingredients until well combined.
- Divide the mixture into 12 even balls and place in each spot in the muffin pan. Press down gently, Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with 1 heaping teaspoon of sauce for each meatloaf. Reserve the remaining sauce for dipping. Place the meatloaf back in the oven for 5 minutes or until the sauce is warm.