Chef John’s Zombie Meatloaf

Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 5 mins
Resting Time 10 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Servings 8
Calories 641 kcal


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 1 (8 oz.) package brown mushrooms finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt divided
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 lbs lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 3 tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Worcectershire sauce
  • 1 onion
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 lb. bacon strips

Blood Sauce

  • 1/4 cup barbeque sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 dash hot sauce or to taste


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Saute diced onion, celery, mushrooms, and 1 teaspoon salt until the mixture dries out and starts to turn golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, black pepper, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
  • Combine remaining 2 teaspoons salt, ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, buttermilk, 2 tablespoons ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Add cooled vegetable mixture. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
  • Slice 2 round sides, about 1/2-inch-thick, off the second onion for the zombie eyes. Push 1 clove into the center of each slice. Cut a 1-inch-wide section off the remaining onion and dice into chunks to form the zombie teeth.
  • Transfer meatloaf mixture to the prepared baking sheet and use damp hands to shape into a zombie skull shape that is 3 to 4 inches tall. Form indents to represent the eyes, nose, and mouth. Drape bacon over the face, covering most of the meatloaf. Add onion eyes and teeth. Tuck in loose ends of bacon under the sides with a spatula. Cover the onion eyes with aluminum foil to prevent browning.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees F (68 degrees C), about 1 hour.
  • Stir barbeque sauce, 1/4 cup ketchup, and hot sauce together in a bowl to make the blood sauce.


For crispier bacon, cover the eyes and teeth with aluminum foil and broil until bacon is brown and crispy.
Milk may be used in place of buttermilk, if preferred.