If adaptation is a form of flattery, this meatloaf casserole hits the mark

  • Mauer's Meatloaf Casserole, which is an adaptation of a recipe from Southern Living magazine, is low-carb and has fewer calories than the original.

    Mauer's Meatloaf Casserole, which is an adaptation of a recipe from Southern Living magazine, is low-carb and has fewer calories than the original. Courtesy of Don Mauer

Updated 4/19/2022 11:14 AM

Southern Living magazine shared a recipe for a meatloaf casserole that looked so good I wanted to try making it immediately. I quickly hit the brakes when it appeared too high in carbohydrates for this low-carb guy.

Why? Southern Living topped their meatloaf casserole with mashed potatoes similar to a shepherd's pie, a topping made with butter, whipping cream and egg yolks. They also used bread crumbs to hold the meat mixture together, as many do for meatloaf.


Here's my issue: Southern Living's recipe began with 1.5 pounds of potatoes, delivering 123 carb grams. For me, not so good for my food plan.

Immediately I thought about using mashed cauliflower instead. I'd made my mashed cauliflower for Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone raved about it and was surprised that it looked and tasted great.

I checked: 1.5 pounds of cauliflower delivered 34 carb grams, reflecting a vast difference in calories: 537 potato calories versus 170 for cauliflower.

Next, Southern Living mixed bread crumbs into the meat mixture as many do when making a regular meatloaf. Those bread crumbs delivered 52 carb grams and 286 calories. I assumed those bread crumbs were meant to firm up the meat mixture, so I substituted one tablespoon of cornstarch mixed into the tomato sauce, thinking it would do the same thing and trim 255 calories and nearly 45 carb grams.

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Southern Living used two tablespoons of vegetable oil to sauté the vegetables. I used no added oil; instead, using the fat from the cooked hamburger, cutting 248 unnecessary calories.

Initially, I used a head of cauliflower that I steamed and mashed. The next time, to reduce the hassle factor, I used two 12-ounce bags of frozen organic riced cauliflower cooked in my microwave oven, making the process much easier.

Southern Living cooked the meat mixture in a skillet and, once done, transferred it to an oven-safe casserole dish. I cooked my meatloaf mixture in a cast-iron skillet and, when done, spread the mashed cauliflower on top, saving me a step and some clean up.

My new version of a meatloaf casserole baked for just 30 minutes before it bubbled around the edge and the cauliflower turned golden brown. After a short rest, I dusted the top with chopped fresh parsley.


When my dinner guests arrived, they wanted to know why my house smelled so good. They also loved how the casserole looked. At first, I said nothing about the mashed cauliflower topping, not wanting to color their opinion. Two of my four guests went back for seconds.

My hamburger casserole looked and tasted great and trimmed 134 carb grams and nearly 900 calories.

Sound good? Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at 1leanwizard@gmail.com.

Mauer's Meatloaf Casserole bakes in just 30 minutes before it bubbles around the edge and the cauliflower turns a golden brown.
Mauer's Meatloaf Casserole bakes in just 30 minutes before it bubbles around the edge and the cauliflower turns a golden brown. - Courtesy of Don Mauer
Mauer's Meatloaf Casserole

2 (12-ounce) packages of frozen organic cauliflower rice

¼ cup heavy cream (organic preferred)

¼ cup sour cream (organic preferred)

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced and divided

2 large eggs

1 medium onion, diced

¾ cup diced green pepper

½ cup diced celery

2 pounds 85/15 ground beef (organic preferred)

1 cup tomato sauce

1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1½ tablespoons tomato paste

1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (organic preferred)

Transfer frozen cauliflower to a large microwave-safe bowl, cover with bowl plastic wrap and microwave on high for 8 minutes, stirring halfway through until hot. Remove from microwave, carefully remove the plastic wrap (steam can burn) and let rest for 2 minutes.

Carefully drain any water from the bowl and then, using an electric hand mixer, mix the cooked cauliflower until it starts to become smooth. Add the heavy cream, sour cream, 1 teaspoon of the salt, one-third of the garlic, and the eggs and mix until smooth and combined. Set aside.

Place the oven rack in the center position and begin heating the oven to 400 degrees.

While to oven heats, place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the ground beef. Using a spatula's edge break up the ground beef as it cooks and when the meat starts to lose its pink color add the onion, green pepper, celery and remaining garlic and sauté until the vegetables are completely soft, about 8 minutes.

As the burger mixture cooks, add the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cornstarch to a bowl and whisk together until combined. Add the tomato sauce mixture to the meat mixture and stir together until combined.

Remove the skillet from the heat and level out the meat mixture. Top the meat mixture with the mashed cauliflower, spreading it out to the skillet's edge. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling around the edge.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, sprinkle the parsley over the cauliflower and serve.

Serves 8

Nutrition values per serving: 342 calories (58.5% from fat), 22.2 g fat (9.4 g saturated fat), 8.8 g carbohydrates (5.7 net carbs), 4 g sugars, 3.1 g fiber, 25.7 g protein, 143 mg cholesterol, 616 mg sodium.

Adapted by Don Mauer from a recipe in Southern Living magazine

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