What Elvis Presley Ate – Sunday Meatloaf

Happy birthday Elvis Presley! The King of Rock and Roll was born 77 years ago today on January 8, 1935. What better way to celebrate than with a recipe from the Presley Family Cookbook? But first, a little history!

Did you know that Elvis had Jewish ancestry? In the book “Elvis and Gladys,” author Elaine Dundy researched Elvis’ family tree and found that his maternal great-great-grandmother, Nancy Burdine, was Jewish. According to Jewish law, which uses maternal lineage as a way to define Jewish identity, Elvis himself would have been considered Jewish.

According to Dundy, “Nancy (Elvis’ great-great grandmother) is of particular interest to us. According to Elvis’ third cousin Oscar Tackett, Nancy was Jewish…names often tell a story, and two of Martha’s brothers were given Jewish names, Sidney and Jerome.” Martha was Elvis’ great grandmother.

 The Presley Family, 1937 – Gladys, Elvis, and Vernon

Though not an observant Jew, Elvis was aware of his ancestry. As a child, he was told to hide his Jewish roots because of existing prejudice against Jews. Even though they hid their family history, Elvis’ mother Gladys was apparently proud of their Jewish heritage. When she passed away, Elvis had a Jewish Star of David engraved on his mother’s tombstone. He also took it upon himself to learn the Hebrew aleph-bet, and once donated $150,000 to the Memphis Hebrew Academy.

In his later years, Elvis wore Jewish symbols around his neck—sometimes the Star of David, other times the Hebrew symbol “chai” (meaning “life”). He often wore a cross, too– a symbol of the Christianity that he practiced throughout his life. When asked why he wore charms from both religions, Elvis remarked: “I don’t want to miss out on goin’ to Heaven on a technicality.”

Elvis Presley performing, wearing a Jewish Star of David – 1972

This weekend, I wanted to cook something in honor of Elvis’ birthday. Everybody knows that Elvis loved fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but that’s not much of a recipe. Just spread two pieces of bread with peanut butter, smash some banana on top, make a sandwich, and fry it in butter or margarine. Totally delicious, but not very exciting (and also loaded with fat!). I wanted a real family recipe, something that not many people know about.


I found what I was looking for in a collection of recipes called “The Presley Family Cookbook,” written by Vester Presley (Elvis’ uncle) and Nancy Rooks (the Presley family cook). It includes some of Elvis’ favorite Southern family recipes. A dish called “Sunday Meatloaf” seemed worth trying, especially considering the fact that Elvis’ birthday falls on a Sunday this year. Here is the recipe as it appears in the cookbook:

It seemed easy enough, so I gave it a whirl. I made a few tweaks based on experience that helped to improve the end product– I sauteed the veggies before adding them to the mix to soften them, because I don’t like the crunchy texture of al dente veggies in my meatloaf. I cut the amount of black pepper in half (1 tsp would make it too spicy for me– and I like spice!), cut the salt a bit, lowered the cooking temperature/lengthened the cooking time, and added a glaze at the end of cooking. I always add a glaze to my meatloaf, and though the tomato juice did give it a nice saucy flavor, I added another light ketchup glaze to give it that extra “yum” factor.

You know what? It’s absolutely delicious! This is awesome Southern comfort food. It’s definitely worth trying. The wheat germ gave it a great texture and added some healthy fiber to the mix. To make it even healthier, you could use a mixture of ground dark meat chicken and lean ground beef. I might make it that way next time. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to eat the leftovers… meatloaf sandwiches are the ultimate!

I’ve posted the printable recipe below, with some details and photos for added clarity. You can make it as written, from the original recipe above, but I highly recommend the tweaks– they took this meatloaf from good to awesome. As written, I think the pepper would be much to overpowering, and it would also be too salty for most people.

Enjoy! It’s a fun tribute to the King, and a yummy way to celebrate his life.

Recommended Products:


Mixing Bowls

Loaf Pan

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Elvis Presley Sunday Meatloaf

Meatloaf Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef (I used lean)
  • 3/4 tsp salt (if you're sensitive to salt, you can use less)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 small slices bread, torn into pieces (or 2 large slices)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small can (2/3 cup) tomato juice

Glaze Ingredients (optional)

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

You will also need

  • Small or medium loaf pan, mixing bowls
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Servings: 8
Kosher Key: Meat
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a skillet over medium. Saute the minced onion and celery in the vegetable oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute for 2-3 minutes more, till the vegetables are softened and fragrant. Remove from heat.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine ground beef with salt, pepper, bread pieces, wheat germ, and the sautéed minced onions, celery, and garlic.
  • Use your hands to mix the ingredients together till combined.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add them to the meat mixture. Again, use your hands to mix the eggs into the meat. It will take some time to fully integrate the eggs into the seasoned meat mixture. You want to mix it until the meat no longer feels slippery from the egg.
  • Press the meat mixture into your loaf pan, using your fingers to shape the top into a smooth, slightly rounded loaf.
  • Pour tomato juice over the top of the meat.
  • Cover the loaf pan with foil. Place in the preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes. (If not using the optional glaze, bake for 60 minutes covered with foil.)
  • Meanwhile, combine the glaze ingredients in a small mixing bowl. For a normal meatloaf I would double this glaze, but since this meatloaf was cooked in tomato juice it didn't need a lot of "dressing up."
  • At 40 minutes, remove the loaf pan from the oven and uncover. Spread the glaze evenly across the top of the meatloaf. Return meatloaf to the oven, uncovered, and continue to bake for 20 minutes more.
  • Take meatloaf out and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Comments (25)Post a Comment

  1. Hi, Tori!
    Your glaze sounds delish, I have to try it. I do have a meatloaf tip for you, though. I always mix all the ingredients except the meat together first, and then work in the meat. that way everything is blended but you don’t have to handle the meat as much which makes it more tender.

    I’ve gotten away a bit from my Jewish cooking roots, so I love reading your blog and reconnecting!

  2. This recipe looks wonderful and it was such an interesting post. I can’t wait to try it since meatloaf is an all time favorite in my house. I am familiar with Memphis’ rich Jewish history but never knew that Elvis had Jewish roots. I’m going to share this with my facebook fans. Love your blog!

  3. I do not have wheat germ in the pantry. Can you suggest a substitution. Also, I was thinking of substituting Panko crumbs for the bread. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Francine, you can use 1/4 cup breadcrumbs as a substitute for the wheat germ (regular or seasoned). I usually reserve panko for coating fried food because of its crunchy texture, but you could certainly use it here too. Enjoy! :)

    1. You don’t know what you are missing, Simply Tia. A well-made meatloaf is definitely worthy of a king! Try it. :)

  4. Hi Tory
    My mother used to make meatloaf all the time butshe did a littlesurprse with it..she would place one or two hard boiled eggs(whiole) some were in the meat loaf .. We all could not wait to see who got the slices with the egg….sometimes she would place a whole carrot in the middle
    Natalie aka Safti of safticreations

  5. Hi Tory
    I was just reading a recipe for mushroom sauce with goat cheese and a closed it in error. Do you know who I am talking about?
    Natalie aka safti

  6. Hi Tori! I’ve been an Elvis fan all my life…he would simply exude sexuality! Listening to his music on Sirius radio keeps me young. But I do have some additional Elvis Jewish history to your blog….with my own Baltimore roots:

    When the Presley family lived in subsidized housing during his early teen years in Tupelo, there lived an orthodox rabbi and his wife upstairs. On Shabbos, they would pay Elvis to be their “Shabbos goy” to turn on and off the lights, etc. Gladys and the rabbi’s wife became close friends. When Elvis was nearing high school graduation, Gladys confided to her “Oh my, he can’t go to college, and I’m afraid he won’t make anything of himself except driving a truck!”. The rebbitzin replied, “Don’t worry, Gladys, someday he will be somebody because he is so polite and nice.” Of course the rest of that is history. But when Elvis became famous and moved to Graceland, every Christmas he would give checks to assorted charities, including the Rabbi’s small shul, which would sometimes be $500 and even $5,000. But one year when the rabbi sent someone to pick up the check, it was for $150,000! The Rabbi called Elvis, thinking it was a mistake, but Elvis replied, “No, Rabbi, I want you to use this money to build that school you’ve always wanted!” And he did. Years went by and the Rabbi passed away, his wife ended up in a Jewish old age home in Baltimore. She would often tell stories about Elvis and his family and how nice they were. When it was her 90th or 95th birthday, the home decided to surprise her and they got an Elvis impersonator (aka tribute singer) to come and sing “Happy Birthday” to her. Being old and having a lttle dementia by this time, she thought it was really Elvis coming back, and they had to call paramedics to revive her beating heart!
    I hope you enjoy this bit of true Elvis trivia as much I enjoy all of your recipes and blogs! Shalom, Ilene

  7. Hi Tory

    Can you freeze this ? How does the glaze hold up after being frozen ? I’d like to make two, and freeze one.

    Thank you for your recipes. I’ve had a lot of luck with them, especially the Y K breakfast ones.


  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I really wanted to thank you for this recipe! I made this for our sunday dinner and it came out amazing, the taste and texture were both wonderful, I let it sit about 5 minutes before cutting and the slices didnt fall apart.I didnt use the glaze because I am trying to reduce the sugar in my diet but I used a little of my homemade ketchup instead- this is now my favorite meatloaf and will be making this again.

  9. Because I have to make sugar free meal. I might
    use tomato paste instead of brown sugar, or even place
    Splenda in the glaze. That makes it sweet but it doesn’t mess
    with you. Just a thought, Thanks again for this blog. Really
    like the recipes and comments are so helpful as well.

  10. I brought a cook book when I went to Graceland from across the street from his home at the shops the and I have been trying recipes out of the book and so far they are all good I got the one from ELVIS KITCHEN TO YOURS THEY ARE GREAT , NOW I WANT TO BUY MORE AND TRY THEM.

  11. Funny how much I love garlic and onions,double jointed I am olive tone skin ears like him funny legs. I can’t stand sour and I love the hound out of sweets, beer, I have an alto voice. Look for my mother with Elvis on internet hysterical fan grabbing Elvis Presley’s pants leg/Click onto Miami Beach Miami Connection. Elvia went by Richard(Dick) Donovan who served with Colonel whom I believe is Richard (Bob) Campbell see the museum at Horticulture Park in Clemson. Keep in mind Elvis is the step brother of Eyrnest Sexton some where in the area for Eyrnest’s wife shops at Sams Club. Elvis is a man who has used so many names. He was with the coal mining business company now called Minerials and Mines. See his rock collection at the park. Treasure hunter signing off.

  12. Hi Tori … A few have commented that they don’t have WHEAT GERM. I just wanted to advise, in case they don’t know much about it, that it’s not expensive, comes in a jar, is ready to use without cooking and is found in any respectable supermarket in the Cereals aisle. A common brand’s website (http://kretschmer.com) has lots of info, uses and recipes. (I have no connection to the brand, financially or any other way, except as a user). As kids, growing up, oh so many, many years ago, our Mom regularly sprinkled a heaping Tablespoon of this wheat germ from the jar over our morning bowls of hot or cold cereal. So good. Thank You.

  13. HelloTory,
    I just ran across this and was so glad to see it. I haven’t had a computer long. I am Eugenia Rooks, Nancy Rooks was married to my cousin Nathaiel Rooks. He passed away and she has since remarried, I am so glad to read more about her. I got sick so the last time I saw her was when I shot photos of her at her book signing. I am 75% finished with my book, which is totally different from hers. I have all my mother and grand mothers recipes that I collected since I was 16. And quite a few of my own. She was such an inspiration to me. It was her who said go for it. She said it was a long process. And she was right.It took me 2 years to get where I am today. Having a cooking page on facebook helps keep me motivated. so again Tory thank you.

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