You know it, you love it. But what exactly is this comfort food classic?

A classic comfort food, Salisbury steak is a dish that most people relate to school lunches or disposable aluminum trays. However, homemade Salisbury steak is a dinner much more delicious than what you remember. Keep reading to learn more about what is Salisbury steak and how to recreate this nostalgic dish at home. 

Instant Pot (R) Salisbury Steak with Onion and Mushroom Gravy
Credit: KGora

What is Salisbury Steak?

A cross between meatloaf and a hamburger, Salisbury steak is made from seasoned ground beef patties served with a simple mushroom and onion gravy.

This hamburger steak dish was named after Dr. James Henry Salisbury, a doctor who studied nutrition in the 19th century and was a big proponent of minced beef as a health food, according to Smithsonian magazine. This sounds intriguing until you learn what foods the good doctor did not consider healthy: fresh fruits and vegetables.

What's the difference between Salisbury steak and meatloaf?

Meatloaf is a seasoned meat mixture formed into a loaf—a loaf of meat, if you will—and baked in a loaf pan in the oven. Salisbury steak is sometimes similarly seasoned but formed into patties and browned in a skillet on the stovetop. Salisbury steak is also typically served with gravy, often a mushroom-based gravy. Some meatloaf recipes call for gravy or mushroom sauce, but meatloaf is more commonly prepared with a semi-sweet ketchup or tomato-sauce based glaze.

How do you make Salisbury steak from scratch?

Naturally, there are many variations on this general hamburger steak theme, but Salisbury steak is usually made with lean ground beef mixed with seasonings, bread crumbs, and dry onion soup mix. 

See how to make a simple Salisbury Steak with Mushrooms:

Lean ground beef is often used since you don't want excessive fat drippings for this flavorful dish, but some recipes suggest substitutions like ground turkey or pork.

The ground meat is then formed into patties, browned in a skillet, and simmered in a mushroom gravy—made either from scratch with beef stock and fresh mushrooms or with cream of mushroom soup. 

Find your new favorite version from one of our top-rated Salisbury steak recipes, featuring a variety of seasoning options and cooking methods, from skillet to slow cooker, oven-baked to Instant Pot.

What goes well with Salisbury steak?

A classic match for Salisbury steak is mashed potatoes and gravy with sauteed green beans, carrots, simply roasted broccoli, or corn to round out the meal. Buttered noodles, white rice, macaroni and cheese, and tatter tots are other common side dishes. 

Is Salisbury steak healthy?

Turkey Salisbury Steak
Turkey Salisbury Steak | Photo by Holiday Baker

Although Salisbury steak might not qualify as a "health food," substituting lean ground turkey for ground beef, sauteeing your mushrooms and onions in olive oil, and making your own gravy using homemade stock makes it healthier by degrees. 

Check out our complete collection of Salisbury Steak Recipes.