Bye bye, boring meatballs…these Korean-Inspired Gochujang Meatballs will liven up any rice bowl or appetizer spread with bold flavor!
Gochujang is having a bit of a moment! Korean-inspired recipes are popping up everywhere and this red pepper paste is a versatile ingredient. Don’t be intimidated if you aren’t familiar with it yet. These Gochujang Meatballs are a delicious way to get introduced!
Why You’ll Love These Gochujang Meatballs
They’re definitely worth getting your hands messy, but if you need some convincing:
- The cooking method is simple, so you just need a large sheet pan to bake these meatballs in the oven.
- The sweet & not too spicy glaze is so good you’ll want to lick the bowl. Or your fingers. Or anything else it touches!
- You can enjoy gochujang meatballs alone as an appetizer or party dish, or pair with rice and veggies for a meal prep friendly complete meal.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Ground beef: I usually get an 85/15 mix, which seems to always work for moist, flavorful meatballs that aren’t too greasy
- Gochujang: this Korean red pepper paste has a truly unique flavor so don’t skip it! It’s spicy, yes, but also hints of sweet and smoky flavors. You can get a mild version, too. Look for it in Korean or Asian markets or shop online.
- Low sodium soy sauce
- Grated ginger and minced garlic
- White pepper
- MSG: I usually use MSG instead of salt, but adjust based on your taste preferences or what you have in your kitchen
- Panko bread crumbs: You can also swap for regular bread crumbs if you don’t have panko bread crumbs
- Toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions for a pretty garnish that’s totally optional
This gochujang meatball recipe is for the meatballs only. If you plan to make a complete meal, I recommend serving with rice, roasted or pickled vegetables, kimchi, nori (dried, seasoned seaweed) or similar toppings like what I included in these rice bowls.
Can I use something other than ground beef?
You can swap the ground beef in these gochujang meatballs for another protein if you want to. e also use a lot of pork in Korean cuisine, so try this sweet & spicy glaze with a ground pork meatball.
However, I haven’t tried this recipe with ground chicken or ground turkey. I can’t speak to how it will taste (probably pretty tasty), but the texture may be drier because these proteins tend to be leaner. To avoid this, consider adding some chopped mushrooms (AKA “the blend”) or minced onions to help your meatballs taste better.
See “the blend” in action with my recipe for Green Chile Queso – it’s such an easy way to pack even more umami flavor into each bite!
How To Make Gochujang Meatballs
Here’s a step-by-step guide to made gochujang meatballs:
- Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F (or about 20g degrees C). Line a large sheet pan or baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, or spray it down with non-stick spray.
- Add all the ingredients for the gochujang meatballs to a large mixing bowl. Using clean hands (I wear gloves to avoid staining) or a soft spatula, mix it all together until everything is evenly combined. Take a spoon or scoop to portion out individual meatballs and roll them into round shapes. This recipe should yield about 40 small meatballs.
- Place the meatballs on the baking sheet so none of them touch. Bake on the middle rack for 16-18 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and starting to brown. Use a meat thermometer to verify the internal temp hits at least 160 degrees F.
- In the meantime, make the glaze. Warm a small saucepan over low heat and add the gochujang, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Whisk it together until it’s saucy and smooth (which should only take about 30-60 seconds once the saucepan heats up). Take it off the heat and get ready to serve!
Street Smart Nutrition Tip: Don’t overwork the meatball mixture. This could make the texture dense and chewy, so just mix enough to combine everything. You’ll work the mixture again when you scoop and shape the meatballs so use restraint if you can!
I build my rice bowls using steamed white rice. I LOVE this California-grown white rice and my trusty Zojirushi rice cooker, but build your bowls using whatever starch or method you like best. For toppings, I like some roasted broccoli, sliced cucumbers, and kimchi. I tossed in the meatballs in about half of the glaze and added them to the bowl. Then garnished with green onions plus toasted sesame seeds, then drizzled the rest of the glaze on top of everything.
Cooking Tips for Maximum Flavor
After testing this recipe multiple times, I truly can’t find much I would change about these gochujang meatballs. Dare I say they’re perfect as is? But these tasting notes will help you dial it in so you can make the version that tastes best to you:
- If you’re sensitive to spice, try swapping out half of the gochujang in the glaze for additional honey or toasted sesame oil.
- You can never have too much garlic in Korean cooking, so feel free to add more if that’s a flavor you love.
- While the garnish of toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions is optional, I really recommend including both! They add a nice texture and color contrast and the subtle flavors from each will complement the gochujang meatball recipe.
When I served these at our housewarming party, everyone raved about them! I just made a much bigger batch of the glaze and poured it over the cooked meatballs, then served it out of a crockpot. A few people even asked for the recipe. I was kicking myself because I didn’t have it written down at the time. That tends to happen if you cook like me and don’t really measure when you’re cooking on the fly.
But after that I got it together and made sure to finalize something for the next time someone asked. So here is my official recipe for Korean-Inspired Gochujang Meatballs!
Korean-Inspired Gochujang Meatballs
- 1 large baking sheet or sheet pan
- aluminum foil, parchment paper, or non-stick cooking spray
For the Gochujang Meatballs:
- 1 ½ lbs ground beef, 85/15
- 2 ½ tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 2 ½ tbsp gochujang, Korean red pepper paste
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
For the Glaze:
- 2 tbsp gochujang, Korean red pepper paste
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- toasted sesame seeds
- green onions, thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (about 205 degrees C). Line a large sheet pan or baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, or spray it down with non-stick spray
- Add all the ingredients for the gochujang meatballs to a large mixing bowl. Using clean hands or a soft spatula, mix it all together until everything is evenly combined. Portion out individual meatballs with a spoon or small scoop and roll them into round shapes.
- Place the meatballs on the baking sheet so none of them touch. Bake on the middle rack for 16-18 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and starting to brown, or the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze. Warm a small saucepan over low heat and add the gochujang, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Whisk it together until it's saucy and smooth (which should only take about 30-60 seconds once the saucepan heats up). Remove from heat.
- To serve, toss the cooked meatballs in half of the gochujang glaze, reserving the other half to drizzle on top. Serve alone as an appetizer, or combine with cooked rice, vegetables, kimchi, and other toppings to build a complete meal in a bowl. Serve while hot and enjoy.
If you try these Korean-inspired Gochujang Meatballs, leave a comment and rating to let me know what you think.
As always, thanks for stopping by Street Smart Nutrition. Cheers to more fearlessly nourishing meals!