Korean meatballs are full of exotic flavors – ginger and sesame oil provide a delicious Asian flair. But the true star of these meatballs is gochujang. This miso-based Korean chili paste provides both an earthy and pungent fire to the flavor. They are hot, but not so spicy as to turn off most modestly adventurous eater. And if “too spicy” is a concern, remove the additional cayenne pepper from the sauce recipe to temper some heat.
Serve Korean meatballs as an appetizer or as a meal over rice. They don’t take long to make (as long as you have gochujang in-house), so this recipe is an excellent “quick and easy” meal to make on busy days. In fact, it’s a ton more flavorful than most quick meals.
You can pick up gochujang and most well-stocked supermarkets, but if you are truly adventurous (and have time to source the ingredients), you can make this Korean chili paste at home. See our recipe for it here (a simplified version, plus a video on how to make it).
Like this recipe? You’ll love these too:
- Korean Bibimbap Sauce: Another gochujang-powered recipe, perfect over rice or with red meats.
- Sizzling Sriracha Meatballs: Sriracha and ginger pair up for another take on meatballs.
- Sticky Korean Pork Chops: Serve with rice and vegetables, or use them for delicious pork sandwiches.
Spicy Korean Meatballs
For the meatballs
Cook the meatballs
- In a mixing bowl, add the beef, garlic, shallot, gochujang, ginger, sesame oil, and salt (as per amounts under meatballs section above). Stir to combine.
- Create the meatballs by rolling a heaping tablespoon’s amount of beef into a ball. They should be approximately an inch wide.
- Add the vegetable oil to a large pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the meatballs (may take two rounds of cooking, adding oil each time). Cook the meatballs for 3 minutes, flipping once or twice during the cooking. The meatballs will be lightly browned.
- Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel to allow them to rest (and the oil to soak into the paper towel).
Make the sauce
- Use the same pan as used for meatballs. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the spices are aromatic (30 seconds to one minute).
- Add the ketchup, light brown sugar, rice vinegar, gochujang, sesame oil, and cayenne pepper (based on the portions under sauce section above). Stir well.
- Bring to a quick boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer the sauce for 3 to 4 minutes.
Finishing the Korean meatballs
- Add the meatballs back to the pan with the sauce and cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately, sprinkling toasted sesame seeds on top as garnish.