These sweet and spicy Korean Meatballs are easy to make, bold in flavor and great served as an appetizer or weeknight dinner. They’re inspired by Korean BBQ and flavored with lean ground beef, gochujang, and tons of fresh garlic and ginger. The tender meatballs are then drizzled with a sweet, spicy and tangy glaze. Each bite is everything but boring!

Healthyish Ground Beef Korean Meatballs

These Korean meatballs are a combination of two of my favorite things—meatballs and Korean BBQ. Meatballs are ideal for both meal prep and holiday parties. Serve them as a quick weeknight dinner with fluffy white rice and charred veggies or dress ‘em up for a festive appetizer spread. They fit right in at just about anywhere. 

To make these healthyish I opted for lean ground beef. I love the deep, rich flavor of beef for Korean dishes, especially one that’s inspired by the flavors of Korean BBQ. I use 94% lean, which is pretty lean, but don’t worry, these are as tender and flavorful as ever. 

If you opt for a fattier ground beef, that’s totally fine, just skip the added tablespoon of oil in the meat mixture.

I also use whole-wheat breadcrumbs for added fiber, though you can use regular if that’s all you have on hand.

meatballs in a glossy red sauce on a white plate

Ingredients Needed for Korean Meatballs

  • Scallions (also labeled green onions)
  • whole wheat bread crumbs(regular will also work—no need to run to the grocery store just for whole-wheat) 
  • Large egg (for binding)
  • Gochujang (a sweet, spicy and savory fermented Korean chili paste)
  • low-sodium soy sauce
  • olive oil
  • fresh garlic 
  • Fresh ginger (dried can be substituted)
  • kosher salt (I use Morton here, if you use Diamond Crystal you’ll need to add more)
  • cracked black pepper
  • lean ground beef (94%)
  • honey 
  • toasted sesame oil
  • distilled vinegar (rice vinegar would also be great)

Tips for Making Tender Meatballs

Avoid over-mixing the meat. The more you mix the meat the more tough it will become. To avoid this, I combine all of the meatball mix-ins before adding the meat. This way the meatball ingredients gets evenly distributed more easily without needing a lot of mixing.

Cook by temperature. Using internal temperature is a foolproof way of cooking meat. To ensure you cook the meatballs to temperature without over-cooking them, I recommend using an instant-read thermometer. Cook the meatballs to an internal temperature of 160ºF for perfectly tender meatballs 

glazed meatballs on a plate of white rice with charred broccolini on the side

Variations

  • Use apricot preserves or marmalade in place of the honey in the sauce. You could also use brown sugar, but that will require heating the sauce with a splash of water on the stovetop until the sugar melts and a glaze is created.
  • Swap the chopped scallions for ½ cup shredded white or yellow onion. 
  • Make the meatballs spicier by adding some crushed red pepper flakes to the meat mixture and the drizzle sauce. 

Storage Tips

  • have leftovers? Or did you make a double batch for meal prep? Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • For longer storage, arrange meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Freeze until solid then transfer to an resealable zipper-lock bag and store in freezer for up to 4 months.
  • Reheat meatballs in a 300ºF (149ºC) oven until warmed through.

How to Serve these Korean BBQ Meatballs…

Serve them as an appetizer with the drizzle sauce.

Make it a meal by serving them over cooked basmati or jasmine rice with charred or steamed vegetables. 

Enjoy a meal of Korean meatballs and noodles. These Saucy Gochujang Noodles are a fan favorite. 

glazed meatballs on a plate of white rice with charred broccolini on the side

More Korean-Inspired Recipes to Love…

Korean Meatballs with Gochujang Drizzle Sauce

Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Yield 20 meatballs & scant ¾ cup sauce
Category Main Dish
Cuisine Korean
Author Lauren Grant

Description

Sweet and spicy Korean meatballs. Ready in 30 minutes and perfect for both weeknights and festive appetizer parties. 

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup whole wheat or regular breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil*
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger, or 2 teaspoons dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound 94% lean ground beef

Glaze:

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoon gochujang
  • 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon distilled vinegar or rice vinegar

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 425ºF (218ºC) with rack set in lower-middle position.
  • Reserve 2 tablespoons scallions for serving.
  • In a large bowl, combine remaining scallions, breadcrumbs, egg, gochujang, soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper.
    breadcrumbs, egg, gochujang, garlic, ginger, and green onions in a mixing bowl
  • Mix to combine. Add ground beef and mix just until combined.
    ground beef mixture in a mixing bowl
  • Shape meat mixture into 20 balls (about 2 ½ tablespoons each or #24 scoop (1.5 ounces)), and arrange on a greased rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 13–15 minutes.
    un-cooked meatballs on a baking sheet
  • For the sauce, combine honey, gochujang, toasted sesame oil, and vinegar. Arrange meatballs on a platter and drizzle with sauce or serve on the side. Sprinkle reserved scallions over top.
  • For a full meal, serve with basmati rice, charred broccolini or steamed vegetables (see notes for instructions).

Notes

Make it a full meal for 4 people: you’ll need 1 ½ cup dry basmati rice and 1 pound broccolini.
To cook the rice: Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Rinse rice in a fine mesh sieve then transfer  to simmering water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover; cook until fluffy and tender, 12–15 minutes. Season rice with salt and a bit of toasted sesame oil.
For quick charred broccolini: toss broccolini with olive oil or coat with nonstick spray on a baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Broil broccolini 6 inches from the heating element until charred, 3–5 minutes per side. Steamed broccoli, carrots or green beans are also great options.
If fattier ground beef is used (80% to 85%) you  can skip the added tablespoon of olive oil in the meatballs.

Nutrition

Serving: 3 meatballs + 1 Tbsp. sauceCalories: 171kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 14gFat: 7.5gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 668mgFiber: 1gSugar: 11g
Keywords korean bbq meatballs, korean meatballs
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @ZestfulKitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #zestfulkitchen!
glazed meatballs on a plate of white rice with charred broccolini on the side

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This sponsored post is in partnership with the Iowa Beef Council. As always the thoughts, opinions, recipe, photos and content are all my own.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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