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!
Table of contents
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.
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%)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
More Korean-Inspired Recipes to Love…
Chicken & Turkey
Easy Chicken Bulgogi Recipe (Spicy Korean Dak BBQ)
Tofu & Tempeh
Vegan Korean Tofu Lettuce Wraps
Korean Meatballs with Gochujang Drizzle Sauce
- 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
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons gochujang
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons distilled vinegar or rice vinegar
- 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.
- Mix to combine. Add ground beef and mix just until combined.
- 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.
- 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).
This sponsored post is in partnership with the Iowa Beef Council. As always the thoughts, opinions, recipe, photos and content are all my own.
I made these tonight and they were SO SO delicious! Definitely adding to our weeknight dinners going forward!
Hey Jess! So happy to hear your enjoyed these!!
wow! give me that drizzle sauce on more stuff! outstanding, will be making again.
Yay!! I love that you enjoyed the sauce so much. We love drizzling it over rice—it’s just that good!
Sauce was a miss. Way too oily. Can’t even call it a sauce. Meatballs were good. But it tastes like it’s missing something and the texture was very soft. Almost too soft.
Hi Meghan, I’m sorry to hear the sauce was too oil, that’s not how ours usually turns out. We usually have to give it a quick whisk before drizzling it over the plate—so maybe it’s that separation that was the issue. The sauce is meant to be a drizzly sauce that lightly sticks to the meatballs and runs around the plate/mingles with the rice. If you want something thicker, you could reduce the oil and cook the sauce over low heat with a dash of cornstarch.
Sorry to hear the meatballs were a bit soft. We tested this recipe many times to avoid any soft texture, but if you make this again I would recommend skipping the soy sauce in the meatballs altogether and decreasing the gochujang to 1 tablespoon. That will likely get you the texture you’re looking for.
These were great and I plan to add them to our menu rotation. The only complaint I got was that the ginger was too strong for my family, so I will cut it back next time. Amazing flavors! Also I was surprised to find gochujamg paste in the international aisle in my supermarket. No trip to the farmer’s market needed.
Thanks for trying these meatballs and letting us know what you thought! Such a helpful note for others about the ginger. Thank you!!
These were fantastic and so easy to make! I had to use gluten free crumbs and I think the balls were a little gooey because of it but no one complained. Great flavor and just enough spice!
Thank you for this recipe ❤️
Hi Anastasia! So glad these turned out well with the GF breadcrumbs. Thanks for trying the recipe!