Korean Barbecue-Style Meatballs


I love anything Korean-BBQ style and I really love meatballs, so I knew I was going to love these—and I did! Make sure you deactivate the enzymes of the fresh ginger by soaking it in 1 tablespoon of vinegar for 5 minutes—otherwise your meatballs will turn out soggy. Alternatively you can add the ginger to the sauce.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
30 mins
Rest Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 20 mins
12 meatballs

Korean Barbecue-Style Meatballs – Mushy is Not Tender

When it comes to cooking, there is no better teacher than a tragic failure, which is how I learned not to use too much raw ginger in a marinade for meat. I don't remember exactly when I became aware of this issue, but it was a long time ago, and probably involved watching pieces of meat mysteriously fall apart into mushy shards that slip through the grates of the grill to a fiery, disappointing death.

Yes, that's what happens if you add too much raw ginger to meat, and let it sit around before cooking it. It's a lesson you never forget. Until you do. As usual, I'll blame the 'fog of war' that happens during a video shoot, but it never occurred to me that the piece of ginger I was mincing was going to cause trouble. And, it would've caused much more trouble had I not been in such a hurry. I was going to let the mixture sit in the fridge for hours, and if I had, I'm not sure what I would've ended up eating for dinner, but it would not have been Korean barbecue-style meatballs.

I'll let you Google precisely why/how the enzymes in ginger dissolve protein, and I already explained in the video how to avoid this issue by deactivating the ginger with heat or acid, so I won't go over that again now. Instead, I will finish up by bragging about how delicious these were. They're very sweet and spicy, and little salty, but also profoundly savory and satisfying. When served over plain rice to absorb all the big flavors, these makes for a truly incredible meal, which is why I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (heated to 150 F degrees (65 degrees C) to deactivate enzymes, or soaked in 1 tablespoon vinegar for 5 minutes)

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • cup thinly sliced green onions, plus more for garnish

  • ½ cup finely crushed buttery round crackers (such as Ritz®)

  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish

For the Glaze:

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

  • ¾ cup beef broth or water

  • cup brown sugar

  • cup soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Add ground beef to a bowl and spread gochujang evenly over the surface of the meat. Season evenly with kosher salt, pepper, and soy sauce. Spreading out the seasoning will reduce the time you need to handle the meat. Spread fresh ginger and garlic evenly over the surface. Add green onions and cracker crumbs. Mix in quickly with a fork until well combined.

  2. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees C (220 degrees C).

  4. Form mixture into 12 equal-sized balls using wet hands. Add to a cast iron skillet.

  5. Bake meatballs in the preheated oven until nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

  6. Transfer meatballs to a plate while preparing the sauce in the same skillet.

  7. Drain most of the grease but 1 teaspoon out of the skillet and set onto stove over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze skillet with rice vinegar and soy sauce. Stir in brown sugar, beef broth, and gochujang. Season with sesame oil and Sriracha. Stir sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced by a third.

  8. Meanwhile stir together cornstarch and water in a small bowl to create a slurry. Reduce heat to medium-low and mix in slurry while whisking constantly. Keep simmering sauce until it has reduced to about half. Add meatballs back into the skillet and baste with the sauce. Allow to simmer, basting generously, until meatballs are heated through and are well soaked with sauce, 3 to 5 minutes.

  9. Serve garnished with toasted sesame seeds and green onions.

    Korean Barbecue-Style Meatballs
    Chef John

Cook's Notes:

This recipe was adapted from one by Kay Chun, published by NY Times Cooking.

Fresh ginger can be omitted from meatball mixture, and added to sauce instead.

The meatballs do not have to rest before being formed and browned, but can be made ahead and kept in the fridge, as long as raw ginger has been deactivated or omitted.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

558 Calories
39g Fat
27g Carbs
23g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 558
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 39g 51%
Saturated Fat 14g 70%
Cholesterol 97mg 32%
Sodium 2502mg 109%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Protein 23g
Potassium 397mg 8%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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