Spicy Korean-Style Gochujang Meatballs

By • April 2, 2013 • 108 Comments

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Author Notes: For the Super Bowl this year, my husband wanted to make some Korean chicken wings he had seen in a magazine. When I saw the recipe, I wasn't expecting gochujang (Korean chili paste) to be an easy ingredient to find (or pronounce), but it turned out it was incredibly painless to locate at my local big-box store. The wings turned out great, but I now have a pretty sizable tub of gochujang sitting in my fridge.

Not one to let food go to waste, I've made it my mission to use that stuff up. It's actually pretty versatile, and has a nice spicy and smoky flavor. A little bit goes a long way toward giving an otherwise boring dish a little Korean flair. Along the lines of "party food" like chicken wings, I thought this stuff would work in meatballs, too (my recipe is adapted from a recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon). These meatballs are spicy and smoky and delicious.
foxeslovelemons

Food52 Review: WHO: Foxeslovelemons is a food writer from Detroit.
WHAT: Our new favorite cocktail party appetizer, with a kick of spice to keep things interesting.
HOW: Just mix, fry, bake, and brush on a sweet-spicy glaze.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We know they're a classic, but let's face it: your meatballs are probably stuck in a white-bread rut. This is how you break them out of it.
The Editors

Makes 20 meatballs

Meatballs

  • 3 green onions, very thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, for pan-frying

Glaze

  • 1/3 cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Garnishes: sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. In large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients except oil. The key to good meatballs is not to over mix them. Just gently combine the ingredients until everything is evenly distributed. Form the mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. In batches (don't crowd the pan!), brown the meatballs on all sides. Transfer meatballs to rimmed baking pan and transfer to oven. Bake 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160° F.
  3. Meanwhile, in small saucepot, combine all glaze ingredients. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened.
  4. To serve, brush meatballs with glaze and sprinkle with green onion and sesame seeds.
Jump to Comments (108)

Comments (108) Questions (0)

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19 days ago Bridget

This dish sounds awesome, I'm going to make it but unfortunately I can't use beef for the crowd I'm serving. Do you think chicken or pork would work and if so which sounds better to you?

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19 days ago foxeslovelemons

Hi Bridget! I think either of those would work here, but I would probably choose pork :)

Stringio

20 days ago robin lewis

absolutely the best appetizer i've ever made/brought to a dinner party/pot luck.

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20 days ago foxeslovelemons

Aw, thanks so much, Robin. Glad they were a hit for you!

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20 days ago Megan

Wow. This was seriously delicious. One of the tastiest dishes I've had in recent memory. My husband and I easily finished the entire batch. We ate them over rice with some spicy roasted broccoli on the side. So so good. Our gochujang must be very Americanized- it is Annie Chung's which is all we could find in our area. The heat was really pretty mild. We ended up adding some cayenne to the glaze to get more heat. Based on the comments below it sounds like gochujang can vary in heat level quite significantly. I can't wait to make this again!

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20 days ago foxeslovelemons

It definitely sounds like each brand of gochujang is different (I can't remember which brand I used to make these), but I'm glad you made a few tweaks and they turned out well, Megan!

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about 1 month ago Tom Brady

I felt like Smaug after this. If your gochujang label is written in Korean, HALVE the amount if you don't want to end up in the ER. Otherwise this was great.

Stringio

2 months ago robin lewis

Suggestions on how to make these ahead? (I'm thinking: make, fry and bake the meatballs a day ahead, then put them in the sauce in a crockpot on low the day of...something like that? or make them from start to finish ahead of time and reheat on low in the crockpot the day of?)

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2 months ago foxeslovelemons

I would suggest doing exactly as you said above, Robin (fry and bake meatballs, then put them in crockpot on low with sauce the day of).

Stringio

2 months ago robin lewis

what's the best type of ground beef for these (chuck, sirloin, etc. etc., 85% or whatever percent lean, etc. etc.)?

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2 months ago foxeslovelemons

Hi Robin - I used ground round for these!

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3 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

sexyLAMBCHOPx is a trusted home cook.

Amazing recipe! Made it so many times I know it by heart. I do cut down on the gochujang when making it for my husband because it too hot for him.

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3 months ago foxeslovelemons

I'm so glad to hear this recipe is such a hit for you and your husband :)

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4 months ago lois

Just made these for dinner using ground turkey and peach preserves. I hit the meatballs with the glaze about halfway through the oven time. So good I want to make them for an open house in a few weeks. Has anyone frozen them? I'm thinking I should make the mixture and freeze meatballs raw for cooking later, but it would be great to hear that someone has frozen them cooked with good results.

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5 months ago Jodi L.

So simple...so tasty!! I cut the chili paste in half. I was nervous they would be too spicy. Next time I will eek it up a bit for more heat. Fabulous recipe!

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5 months ago foxeslovelemons

So glad you enjoyed them, Jodi!

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5 months ago Gregory

Wow these were amazing! Gochujang is hot hot hot! I might try a version with some spicy mayo...

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6 months ago Cooknotchef

Fyi gluten free gal- not exactly sure what sirachi is, but I'm guessing you mean sriracha. In that case, you made 'Spicy sriracha turkey poultry-balls' for your guests. Happy to hear they enjoyed them. But dont think for a minute they resembled the result of what you get when following the above recipe. Sriracha and gochujang are nothing alike, and when one is substituted for the other, the result will not be nearly the same. Hence, the issues you had getting the glaze to coat the meatballs.
Please spend the time gathering the true ingredients- well worth the effort!

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6 months ago GlutenFreeGal

This is a true WINNER!! Made this for a large gathering and they disappeared before anything else. As my diners were of a range of age groups and palettes, I halved the amount of chili paste/Sirachi (1 Tbsp to 1 lb of ground turkey meat), and did not add any chili paste/Sirachi to the glaze. MY difficulty was getting the glaze to stick to the cooked turkey meatball even after cooking the glaze for a full 5 minutes without any chili paste/see again for Thanksgiving.

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7 months ago tak fuji

OKay- look- I like spicy stuff, and maybe I'm a wussy american but HOLY BEJUSES was this hot as HAAYELLL!! Being an anal completeist I followed the recipe exactly. Including buying Gochujang paste off of the intraweb... It was crazy spicy- like when you go to the Thai place and they have four hotness levels and you pick the (3) -very hot level- and it is a punishment to your senses. For regular people, as opposed to SATANISTS, this is right at the "TOO dang HOT" level. I loved the meatballs and glaze, but I would cut the gochujang paste in half AT LEAST to make it more palatable for your average American couch surfer. The glaze could go without the chili paste altogether (just creep a little more soy and vinegar into the mix) and still be awesome, and the meatball mix smelled AMAZING before cooking, but it was just a level too spicy. I think one tbls of gochujang in the meat mix and none in the glaze would make this more realistic, spice-wise, for your average joe. Don't f**k with the rest of the recipe though, the ginger and garlic and green onion mix was awesome beyond belief. So bright and tasty and fantastic.

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8 months ago Samantha

These are fantastic! I used fig preserves and they were amazing. Thank you!

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8 months ago Megha

Hi There-- looking forward to trying out this delicious looking recipe this weekend. Do you think the recipe will still taste okay if I sub fig preserves for the apricot?

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8 months ago foxeslovelemons

Oh, definitely Megha! I think it'll be great. I haven't tried fig in this recipe yet, but I've made it with all kinds of other preserves, and they all seem to work :)

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8 months ago jjohio

Holy gochujang batman! One - I love gochujang and have been known to overuse it in marinades and as a garnish (the more the better) plus I'm a hot spicy food fanatic. I followed this recipe exactly - not sure if I had flaming hot gochujang or what but it was burning hot! My husband thought they were delicious (I agree!) but accused me of trying to kill him ;P Either way though - great recipe that I'll repeat again but if I use that same gochujang I'll cut the amount down in the meatball to 1 Tbsp.

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8 months ago foxeslovelemons

Oh no, jjohio! I think different brands of gochujang vary in heat, for sure. I used a very "Americanized" brand of gochujang, because that's all that I was able to find. I'm sure it was very mild compared to yours. I'm glad your husband still thought they were delicious, and hope they turn out even better next time :)

Stringio

9 months ago Liz Gorr

Has anyone tried this recipe with turkey? would I have to make any changes since there is so little fat in turkey?

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9 months ago Cathy Stussi

These aare some of the best meatballs. Brought them to a party and won best appetizer! Has just enough bite. Everyone love them. I tripled the receipe and brought home no leftovers...boo hoo!

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9 months ago foxeslovelemons

So glad to hear they were a hit, Cathy! What kind of wine did you end up serving with them? (Sorry, missed your previous comment/question).

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10 months ago Cathy Stussi

I'm bringing these to a Appetizer/wine Party. What kind of wine do you think would go with this?

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10 months ago za'atar

Delicious! I subbed marmalade for the apricot jam because that's what I had, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly and they turned out wonderfully! I love how the heat from the gochujang is flavorful rather than taste bud singeing.

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10 months ago foxeslovelemons

Thanks so much, za'atar. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. That's the same reason I like gochujang, too. A little bit of heat, but not tongue burning spice!