Gochujang meatballs are exploding in popularity as more people discover the delicious Korean condiment Gochujang. This spicy, sweet chili paste adds incredible depth of flavor and heat to recipes.
The best part about gochujang is that just a little bit goes a long way in transforming an ordinary meatball into an extraordinary one!
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a thick, fermented Korean condiment made from chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. It also often contains added sweeteners like sugar or honey. The result is a complex, umami-rich flavor profile that is simultaneously spicy, sweet, and salty.
This versatile ingredient acts as a flavor booster in countless Korean dishes. A little bit stirred into meatballs, marinades, stir-fries, stews, and more instantly elevates them. You can find gochujang sold in tubs at major grocery stores, Asian markets, and online. Opt for a mild, medium, or spicy gochujang depending on your heat tolerance.
Picking Ingredients for Gochujang Meatballs
Making great gochujang meatballs starts with choosing high-quality ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
- Ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken - Pick your favorite ground meat or a blend. Turkey and chicken are leaner while beef and pork offer more fat for juicier meatballs.
- Onions and garlic - Finely chop 1/4 cup onions and 2-3 cloves garlic for the meatball mixture. Their aromatic flavors pair perfectly with gochujang.
- Ginger - Grate 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, or use dried ginger powder. Ginger adds a subtle kick.
- Eggs - Lightly beat 1 egg to bind the meatball mixture.
- Breadcrumbs - 1/2 cup panko or regular breadcrumbs help bind juicy meatballs.
- Gochujang - Use 2 tablespoons in the meatballs and more in the glaze. Add less if you don't like too much heat.
- Rice vinegar - Adds brightness to the glaze. Substitute with white wine vinegar.
- Soy sauce - Use in the glaze to add salty depth.
- Apricot jam - Sweetens the glaze. Substitute with any jelly or jam.
Easy Steps for Gochujang Meatballs
Making gochujang meatballs is easy. Just mix, form, bake, then glaze!
Mix the meatball mixture. Combine all ingredients except oil and glaze ingredients in a large bowl. Gently mix together until unified. Overmixing makes meatballs dense.
Form into balls. Use lightly oiled hands to shape into 1-inch balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, evenly spaced.
Bake the meatballs. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, until browned and cooked through to 160°F internal temperature.
Make the glaze. While meatballs bake, whisk and glaze ingredients like gochujang, jam, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Heat until thickened.
Toss with glaze. When meatballs finish baking, toss with glaze until coated. Serve warm.
That's it! With just 20 minutes of prep time, you'll have tasty gochujang meatballs.
Serving Suggestions for Gochujang Meatballs
The possibilities are endless when it comes to serving these flavorful gochujang meatballs! Here are some ideas:
- Spear with toothpicks as a hearty appetizer. They beat boring cocktail meatballs!
- Enjoy as a main dish over rice. Cooked white or brown rice is a perfect partner.
- Toss with udon noodles, sautéed veggies, kimchi, avocado, and hot sauce for a meal prep lunch bowl.
- Make them kid-friendly with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes on the side.
- Pile into soft rolls for a spicy version of sloppy Joe or meatball subs.
- Skewer and serve with quick pickled veggies and hummus for a Mediterranean mezze spread.
- Embrace meatballs for breakfast served over hash browns. Top with a fried egg for pure protein power.
However you enjoy them, gochujang meatballs add a touch of Korean flair to spice up any meal.
Handy Tips for Gochujang Meatball Success
Making tasty gochujang meatballs is easy when you follow these handy tips:
- Don't overmix the meat mixture. This causes dense, rubbery meatballs. Mix just until combined.
- Use a cookie scoop to form same-sized meatballs for even cooking.
- Refrigerate uncooked meatballs in an airtight container for up to 2 days before baking.
- Double or freeze leftovers. Cooked meatballs are refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
- Substitute poultry, pork, or a meat blend for the beef. Dark meat chicken and turkey work well.
- Swap the jam in the glaze based on what's in your pantry, like peach, fig, or blueberry jam.
- Adjust spiciness by using less gochujang if you don't like a lot of heat.
- Use sriracha instead of gochujang if you don't have access to the Korean chili paste.
- Let meatballs rest for 5-10 minutes after baking so they don't break apart in the glaze.
Put these tips into practice for tender, juicy meatballs bursting with sweet and spicy Korean flavor.
Fulfilling a Gochujang Obsession
If you find yourself with a newfound obsession with gochujang like some recipe bloggers and chefs, look for more ways to use up that tub! The Korean chili paste does wonders for so many dishes.
- Toss gochujang into dressings and dips for an instant flavor upgrade. It's especially good paired with peanut butter or tahini.
- Mix a spoonful into ground meat before making burgers or meatloaf. It adds so much depth.
- Stir some into stir-fries along with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Next-level Asian flavor!
- Add to marinades for chicken, beef, or salmon before grilling or roasting.
- Swirl into soups, stews, and chilis for a smoky, spicy boost.
What's the best way to form perfectly shaped gochujang meatballs?
For evenly sized meatballs that cook at the same rate, use a small cookie scoop or melon baller. Scoop the meat mixture into the tool, then push it out into your hand to roll smooth balls. Having them the same size allows you to ensure the meatballs all cook through without any being underdone. Aim for about 1-inch diameter.
Can I make gochujang meatballs without eggs?
Eggs act as a binder to help the meatballs hold their shape. If you want to avoid eggs, substitute the 1 egg in the recipe with 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to thicken before adding it to the meatball ingredients. The ground flax will act as the "glue" instead.
What's the best way to bake gochujang meatballs in the oven?
Baking yields tender, flavorful results. Lightly brush oil on the formed meatballs before baking to help them get nicely browned all over. Bake at 400F on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, gently turning them over halfway through. Use an instant-read thermometer to confirm they reach 160F internally before pulling them out.
Can I prepare gochujang meatballs ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can refrigerate the uncooked meatballs for up to 2 days before baking them. Or you can bake them fully then refrigerate them for up to 5 days or freeze them for up to 3 months. Frozen cooked meatballs are reheated easily in the microwave or oven. The glaze can also be made 1-2 days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.
What's the best way to reheat leftover gochujang meatballs?
For refrigerated leftovers, reheat them in a skillet with a bit of the glaze or broth until warmed through. For frozen meatballs, microwave on half power in 30-second increments, then toss them with glaze to coat. You can also reheat them in a 300F oven until hot, then glaze. Slow reheating ensures they don't get dried out.
Now you're ready to cook up the ultimate gochujang meatballs at home. This recipe easily transforms an everyday meatball into something sensational using the iconic Korean chili paste.
The complex, fermented flavors of gochujang pair so well with juicy, tender meatballs. Using just a few simple ingredients and easy steps, you can have a batch of these addictively sweet, spicy, and savory meatballs ready in under 30 minutes.
Sweet & Spicy Gochujang Meatballs
- For the meatballs
- 1 lb ground beef or pork
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- For the glaze
- 1/3 cup apricot jam
- 2 Tbsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients. Gently mix just until combined. Do not overmix.
- Form mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients.
- When meatballs are done baking, toss with glaze until coated.
- Serve immediately over rice or with toothpicks as an appetizer. Enjoy!