These Korean meatballs have become a go-to dinner in this house. It’s one of the few meals that EVERYONE loves, so we’re eating them at least once every two weeks. Why Korean meatballs? Because Korean style beef short ribs are one of my favourite dinners, but that is an expensive cut of meat to buy around here. Any time I can find a way to incorporate some of those same flavours into other meals to get my Korean BBQ kick, I will.
I’ll admit these are “loosely” Korean meatballs. They’re probably more Korean BBQ inspired. I started out with meatballs that were more traditionally Korean BBQ flavour based, but I ended up with kids drinking about 12 gallons of water every meal because they were too spicy. So I adjusted to placate them. The things we do for our kids.
Korean Meatball Evolution
I actually adjusted a lot over the course of a couple of months. The original Korean meatball recipe I started with was from Jo Cooks. Over time I realized we preferred sweet onion instead of the green onions in the meatballs. The green onions stay a bit stringy, and the kids notice them. With a sweet or white onion, as long as you dice it fine enough, it’ll just melt into the beef while it cooks.
Plus, I always have sweet onions on hand. Green onions, not so much. I’m a firm believer that quick meal options are best when you typically already keep the ingredients stocked in your house.
We also beefed up the amount of ground beef (that was an unintentional pun and I’m keeping it because puns are awesome) and breadcrumbs. Why you ask? Because there were never enough Korean Meatballs for everyone. Seriously. If you could still wear a sword on your hip without being considered weird, there would be duels in our house over these meatballs. Also, these leftovers are kick-ass.
Sauce Is Key. Seriously.
You know what else we needed more of? Sauce. We needed a lot more sauce. I always serve these Korean meatballs with rice, and when you mix a bit of the sauce from your plate into the rice? It’s other-worldly. Ok, yes, I’m always starving by the time dinner hour rolls around. Which is actually right now. And I’m not currently eating. What I’m saying is my current (laco of food) situation may be playing a part in this romantic talk about rice and sauce.
Seriously though. Lots of sauce is the key. It’s amazing.
About the rice. I originally made it was your basic white rice, but I’ve switched to Basmati rice. I am OBSESSED with Basmati rice now, and think it has a way better flavour than plain white rice. Add the juice of 1 lime to the cooking liquid if you have it on hand. SO DAMN GOOD!
So You Want It Spicy Do You?
I originally made these Korean meatballs with Sriracha sauce mixed into the meat, but it was killing the kids. Yes, I may be a little heavy handed with my spicing of things, but I LOVE spicy food. I swapped it out for our favourite BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray’s), and suddenly this became the kids favourite meal.
I have to admit, the flavour with the BBQ sauce is amazing, and I wouldn’t go back to just Sriracha sauce. If you really wanted to add the Sriracha sauce into the recipe, add it in addition to the BBQ sauce. Me? I just put a little (or a slightly bigger then little / I’m an idiot – massive) dot on top of each meatball once it’s on your plate.
Beef, Pork, Chicken, Turkey?
Every Kind Or Mixture Works!
Next up, the meat choice. So, ground beef goes on sale A LOT around these parts. When it is, I stock up, so I always have it on hand. Ground pork on the other hand doesn’t go on sale as often. When it does though, I always make my Korean meatballs (or any meatballs really) with a 50/50 split between lean or medium ground beef, and ground pork.
Yes, I know they sell extra lean ground beef. No, I typically don’t buy it. I feel that you NEED a bit of that fat for flavour. I’m totally not against counting calories and eating healthy. I try to stick to an “everything in moderation” attitude, but I also love things to taste amazing. So, when I’ve had a week full of treats and sweets, I’m more conscious about serving my proteins with lower calorie sides.
I will also say that these are juicy, tender meatballs. I think baking them in the oven actually helps a lot with this. They don’t dry out by pan frying before baking. This makes them a bit healthier too – no cooking in oil first. Because of this, you can absolutely make them with ground turkey or chicken too without them drying out. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever you have on hand.
Korean Meatball Recipe
- 2 pounds ground beef (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 small sweet onion, diced very fine
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce (see notes)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 cup apricot jam
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
- Pre-heat your oven to 400℉ with a rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking oil spray.
- In a large bowl, mix together all of the meatball ingredients. I just use my hands to mix.
- Use a small cookie scoop, or your hands, to shape the meatballs into portions about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave enough space between the meatballs that they aren't touching.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked through.
- While the meatballs are baking, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the glaze ingredients. Set aside.
- When the meatballs are done cooking, add to the glaze bowl and toss gently until completely coated.
- Top with any of the following if desired: chopped peanuts, cashews, chives, green onions or Sriracha sauce.
Our go-to favourite BBQ sauce is Sweet Baby Ray's.
Ground Meat Options
I typically use medium or lean ground beef, depending on what is on sale. When I can, I love to do a 50/50 split with lean ground beef and ground pork. I've also made them with ground turkey and ground chicken, and they're just as delicious.
Make It Spicy
I LOVE spicy food, but the kids aren't quite old enough yet to handle it. So, feel free to add 1 - 2 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce right into the meat mixture to kick it up a few notches. You can also add 2 - 3 tablespoons into the glaze mixture for added heat.
If you are catering to people who don't like a lot of spice though, just put the bottle of Sriracha sauce onto the table for those who want to add it.