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Bulgogi Meatballs: A Delicious Party Appetizer Recipe

A party is only as good as its appetizer meatballs. You know the ones: Bite-sized and needing no more than a simple toothpick, the gooey, warming meatballs are easy to snack on while waiting for the main course. With a little soy sauce, fiery gochujang, and nutty sesame oil, they can fit right into Korean banchan, complementing the spicy-sour kimchi and salty seaweed portions of the traditional pre-dinner snack.

This recipe, written with developer Michelle McGlinn, infuses the flavor profile of bulgogi beef, a Korean barbecue staple, into soft, tender ground beef meatballs. Coated in a salty, spicy glaze, the meatballs take the best of bulgogi’s smoky flavor and combine it with the sticky, slightly-sweet appetizer we know and love. It’s easy to throw together, too, giving you more time for the entrees that come after it. If you needed a new way to dress up a familiar appetizer, these bulgogi beef meatballs are a good place to start — and if you have leftovers, pair them with rice for a perfect next-day lunch.

Gather the ingredients for bulgogi meatball party appetizers

bulgogi meatball ingredients

Step 1: Heat up the oven

preheating the oven to 400

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Step 2: Add the meatball ingredients to a bowl

meatball ingredients in a bowl

Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.

Step 3: Combine the mixture

meatball mixture in a bowl

Using your hands, mix the ingredients until just combined.

Step 4: Form into meatballs

meatballs on a sheet tray

Scoop and form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on a parchment-lined sheet tray.

Step 5: Bake

baked meatballs on sheet tray

Bake the meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked through.

Step 6: Add the sauce ingredients to a skillet

sauce ingredients in skillet

In the meantime, add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, ¼ cup water, brown sugar, gochujang, vinegar, and vegetable oil to a skillet over medium heat.

Step 7: Prepare a cornstarch slurry

cornstarch slurry on table

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup water together until dissolved.

Step 8: Bring to a simmer and add cornstarch

pouring cornstarch into sauce

Stir the mixture in the skillet and bring to a simmer, then add the cornstarch slurry.

Step 9: Thicken

thickening sauce in skillet

Simmer until thick, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 10: Coat the meatballs

meatballs in sauce in skillet

Add the meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat.

Step 11: Garnish and serve

meatballs garnished with sesame seeds

To serve, sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.

 

holding meatball between chopsticks

Ingredients

  • For the meatballs
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts separated and finely chopped
  • 1-inch knob ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • For the sauce
  • 1-inch knob ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ cup water, divided
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Optional Ingredients

  • Scallions, for topping
  • Sesame seeds, for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until just combined.
  4. Scoop and form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on a parchment-lined sheet tray.
  5. Bake the meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked through.
  6. In the meantime, add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, ¼ cup water, brown sugar, gochujang, vinegar, and vegetable oil to a skillet over medium heat.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup water together until dissolved.
  8. Stir the mixture in the skillet and bring to a simmer, then add the cornstarch slurry.
  9. Simmer until thick, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  10. Add the meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat.
  11. To serve, sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
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Because bulgogi meatballs are inspired by Korean bulgogi beef, they pair well with plates typically found in banchan, the traditional side dishes served with Korean barbecue. Banchan are appetizers that can be enjoyed with the meal, too, not just beforehand, and are usually refilled throughout the meal. Usually served in small bowls with just a small portion each, banchan might include cabbage kimchi, seaweed salad, stir-fried eggplant, radish kimchi, spicy cucumbers, and soybean sprouts.

Banchan sides pair well with bulgogi meatballs, balancing the meaty spice with sour, crunchy vegetables. Our favorite way to serve these meatballs without having to cook, though, is with a store-bought jar of kimchi and several sheets of nori, an edible dried seaweed. The nori can be used to grab the meatballs or the kimchi, adding an umami-packed punch to each bite. We also love serving these meatballs with a few bowls of sticky rice or cold sesame noodles for a more filling pre-dinner snack.

Can you use these bulgogi meatballs for meal prep?

bulgogi meatballs in serving bowl

These bulgogi meatballs aren’t just great for appetizers, but for full meals, too. The spicy, saucy meatball can be prepared fully and stored in air-tight containers for up to a week without losing any taste or texture. We recommend storing them in a separate container or compartment to the rest of your meal so that the meatballs can be easily reheated. When it comes to reheating them, you can go the microwave method, or you can toss them in a skillet again; you might want to toss in a splash of water to help get that sauce moving.

To seamlessly reuse the meatballs in a grain bowl, pair these meatballs first with sticky rice or udon noodles, then add stir-fried vegetables to round out the meal. You can pair with zucchini, eggplant, spinach, bell peppers, baby corn, and even steamed bok choy. For extra spice, add a couple pieces of kimchi and some chili crisp. To transform the sticky bulgogi grain bowl into a bibimbap, add a fried egg and sprinkle with plenty of sesame seed.

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