If you want to spice up your grilled meats and seafood, this flavorful Korean BBQ sauce recipe is perfect for the job. This Korean-inspired sauce is sweet and tangy with the right amount of heat. It couldn’t be easier to pull it together.
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This is part of my BBQ sauce recipe series, and I love it because it is such a versatile sauce. And, as a bonus, it can be stored for a week or two – which makes it ideal for keeping in the fridge at the ready to dress up any meal.
📖Why This Recipe Works
Homemade Korean BBQ sauce can be made with ingredients found at your average grocery store. No special trips are needed. Gochujang takes the place of the ketchup you would find in a typical BBQ sauce. Just like ketchup, it’s a little sweet, tangy, and thick.
Unlike many BBQ sauces this one doesn't need to be pureed so if you don't have a food processor don't worry. This spicy sauce is perfect for those without much kitchen equipment.
As for the flavor, I opted to skip the pear puree I see in many Korean barbecue sauces. While it is a clever way to sweeten the sauce I find that it gets lost and makes the sauce too thin. Instead, I use brown sugar which makes the sauce richer without making it overall sugary.
Gochujang- This is a fermented Korean red chili paste made with fermented red chili peppers, rice, and soybeans. Not all chili taste is gluten-free so double check.
Soy Sauce - I prefer low-sodium varieties and salting as needed. Or use tamari for gluten-free.
Rice Vinegar - Rice vinegar, also called rice wine vinegar, is mild and slightly sweet and is a classic choice for making Asian dishes. You can substitute with apple cider vinegar or plain white distilled vinegar.
Brown Sugar - Dark brown sugar tastes delicious in this sauce and also helps it to thicken. You can substitute it with coconut sugar, molasses, or honey.
Sesame Oil - Sesame oil brings a nice toasty aroma to the sauce.
Garlic - Garlic just tastes good, and paired with the ginger it contributes so much flavor to the sauce. If you don’t have fresh garlic, garlic powder will still give you a good flavor.
Ginger - Fresh ginger is pungent and flavorful, and perfect for this sauce. It can be substituted with frozen ginger paste cubes. Keep in mind that using a paste does change the flavor and makes it less intense. I don't recommend ginger powder in this recipe.
Sesame Seeds- I use white sesame seeds so they show better in the sauce but black works as well.
Cornstarch - Cornstarch helps the sauce to get thick, glossy, and perfect for slathering on anything that comes off of the grill. You can substitute with potato or tapioca starch. For a thinner sauce, you can leave it out.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
🍲How to Make Korean BBQ Sauce
Because you don't puree this BBQ sauce it is important that you finely mince or grate the ginger and the garlic.
Mix together all the ingredients except for the cornstarch.
Mix the cornstarch with up to a ¼ cup of warm water to create a slurry. Set aside.
Heat the sauce over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Gradually add the cornstarch mixture until the sauce is thick.
If you don't like using cornstarch consider one of our suggested alternatives for thickening BBQ sauce.
🥣 How to Use Korean BBQ Sauce
- Over cocktail party meatballs
- As a dipping sauce for spring rolls
- Brush on like a glaze on your slow-roasted pork belly
- As a sauce for chicken wings
- Use as a stir-fry sauce on ground beef and broccoli
- Brush on any grilled meat, like my Jamaican jerk BBQ sauce I love this one on salmon
If you like your barbecue sauce extra spicy, you can add in some Korean pepper flakes, called gochugaru.
In the refrigerator, this sauce will keep in an airtight container or jar for up to two weeks.
This sauce can also be frozen. Freeze in an ice cube tray for easy portioning, then transfer into a freezer-safe bag or container. Thaw at room temperature or in the microwave before serving.
❤️More Delicious BBQ Sauce Recipes
💭 Frequently Asked Questions
Gochujang paste typically contains barley malt or yeast extract made from barley. If you can find a GF version use tamari soy sauce to make it gluten-free. You can also use one of our Gochujang substitutes listed above.
The closest substitute would be siracha mixed with miso paste. You could try to use sambal olek or a garlic chili paste with or without miso. But note it will taste different than sauce made with gochujang.
📖 Printable Recipe Card
Korean BBQ Sauce
- In a mixing bowl, combine the gochujang paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, toasted sesame seeds, and black pepper. Whisk everything together until well combined.½ cup gochujang paste, ½ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- In a separate small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of warm water to create a slurry.1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Transfer the sauce mixture to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Once the sauce starts to simmer, gradually pour in the cornstarch slurry while stirring continuously.
- Continue to cook the sauce for another 2-3 minutes, or until it thickens to your desired consistency. Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken further as it cools.
- Store the Korean BBQ sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should stay fresh for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Before using, give it a good stir as separation may occur during storage.
- Small Saucepan