Korean Barbecue Burgers

Toasted sesame oil is a force to be reckoned with.

Vertical image of a loaded burger on a wooden board next to a glass of beer, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

And up until my recent introduction to gochujang, I didn’t think any other ingredient could pack such an epic punch in the mouth. We’ll get to that in a second.

First, the sesame oil.

Though this intensely nutty oil is often used to finish a dish, I occasionally blend it with a neutral oil (that lends its higher smoke point) as the first step towards a stir-fry.

This is one of many qualities – in addition to loving tuna sandwiches and going for long walks, and not buying new clothes until the old ones have holes in them – that I was gifted by my dad.

Vertical image of an open-faced loaded beef patty on a brioche bun on a wooden board.

Growing up, I don’t remember him going out of his way to experiment with an assortment of Asian flavors. However, he knew how to nail a simple stir-fry, and it was one of the staple dishes that made the rounds on our family table.

He would rummage through the vegetable drawers, searching for anything and everything that would pair with ginger and dark, sticky soy sauce.

I’d stand behind him, gawking over his shoulder to see if he had left half his tuna sandwich from lunch in the fridge.

Suddenly, he would begin flinging half-empty produce bags of multicolored peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and onions at me.

The rinsing, coring, stemming, and slicing seemed to take forever, while the actual dish came together in just minutes once the cooking began.

Vertical image of a burger with a hefty serving of slaw on top on a wooden board next to a blue napkin, limes, fresh herbs, a metal fork, and a blue towel.

This was one of the most valuable cooking lessons I learned from my dad: mindfully taking the time to prep your ingredients is key (the fancy French phrase for that being “mise en place”).

It was within these soy-scented study sessions that he also instilled in me an understanding that toasted sesame oil could totally rock the socks off of what seemed to be a standard stir-fry.

When I began contemplating how to tackle a Korean barbecue-motivated burger, I thought back to all of the wonderful aromatics that contributed to my dad’s Asian-inspired masterpieces.

I knew that scallions, ginger, garlic, and of course, toasted sesame oil, would have to stand front and center.

Vertical close-up image of a hand holding a loaded burger with mayo and vegetables.

But if you don’t turn to gochujang (Korea’s answer to spicy chili paste) to give the handhelds a funky, fermented bite, did you really even make Korean barbecue burgers?

That was supposed to be a metaphor about trees falling down in the forest and no one hearing… Just go with it.

I opted to intertwine this zippy condiment throughout several layers of my extravagant sandwich. Cool, creamy mayo mellows out gochujang’s heat and gives the spread a vibrant pink hue.

As for the slaw, when gochujang meets briny fish sauce meets rich toasted sesame oil, Harry and Sally are both like, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Vertical top-down image of a halved burger on a wooden cutting board on a blue towel next to lime slices.

Once the crisp shredded cabbage and sweet carrots get a chance to mingle with the perfectly pungent dressing, they never look back. The gochujang’s concentrated flavor shines bright through every bite, and a kiss of refreshing fresh mint ties the dish together.

No chopsticks required. Cold beer recommended.

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Horizontal image of a burger with a large amount of toppings on a wooden cutting board on a light gray and brown surface.

Korean Barbecue Burgers


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Take your taste buds on a flavor adventure with these Korean barbecue-inspired burgers loaded with bright, briny slaw and spicy mayo.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons gochujang, divided
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime, divided
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 small head red cabbage, cored and shredded (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1 small bunch green onions, thinly sliced on a diagonal, divided (1/2 cup)
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 80/20)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 brioche burger buns, split and lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves, delicately sliced into ribbons
  • Pickled veggies (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 tablespoon gochujang, lime zest, and half of the lime juice. Season to taste with salt and set aside.
  2. To prepare the slaw, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon gochujang, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, remaining lime juice, garlic, and sugar. In a large mixing bowl, add the cabbage, carrots, and half of the scallions (about 1/4 cup). Pour the dressing over the top and stir to coat the slaw well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.
  3. Heat a grill, grill pan, or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. In a large bowl, add the ground beef, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon ginger, the remaining green onions, and the soy sauce. Gently form into 4 equally-sized patties, making sure not to overhandle the meat. Brush them with the vegetable oil on both sides if using a cast iron pan, or brush a thin coating on your grill pan or grill plates to prevent sticking.
  5. Cook to your desired level of doneness, turning once and sprinkling with the sesame seeds after you flip (about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare).
  6. To assemble the burgers, spread a small amount of the gochujang mayonnaise on the bottom buns and then top with a burger patty, slaw, mint, pickled veggies (if desired), another dollop of the mayonnaise, and the top buns.

  • Category: Burgers
  • Method: Barbecue
  • Cuisine: Sandwiches

Keywords: barbecue, grill, hamburger, gochujang, korean

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Make the Gochujang Mayonnaise

Grate the ginger, and zest and juice the lime.

Horizontal image of a green bowl with a seasoned mayonnaise mixture with a metal fork.

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, 1/2 teaspoon of the ginger, 1/2 tablespoon of the gochujang, the zest of the whole lime, and the juice of half.

Season to taste with salt and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

Step 2 – Make the Slaw

Mince or press the garlic, core and shred the cabbage (either by hand or using the shredding attachment on your food processor), grate the carrot, and slice the green onions.

Horizontal image of colorful shredded vegetables divided by color in a metal bowl.

To make the dressing, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon gochujang, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, remaining lime juice, garlic, and granulated sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, add the cabbage, carrots, and half of the scallions (about 1/4 cup). Pour the dressing over the top and stir together until the slaw is coated well.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Step 3 – Form and Cook the Patties

Heat a grill, grill pan, or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

Horizontal image of two raw meat patties on a white plate.

In a large bowl, add the ground beef, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of ginger, the remaining green onions, and the soy sauce. Delicately mix with your hands to combine.

Gently form into 4 equally-sized patties, making sure to avoid overhandling the meat.

Horizontal image of cooking a seasoned meat patty topped with sesame seeds in a pan.

If you’re cooking on a cast iron pan, brush the burgers first with vegetable oil on both sides. Or brush grill grates or your cooking surface of choice lightly with oil to prevent sticking.

Cook, turning once and sprinkling with the sesame seeds when you flip, until desired the desired level of doneness is reached (about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare).

Step 4 – Assemble the Burgers

Carefully slice the mint into ribbons and lightly toast the buns, either on the grill or in a dry pan.

Horizontal image of a burger with a large amount of toppings on a wooden cutting board on a light gray and brown surface.

To assemble the burgers, spread a small amount of the gochujang mayonnaise on the bottom buns and then top each one with a burger patty, slaw, mint, pickled veggies (if desired), another dollop of the mayonnaise, and the top buns. Serve immediately.

Goodbye, Boring Burgers

If you’ve ever had a dry, under-seasoned patty splattered with “insert conventional condiment here,” one bite of this deliciously untraditional burger will set you free.

Hats off to the soy sauce for assisting the beef in creating a caramelized crust, and let’s not forget our friends ginger and green onion for bringing beautiful bursts of Asian flavor.

Horizontal top-down image of a halved burger on a wooden cutting board next to slices of limes, all on a blue towel.

If red meat isn’t your thing, slide in a grilled chicken breast, and the gochujang slaw will take it from there.

Between the fish sauce, chili paste, and soy, the salt factor is already high – so sprinkle with caution if you reach for extra seasonings. I add vinegary pickled veggies to up the pop and crunch factor.

Want even more creative ideas for your next cookout? Skip the beef and check out these alternative burger recipes:

Gochujang adds depth to all kinds of dishes. I swirl it into soups and use it to marinate taco meat. Where do you like to spread this salty Korean pepper paste?

Share your spicy perspective in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on August 14, 2012. Last updated: August 15, 2020 at 13:32 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

Korean Barbecue Burgers

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