This simple Korean barbecue sauce comes together in a snap and is loaded with BIG bold flavors! It's salty, tangy, lightly sweet and sticky, and full of fresh ginger and garlic. Perfect as a marinade, finishing sauce, or dipping sauce.
This recipe is vegan, easily made gluten-free, and uses common ingredients you probably already have in the pantry!
Why You'll Love It
Full of umami and with a balance of acidity, saltiness, and sweetness, Korean BBQ sauce is one of those sauces that keeps you coming back for more! If you're a fan of other types of Asian-style sauces, you'll definitely love it.
Korean BBQ sauce is versatile and can be used pretty much any way you would use American-style barbecue sauce.
And there's no special equipment needed to whip up a batch of this sauce! A microplane zester comes in handy, but otherwise all you need are a knife, whisk, and small sauce pan.
What is Korean BBQ Sauce made of?
As opposed to American-style BBQ sauce which is tomato-based, the primary ingredients in this Korean-style BBQ sauce are soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and rice vinegar.
Right off the bat, though, you'll notice similarities between the two sauces - there's tang and acidity, umami, saltiness, and a hint of sweetness.
You'll find variation among Korean BBQ sauce recipes, with some using additions like gochujang paste or fruit. But I really appreciate sauces that are simple to prepare and pantry-friendly. So this one is a bit more streamlined.
- soy sauce - we wanted really bold flavor here and used regular soy sauce. Feel free to use a low-sodium variety. You can always add more or adjust the saltiness if needed.
- rice vinegar - I prefer plain rice vinegar; if all you have is "seasoned" rice vinegar, that works fine here, too.
- maple syrup - or light brown sugar. A bit of sweetness is crucial to the overall flavor of the sauce so don't skip it.
- sriracha - I use sriracha because we usually have some in the fridge. Feel free to use any similar style of chili-garlic sauce. It gives the Korean BBQ sauce a bit more tang and spiciness.
- ginger - if all you have is an old, dried up nub of ginger that's been hanging around on the counter for a while, it's a good idea to head to the grocery store. You want fresh ginger root that's very fragrant and moist when grated or minced.
- garlic - you'll need 2 or 3 cloves, depending on their size.
- toasted sesame oil - adds a touch of richness plus that unique, toasty and nutty flavor.
- corn starch - this thickens the sauce; if you need a substitute, arrowroot starch works perfectly.
See recipe card below for quantities and the full recipe.
How to Make Korean BBQ Sauce
- Either in a bowl or directly in a sauce pan, whisk the corn starch in the water until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. It's a good idea to whisk frequently while the sauce simmers.
Tip: if you're adding the sauce directly to a hot pan with other ingredients, like a stir fry, there's no need to simmer the sauce in advance to activate the corn starch. Simply whisk everything together in a bowl, then add it to the pan.
Ways to Use Korean BBQ Sauce
Korean barbecue is a cooking method that typically involves grilling various meats over charcoal. But since this is a vegan recipe blog, I'm here to talk about all the ways you can use Korean BBQ sauce in plant-based dishes.
You can also use this as a finishing sauce for rice and grain bowls, tacos, pizza, and vegetable stir fries. Check out this Korean BBQ Tofu Pizza.
Marinate vegetables or any of the proteins mentioned above for kabobs and oven-roasting.
Pictured above: Korean BBQ Tempeh
Korean BBQ Sauce FAQs
Traditional soy sauce is not gluten-free, so you'll want to replace it with a certified gluten-free tamari. All of the other ingredients are naturally gluten-free.
Both sriracha and red pepper flakes give the sauce a mild-to-medium spiciness. For a milder sauce start with less red pepper flakes, then taste and adjust.
Store Korean BBQ sauce in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.
Once the sauce has been heated and thickened it's still easy to tweak the flavors. Give it a taste and add a bit more sweetness or acidity if desired.
I hope you enjoy this quick and easy take on Korean BBQ sauce. If you try the recipe be sure to comment below and let us know your favorite ways to use it!
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Korean BBQ Sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- ¼ cup maple syrup - or light brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce - such as sriracha
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root - a large thumb-size piece
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - reduce for less spiciness
- In a sauce pan, whisk together the corn starch and water until the corn starch is fully dissolved. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stirring frequently, cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust the flavors as desired.
- The sauce may be used now or set aside to cool. Once cool, store the sauce in a jar or other lidded container in the refrigerator and use within 1 week.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.