Simple Korean Beef: 20-Minute Meal

Anyone else playing major catch up after the holidays? I haven’t even thought about New Year resolutions (snore), I’m seriously still trying to crawl out from piles of laundry and chocolate.

If you are like me (high five?? or not…), let’s all give a little cheer for this 20-minute meal that most likely will save your bacon some time in the near future. It has for me, that I know. I’ve been making it for months now, tweaking it here and there, and the fact that it can be thrown together in 20 minutes nearly makes me weep. We love the simple, Asian flavors; it’s delicious served over rice or quinoa but let me tell you, it’s equally divine as a lettuce wrap or a combo of all (see the notes below the recipe title).

Simple Korean Beef: 20-Minute Meal

Interestingly enough, I’ve actually been to Korea (in a past lifetime, over 16 years ago when my brother dragged me there to go backpacking and I ended up with a really, really bad stomach issue after eating raw cow liver; delightful experience, really) and it should come as no surprise that I didn’t taste anything in Korea remotely close to the recipe I’m sharing today. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on how you view life.

And since we are talking false advertising here, I should probably mention that “beef” is used loosely as I alternate between ground beef, ground turkey and have even used ground chicken with super stellar results. Anyway you look at it, this quick, weeknight meal is a staple in our dinner rotation. Fast, easy, tasty and healthy! As I like to say: no better way to bring on 2015 than a meal that could save your sanity.

Simple Korean Beef: 20-Minute Meal

What To ServeSkillet Green Beans
Fresh fruit or this Honey Lime Fruit Salad

One Year Ago: Video Tip: How to Cut Grape Tomatoes and Other Pesky Foods Quickly
Two Years Ago: Chewy Granola Bars
Three Years Ago: Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

Korean Beef and Rice {Or Quinoa}

Yield: Serves 6 (or more as an appetizer)

Korean Beef and Rice {Or Quinoa}

I've made this dozens of times and it can be varied in a lot of ways for serving: use rice, quinoa - or both. We also love it in lettuce wraps or we line our bowls with romaine lettuce, scooped in some quinoa/rice and a spoonful of the meat mixture. Delicious!


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey or ground beef or ground chicken
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken or beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes plus more to taste or 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Hot, cooked rice or quinoa for serving


  1. Start the rice or quinoa, cooking according to package directions (usually about 15-17 minutes cooking time).
  2. While the rice/quinoa cooks, in a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the meat, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook, stirring to break the meat into small pieces, until the meat is cooked through and crumbly, about 7-10 minutes. Drain any excess grease.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, broth, sesame oil, red pepper flakes (or chili-garlic sauce), and ginger.
  4. Stir the sauce into the meat and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so.
  5. Serve over hot, cooked rice or quinoa, topped with the chopped green onions.

Recipe Source: adapted from Damn Delicious (used less sugar, took out the cooking oil, increased meat slightly and added more liquid so it wasn’t dry, varied the other ingredients)

75 Responses to Korean Beef and Rice {Or Quinoa}: Simple 20-Minute Meal

  1. Jennie says:

    Pretty sure I have already commented on this but just want to report that I make this just about once a week. My family never tires of it. If it’s Monday in my house we are probably eating Korean stir fry! Although this week has been crazy so we are just now eating it on a Wednesday.

  2. Kami Stewart says:

    These kind of left a strong yucky taste in my mouth that wouldn’t go away. 🙁 I’m wondering if I did something wrong…or maybe I was just expecting it to be sweeter and more teriyaki-ish?
    Darn. Not complaining. Just adding versatility to these reviews! 😉

  3. Caroline says:

    Hi Mel!

    Thank you for this recipe! I have been making it regularly at least 2 to 3 times a month since you posted it and we all love it so much.

    I thought I’d tell you about an addition we made last night and loved. I had a big bucket of chopped green/red cabbage, kale, carrots and green onions in the fridge. I keep it on hand for a quick lunch or dinner salad. On a whim I added this to our rice and Korean beef and it was so good! The rice and beef were warm and the salad mix was fresh and crunchy. Well, for lunch today my husband decided to wilt the salad greens and put them on our left over rice and beef and that was sooo good too. Now I’m not sure which I like better!

    Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes. I have been following your blog since 2008 when I was a new wife and had my fist baby. We are now a family of 6 and so, so many of your recipes have become our family favorites. I talk about you as if you are a close, personal friend. haha. I moved to the Boise are from LA and I always hope to run into you at the grocery store 🙂 Maybe some day! Anyhow, just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you!

    have a great day!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for the update on this recipe, Caroline! I love, love the idea of adding those fresh vegetables to this dish. I will definitely be copying that idea. And that would be so fun to run into you! I can’t believe you’ve been a reader since the very beginning. That’s more awesome than I can even say. Thank you!

  4. Caroline says:

    Hi Mel! Thank you so much for this recipe! In the year since you posted it I’ve made it once sometimes twice a month. It has become a regular and we all love it, especially my husband! Thank you!

  5. Ruchita says:

    This is one of my favorite recipes and is in regular rotation on my meal plan. I usually make this with ground turkey and quinoa. I add a little extra ginger and brown it with the turkey and garlic. Last time I made it, I added some edamame. Otherwise, everything else is the same. Delicious and cooks up quickly!

  6. Kat says:

    I have made this several times now. The first time was on a whim since I needed a quick dinner. Everyone loved it! I keep coming back to it over, and over again. It’s my go-to when my menu isn’t panning out. It always sounds good for dinner 🙂 I like to serve my with stir-fry veggies (like peppers, mushrooms and zucchini). Quick, easy, delish. Doesn’t get much better!

  7. Kate says:

    This dish saved my Sunday night! I made it as-written except with 1 pound ground beef. I steamed 1 pound of frozen broccoli and stirred it in at the end. It was perfect!

  8. Lauren says:

    Just had to say that this was so very delicious! I had some kale & red & yellow peppers that I wanted to use up; they were a really easy add in. My husband couldn’t get over how tasty this was; it made for some great leftovers, too. I will be making this again & again.

  9. Erin S. says:

    Finally made this after much debate on whether or not my not-so-adventurous-when-it-comes-to-trying-new-foods family would actually eat it. They all loved it, even my youngest who is a super picky eater! Thank you!!! We adore (okay, mostly me because I love to bake more than cook) your dessert recipes and now I’m very excited to try even more of your other recipes. Keep up the great work!!!

  10. Kmduff says:

    Made this tonight and it was a big hit. Everyone including the toddler ate it and asked for seconds. Awesome!

  11. Melissa says:

    This is excellent!

  12. Megan says:

    This was delicious! I loved it, and I weirdly used the leftovers as a base for tacos. Wasn’t sure how that would turn out, but they were awesome with the meat, black beans, sriracha, and cilantro.

  13. Robyn says:

    Hi! I am trying to find the recipe box on this site…has it been removed?

  14. Molly says:

    I have been making the Damn Delicious version for a while now. I like to double the sauce add about 2 cups of finely diced veggies; usually carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers, maybe sprouts. My husband served an LDS mission in Korea and loves Korean food. This dish passes the test!

  15. Mamalala says:

    Made this tonight for dinner and served it over quinoa. It was very easy and tasty. I could see how you could add any veggies to this dish. Another fast go to dinner in this house. Thanks again Mel!

  16. Jennifer Marsh says:

    I made this tonight for dinner. Super easy to throw together, and it was delicious! Both my little boys gobbled it up. Thank you for all your fabulous recipes. We eat your food almost every night of the week!

  17. Claire says:

    Thanks for this recipe! I’ll be adding this to my list of quick meals for when I need to whip up something fast for the kids. I love the versatility of it since we can switch out rice or the main protein with other options.

  18. Nicole says:

    Loved this, and so did my young kiddos! We added about 2 cups of red cabbage (just sautéed in a little olive oil after removing the meat from the pan to drain. Made a colorful and delicious (not to mention EASY) dinner!

  19. Roslyn says:

    I love so many of your recipes and I use your blog seriously all the time! Made this last night and it was very good however next time I will definetly be cutting down on the soy sauce. Way too much in my opinion. Other than that loved it!

  20. Dawn says:

    Made this. Loved this! Will make this again and again. Question-any idea if I could cook this and freeze the meat? Baby #3 just arrived and I’m trying to stock my freezer before my husband goes back to work. This would be a great easy meal to have on hand. I figure it is similar to taco meat so it should work. Anyone tried it?

  21. JessicaG says:

    Eating this right now and it’s great!! Very quick and delicious. Perfect weeknight dinner

  22. Carrie says:

    I have made this twice now and boy, is it good. I’ve been wanting to find a recipe that mirrors my favorite chinese restaurant’s lettuce wraps and this is so close to their flavor I will quit looking for one. The first time I made I grabbed extra lean ground turkey instead of the lean. I won’t do that again, it was a tad dry. This time I used ground chicken and it’s a lot better. I added finely diced water chestnuts and carrots as that is in the wrap from the restaurant. Another great recipe from you! Thank you!

  23. Valerie says:

    I made this the other night and my entire family of 5 (including 3 little picky eaters) loved it! So simple and quick to make, but full of flavor! I used 93/7 ground turkey over quinoa with steamed broccoli on the side. Great quick weeknight dinner!

  24. Allison says:

    Made this tonight, substituting water for broth because I didn’t have broth on hand. It is amazing!! Thanks so much!

  25. Kimberly Monaghan says:

    I have never been successful when attempting any type of asian food. This was super easy, super delicious and EVERYONE in the family ate it…..including all of the leftovers! Yeah ME! And thanks Mel….you are a ROCK STAR!!!

  26. Julia says:

    Yummy, this was a hit with everyone here.

  27. Megan says:

    I have made the “damn delicious” recipe several times and it’s always a hit. Since my family loves all things “Mel”, I had to try your spin on it. Your recipes never disappoint, and this was another great one.. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Jessica says:

    I made this last night and it was awesome! So easy! I reduced the amount of soy sauce a bit and left out the red pepper flakes (was afraid my daughter wouldn’t like them). Everyone loved it, even my 2 year old daughter. Will be making this again and again! Thank you!!

  29. Neena says:

    I made this last week and this will be added to the list of recipes to make again and again. I used ground turkey that is sold in 1 1/4 pound package. I omitted the red pepper because I didn’t know how spicy it would be for my kids but may go ahead and add it next time. Would you lessen the other amount of ingredients if you start out with a slightly lesser amount of meat like I did? Thank you so much for making these recipes and perfecting them with your family and then sharing them with your readers. We are all grateful!

  30. Tara says:

    Made this last night and it was delicious! I made one pan with just veggies (I’m a vegetarian) and one with meat. I loved the sauce on the veggies and my husband said that it tasted like something he’d order in a restaurant. Thank you for the great recipe!

  31. Kate says:

    This was awesome! I will use this as one of regular meals from now on.
    Thank you, Mel! You are truly an amazing cook who is changing my life. You gave given me the courage and confidence to try hard things.

  32. Teresa says:

    This was fantastic, and so easy. I eliminated the salt but made the recipe as posted (used beef broth with ground dark meat turkey). I forgot to buy green onions, but will remember next time as I love them. I served it with my favorite quick cooking farro from Trader Joes and some green beans. It was delicious and my kids want me to make it again next week! Thanks Mel.

  33. Lindy Lou says:

    Fabulous!!! My PICKY eater (such a challenge!) ate three bowls full. Miracles never cease!

  34. AJ says:

    This was the perfect last minute meal for me this week. My family loves this kind of flavor and it was easy! Perfect weeknight recipe combination. You rock Mel!

  35. Jenny says:

    Quick and delicious! Love this recipe! Thanks!

  36. Andrea says:

    My mom is Korean and this definitely had those characteristic Korean flavors. Instead of the chicken stock, my mom would use 7Up & let the meat marinate in it over night. I added cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms and onions. The only thing missing was a side of kimchee and roasted seaweed. Mmmm hmmm.

  37. Jill says:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was quick! I loved the sweet/salty flavors and that it uses everything I already had on hand. I also squeezed some fresh lime juice on mine after tasting it. With the lime it reminded me of my favorite Thai lettuce wrap, too! My daughter thought it was too salty, but that can be modified to suit her. All in all, I will keep it for a quick, easy and relatively healthy option for busy nights. Thanks.

  38. Ruth says:

    My family and I totally enjoyed this! So easy, so good! It is something I see myself making often. Thank you, Mel for all that you do. I hope 2015 if a great year for you and yours!

  39. Gilliane says:

    So yummy! I made it with lean ground beef and served it over brown rice. Thanks for yet another delicious recipe!

  40. cathy says:

    Made this tonight, yumm!!

  41. Lisa says:

    This is a fantastic recipe! I make something similar called “Thai Basil Turkey”. The main difference is 1/2 c fresh basil (about 12 leaves, chopped) thrown in at the end. Light, but filling meal! My husband and I always feel good after we eat this 🙂

  42. Mary P says:

    I made this already last night since I had all the ingredients. For an extra veggie boost I subbed cauliflower fried rice for the rice, and replaced the soy with liquid aminos (although you don’t need as much) and it was so good!

  43. Maggie says:

    Let’s talk about chili garlic sauce. I currently have fish sauce, sriracha sauce, and hoisin sauce in my possession. Is it THAT much different from any of those, or is it the secret weapon in this recipe?

    • Mel says:

      Good question, Maggie. Of all those sauces you have, chili garlic is closest to sriracha because it’s spicy and garlicky. I suppose you could use a bit of sriracha and up the garlic.

  44. Jess says:

    This is exactly the kind of recipe I need at the moment. Like most, I’m in that post-holiday must-cook-at-home but have zero time to do it mode. Happy New Year Mel!

  45. Bonnie N says:

    White sesame oil or the dark toasted sesame oil?

  46. Amy tracy says:

    Mel!! Where has this recipe been all my life. I had no idea what to cook for dinner until I saw this post. I am eating it right now as I type this. I am putting this on my favorites. Thanks Mel.

  47. Lori says:

    Made this tonight to rave reviews! We like spicy food so added extra chili/garlic sauce. So delicious I also forwarded the recipe to me kids. They will enjoy this dish as well!

  48. Kelly P says:

    Made this tonight and loved it! Thank you Mel!

  49. gina says:

    I made something very similar to this the other day and added leftover cauliflower, broccoli and carrots from a veggie tray. I chopped them real small in the food processor and added a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix. Some of it made it into eggroll wrappers, but it was so good the majority was served over rice, minus the stuff I stole and ate right out of the pan.

  50. Amy W. says:

    Looks awesome, Mel! Thanks for sharing! Quick question- where do you find your quinoa, and what brand do you use? I have tried to buy it in bulk but there are so many options, and I have no idea which one to choose (at Winco). I also used to buy mine at Costco but when the price when up from $9 a bag to $22 a bag, I had to start using brown rice, instead. Any suggestions would be welcome! Thanks!!!

    • Mel says:

      Hey Amy – when I lived in Northern Minnesota (up until just a few months ago), I was buying it at a local organic mill there. But lately I’ve been buying it on Amazon (the truRoots brand) or at Costco (I haven’t bought it there in a month or so – I’m not sure if it’s gone up in price here or not). I read somewhere that quinoa prices would be rising so that may be contributing to the cost changing at Costco. I use ours sparingly on meals that really count, if that makes sense, since it is more expensive than rice.

  51. Linda | Brunch with Joy says:

    I envy you…I’ve been wanting to go to Korea. Maybe one day. Meanwhile let me have this delicious korean beef with quinoa (love it) and folding my pile of laundry.

  52. Teresa R. says:

    My son and one of my daughters were adopted from Korea so we’ve tried lots of Korean food over the years. Some I like, especially the BBQ, but usually I pass on all the pickled vegetables. This looks good and I hope to try it soon!

  53. Tristina says:

    Have you ever had a Korean Bibimbap? My husband is planning to attempt to make them for dinner this week, I think this may have to be the meat component! If so, I will tag you on instagram so you can see it. You always seem to post something just when I need it. 🙂

  54. Kirsten G. says:

    Yum! I love easy recipes like this. Other than rice, what do you serve it with?

  55. JNa says:

    Love this – and excited to have your version to try next! We make it an “all-in-one ” meal by throwing in some red peppers, broccoli and/or carrots.

  56. Jana says:

    Thank you! I made this for lunch (a few minutes ago) and I am back to report that it’s awesome and tasty and amazing and although I didn’t have rice, it was perfect in a lettuce wrap as suggested. Worst run on sentence ever? Maybe. Great recipe, thanks! 🙂

  57. This looks amazing Mel!! Like, I’m in love with the flavours!! I would love it served in lettuce with kimchi!

  58. Jen T says:

    Yum! I have a “cheater Korean beef” recipe that my family loves. This looks easier, so we will definitely be trying it. Thanks! Quick dinners are so needed! I use your list of 30 minute meals often. Thank you!! Yum!

  59. Jennifer says:

    Relatively new member to this site, but LOVE LOVE LOVE. Thank you Mel!

  60. Alicia says:

    As I’m trying to refocus on healthy eating after holiday-calorie-overload, I am excited to try this with ground turkey or chicken. I spent a chunk of time yesterday checking out all of your healthy recipes, and will have to add this to my next menu plan. Looks tasty!

  61. Karly says:

    This looks amazing! I bet it’s great as a lettuce wrap!

  62. Tara says:

    I love how easy this recipe is. I actually taught English in Korea for awhile and am not a huge fan of Korean food (I was on kimchi overload) but this sounds delicious!

  63. Carla says:

    So excited all my food bloggers are back! Since we just got back from a trip and I need to head to costco today, this just may wind up for dinner!

  64. Sheila says:

    Ewwwww. . . .raw cow liver! Love that you gave us this 20 minute recipe. Thank you. Happy New Year!

  65. Emily says:

    Yes, I need them to go back to school so I can get something done without those little tornados undoing it behind me. We also need our schedule back we have had like 16 movies or games nights in a row. Thanks for the recipe they will love it. You mentioned in an early post that you would like to blog twice a week have you thought about Tuesday- Thursday post. Most bloggers do Mon-Wed-Fri. Selfishly, that way I have a little something something to look forward to everyday of the week. Thanks

  66. Helen says:

    Thank you!!! This looks amazing …. And I can’t wait to try it, hopefully today !! Anything that can be made in 20 or 30 mins is a win!!

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