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What Is Korean BBQ Sauce?

Have you come across Korean BBQ sauce? Are you wondering what it is, what it tastes like, and how it differs from the typical version? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know.

So, what is Korean BBQ sauce? Korean BBQ sauce is a variation of barbecue sauce. Instead of being tomato/ketchup-based, it is instead predominantly made from soy sauce, pear, and rice vinegar. It is typically oily in texture and is often used as a marinade for meat.

In reality, it’s actually quite unlike the American-style BBQ sauce we have all come to recognize and expect.

As we shall now see in the next few sections!

So keep reading; you could find a sauce you prefer, or at the very least, offers you something different.

What Is The Difference Between Korean BBQ Sauce And Regular BBQ Sauce?

Korean BBQ sauce is different from regular BBQ sauce in terms of ingredients, taste, and texture.

Ingredients

From an ingredient perspective, Korean BBQ sauce is based on soy sauce (compared to the tomato base/ketchup of regular (American-style BBQ sauces.)

Equally, the type and amount of vinegar varies, too. Korean BBQ sauce typically uses rice or apple cider vinegar, rather than distilled vinegar found in its ‘regular’ counterpart.

Koren BBQ sauce is also known for including pear (typically Asian pear), sometimes sesame oil along with a range of flavorings not shared with western-style BBQ sauces.

Taste

Korean BBQ sauce is sweet and savory with notes of umami.

Regular BBQ sauce however is known for being smoky, tangy, and sweet.

Texture

While similar in texture, Korean BBQ sauce is generally considered a little more oily and moist than regular BBQ sauce.

American-style BBQ sauces, on the other hand, are thick and creamy in texture.

What Is Korean Barbecue Sauce Made Of?

Korean Barbecue sauce is typically made of soy sauce, pear (often fresh Asian pear), dark brown sugar, vinegar (mirin, rice, or apple cider), chilis, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and green onion. Although, home recipes and branded product versions of the sauce can vary.

In fact, if we take a look at a typical home recipe we can see how it differs from those offered on the market.

Home Recipe Korean BBQ Sauce Ingredients

  • Soy Sauce (Regular or Low Sodium),
  • Water,
  • Brown Sugar (Light or Dark),
  • Mirin,
  • Grated Fruits (Mountain pear, apple, kiwi, pineapple, or Korean melon)
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sesame Oil,
  • Rice Wine Vinegar,
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Sriracha Sauce
  • Grated Ginger,
  • Grated Garlic
  • Green Onions/Scallions
  • Cornstarch

From there you will typically see other flavorings, sometimes hot sauce, and then usually herbs and spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.

Branded Korean BBQ Sauce Ingredients

There are a number of different branded white BBQ sauces on the market.

The following four are some of the most popular.

Bibigo Korean BBQ Sauce

Soy Sauce, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Pear Puree, Onion Puree, Water Garlic, Apple Puree, Cooking Rice Wine, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Salt, Seasoning Salt, Green Nonion Extract, Black Pepper Powder, Ginger Extract, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Caramel Color, Sesame

CJ Korean BBQ Sauce

Soy Sauce [Water, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Salt, Fructose-Glucose Syrup, Defatted Soybean, Wheat, Grain Alcohol, Fermented Grain (Wheat)], Sugar, Pear Puree 14.5% [Pear, Antioxidant(E300)], Fructose-Glucose Syrup, Water, Onion Puree, Garlic, Salt, Apple Puree 1.5% [Apple, Antioxidant(E300)], Flavour Enhancers (E621, E627, E631), Green Onion Extract, Acidity Regulator(E330), Thickener(E415), Black Pepper Powder, Colour(E150C)

Heinz Korean BBQ Sauce

Sugar, Water, Spirit Vinegar, Molasses, Soy Sauce 5.5% (Water, Soybean, Wheat, Salt), Garlic, Modified Cornflour, Fried Onion 2.0% (Onion, Palm Oil, Wheat Flour, Salt), Onion 0.5%, Colour (Plain Caramel), Yeast Extract, Spices, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Thickener (Xanthan Gum), Chilli

So as you can see, branded and bottled versions of this sauce often include preservatives, other flavorings, colors, and sweeteners.

Still, this sauce does always remain a soy sauce-based barbecue variation at its core.

What Does Korean BBQ Taste Like?

Korean BBQ sauce tastes rich, sweet, tangy, and spicy with savory umami notes. It is oily and moist in texture, and relatively runny in consistency.

What Does Korean BBQ Sauce Go Well With?

Korean BBQ sauce is known for being incredibly versatile and can be used with many foods in various different ways. That being said it is often used as a marinade for meat, such as beef and chicken.

When it comes to marinading specifically, Korean BBQ sauce is best used to drench a slab of meat for hours (until the meat absorbs the sauce).

From there, it’s just a matter of put the meat over the grill for cooking.

Korean BBQ sauce is often served with:

  • Meatballs (including Korean-style meatballs),
  • Stir-Fries (Chicken and/or vegetable),
  • Pulled Pork
  • Ribs,
  • Fish,
  • BBQ beef
  • Chicken wings,

Due to its versatility, other than the typical pairings, you could also consume it with:

  • A spread for sandwiches,
  • A dipping sauce for pizza, or finger foods such as spring rolls,
  • A sauce for your tacos,
  • And many more!

Finally

Korean BBQ sauce is very different from its Western American-style counterpart.

As you might have probably guessed, like most Asian condiments, it is made from a base of soy sauce and Asian vinegar (most typically mirin).

But from there, the inclusion of fruits (often Asian Pear), spices, and other flavorings makes this sauce really unique, flavorsome, and versatile.

So do give it a try.

You likely won’t regret it if you do!

Love BBQ sauce? Then my other guides may be of interest: