Korean Ground Turkey

Korean Ground Turkey

These Korean Ground Turkey bowls start with white rice and are piled high with sweet and spicy ground turkey and quick pickled veggies. 

Overhead image of Korean Ground Turkey on a plate

Overhead image of Korean Ground Turkey on a plate

These spicy Korean Ground Turkey bowls are part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!

Korean Ground Turkey

Korean Ground Turkey is the perfect balance of sweet and savory with a big kick of spice and a cooling pickled veggie topping. We love this meal! And although it’s got a good amount of spice, you can certainly play around with the spice level to make sure this is a dish the whole family can enjoy. (More on this later!)

QUICK TIP

A lot of Korean ground meat dinners (using ground turkey, chicken, or beef) call for a large amount of sugar, resulting in a sickly sweet dish. Instead of loads of white or brown sugar, we add a bit of honey to counteract the spice, but we keep that addition to a minimum. If you’d prefer an even less sweet meal, reduce the honey or add it in slowly.

Ingredient shot-- image of all the ingredients used in this dish

Ingredient shot-- image of all the ingredients used in this dish

Optional Topping: Quick Pickled Veggies

The Korean Ground Turkey is tasty on its own, but pickled veggies take the meal to the next level. While pickling veggies might sound time consuming and labor intensive, these pickled veggies are not. It takes only a minute to whip together and they quickly “pickle” as you prepare the rest of the meal. So, while optional, we highly recommend this addition!

To make quick pickled veggies, combine the carrots and cucumbers with rice vinegar (which is also in the ground turkey mixture), white sugar, and a touch of salt. Toss a few times before serving and that’s it — quick pickled veggies that add so much to this dish!

Image of the quick pickled veggies being prepped

Image of the quick pickled veggies being prepped

Let’s Chat Spice

Korean Ground Turkey is intentionally spicy, but it’s very simple to adjust spice levels to personal preference.

While there are some red pepper flakes in the actual ground turkey mix, the Gochujang is what is primarily responsible for the spice of this meal. To ensure these bowls could be made with less spice, we don’t add any Gochujang to the actual meat and instead, you spoon it over individual plates.

My kids enjoy the ground turkey with 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and no Gochujang on their plates. While still tasty (and tasty enough for little palates), I do find the flavor lacking without Gochujang or chili-garlic sauce, so if you’re overly sensitive to spice and leave it out entirely, you will be missing some key flavor in this recipe. If you are going to keep the Gochujang addition to a minimum, I recommend increasing the amount of garlic and ginger you add to this dish.

QUICK TIP

Gochujang is a spicy paste used in Korean cooking, made from red chili peppers, fermented soybeans, rice, and salt.If you don’t have any Gochujang, use a chili-garlic sauce or even Sriracha.

Process shots-- images of the oil, turkey, green onions, garlic, and ginger being sautéed together, and then the sauce being made

Process shots-- images of the oil, turkey, green onions, garlic, and ginger being sautéed together, and then the sauce being made

SHORTCUTS

Korean Ground Turkey Shortcuts

  • Matchstick carrots. Instead of cutting your own carrots into matchsticks, pick pre-shredded carrots in the produce section of the grocery store. They’re usually right by baby and/or full-sized carrots.
  • Green onions: Most grocery stores sell chopped green onions in the produce section of the store that can be used to completely eliminate chopping from this recipe. This recipe calls for the green onions to be separated, so if you buy pre-chopped green onions just add them all in when sautéing the garlic and ginger.
  • QUICK garlic and ginger. We love Dorot’s® cubes which have crushed garlic and ginger that you can keep handy in the freezer and pop into this (and other) recipes as needed. (Check if your local store carries them; they’re typically found with frozen veggies in the grocery store). Another option is to use refrigerated garlic paste and refrigerated minced garlic. By using the cubes or pastes, you’ll save a lot of chopping time while making this Korean Ground Turkey!

Process of these Korean Ground Turkey Bowls-- images of the sauce, onions, and sesame oil being added

Process of these Korean Ground Turkey Bowls-- images of the sauce, onions, and sesame oil being added

Optional Additions

Below are some of the optional additions we like with this Korean Ground Turkey:

  • Toasted sesame seeds: These add a nice finishing touch and flavor to the meat.
  • Rice vinegar and sugar: If you opt to quickly pickle the veggies, you’re going to need some more rice vinegar (we use it in the meat too!) and some sugar to toss with the veggies to pickle them.
  • Boiled rice: If you haven’t boiled rice before, you are going to be thrilled with the ease and speed. All you’ll need to do is toss some rice in boiling water, boil it for 5-7 minutes, and voila — perfect rice!

Up close overhead image of the Korean ground turkey bowls

Up close overhead image of the Korean ground turkey bowls

 

More ground turkey recipes

Korean Ground Turkey

These Korean Ground Turkey bowls start with white rice and are piled high with sweet and spicy ground turkey and quick pickled veggies. 

Korean Ground Turkey

These Korean Ground Turkey bowls start with white rice and are piled high with sweet and spicy ground turkey and quick pickled veggies. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean (93/7) ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) toasted sesame oil, separated
  • 1 bunch green onions, separated
  • 1 (up to 2) tablespoons each: minced garlic (19g), ginger paste (20g) Note 1
  • 3 tablespoons (57g) regular (not lite/dark) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons each: rice vinegar (33g), honey (40g)
  • 1/4 (up to 1/2) teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups matchstick carrots (155g),
  • 1.5 cups thinly sliced English cucumbers
  • Optional: rice vinegar and white sugar
  • For serving: cooked rice (Note 2), sesame seeds (optional), Gochujang or chili-garlic sauce or Sriracha (Note 3)

Instructions

  • OPTIONAL, BUT RECOMMENDED: quickly pickle the veggies — so good and so easy! Add carrots and cucumber to a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (38g), 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar (28g), and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt. Toss and continue to toss occasionally until ready to eat.

  • GROUND TURKEY: Thinly slice green onions from root to tip. Separate into 2 parts, about 1/2 cup of the base of the onions and 1/2 cup of the tops. Add 1 tablespoon (14g) sesame oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the ground turkey. Begin browning and crumbling. After 3 minutes, add in 1/2 of the base of the green onions. Continue to cook turkey until browned through. If needed, drain off any liquid. Add in garlic and ginger, cook for 30 more seconds. Add in soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes (to taste preference). Stir and simmer until sauce is mostly absorbed into the ground turkey, 2-3 more minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle on the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil and remaining green onions. Add 1 teaspoon sesame seeds here too if using. Toss to coat.

  • SERVE: Divide rice evenly among bowls. Top with even amounts of ground turkey and tons of those delish pickled veggies. Drizzle some sort of sauce on top — the Gochujang or chili-garlic or even Sriracha sauce works here (add slowly — these sauces are hot). Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: We love Dorot’s® cubes which have crushed garlic and ginger that you can keep handy in the freezer and pop into this (and other) recipes as needed. (Check if your local store carries them; they’re typically found with frozen veggies in the grocery store). Another option is to use refrigerated garlic paste and refrigerated minced garlic. 
Note 2: Here’s the quickest/easiest way to get perfect basmati rice (must use basmati for this to work!)

  • Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil.
  • Once the water is at a rolling boil, salt the water and add in rice.
  • Cook without reducing the heat, for 6 minutes (taste test to ensure it is tender) and then drain and fluff with a fork. Easy!

Note 3: Korean Ground Turkey is intentionally spicy, but it’s very simple to adjust spice levels to personal preference. My kids enjoy the ground turkey with 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and no Gochujang on their plates. While still tasty (and tasty enough for little palates), I do find the flavor in this dish lacking without Gochujang or chili-garlic sauce, so if you’re overly sensitive to spice and leave it out entirely you will be missing some key flavor in this recipe. If you are going to keep the Gochujang addition to a minimum, I recommend increasing the amount of garlic and ginger you add to this dish.
Nutrition information does not include rice or Gochujang.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 256kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 710mg | Potassium: 375mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 2353IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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