When you think of Asian-inspired comfort food, Korean-style sloppy joes probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. They should be, though, because these sandwiches stuffed with gochujang-spiced shredded beef and topped with tangy pickled red onions, are one of the best things we’ve eaten in recent memory.Angie Zoobkoff

Korean-style sloppy joes made with shredded beef, topped with pickled red onion on a hamburger bun resting on a piece of parchment.

Korean-Style Sloppy Joes

5 / 4 votes
These Korean-style sloppy joes are made with tender, slowly cooked, gochujang-spiced shredded beef and topped with tangy pickled onions. A supper-worthy sandwich that’s unlike any sloppy joe you’ve ever experienced.
David Leite
Servings8 to 10 servings
Calories666 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 30 minutes


For the pickled red onions

  • 2 (about 1 lb) thinly sliced red onions
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Morton’s brand or 1 tablespoon Diamond brand kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups rice vinegar

For the Korean-style sloppy joes

  • 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • One (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (9 oz) thinly sliced yellow onion, from 1 large onion
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz) thinly sliced garlic, from about 12 cloves
  • 4 cups store-bought or homemade beef stock
  • 1 cup store-bought or homemade gochujang
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 8 to 10 store-bought or homemade hamburger buns


Make the pickled red onions

  • Pack the red onions into a quart-size Mason jar or other nonreactive lidded container.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, salt, hot water, and vinegar, and whisk until the sugar dissolves completely.
  • Pour the brine over the onions and let it sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Make the Korean-style sloppy joes

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).
  • In an 8-quart (7.5-liter) Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil until shimmering, about 2 minutes.
  • Pat the chuck roast dry with paper towels and season well all over with salt and pepper. Sear until nicely browned on all sides, 13 to 15 minutes total. Move to a plate.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion and garlic to the Dutch oven, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften and smell fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the Dutch oven to release any browned bits.
  • Whisk in the gochujang and vinegar until smooth. Return the chuck roast to the Dutch oven. (It won’t be completely submerged in the liquid. That’s okay.)
  • Cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven. Cook, turning the chuck roast halfway through, until it’s fork tender and easily pulled apart, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
  • Move the chuck roast to a rimmed baking sheet. Return the Dutch oven with the liquid to the stove over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half, 20 to 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, shred the chuck roast with 2 forks.
  • Remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Skim some of the oil off the top of the sauce. Stir the shredded chuck roast back into the Dutch oven and cover keep warm. (The meat can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Warm it up over medium heat before serving.)
  • To assemble, spoon some of the meat onto each bun and top with some of the pickled red onions. Cram it in your piehole.
Cook Like A Local Cookbook

Adapted From

Cook Like a Local

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 666 kcalCarbohydrates: 45 gProtein: 52 gFat: 31 gSaturated Fat: 12 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5 gMonounsaturated Fat: 14 gTrans Fat: 2 gCholesterol: 156 mgSodium: 1225 mgPotassium: 1274 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 14 gVitamin A: 100 IUVitamin C: 12 mgCalcium: 155 mgIron: 7 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Chris Shepherd. Photo © 2019 Julie Soefer. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe made a lot, however, two of us managed to eat all of these Korean-style sloppy Joes in just a few days. After one bite, we both decided that these were awesome and that we just didn’t care that they were also a huge mess. The gochujang isn’t very pronounced in the finished product and we liked adding a splash of fresh gochjang on the beef in addition to the pickled onions.

I recommend a sturdy bun to hold this juicy and messy sandwich. While the beef takes a long time to cook, most of it is hands-free braising time, so it doesn’t feel ultra time-consuming. We also froze one portion as an experiment, in case we made this again and decided not to devour it all, and it thawed and heated well. We’re already looking forward to the next time that we can make this recipe again.

While we LOVED this and are already craving more, we took issue with these being called sloppy Joes. While it was messy and beefy and awesome, it was more a Korean-style beef sandwich to us. Semantics, perhaps, but sloppy Joes are a very specific sandwich to us and this didn’t quite match.

This Korean-style sloppy Joe recipe makes a big sandwich. Making it accurate for an 8 person serving. This recipe highlighted all the deep savory flavor from the browning of the beef with an acidic, spicy tang that made it truly addictive.

There’s a fair amount of fat rendered from the meat during cooking. This could be a turn-off to some. The recipe suggests skimming extra fat off the top. For me this would only have been achieved by chilling the sloppy Joes for a bit of time. Which makes it even more appealing in the make-ahead category. Make it journal-worthy with the addition of pickled red onions.

You had me at sloppy Joes. Or wait, maybe you had me at Korean-style! I had a container of gochujang in the fridge looking to be put to use. I knew I was having out-of-town guests over the weekend and this seemed like the perfect Saturday lunch to impress them with. I made this during the week and it was all ready to be warmed up and spooned into buttery brioche buns and topped with pretty pink pickled onions for the win.

My initial reaction of tasting just the meat was that it was a little intense. I wouldn’t call it spicy, more kind of sweet and pungent. But once it was nestled onto the bun with the onions everything was just right. Everybody loved it and wanted more. It’s a snap to put together and after about 20 minutes assembly time you’re done, can shove it in the oven, and forget about it.

The pickled red onions makes a ton. Unless you want a jar hanging around your fridge that you would happily incorporate into just about anything else you make you can cut the recipe in half.

When I took up this Korean-style sloppy Joes recipe, I was expecting an entirely different flavor than how it actually turned out. The meat was spicier and a little more acidic than I had expected. (My experience with Korean food is limited, so my expectation wasn’t really based on anything in particular.) It cooked beautifully, shredded easily, and the pickled red onions came out really nice. (I’ll use those for a variety of dishes—tacos come to mind.)

At first we ate the Korean-style sloppy Joe’s as directed in the recipe, and then we added a very non-traditional mango and papaya salsa we had on hand to make it exactly perfect for us to counteract the acid and heat as well as add to the overall saltiness a sweet factor that we prefer. This is personal choice, but we all agreed on that addition.

We used a King’s Hawaiian bun which, for us, was just right. (Obviously we like salty and sweet.) In the end, this became a perfect salty-sweet-acid-heat sandwich that was truly satisfying.

Oh wow! These Korean-style sloppy Joes were so delicious, savory, and packed with flavor. I thought I would like this dish but I didn’t just like it. I loved it! To top it all off, the preparation for this recipe is simple and quick.

  • The longest part is waiting for the roast to cook in the oven. Your house will smell so good while this is cooking. I cooked the roast for 3 1/2 hours and it was fall-apart tender. The only negative that I have for this recipe was the heat level. It didn’t bother me but it isn’t something that I could serve to everyone in my family due to the spiciness. However, I used store-bought gochujang sauce and had no control over the heat index. The next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I will make my own gochujang and make it less spicy so my whole family can enjoy it.

I really liked the addition of the pickled red onions. Besides tasting good, they added a nice crunch and coolness to the sandwiches. These only take 10 minutes hands-on time. If you happen to have any leftover, they’re a great addition to other dishes, too.

Korean-style sloppy joes made with shredded beef, topped with pickled red onion on a hamburger bun resting on a piece of parchment.

While I had a hard time thinking of these as anything akin to sloppy Joes, I had no problem at all enjoying this recipe and thoroughly appreciating it as a fun and exciting twist on an classic, albeit a “classic” that seems more akin to a pot roast than a ground beef sandwich.

The technique is exceptionally simple and the recipe was well-written with accurate times and clear, helpful hints and doneness indicators. The gochujang more than lives up to the responsibility of carrying the show. The gorgeous red paste imbues the beef with deep spice and a warmth that keeps things lively without any sense of burning heat. Such a simple way to achieve complex flavor with truly minimal effort.

I highly recommend the pickled red onions to balance the earthiness of the beef and to give the sandwich a final flourish. Whatever you wish to call it, this was a solid weeknight winner in our house.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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