Gochujang Sloppy Joes with Kimchi

This riff on the classic American sandwich packs a spicy, umami punch.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    30 minutes

Benjamin Kemper

By Benjamin Kemper

Published on August 24, 2022

Welcome to One Pot Bangers, Benjamin Kemper’s column, where you’ll find our freshest, boldest cooking ideas that require just one pot, skillet, or sheet pan. Busy week? We’ve got you covered with these low-effort, high-reward recipes from around the globe.

When my mom was out of town, my brother and I were stuck with “Dad meals.” Turkey burgers and Bush’s baked beans. Fish and canned corn. Chicken. 

But there was one Dad meal that we’d race downstairs for: sloppy joes. The sloppy joe—if you haven’t had the pleasure—is an American dish of gloopy, pebbly beef drenched in sweet-sour sauce and spooned onto a hamburger bun. The ingredients are few, and definitely Dad-approved: ground beef, vinegar, ketchup, bread. The three of us would eat the sandwiches hunched over the counter, our chins glistening with red-orange grease. Sloppy, indeed.   

I hadn’t thought about those sloppy joes in decades—until a recipe caught my eye in Myers + Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery. It looked like an absolute bombshell: a Korean riff that called for flank steak, gochujang, sesame oil, and homemade cucumber kimchi. Props to the culinarians out there patient enough to pickle and marinate and pot-watch for hours to make a humble sloppy joe. Me on a Tuesday? No chance. I needed to get dinner on the table. 

So I cheated. Paring back chef Joanne Chang’s recipe, I swapped in steak for ground beef and drew on a few tricks of the trade: baking soda in the beef for tenderness, cornstarch in the sauce to rein in the “sloppy,” browned tomato paste for an undertow of umami. 

Call it a son meal. I should make it for my dad sometime. I owe him a dinner or two.



  • ¾ tsp. tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 lb. 85 percent lean ground beef
  • ¾ tsp. cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp. gochujang
  • 1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • ¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 soft rolls, halved, toasted, and buttered
  • Kimchi, finely chopped, for topping
  • White sesame seeds, for garnish


Step 1

In a large bowl, whisk together the salt, baking soda,  and 1 tablespoon of water. Add the beef and use your hands to combine. Set aside.

Step 2

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water until dissolved; set aside.

Step 3

To a large skillet set over medium heat, add the scallions and vegetable oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste, gochujang, and brown sugar  and cook until the sauce has thickened and darkened slightly, about 2 minutes.

Step 4

Add the beef and cook, using a spoon to break up any large clumps, until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the beef to the texture of small pebbles, then stir in the ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, black pepper, and the reserved cornstarch mixture. Turn the heat to high and cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce thickens, 1–2 minutes more.  

Step 5

To serve, distribute the beef mixture evenly among the rolls, then top each with the kimchi, scallions, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

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