Sweet and Spicy Beef Jerky Recipe for Dehydrator [Korean Style]

By Eric Mitchell •  Updated: Jan 7, 2024 •  11 min read

Welcome! Today, we’ll be diving into the flavorful world of Korean cuisine as we make sweet and spicy beef jerky. This recipe isn’t just a whim of culinary experimentation, though; it has been tried, tested, and perfected through numerous kitchen sessions.

We’re using our trusty Excalibur dehydrator (3526TB model) here, an appliance that has opened up an exciting avenue for homemade beef jerky.

Sweet and Spicy Beef Jerky

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TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): Key Takeaways

The Three Enemies of Beef Jerky

If you’re a novice in jerky making, there are three enemies you need to combat to ensure your jerky lasts:

  1. Moisture: This is where the dehydrator comes in. It’s designed to draw moisture from your beef to prevent spoilage. However, if you don’t have one, you can also use your oven, although the results may vary.
  2. Oxygen: Once your jerky is dehydrated, store it properly to prevent exposure to oxygen. Glass jars or freezer bags work well for this, while regular sandwich bags do not. Desiccant packets are a good addition as they help remove oxygen from the package.
  3. Fat: Beef cuts with less fat are ideal for jerky, as fat spoils quicker than meat. We suggest using cuts like flank steak, eye of round, top round, or bottom round. Make sure to cut away any excess fat before you start dehydrating.

The Making of Korean Sweet & Spicy Beef Jerky

Now, let’s get started. We’re using flank steak here, one of the preferred cuts for making beef jerky. Freeze it for about an hour until it firms up for easier slicing.

We prefer cutting against the grain but feel free to experiment. Aim for a quarter-inch thickness.

Marinade Ingredients

This marinade is what gives our beef jerky its unique sweet and spicy Korean flavor. The ingredients are simple and easy to find:

Remember, this is for about one pound of beef, so adjust accordingly if you have more. The gochujang hot pepper paste is a fermented Korean condiment that adds a sweet, savory, and umami flavor to the marinade. You can find it in Korean marketplaces or online.

Once your marinade ingredients are combined well, set it aside and grab your firmed-up beef. Slice it according to your preference (you can use a meat slicer) and place the slices in a sandwich bag.

Pour half of the marinade into the bag, ensuring it coats all the slices. Add the rest of the beef and marinade, seal the bag, and massage it so that every slice is fully coated.

Although marinating overnight will intensify the flavors, if you’re impatient like us, an hour will suffice. When time is up, the beef will have soaked up the marinade’s flavors and will be ready to hit the dehydrator.

Dehydrating the Beef Jerky

With the dehydrator set at 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius), lay out the marinated beef strips on the trays, ensuring they’re not touching. After three hours, check the jerky and dab away any excess fat that surfaces.

Our beef jerky has started to change texture, with the fat converting into liquid in some spots. This makes it much easier to soak up the fat and remove even more of the lipid content from inside the meat.

Continue blotting all the beef pieces and proceed with the dehydration for another three hours. Keep in mind that the time could extend slightly due to the thickness of your cuts.

Finalizing the Dehydration and Cooling

At last, after approximately seven hours, the beef jerky has completed the dehydration process. Do remember that the thicker your beef is cut, the longer it will take to dehydrate. If you prefer your jerky a bit on the thicker side, simply prepare for a bit of extra time.

Upon finishing, allow the jerky to cool for at least an hour. It’s crucial to let it reach room temperature before proceeding to your first test – the bend test.

Performing the Bend Test

The bend test is a straightforward yet effective method to ascertain the readiness of your jerky. To perform this test, slightly bend a piece of the jerky. You’ll know it’s dehydrated correctly if it exhibits minor cracking. However, it shouldn’t snap into two halves or bend like a raw piece of beef. If your jerky is still too flexible, it needs to go back into the dehydrator for an additional hour until it reaches the desired consistency.

Storing the Jerky

Once your beef jerky passes the bend test, it’s time to think about storage. We advise using an airtight container – a sealable glass jar is a great option, though a freezer bag can also serve as a substitute.

Simply pack the jerky into your chosen container. Before sealing the jar, remember to set one piece aside for tasting. The last item to be added into the jar is a food-safe desiccant packet. These packets help absorb any residual oxygen, which helps prolong the jerky’s shelf life.

Tasting the Jerky

The final, and arguably best, step in this process is to sample your creation. Upon tasting, you’ll notice the immediate sweetness, followed by a tender texture from cutting against the grain. Just a hint of spiciness follows, but this can be adjusted by adding more cayenne pepper if desired.

Shelf Life of Homemade Beef Jerky

The shelf life of your homemade beef jerky can vary, depending largely on the dehydration time. Generally, the longer you dehydrate, the longer it will last. Unopened, you should expect a shelf life of one to two months. Once opened, aim to consume your jerky within a week.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How many calories are in sweet and spicy beef jerky?

The exact number of calories can vary depending on the specific ingredients and their quantities used in the recipe. However, an average serving of homemade sweet and spicy beef jerky could contain between 70 to 130 calories.

Is beef jerky supposed to be sweet?

The flavor profile of beef jerky can vary based on the marinade used during preparation. Sweetness in jerky often comes from sugar or honey used in the marinade, though it’s not a requirement. Beef jerky can be sweet, spicy, savory, or a combination thereof based on personal preference.

Can beef jerky be healthy?

Yes, beef jerky can be a healthy snack. It is high in protein and can be low in fat if you choose lean cuts of meat and trim off the excess fat. However, you should keep an eye on the sodium content, as some recipes can be high in salt.

Is jerky just dehydrated meat?

Essentially, yes. Jerky is meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, marinated, and then dried to prevent spoilage.

How long does homemade beef jerky last?

The shelf life of homemade beef jerky largely depends on the time spent in the dehydration process. An unopened jar of beef jerky can last between one to two months, while an opened jar should be consumed within a week.


Homemade sweet and spicy beef jerky is a delicious and versatile snack you can easily prepare yourself. This high-protein, low-fat treat, made by dehydrating marinated slices of beef, provides a unique blend of sweetness and spiciness that appeals to a wide variety of taste preferences.

So why not give it a try? You might just find that homemade sweet and spicy beef jerky becomes your new favorite snack!

Eric Mitchell

Eric is the owner, author, content director and founder of dehydratorlab.com. He is the lead architect and the main man in matters concerning dehydrators, their accessories, guides, reviews and all the accompaniments.Whenever he is not figuring out simple solutions (hacks) involving cookery and their eventual storage, you will find him testing out the different types of dehydrators, to bring us the juicy details regarding these devices.He is a foodie enthusiast, pasionate about making jerky has a knack for healthy and tasty food and won't hesitate to share out any ideas that might be of value around this subject.

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