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Last updated on April 9th, 2024 at 06:35 pm

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Korean Beef Bulgogi or Korean BBQ Beef [Video]

Korean Beef Bulgogi or Korean BBQ Beef is smoky, juicy, slightly sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Made with the most flavorful authentic marinade and thinly sliced meat this dish is ready in just 15 minutes. It has never been easier to have a restaurant-quality dish, made at home, with accessible ingredients and no special equipment.

Korean BBQ beef or Beef Bulgogi

This traditional Korean dish also goes by the name “Korean BBQ beef” which means “fire meat” and refers to the way it’s traditionally cooked over a fire, it has taken the culinary world by storm in recent years. It is usually made with tender flank steak. However, you can also make it with pork, and even chicken. 

It seems like everyone I know (including me!) loves Korean BBQ. It’s so fun to gather around the grill, cook your meat, try different sides, and sample authentic Korean cuisine! I was lucky enough to spend 10 years in NYC and Koreatown was a place I have visited often.

I have ordered my fair share of Korean BBQ meat as it’s probably the most famous Korean meal in the US. The beef is usually prepared on a grill table, or a stove-top griddle, making it perfect for group gatherings. This traditional Korean dish has been around for many years and remains one of the most requested dishes in Korean BBQ joints.

However, with the recipe I have developed, you don’t have to worry about any special equipment. You can easily prepare your favorite Korean dinner on the stove, just using a skillet. I am encouraging you to use a cast iron skillet, to get that nice sear on the beef pieces. 

I know that you may be surprised at how easy this recipe sounds and probably intrigued about the pear that I am using. But using an apple or a pear for marinades, is not unusual in Korean cooking. I promise you it’s worth it— this dish is so tasty, you’ll be making it over and over!

Korean Beef Bulgogi Ingredients:

Meat:

Most often this recipe is made with flank steak, but sirloin and beef tenderloin are great choices too. However, if you want to go all in, get a ribeye for this recipe. It is more expensive, but it’s a softer cut of meat, and the final dish will be extra tender and flavorful. The more tender, the better— we’ll just be pan-frying or grilling them for a couple of minutes, so the quality of the meat is key to the whole dish.

Marinade: 

Korean BBQ Beef is not only about the process of cooking but also about the marinade. Which is a combination of sweet and savory ingredients to create a balanced taste that will complement the beef.

I know that you may ask yourself why you need to add a pear to a meat marinade. But hear me out, this is VERY popular in traditional Korean cooking. Just like apples, pineapple, and kiwi, pears have an enzyme that will help tenderize the meat. It’s okay if you don’t have Asian pears on hand, BUT do not skip this ingredient, use any other variety of sweet pears.

Except the pear, the other ingredients that make up the marinade are pretty standard, like soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and sesame oil.

How to make Korean Beef Bulgogi?

  1. Prepare the meat. After partially freezing the meat. When ready to use, slice it thinly across the grain.
  2. Marinate the meat. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a gallon Ziplock bag, then add the beef slices. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
  3. Cook. Next, heat a tablespoon of oil in a cast-iron skillet. Then, add one layer of beef. Let cook and char for 2-3 minutes per side, then flip once. Repeat with the rest.
  4. Serve. Garnish with green onions, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve with rice.

Expert tip:

Thinly slicing the meat is another key to success to make this recipe great.

But, slicing meat in thin slices can be a challenge. To make this process easier, and to get those perfect slices, you have to partially freeze the meat. Not rock hard, but just for 2 hours.

First, wrap the beef in plastic wrap, after that freeze it for 2-2 1/2 hours, depending on how thick the meat is. When ready to slice, just unwrap it, place it on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to thinly slice it across the grain in 1/8 inch slices.

If your knife goes easily through the meat, it’s ready. If not, freeze it for an additional 30 minutes or more.

The best part is that because the beef is sliced so thinly, it can absorb the marinade, and become very flavorful, tender, and tasty.

Recipe Variations: 

  • Meat: Apart from beef, you can use pork, chicken, or even shrimp to make this recipe. 
  • Vegetarian: To make it vegetarian, replace the steak with firm tofu. 
  • Add veggies: Feel free to add some fresh veggies to the pan. Some great mix-ins would be bok choy, broccoli, or green beans. 
  • Spicy: To make it extra spicy, use more red pepper flakes, or another option would be traditional Korean chili paste. Also, top it with sriracha sauce – extra yummy!

Serve:

  • Recreate the Korean BBQ experience in your kitchen! I serve this with hot, perfectly cooked white rice, or brown rice.
  • If you have an Asian or Korean store near you, grab some banchan (aka Korean side dishes) like different types of kimchi, pickled radish, candied sweet potatoes, and seasoned soybean sprouts. 
  • If you are not into rice, wrap the bulgogi in some crisp lettuce leaves with kimchi, ssamjang, and if you can find them, perilla leaves. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is beef bulgogi made of?

It has two key components, the meat and the marinate. While it can be made from chicken or pork, bulgogi is generally made of tender beef. The most tender, marbled cuts are used, such as flank steak, tenderloin, and top sirloin. If you’d like to splurge, you can use ribeye. 

The marinade is made with traditional ingredients from Korean cuisine, such as soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar or mirin, fresh minced ginger, and garlic. Also, based on preference the recipe can be made spicier by adding red pepper flakes.

What is bulgogi supposed to taste like?

Beef bulgogi is unbelievably tender and flavorful. The soy sauce makes it savory, with some mild sweetness from the pear and brown sugar, plus the perfect level of acidity from the rice vinegar.

Adding another layer of traditional Asian flavors are ginger, sesame oil, garlic, and hot chili flakes. 

Finally, the juicy steak is charred to bring out that smoky flavor. It’s hard to describe how good it is, so you have to try it out for yourself!

Is Korean bulgogi healthy?

While I won’t go to the lengths of calling this staple dish healthy, I would say that it falls more in the comfort food category, that it’s NOT unhealthy. While it is made with beef and offers a good serving of protein, the meat is fried.

Making it at home lets you control the quality of the ingredients and also the amounts, hence less sugar can be used, or replaced altogether with honey or maple syrup. A low-sodium soy sauce can be used to reduce the sodium level.

This is a delicious dish to indulge in, prepared in the comfort of your kitchen, with high quality ingredients.

Storage:

  1. Store: If you have leftovers, add them to a sealed container and store them in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  2. Freeze: This recipe freezes very well. First, let the dish fully cool, and then add it to a freezer-safe container or large Ziploc bag. After that, freeze for up to 3 months.
  3. Defrost: When ready to serve, plan ahead of time, and let the frozen meal thaw in the fridge overnight or defrost in the microwave. After that, add it to a skillet over medium-high heat and stir-fry for a few minutes. Make sure to taste and adjust for seasonings as needed.

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Recipe tips:

  • For best charring and smoky flavor, use a cast-iron grill pan, and before adding the meat, ensure the skillet is hot. 
  • Also, cook in batches to maintain the high heat of the oil. If you overcrowd the slices in the pan, they will steam instead of getting crispy. 
  • Marinate beef overnight or for up to 24 hours. This will tenderize the meat and enhance the flavors. 
  • To get the best flavor, make sure to use fresh ginger and garlic.

Korean Beef Bulgogi or Korean BBQ Beef

Beef Bulgogi is smoky, juicy, slightly sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Eat this delicious Korean dish on its own, with hot rice, or wrapped in fresh lettuce with kimchi! 

  • Prep Time15 MIN
  • Cook Time15 MIN
  • Servings 4 servings
Image of homemade Korean Beef Bulgogi on rice.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds flank steak sirloin, tenderloin, or Ribeye
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil divided
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup Asian pear grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

Chill the Steak:

  • Wrap the flank steak in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 3 hours.
  • Unwrap and slice across the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.
    sliced flank steak

Marinate:

  • In a medium bowl, combine all the "Marinade" ingredients. Add them to a gallon size Ziploc bag, and add the steak slices.
    korean beef bulgogi marinade
  • Marinate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally.
    korean beef bulgogi marinade with the beeef slices in a ziplock bag

Cook:

  • Place a large cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat and once heated through add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, working in batches, add the steak slices to the pan in a single layer and cook until charred, flipping once, it takes about 2-3 minutes per side to cook.
    korean bbq beef in a pan
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and cook the rest of the steak.
  • Serve immediately over white rice. If desired, garnished it with chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
    chopsticks holding korean bbq beef

Nutrition Facts

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Comments

(53)
sheila

sheila

Can I use rice wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar?


Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

Kim

Kim

This recipe was absolutely fantastic! It reminds me of my favorite takeout, but it's honestly about 100 times better! I served it over rice this time, but I want to try it in lettuce wraps for sure. Thanks so much for sharing!


Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

thank you, we also love this recipe :)

J

J

Fantastic recipe. Tasted exactly like what it used to get in South Korea when I was stationed there.


Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

so happy that you liked the recipe! than you for the feedback!

sk

sk

In Korea, res peppers are sometimes added to pork bulgogi, however red peppers are never added to beef bulgogi.

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