Beef Bulgogi is smoky, juicy, slightly sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Made with the most flavorful marinade and thinly sliced meat in just 15 minutes. Eat this delicious Korean dish on its own, with hot white rice, or wrapped in fresh lettuce with kimchi!
Want to try more flavors from around the world? Try the complex flavors of my Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala, feast on Mexican Stuffed Peppers, and switch your usual dinners with my Keto Italian Chicken Skewers!
This dish also goes by the name “Korean BBQ beef” which means “fire meat” 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!
Naturally, it wasn’t long before I tried my hand at Beef Bulgogi. To my surprise, this recipe was so easy to put together. Unless you frequently cook Asian-inspired ingredients, you might need to hunt down unique ingredients like rice vinegar, sesame oil, and Asian pear.
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: I mostly use flank steak and cut it into thin slices. However, you can use other cuts as well.
- Vegetable oil
- Green onions and sesame seeds: thinly sliced to garnish the dish.
- Soy sauce: go with a low-sodium version to control the saltiness.
- Rice vinegar
- Light brown sugar
- Sesame oil
- Freshly minced garlic and ginger: both add plenty of flavors here. Therefore, feel free to use more of both if desired.
- Asian pear
- Red pepper flakes
How to make Korean Beef Bulgogi?
- Prepare the meat. Partially freeze the meat. When ready, slice thinly across the grain.
- Marinate the meat. Combine all the ingredients in a gallon Ziplock bag, then add the beef slices. Set aside for at least two hours.
- Cook. Next, heat a tablespoon of oil in a cast-iron skillet. Then, add one layer of beef. Let cook and char 2-3 minutes per side, then flip once. Repeat with the rest.
- Serve. Garnish with green onions, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve with rice.
- 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.
- Noodles: Serve it over soba noodles instead of rice.
- 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. Also, top it with sriracha sauce – extra yummy!
- Bulgogi Tacos: Turn this dish into tacos by serving it over a tortilla.
What is beef bulgogi?
The name of this recipe directly translates to “fire meat,” which refers to the way it’s traditionally cooked over a fire. While it can be made from chicken or pork, bulgogi is generally made of tender beef.
This traditional Korean dish has been around for thousands of years and remains one of the most requested dishes in Korean BBQ joints.
What cut of beef do I use?
Use the most tender, marbled cuts you can find, such as flank steak, tenderloin, and top sirloin. If you’d like to splurge, you can use ribeye. 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.
How to cut Bulgogi Beef?
Pre-cut bulgogi beef is available in some shops, but I highly suggest you learn how to DIY. Doing so gives you greater control over the quality and amount of fat and gristle in your meat. It’s quite easy:
- First, wrap the meat in plastic wrap.
- Partially freeze up to 30 minutes.
- Unwrap. Check if your knife goes easily through the meat. If it does, it’s ready. If not, freeze it for an additional 30 minutes or more.
- Lastly, slice across the grain. Aim for ¼ thick slices.
Can I make it in the Slow Cooker?
Yes, the slow cooker is an excellent alternative and it cooks the steak to tender perfection! Here are the steps:
- First, cut the steak into uniformly thin slices.
- Mix the marinade ingredients together. Then, add 1 cup of beef broth.
- Dump the meat into the slow cooker and stir in the beef mixture over.
- Next, cover and cook on LOW heat for 7-8 hours, or HIGH heat for 3-4 hours.
- In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water. Then, add the cornstarch mixture 30 minutes before the cooking time ends.
What does it taste like?
Beef bulgogi is unbelievably tender. The soy sauce makes it savory, with some mild sweetness from the pear and 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!
What to serve with this dish?
Recreate the Korean BBQ experience in your kitchen! I serve this with hot, steamed 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.
Not into carbs? Wrap the bulgogi in some crisp lettuce leaves with kimchi, ssamjang, and if you can find them, perilla leaves.
How to store leftovers?
Just put the leftovers in a Ziplock bag or a freezer-safe container. Both cooked and marinated versions can last a few days refrigerated.
Also, freeze them in an airtight container if you’re planning to keep them for longer.
- For best charring, use a cast-iron grill pan.
- Prior to adding the meat, ensure the skillet is hot.
- Also, cook in batches to maintain the high heat of the oil.
- Marinate beef overnight or up to 24 hours. This will tenderize the meat and enhance the flavors.
Korean Beef Bulgogi
- 2 pounds flank steak
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
- 2 green onions (thinly sliced)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 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
Chill the Steak:
- Wrap the flank steak in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Unwrap and slice across the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the "Marinade" ingredients. Add them to gallon size Ziploc bag, and add the steak slices.
- Marinate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally.
- 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.
- 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.