This easy recipe is perfect for creating Beef Bulgogi–A delicious Korean dish. Using simple ingredients and methods, you can have Korean restaurant quality meal straight from home in 30mins! Try this recipe, you will love it!
Bulgogi, then and now…
Honestly, I don’t remember eating a lot of bulgogi growing up in Korea. We only ate bulgogi during special occasions and big family gatherings. Meat was quite expensive and bulgogi was considered a very gourmet dish for the Korean natives.
I am glad that we moved to the States, because that definitely allowed me to enjoy more bulgogi! My kids enjoy bulgogi as an everyday meal now, very different from my world. I am also glad that bulgogi has become a very popular Asian meat dish around the globe!! Now everyone can enjoy this delicious dish anytime, anywhere!
What is bulgogi?
Bulgogi is a very popular Korean dish. The word has a literal translation where bul means fire and gogi means meat, hence fire meat. The most popular one is made with beef and it’s sweet. But there’s also a pork version and spicy beef version. Bulgogi meat is typically thinly sliced then marinated in a savory and sweet sauce. Once cooked you can enjoy it with rice and other Korean side dishes. It has always been a popular food for parties and gatherings for many Koreans.
What does Korean beef bulgogi taste like?
This beef dish has a nice combination of savory and sweet flavors. The fresh aromatics, fruit, and rice wine also brings everything together in a nice harmony. Creating a flavorful marinade is the key to your delicious bulgogi!!
Can toddlers/little kids eat bulgogi?
Toddlers and Kids love bulgogi due to their tenderness and sweet flavors. Korean kids enjoy them with bulgogi wrapped in roasted seaweed with rice. Just make sure the meat pieces are chopped into smaller pieces.
What kind of meat do you need for bulgogi?
bulgogi beef: thinly sliced beef ribeye, sirloin or flank steak works too
This recipe is for beef bulgogi. The best way is to purchase the thinly sliced beef bulgogi from Asian markets. If you can’t find the pre sliced beef, you can purchase tender meats like ribeye, top sirloin or flank then thinly slice them yourself.
What are the marinade ingredients?
- soy sauce
- sesame oil
- Korean/ Asian pear
- mirin or rice wine
- black pepper
- sesame seeds
- sesame oil
- green onions
Is soaking the bulgogi meat in water necessary?
Personally, I like to wash all my meats. But since bulgogi is more tender than other meat, I keep them in cold water for a short time only. Then I gently lay the meat on the strainer until ready to use. You will see the red cloudy watercolor.
This method also gets rid of gamey flavor and takes away the bitterness in meat when cooked. Although, I don’t advise soaking bulgogi meat for a long time. You don’t want to take away the beef flavor!
Can you make beef bulgogi marinade ahead of time?
This is a great idea. Making the sauce a day ahead will give a much richer flavor! I wish I had the time to do this! If you do make it, you can make a bigger batch and keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks.
How long should I marinate the beef?
I have done both ways where I marinated the beef for 15mins to overnight. If you do end up marinating overnight, I suggest making your sauce less salty. (Adding little water to the sauce will do the trick)
I also noticed that when you marinate overnight, the texture of the meat changes a bit too. The meat will be more tender due to the pear. It’s personal preference, but I like mine marinated and cooked on the same day.
Where do you keep/store the marinated meat?
When I am in a hurry, I like to marinate and keep my bulgogi in a tight zip lock bag then toss it into the fridge for 1/2 to 1 hours. I know some people marinate the meat over night, but since the meat is so thin, it’s not that necessary.
You can also use glass or metal bowls then plastic wrap it before storing in the fridge. Any airtight container will work, pretty much taking out all the air. This way the seasonings will marinate the meat well.
How do you cook Korean beef bulgogi?
Pro tip 1: There are few ways to cook the marinated beef bulgogi. The easiest way to cook at home is using the stove top and a non-stick skillet. You really don’t need much oil since rib eye is already a fatty meat. Cook small batches in high heat to get that delicious smoky flavor!
Pro tip 2: Try to cook in small batches and single layer on high heat if you want to achieve that caramelized look. Steel pan is not recommended since bulgogi will stick to it like crazy. If you end up using a cast-iron skillet, I would oil it first and make sure you watch the fire level to avoid burning. Use the tong or chopsticks to flip the meat and quickly aid the meat from sticking.
Pro tip 3: If you like your bulgogi with more sauce at the end, cook your bulgogi in one batch in high heat. Then cook the meat until it’s just done. Skip the caramelizing and you can have plenty of sauce with your rice.
Pro tip 4: Next is the portable BBQ skillet way. These are typically sold in Asian Markets. They are shaped like a dome and has an edge where the fat is drained. This is great if you have a portable burner. We use this when we have gatherings and able to cook the meat on our deck table.
Finally, the outdoor grill. I would advise using a foil or a thin sheet pan to cook bulgogi. Otherwise, you will lose a lot of the meat between the grills!
All bulgogi does not taste the same
Just like kimchi, every Korean family seems to have their own version of bulgogi sauce. You can say no bulgogi will taste the same! How do you like your bulgogi?
- Bulgogi meat: some meats are thinner and thicker than others. Different meat parts.
- Bulgogi marinade: Big difference comes from the soy sauce brand.
- Marinating time: same day or overnight.
Do you use oil to cook bulgogi?
If you want to oil the pan lightly, I suggest using a neutral oil, like corn oil, canola oil, or rice bran oil. I don’t recommend using olive oil though since it has a strong flavor. Sesame oil should not be used to cook but used in the marinade or drizzled after the meat has been cooked.
Why do you drizzle honey at the end?
This is something I began to do once I got into food photography. I noticed that my bulgogi once cooled on the table didn’t have a lasting shimmer. Once I drizzled some honey, it made the meat look even appetizing even after an hour. You can also drizzle some sesame oil to get this effect.
Can you use apple instead of pear in the marinade?
If you can’t find a Korean pear, I would advise using the bosc pear and apple last. I think the pear has a better way of tenderizing the meat than apples. If you check Korean markets, you may be able to find grated pear sauce packets.
Can you add vegetables to bulgogi recipe?
You don’t have to, but veggies taste great with bulgogi. I like my vegetables more on the crunchy side, so I will add mine towards the end of the meat cooking time. To keep it visually pleasing, I would advise to julienne the veggies. Plus, it’s easier to pick up with chopsticks. Vegetables that work well with bulgogi are:
- red peppers
What do you serve with bulgogi?
Bulgogi pairs well with many dishes, but typically served with white short grain rice, kimchi and side dishes. If you are wanting to create that Korean BBQ restaurant style meal? Serve some fresh lettuce leaves, cucumber, peppers and savory sauce like samjang, or gochujang. You can make lettuce wraps where your whole family can enjoy and have fun!
Sides that pair well with bulgogi
- The Best Bokchoy Kimchi
- Pickled Korean Peppers
- Korean Vegetable Pancakes
- EASY 15-MINUTE FRIED RICE RECIPE
Did you enjoy this Korean beef bulgogi recipe?
If you made this dish and enjoyed it, please leave a comment below! Or tag me in your creation on Instagram! @seasonedbyjin
Korean Beef Bulgogi Recipe
- 1.9 lbs thinly sliced bulgogi beef rib-eye
- ⅓ cup Korean soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- 1½ Tbsp sesame oil
Ingredients to blend:
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- ¼ small onion
- ¼ Korean pear
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2-3 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp honey
- ½ tsp sesame seeds
- 1 stalk green onion chop
- ¾ small onion sliced
- Soak meat in cold water for about 3mins. Swoosh gently and set on strainer for 5mins.
- Combine blending ingredients, then blend until smooth. Add to it, soy sauce, sugar and black pepper. Stir well and taste. Pour sesame oil and do a final stir.
- Into a gallon size zip lock bag, add meat then the marinade. Seal and gently message the meat for one minute. Set aside in fridge for 10-15mins.
- Heat a non-stick skillet on high heat. Using a tongue, drop a small batch of bulgogi into the pan. Enough to cover one layer. Cook for 4-5mins or until golden brown on both sides. Cut meat if needed. Cook the rest of the meat in small batches. (optional: add sliced onion)
- Serve on a plate. Drizzle with honey, sesame seeds and chopped green onion. Enjoy with rice and vegetables!