Korean Beef Bulgogi

Everybody loves Korean Beef Bulgogi. A sizzling plate of this Korean classic deserves a regular place in your dinner rotation!

Korean beef bulgogi on a plate with green onions sprinkled on top

There’s a reason why everyone loves Korean Beef Bulgogi.  Fast, tasty, and on the table in 30 minutes.  You’ll be wondering why you never made it before!

I grew up loving and eating this iconic dish.  Korean Beef Bulgogi was a staple at barbecues and a special treat for weeknight dinner.  Now my kids love it just as much as I do.  As a bonus, leftovers taste great for school lunch the next day.  (I put bulgogi in a thermos over rice, sometimes with a fried egg on top.)

What is Bulgogi?

Bulgogi is the catch-all Korean term for thinly sliced, marinated meat that’s cooked over a flame. Bulgogi literally translates, “Fire Meat.”

The flavors are usually salty + sweet with plenty of garlic and green onion. But spicy bulgogi, marinated with Gochujang (fermented chili paste) and Gochukaru (dried chili flakes), are also commonly cooked.

The key characteristics of bulgogi: thinly sliced meat, marinated before cooking, and cooked over high heat.

Some of my favorites:

What’s the difference between Bulgogi and Galbi?

Bulgogi and Galbi are made with different cuts of meats.

Bulgogi generally refers to thinly sliced meat. Bulgogi is much faster to cook and very weeknight friendly — because of the thin cut meat.

Galbi generally refers to meat that’s attached to a bone, which takes longer to cook. Galbi means “bone” in Korean. Galbi is usually thicker, meatier, and more rich and indulgent.

Think long-braised, stewed dishes like Galbi Jjim [Beef Short Ribs] and Spicy Galbi Jjim [Babyback Pork Ribs]. But Galbi also can mean LA Galbi which is Korean BBQ short ribs.

How do I cook Bulgogi?

Bulgogi is cooked over high heat. It doesn’t really matter how you cook it, as long as it’s hot!

Some ways to cook Bulgogi at home:

  • Cook in non-stick skillet
  • Sear in a wok, cast iron pan, or stainless steel skillet
  • Broil on high heat in the oven
  • Sizzle in a grill pan in the middle of the table (with butane-style burner, like the kind used in hot pot)

Typically, Koreans use a non-stick skillet for Bulgogi. But if you prefer charred, smoky bits of meat, I recommend a wok, cast iron pan, or stainless steel skillet.

But I’ve also broiled on high heat in the oven, on a foil-lined sheet pan. Fast and easy, this is a good way to cook a double or triple portion of bulgogi for a party.

Also, Korean Beef Bulgogi is not a dry meat dish. As you cook, the meat will release its juices. Save those juices and scrape into your serving platter. There’s nothing so good as bulgogi juice spooned on top of rice!

Korean beef bulgogi on a plate with rice and lettuce wraps on the side

How do I eat Korean Beef Bulgogi?

There are many ways to enjoy Korean Beef Bulgogi. Be as creative as you dare!

  • Serve with rice and steamed green vegetables
  • In a rice bowl with fried egg and Gochujang sauce!
  • Korean BBQ style with lettuce wraps, kimchi, and Ssamjang
  • Wrapped in Gimbap, Onigirazu, or even burritos!
  • Tossed on top of tator tots with kimchi and Cheese Whiz
  • Stuffed into Bahn Mi with pickled daikon and carrot

What kind of meat should I use for Korean Beef Bulgogi?

For this recipe, I recommend thinly sliced rib eye. Thinly sliced rib eye is weeknight friendly because it takes very little time to marinate. Also, it cooks up fast!

Most Asian grocers carry this cut of meat, either in the refrigerated section or the freezer section.  If there’s only frozen rib eye available (the kind used for hot pot), then defrost overnight before using.

package of thinly sliced beef rib eye

What’s in the marinade?

The marinade ingredients are staples in my Korean American Pantry: onion, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, green onions.

Simply whiz in your food processor until it looks like baby puree. Or grate with a box grater. This is the classic Korean way of marinating meat.

Note:  I do not add Asian pear to my beef bulgogi marinade.  Many Korean home cooks add Asian pear as a tenderizing and/or sweetening agent but the thin slices of rib eye don’t require it, in my opinion.  For LA Galbi and other Korean dishes, yes — I always add Asian pear.  But for this recipe, I don’t think it’s necessary.

How to Make Korean Beef Bulgogi:

In a food processor, whizz onion, garlic, and ginger until pureed.  (Alternately, you can grate the onion and mince the garlic and ginger.)  

pureed onion, Korean pear, garlic in a food processor bowl

Scrape into a bowl and add sliced onion, green onion, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.

Korean beef bulgogi marinade ingredients in bowl

Add thinly sliced beef.  Mix well.  Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Korean beef bulgogi in bowl with hand mixing the ingredients

Get the cast iron pan ready.  I use a 12-inch, well seasoned, cast iron pan.  Heat until smoking.  Add 1 Tbsp oil and swirl around.  Add bulgogi in a thin layer and leave undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, to get that bbq char. When the edges are brown and crispy looking, mix around and finish cooking. The meat should release a lot of juice.

bulgogi frying in cast iron skillet

Enjoy!!

Korean beef bulgogi on a pate with rice and lettuce wraps on the side
Korean beef Bulgogi on a plate

Beef Bulgogi

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
A sizzling plate of delicious Bulgogi deserves a regular place in your dinner rotation!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Marinating Time 30 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb thinly sliced beef rib eye

In the food processor:

  • 1/2 onion cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch ginger peeled and cut into chunks

In the prep bowl:

  • 1/2 onion sliced thinly
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (not the low sodium kind)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin or rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions
 

  • In a food processor, combine 1/2 onion cut into chunks, garlic, and ginger. Whizz until pureed. You may have to scrape the bowl down several times during the process. (Alternately, you can grate the onion and mince the garlic and ginger.) Scrape into a large bowl. 
    pureed onion, ginger, garlic
  • Add 1/2 onion (thinly sliced), green onions, soy sauce, sugar, Mirin or rice wine, sesame seed oil, and sesame seeds. Mix with a spoon until combined. 
    korean beef bulgogi marinade in bowl
  • Add beef and mix well with hands. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
    marinated korean beef bulgogi in bowl
  • Heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When the cast iron is hot, add 1 Tbsp neutral oil and swirl around in the pan. The oil should be smoking. Add bulgogi in one layer. Leave the meat undisturbed, to get that bbq char on one side. When the bulgogi looks brown and crispy on the edges, mix around with a spatula and finish cooking. The meat will release a lot of juice. The cooking process should take 5-8 minutes total!
    beef bulgogi in cast iron skillet
  • Garnish bulgogi with additional green onion and sesame seeds. Serve with lettuce wraps, rice, and kimchi for a complete meal. Ssam sauce is also a nice addition.
    Beef Bulgogi with rice and lettuce
Keyword Beef, Bulgogi
30 minutes, All Recipes, Beef, Dinner with Friends, Korean, Main, Potluck, Weeknight Meals

7 Comments

  1. I’ve made this recipe a bunch of times and it’s so tasty! Have you ever prepared it ahead of time and frozen it, either before or after cooking? I would think that you could prep multiple batches worth of the marinade and mix with meat and onions, let it marinate a while first, and then portion it out into freezer bags. That way, you don’t have to lug out (and clean) the food processor on a weeknight, just thaw a portion in the fridge the night before (plus you could buy the meat in bulk). Freezing after you cook it would probably be less ideal, but even more convenient. Do you think it would mess up the flavor or texture of the dish at all?

    • Yes, this recipe freezes well. I defrost in the fridge overnight and it doesn’t taste frozen at all. This cut of beef freezes very well as does the marinade. I’ve never cooked it from a frozen state though or defrosted in the microwave FYI. Good luck!

  2. 5 stars
    Quick easy and delicious! Adding this to my weeknight meal menu rotation!

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  4. I just made this and I need to restrain myself from eating it all! So delicious. The charred bits are so amazing. I love your food, Lis!

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  6. Thanks for sharing! i really appreciate the meat explanation as I never know what meat to buy. Now I know!

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