Everybody loves Korean Beef Bulgogi. A simple marinade and thin-cut beef are all you need for a super-fast, smoky-charred plate of seriously delicious Korean BBQ Beef!
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 for weeknight dinner. Now, you can make it a part of your table, too!
What is Korean Beef Bulgogi or KBBQ Beef?
Korean Beef Bulgogi or BBQ Beef is a fast-cooking, thinly sliced beef dish that’s often served at Korean BBQ.
Literally translated as “fire meat,” the flavor is dangerously addictive with a salty-sweet, garlicky flavor that’s also got smoky char from the barbecue.
Served with rice, lettuce wraps, and various side dishes — beef bulgogi is a Korean BBQ classic. You can’t get enough of that delicious, juicy meat marinated with garlic and onions!
For home cooks, bulgogi is especially appealing. Simply marinate meat with a few staple pantry ingredients. A fast cook time puts dinner on the table quick! Serve with rice and lettuce wraps — so easy!
- Beef. Weeknight-friendly, thinly sliced rib eye takes very little time to marinate. Also, it cooks fast! Look for it in the refrigerated or the freezer section at the Asian market. Defrost frozen rib eye before using. If you can’t find it, thinly sliced flank steak or brisket also work well.
- Onion. Use 1 large onion — 1/2 is pureed and added to the marinade. 1/2 is sliced and cooked in the pan.
- Korean Pear (optional). If you have it, pureed Korean pear adds subtle sweetness and wonderful texture. Can be subbed with Fuji apple, or a sweet, ripe pear (like Bartlett or Bosc).
- Soy Sauce. Deep, umami-rich, salty flavor and depth.
- Garlic. For that garlicky flavor. Don’t skimp on it!
- Green onions. Adds essential Korean flavor and more onion flavor.
- Sugar. Adds sweetness.
- Mirin. Sweet Korean/Japanese cooking wine.
- Sesame Oil. For nutty fragrance.
- In a food processor, puree onion, garlic, ginger, and pear. (Or, grate onion and mince garlic and ginger.)
- Combine marinade together in a bowl.
- Add thinly sliced beef.
- Cook bulgogi. Different options are listed below.
- Serve with rice, kimchi, lettuce wraps, and enjoy!
What pan should I use to cook Bulgogi at home?
There are several ways to cook Korean Bulgogi at home. Choose the option that’s easiest and most accessible for you:
- Non-stick skillet. The classic cooking pan used for Korean bulgogi. The non-stick coating will make sure the marinade doesn’t stick and burn.
- Wok. Similar to non-stick skillet but it adds a slightly smoky flavor.
- Cast iron skillet. For charred, smoky bits that mimic the Korean BBQ flavor.
- Sheet pan. Broil on high heat on a foil-lined sheet pan. Easy for cooking large portions. Double or triple the recipe and spread out in one even layer. You can also get those little crispy, charred bits with this method.
- KBBQ-style Grill pan. Fit a grill pan over a butane gas burner in the center of the table. If cooking several different kinds of meats, save it for last as the marinade easily burns.
Note: 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!
- Aim for smoky, charred flavor. Whatever cooking method you choose, try to achieve that smoky flavor by cooking until the meat caramelizes and changes color to a dark, glossy brown.
- Do not skimp on the aromatics! All that onion, green onion, garlic, and ginger is necessary to achieve that essential Korean flavor profile.
What’s the difference between Bulgogi and Galbi?
Bulgogi and Galbi are both Korean BBQ beef dishes with a similar flavor profile. However, they are made with different cuts of meats. Bulgogi refers to thinly sliced meat without bones. Galbi refers to meat that’s attached to bone.
Why are there so many different kinds of bulgogi?
Bulgogi is a general Korean term that describes a particular flavor profile and cooking method.
There are many different kinds but they all share certain characteristics: marinated, thinly sliced, and fast cooking.
Some of my favorites:
I don’t have access to thinly sliced rib eye. Is there another cut of beef I can use?
Yes, thinly sliced flank steak or beef brisket also works. Make sure to slice against the grain and as thin as possible so it’s not too tough and chewy! To make slicing easier, freeze for 30-60 minutes first.
How else 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
Other easy Korean recipes you may enjoy:
- Korean Steamed Egg (Gyeran Jjim)
- Seafood Soondubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew)
- Gochujang Chicken
- Korean Purple Rice
- Gyeran Bap
Korean Beef Bulgogi (KBBQ Beef)
- Non-stick Skillet
- 1 lb thinly sliced beef rib eye
In the food processor:
- 1/2 onion cut into chunks
- 1/2 Korean pear, peeled, cored, cut into chunks (optional, can be subbed with Bosc pear, bartlett pear, or fuji apple)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1/2 inch ginger peeled and cut into chunks
In the prep bowl:
- 1/2 onion sliced thinly
- 2 green onions chopped (save some for garnish)
- 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
- Puree onion-garlic-ginger-pear. In a food processor, combine 1/2 onion cut into chunks, pear chunks, garlic, and ginger. Whizz until pureed. You may have to scrape the bowl down several times during the process. (Or, grate with a box grater until juicy.) Scrape into a large bowl.
- Combine marinade together. In a large bowl, add onion-garlic-ginger-pear puree. 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.
- Add thinly sliced beef. Add beef and mix well until it's coated completely with the marinade. Rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
To cook Bulgogi:
- Non-stick skillet: heat over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp neutral oil and add the bulgogi in one layer. Spread around with chopsticks and leave undisturbed for that bbq char, about 2-3 minutes. When the edges look cooked and the juices begin to release, mix around with a cooking spoon until the meat is no longer pink and cooked through. Continue cooking until the sauce has reduced somewhat and the meat is dark brown and caramelized.
- Cast iron skillet: heat 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 metal spatula and finish cooking. The meat will release a lot of juice. The cooking process should take 5-8 minutes total!
- Wok: heat over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp neutral oil and swirl around. Add the bulgogi in one layer. Spread around with chopsticks and leave undisturbed for that bbq char, about 2-3 minutes. When the edges look cooked and the juices begin to release, mix around with a cooking spoon or metal spatula until the meat is no longer pink and cooked through, tossing as you go. Continue cooking until the sauce has reduced somewhat and the meat is dark brown and caramelized.
- Sheet pan: Adjust the oven rack so the top rack is 5-6 inches from the heat source at the top. Turn the oven to broil function and let it preheat for 10 minutes. Line a sheet pan with foil for easy clean up. Spread out bulgogi in an even layer, making sure it's not too crowded. When the oven has fully preheated, broil until fully cooked with crispy edges, about 6-8 minutes.
- Transfer bulgogi to a serving platter. Garnish 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.