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

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

Like all good Korean immigrants, 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.)  

Meat for Korean Beef Bulgogi:

The only challenging ingredient is the meat.  You’ll need thinly sliced rib eye.  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.  Alternately, you can buy flank steak and thinly slice it at home.  If using flank steak, make sure to marinate overnight, as it’s a tougher cut of meat.     

package of thinly sliced beef rib eye

Korean Beef Bulgogi Marinade:

My recipe calls for 1 whole onion.  Half of the onion needs to be grated/pureed.  The other half needs to be thinly sliced.  The onion adds lots of flavor, as does the garlic, ginger, and green onions.  Don’t skimp on any of these!

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 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 batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan.  When the edges are brown and crispy looking, flip and finish cooking.  

bulgogi frying in cast iron skillet

Enjoy Easy Beef Bulgogi with rice, lettuce wraps, and kimchi. Or, try it with rice and a side of steamed broccoli.

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

Beef Bulgogi

Tender, succulent beef. A sweet-salty, garlicky marinade made from pantry ingredients. And all those charred little bits. A sizzling plate of delicious Bulgogi deserves a regular place in your dinner rotation!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Marinating Time30 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: Beef, Bulgogi
Servings: 4
Author: The Subversive Table

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, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. When the bulgogi looks brown and crispy on the edges, flip and finish cooking. Transfer to a serving plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. This should take 2-3 minutes per side. 
    beef bulgogi in cast iron skillet
  • Keep cooking the bulgogi in batches. Do not touch or disturb the meat while it cooks; this will ensure caramelized bits. In between batches, scrape down the skillet with a metal spatula to remove leftover marinade, and add an additional 1 Tbsp neutral oil.
  • 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

Notes

* Alternately, you can stir fry the Korean beef bulgogi in a wok.  Heat until smoking and add oil.  Add meat and stir fry until browned with crispy edges.  This cooking method will produce a juicier bulgogi.  

Looking for more Korean recipes?

Instant Pot Gochujang Chicken. A Korean classic with an Instant Pot makeover.
Instant Pot Gochujang Chicken
Spicy Korean Pork. Korean BBQ made easier in a sheet pan.
Spicy Korean Pork, platter
Chicken Bulgogi. Beef bulgogi’s second cousin that’s every bit as delicious.
chicken bulgogi piled into white bowl garnished with green onions
All Recipes, Beef, Korean, Main, Potluck, Weeknight Meals
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Ling
Ling
1 year ago

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

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[…] Bulgogi. A sizzling, tantalizing plate of classic Korean deliciousness. […]

Tanya
Tanya
1 year ago

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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[…] A note here: beef is a culturally significant food in Korean culture. Historically reserved for royalty and the elite, eating beef means you are eating a prized food item. That’s why some of the most famous Korean dishes are beef ones: Galbi Jjim. LA Galbi. Bulgogi. […]