Satisfy all your spicy cravings with Cheese Buldak, also known as Korean Fire Chicken! So good, it will make your mouth burn! The BEST spicy chicken recipe with tender, juicy, bite sized chicken and a rich, intensely fiery sauce. Addictively spicy and incredibly delicious. A mouth-watering one-pan meal!
What is Cheese Buldak or Fire Chicken?
Cheese Buldak is a popular South Korean street food that’s renowned for its intensely spicy flavors. Literally translated as “Fire Chicken,” — tender chicken is grilled over charcoal and coated with a sauce so spicy, it will make your mouth burn. A generous coating of mozzarella complements the saucy, spicy chicken and mitigates some of that fiery flavor!
The intense flavors come from a variety of seasonings. Combined, they make a truly mouth-watering, deliciously spicy flavor: Gochujang (Korean chili paste), Gochukaru (Korean chili powder), and chili peppers (scotch bonnet).
Buldak is such a popular flavor in Korean cuisine, it’s sold in sauce packets like ketchup. And used to flavor instant noodles, also known as Buldak ramen. But the name Buldak always means the same thing: mouth-burning spice!
How spicy is it? The spice level is mouth-burning, nose-dripping, and forehead-wiping spice. The kind that leaves you spooning more rice into your bowl and constantly reaching for the water glass.
If you love spicy, Korean Cheese Buldak will satisfy every last spicy craving!
- Chicken. Boneless, skinless thighs stay tender and flavorful.
- Soy sauce, Mirin, Honey. To marinate the chicken.
- Gochukaru. Korean dried chili flakes. Smoky, spicy, floral — an essential ingredient! There is no substitute.
- Gochujang. Korean fermented chili paste.
- Scotch Bonnet Peppers. Include the seeds for that ultimate, burn-in-your-mouth feel! Leave them out for less spicy flavor.
- Asian pear. A common marinating ingredient in Korean recipes. Adds sweetness and a nice texture. They are the size of a grapefruit and covered with thick yellow skin. Substitutions: Bartlett or Bosc pear OR Fuji or Gala apple.
- Onion + Garlic. The aromatic base of the sauce.
- Korean Rice Cakes (dduk/tteok). Although optional, chewy rice cakes take Cheese Buldak to another level! Choose the shape you like best. If frozen, make sure to defrost by soaking in cold water.
- Mozzarella Cheese. For that spectacular cheese pull at the end. FYI low-moisture mozzarella works better than fresh mozzarella.
The steps to making Cheese Buldak at home are simple once you break it down. There are 3 components that all get cooked in one pan: the chicken, the fire sauce, and the cheese pull.
- Marinate the chicken.
- Brown the chicken.
- Whizz the “fire” sauce in the food processor.
- Add “fire” sauce to the chicken.
- Cook until the sauce is reduced and somewhat thick.
- Add Korean rice cakes (dduk).
- Cover with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake gently until melted and gooey.
- Make ahead. Cheese Buldak is easy to make ahead, up to 1 day in advance. Complete all the steps except DO NOT add the cheese or rice cakes. When ready to serve, heat the chicken and fire sauce until hot and bubbly on the stovetop. Add dduk and cheese then gently melt in the oven.
- GENTLY melt the cheese. A slow melt will ensure the cheese doesn’t harden and burn.
- Adjust spice level. To adjust the spice level, adjust the spicy fire sauce, some suggestions:
- Use 1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper instead of 2
- Remove seeds of the Scotch Bonnet Peppers
- Leave out the Scotch Bonnet Peppers entirely (the gochujang + gochukaru will add mild spice)
What kind of pan should I use?
Korean Fire Chicken is best cooked over a charcoal grill. The smoky flavor is hard to beat.
To make a Cheese Buldak recipe without a charcoal grill, I recommend a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is an excellent heat conductor and chars the chicken beautifully. All those tasty, browned bits add so much flavor! Cast iron skillets also transfer easily from stovetop to oven. Making this recipe a one-pot meal!
I’ve tried cooking Cheese Buldak in both a non-stick skillet, stainless steel skillet, and enameled cast iron braiser. They all work. But the end result is not as delicious, deeply flavored, or easy to serve as a cast iron skillet.
*FYI: cast iron is porous and absorbs the flavor of the fire sauce. After making Cheese Buldak, the skillet will impart a slightly spicy flavor to whatever you cook next — no matter how hard you clean or scrub the pan.
More Spicy Food Inspiration:
The BEST Cheese Buldak (Korean Fire Chicken)
- 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet
- Food processor (You can also grate the onion and Asian pear with a box grater)
- 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch long strips
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp Mirin or rice wine
- 1 Tbsp honey (sugar also works)
- 1 Tbsp neutral oil
- 4 garlic cloves peeled
- 1/2 large onion roughly chopped
- 1/2 large Asian pear peeled, cored, roughly chopped (can be subbed with Bosc pear, Bartlett pear, Fuji apple, Gala apple)
- 2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers stemmed (keep the seeds), or to taste
- 3 Tbsp Gochukaru (Korean red chili flakes)
- 3 Tbsp Gochujang (Korean red chili paste)
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 cup Rice Cakes (dduk)
- 2 cups grated mozzarella loosely packed (about 8 oz)
- Combine Chicken marinade ingredients in large bowl. Mix with spoon. Add chicken. Mix until well combined. Cover and place in fridge. (Marinate at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.)
- If your rice cakes are frozen, add to a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside. (Rice cakes can keep this way, tightly sealed, in the fridge for 2-3 days).
- Place Fire Sauce ingredients in food processor. Puree until no large chunks remain. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350F/176C.
- Heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1 Tbsp of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken. Brown the chicken in batches, one layer at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. It's ok if the chicken is not fully cooked.Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat process until all the chicken is cooked.
- Place all the browned chicken back into the skillet. Pour the Fire Sauce on top, making sure to scrape every last bit with a spatula. Mix around with a spatula until chicken is completely coated in sauce.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the sauce becomes dark red, thick, and reduced, about 12-15 minutes. The chicken and sauce should bubble somewhat vigorously. Lower heat, if needed. Feel free to add water if the sauce looks too dry (about 1 Tbsp at a time). Keep an eye on the sauce, mixing it from time to time.
- Remove skillet from heat. Drain rice cakes and scatter over the chicken and fire sauce mixture.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top of the rice cakes and chicken, making sure to coat evenly.
- Place skillet in oven until cheese melts, about 5-10 minutes. It should be a gentle melting of cheese. Watch carefully and make sure it doesn't overcook!
- Remove from oven. Garnish with sliced green onion and sprinkle of sesame seeds, if desired. Serve immediately with rice and enjoy!