Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef). Tender, succulent beef marinated in a smoky, sweet, and delicious sauce.
A popular Korean meat dish served at many Korean restaurants that comes together easily at home!
This Korean Beef BBQ dish serves well as a main for a weeknight meal and fantastic as leftovers. One of my favorite meat dishes in Korean food. Ready in just 35 mins. There are many bulgogi recipes online but mine is easy and comes together quickly without long marinating times (20 mins to be exact!)
What exactly is bulgogi?
Bulgogi, is also known as Korean BBQ Beef. In Korean it's translated as "fire meat" since it's cooked over an open flame. It's a popular and traditional Korean dish in Korean cuisine. It consists of thinly sliced meat marinated in a flavorful marinade.
Typically, it's grilled on a gas grill or grill pan but you can make this on a large skillet. You'll find this popular Korean barbecue dish at your favorite Korean BBQ restaurant or served in many Korean households.
Whenever my family or friends and I would go to a Korean BBQ restaurant, this bulgogi meat was always a big hit! The smell of bulgogi cooked over the fire was incredible and it brings back great memories.
What does beef bulgogi taste like?
Imagine tender thin slices of beef marinated in a delicious savory sauce that is also sweet and has a smoky flavor. The sweet flavors originates from the brown sugar, honey and apple or Korean pear. The savory flavor comes from the soy sauce accented with the aromatic sesame oil, white and green onions and garlic.
I'll be sharing a very easy cooking method of bulgogi! I'll be teaching you how to make this beef bulgogi recipe at home step-by-step using a hot skillet.
You’re simply preparing your marinade ingredients and mixing it into your thinly sliced beef. Then you’ll set the beef aside to marinate for 20 minutes. Over medium heat to medium high heat, fry the marinated beef with the marinade for about 4-6 minutes or until the beef is brown.
For this recipe you’ll need the follow bulgogi ingredients. ***Please scroll down to the below Recipe card for full measurements***
- Thinly Sliced Rib Eye Beef or Top Sirloin. These are the best cuts for bulgogi beef. You can also try using any cut with fat marbling through it like skirt steak or tenderloin. You can also use this same marinade on short ribs. Flank steak can also be used but it may be slightly drier so be sure to monitor the cooking time.
The following marinade is broken down into these ingredient categories:
- White onion: This aromatic will take your simple marinade to the next level and is commonly used in bulgogi sauce.
- Green onion: Another aromatic that offers a sharp flavor to beef dish. Used in many Korean dishes.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is recommended for this recipe to compliment the sweet, smoky flavors in the savory marinade.
- Asian Pear or Apple: Asian Pear is recommended and traditionally used. The Asian market will carry this type of pear in their produce aisle. If you can't find Asian pear, the next best substitute is a normal pear or any sweet-tasting apple like Red Apple, Gala, Pink lady, Mc-Intosh will work. We'll be grating the pear or apple but if you have a food processor, feel free to use that to make things easier!
- Brown Sugar: You can use light or dark brown sugar for this recipe. If you don't have brown sugar, sub with white sugar. Sugar is a necessary ingredient to help balance the salty blend of soy sauce. If you are looking to reduce your sugar, sub with Honey but just know, that the recipe may not be as sweet to taste.
- Honey: This is a necessary ingredient to help balance the salty flavors of the marinade.
- Rice Mirin: This is a Japanese cooking wine that doesn't taste like alcohol at all but offers a sweetness to the marinade. It's not the same as rice wine as that tastes very acidic.
- Regular Soy Sauce: Just your regular all-purpose soy sauce. The label will just indicate "Soy Sauce" and if it doesn't say "light" or "dark" soy sauce, you should be fine. You may also substitute with low sodium soy sauce. Any Asian Grocery Store, Western grocer or online retailer, like Amazon, will carry this item.
- Sesame Oil: This offers a delicious and nutty aroma and taste to the beef. It is signature to this meat dish. If you really can't find this ingredient, you can try adding more sesame seeds and some neutral oil like vegetable oil but it won't be as fragrant. Do not use olive oil as it contains a slight scent and taste. Any Asian or Korean Grocery Store, Wester grocer or online retailer like Amazon will carry this ingredient.
- Black Pepper
- Toasted Sesame Seeds: Commonly used in a lot of Korean cooking. Any Asian Grocery Store, Western grocer or online retailer, like Amazon, will carry this item.
- Large skillet: or non-stick pan, cast-iron skillet, stove-top griddle, or grill plan will work to cook your marinated meat
How to make Bulgogi Beef
***Please scroll down to the recipe card below to find full instructions and details***
- Slice beef thinly on an angle against the grain. Tip: if you wrap your beef in plastic wrap and freeze for 45-60 minutes, it'll be much easier to slice into thin pieces.
- Add marinade ingredients into a medium bowl and mix well (shown differently in video – both methods work fine).
- In a mixing bowl, add your thinly sliced beef and pour the marinade over top. Gently mix well with hands until the marinade has thoroughly coated the meat. Cover and marinate for 20 mins or for best flavor 1 hour or overnight.
- In a large hot pan set over medium to medium-high heat, cook beef with marinade in a single layer (if needed, cook in batches to avoid overcrowding). Cook beef until it's brown and juices run clear, between 3-6 minutes depending on the heat setting. Garnish with sesame seeds. Remove off heat and enjoy!
If you’d like to make this advance, you may marinate the beef and store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze to thaw and cook for later.
Below are tips on making the best Korean beef bulgogi:
- Source quality beef with fat running through it. I highly recommend buying hot pot style rib eye beef, that has already been pre-sliced thinly. You can find this at Asian grocers or Korean grocery stores in the meat section.
- If you're cutting the beef yourself: wrap your refrigerated beef in plastic wrap and freeze for 45-60 minutes. Then cut thinly on an angle. The freezing action will help you achieve a very thin slice of beef versus cutting it at room temperature.
- Mix your marinade ingredients in a bowl for even distribution. However, if you don’t do this, don’t worry – adding the marinade ingredients to your beef one by one and mixing it later will achieve the exact same affect.
- Marinate the beef! Marinate that beef for at least 20-minutes. For best flavor, marinate for 1 hour covered in the fridge or overnight.
- Use a non-stick pan. It’ll make life so much easier when cooking that tender flaky beef preventing it from sticking to your pan. If you use a cast iron skillet, make sure it's well seasoned before frying your beef or it'll stick.
- Use tongs. This kitchen tool is so helpful in moving and frying the beef without breaking it apart since they're sliced thinly.
Below are frequently asked questions about Korean Bulgogi Beef:
What cut of meat is bulgogi?
Usually it's thinly sliced rib eye, top sirloin or sometimes shirt steak. You can also use hot pot style beef which is thinly cut rib eye beef which I like to use to make things easier in the kitchen! You can also use this same marinade on short ribs or ground beef too!
Can I make this in advance?
Yes! In fact, this is commonly done in Korean home cooking. You can refrigerate the marinated beef up to 4 days or freeze any leftover beef bulgogi in an airtight container to thaw and cook it next day or for future.
May I omit the sesame seeds or sesame oil? I’m allergic.
Yes, if you’re allergic. Unfortunately, there no substitute for these ingredients.
How to fry bulgogi?
I recommend using a non-stick wok or pan to fry the beef. You may also use a grilling plate if you’re grilling this in front of guest at the dinner table.
What is bulgogi made of?
It’s made of a fattier cut of beef marinated with white onion, green onion, garlic, apple or Asian pear, soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, rice mirin, black pepper and sesame seeds. Sometimes grated ginger is used as well but not in my recipe.
Is bulgogi spicy?
Some recipes call for spice but mine does not. If you'd like it spicy, feel free to add 1 tsp of gochugaru which is also known as Korean Red pepper flakes or 1 tbsp of gochujang which is known as Korean red pepper paste.
Is bulgogi gluten free?
No, Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef) contains soy sauce which contains gluten. If you’re gluten-free, please substitute with gluten-free soy sauce, coconut aminos or tamari sauce.
What do you eat bulgogi with?
This savory beef is so versatile and can be eaten with many other ingredients or Korean dishes. I've shared some ideas or ingredients below:
- White rice
- Noodles or ramen or udon or in a noodle stir fry like Japchae
- Lettuce wraps, specifically red leaf lettuce leaves or perilla leaves
- Pairs deliciously with shiitake mushrooms or oyster mushrooms
- Commonly served in Bibimbap, which is a Korean mixed vegetable rice dish that sometimes contains bulgogi beef.
- With any Korean Side Dishes, such as Korean Spinach, Korean Bean Sprouts, Korean Fish Cake Stir-Fry, Korean Cucumber Salad, Korean Potato Salad, Korean Corn Cheese
Other Korean recipes you may like!
If you enjoyed my bulgogi recipe, you may enjoy these other Korean recipes:
- Bulgogi Beef Triangle Kimbap
- Beef Bulgogi Kimbap
- Non-Spicy Pork Bulgogi
- Bulgogi Beef Ramen
- Korean Bulgogi Chicken Wings
If you enjoyed my Beef Bulgogi, please leave a star rating and share it with your family and friends or on social media! Take a picture of your re-creation and make sure to tag me @ChristieAtHome in your feed or stories as I would love to see it!
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Easy Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)
- 1 lb Rib Eye Beef (or sub with Top Sirloin, Tenderloin, or Flank steak)
- ⅓ cup White Onion thinly sliced
- ¼ cup Asian Pear (or sub with a normal Pear or Apple)
- 1 stalk Green onion chopped
- 2 tbsp Garlic minced
- 3 tbsp Regular soy sauce (not light or dark soy sauce)
- 2 tbsp Brown sugar (or sub with white sugar)
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp Sesame oil
- ½ tsp Black pepper
- ½ tsp sesame seeds
- Thinly slice beef on an angle against the grain. Tip: Wrap your beef in plastic wrap and freeze for 45-60 minutes, it'll be much easier to slice into thin pieces.
- Add marinade ingredients into a bowl and mix well (this is shown differently in video – both methods work fine).
- In a separate large bowl, add thinly sliced beef and pour the marinade over top. Gently mix well with hands until the marinade has thoroughly coated the meat. Cover and marinate for at least 20 mins. For best flavor, marinate for 1 hour or overnight.
- In a hot pan set over medium heat, add marinated beef with marinade. Cook beef until brown and juices run clear, about 3-6 minutes. Garnish with sesame seeds. Remove off heat and enjoy!