Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef). Tender, succulent beef marinated in a smoky, sweet, and delicious sauce. A delicious main dish ready in 30 minutes!
What is Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)?
Bulgogi, is also known as Korean BBQ Beef. In Korean it's translated as "fire meat" since it's cooked over an open flame in Korean cuisine. A very popular Korean meat dish served at your favorite Korean BBQ restaurant or in many Korean households. This Korean BBQ dish features thinly sliced meat marinated in a sweet savory flavorful marinade with a hint of sesame.
The sweet flavors originate from the brown sugar, honey and Korean pear or apples. The savory flavor comes from the soy sauce accented with the aromatic sesame oil, white and green onions and garlic. Typically, it's grilled on a gas grill or grill pan but you can make this on a large skillet.
The beef serves well as a main for a weeknight meal with steamed rice and veggies or other Korean side dishes or banchans. 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.
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. Flank steak can also be used but it may be slightly drier so be sure to monitor the cooking time.
- 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.
- 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: or substitute with low sodium soy sauce or light soy sauce. If you’re gluten-free, substitute with tamari sauce, coconut aminos or a gluten-free soy sauce of your choice.
- 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.
- Black Pepper
- Toasted Sesame Seeds
- 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
If needed, slice beef thinly on an angle against the grain. If you're using thinly cut beef, you can skip this step. 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.
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.
Pan Fry Beef
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!
Can I make this in Advance?
Yes, if you’d like to make this advance, marinate the beef and store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze to thaw and cook for later.
- 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.
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!
May I omit the sesame seeds/sesame oil?
Yes, if you’re allergic. Unfortunately, there no substitute for these ingredients.
Is bulgogi spicy?
Some recipes call for spice but mine does not. If you'd like it spicy, feel free to add 1 teaspoon of gochugaru which is also known as Korean Red pepper flakes or 1 tablespoon 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
- 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!
- Bulgogi Beef Triangle Kimbap
- Beef Bulgogi Kimbap
- Non-Spicy Pork Bulgogi
- Bulgogi Beef Ramen
- Korean Bulgogi Chicken Wings
Quick & 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 tablespoon Garlic minced
- 3 tablespoon Regular soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon Brown sugar (or sub with white sugar)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon Sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon Black pepper
- ½ tsp sesame seeds
- If you're using thinly cut beef, you can skip this step. If needed, 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 bowl and mix well.
- 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!