Beef Bulgogi (Spicy Korean BBQ)

Beef bulgogi lettuce wrap adding a piece of bulgogi to it.

 

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Korean Beef Bulgogi is a dish that is packed with sweet and spicy umami flavor, which is surprisingly easy to make. It is thinly sliced beef in the most delicious bulgogi marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil and other delicious flavors.

 

Bulgogi can be a healthier BBQ option than say a burger in a bun or a lot of creamy potato salad, but I’m not thinking it’s lacking anything! It’s still that comforting and it is super flavorful dish worthy of a huge Summer BBQ party.

 

Wrapping this flavorful beef in a big and fresh piece of lettuce, some comforting rice and a punchy super duper quick carrot pickle! It is often served with kimchi, which is fermented cabbage and other vegetables in a spicy marinade.

 

Beef bulgogi ingredients, flatlay.

 

How to Cut the Beef for Bulgogi

 

The secret to the perfect bulgogi is to thinly slice the beef. It gets super tender and cooks so quick. It’s not always easy to get that thinly sliced beef using fresh beef.

 

It is easier if you half-freeze the meat before slicing. Wrap in cling foil and place in the freezer for an hour. If you use smaller steaks, 20-30 minutes would be enough. So when you take it out, it is a lot firmer and easier to slice! Also remember to cut the beef against the grain, this way the beef will be more tender.

 

How to cut beef for bulgogi.

 

Ribeye is the most common cut of meat, but you can choose whatever you like. Also chicken works really well. I usually buy a big sirloin steak and I think that works amazingly.

 

The Best Beef Bulgogi Marinade and Sauce

 

The bulgogi marinade is so amaazing. It is really spicy, but you can make it milder if you want. The bulgogi marinade is filled with ginger, garlic, chili paste and sesame oil, among others. You really can’t go wrong with this flavor combo.

 

The most iconic flavor in a bulgogi marinade is the gochujang. It is a Korean fermented chili paste that has this extra level of oomph. You can find this in any Asian grocery store.

 

If you want it milder in flavor, it is this chili paste you need to reduce. If you don’t want it spicy at all, you can omit it, although it will lack a little of the traditional flavor of Korean beef bulgogi. Whenever I serve this with a super spicy kimchi, I reduce the amount of gochujang in this bulgogi. You can always just dollop extra gochujang on your lettuce wrap if some like it hotter than others around the dinner table.

 

Pouring sauce into marinade ingredients.

 

This marinade has a lot of onion in various shapes. I love the crunch from green onion and yellow onion, so there’s plenty. Feel free to reduce it if you like. I’ve also packed it with ginger and garlic, a tiny bit of sugar for balance and a little pepper.

 

Marinade the beef for at least 30 minutes to tenderize and flavor the meat.

 

Beef bulgogi marinade in a white bowl.

 

How to Tenderize the Beef

 

Bulgogi is traditionally tenderized using Asian pear. This is a thing that is not easy to find in grocery stores, not even always Asian grocery stores. But there are still plenty of ways to tenderize the meat. First, we cut the meat thinly, second we add a tenderizer to the marinade.

 

Tenderizers you may use are:

 

  • Asian pear
  • grated kiwi
  • grated onion
  • pineapple juice

 

Beef bulgogi lettuce wrap.

 

The easiest way is to just take a little of the sliced onion and grate it to evenly distribute in the marinade. That is usually what I use, but a kiwi works great too! Because the meat is so thinly sliced, it doesn’t need much. And if you can’t find any of these and don’t want to add onion, simply leave it out, it’ll be fine without it.

 

Ingredients for beef bulgogi

 

The longer you marinade the more tender the meat. However, if you add something acidic like vinegar to a marinade, beef shouldn’t marinade longer than a couple of hours. Longer than that and it will make the meat tough. 30 minutes to 1 hour is perfect for this recipe.

 

The Best Side Dishes for Beef Bulgogi

 

Bulgogi is usually served with a big leafy lettuce, steamed rice and kimchi. I’m sure there are lots of different ways to style your bulgogi, but this is a winner. The kimchi is so spicy and punchy it really balances everything out.

 

I followed Joshua’s recipe for kimchi and thus will not provide a recipe for that today. It worked really well and tastes amazing. Now I’ve got a huuge jar of kimchi, so I need to find other ways to use it as well.

 

Kimchi in a glass bowl.

 

Mega Quick Carrot Pickle

 

I’ve always served this with a mega quick carrot pickle, just for that acidity and freshness. Kimchi takes at least four days to make, and this takes 1 hour. Of course, the longer you let it sit, the better it will be, but it is fully eatable and delicious after 1 hour.

 

Cut carrots into matchsticks or thinner and place in a bowl. Drizzle a generous amount of salt on top. Don’t worry, we will wash it off. Rinse them after 15 minutes, and you’ll notice the salt has taken a lot of water out of the carrots.

 

Beef bulgogi lettuce wrap with quick carrot pickle.

 

Mix rice wine vinegar, water and sugar together with coriander seeds, ginger and garlic. Pour over the carrots and stir to coat. Let it sit for an hour before eating, but longer is also good. Keeps well in the fridge.

 

The Recipe: Beef Bulgogi (Spicy Korean BBQ)

 

Mix all the beef marinade ingredients, except for the beef. Carefully mix in the thinly sliced beef (see above for tips) with the marinade ingredients. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

 

Cook the beef bulgogi in small batches on high heat. Add a little neutral oil to the pan. Focus on the meat (leave the onion stuff in the bowl), it needs only a couple of minutes in the pan. Set all the cooked beef aside and reduce the heat. We can now cook the marinade; the onion and green onion and delicious sauce. This needs around 5 minutes on medium heat. Mix it with the cooked beef. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).

 

Cooked beef bulgogi in a white bowl.

 

Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, so you may of course grill it as well.

 

Serve with steamed rice and big leafy greens such as iceberg, little gem (or heart salad in Norwegian), or romaine lettuce. Also don’t forget either the mega quick pickle (see above) or kimchi!

 

Take one large leafy green, add 3-ish tbsp of steamed rice, top with beef bulgogi, kimchi or pickled carrots, sesame seeds and the green parts of the green onion. Enjoy as a wonderful lettuce wrap!

 

Beef bulgogi lettuce wrap with kimchi.

 

Other Spicy Recipes

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or tag me @thegingerwithspice on Instagram. And don’t forget to Pin it for later!

 

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Beef bulgogi lettuce wrap with kimchi. Square photo.
Print Recipe
5 from 13 votes

Beef Bulgogi (Spicy Korean BBQ)

Korean Beef Bulgogi is a dish that is packed with sweet and spicy flavor in the marinade, which is surprisingly easy to make. A healthier BBQ option!
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: beef bulgogi, korean bbq
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 231kcal
Author: Stine Mari | Ginger with Spice

Ingredients

Quick Pickled Carrots

  • 2 carrots cut into matchsticks or thinner
  • 2 tbsp salt will be rinsed off
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar 125ml
  • 1/2 cup water 125ml
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic smashed

Beef Bulgogi

  • 2 tbsp garlic minced
  • 1-2 tbsp ginger minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced
  • 5 spring onions reserve a little of the green for garnish
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp gochujang leave out for milder*
  • 1 tbsp rice wine (mirin) or sherry, dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated kiwi or onion, Asian pear**
  • 1/4 tsp pepper optional
  • 1 lb beef thinly sliced*** 450g

Serve with

  • steamed rice
  • 1 head lettuce iceberg, romain, little gem etc
  • spring onions sliced, the green part
  • sesame seeds
  • kimchi or quick pickled carrots see above for carrots

Instructions

Quick pickled carrots

  • Salt the carrots: Cut carrots into matchsticks or thinner and place in a bowl. Drizzle a generous amount of salt on top. Don’t worry, we will wash it off. Rinse them after 15 minutes, and you’ll notice the salt has taken a lot of water out of the carrots.
  • Mix with the rest: Mix rice wine vinegar, water and sugar together with coriander seeds, ginger and garlic. Pour over the carrots and stir to coat. Let it sit for an hour before eating, but longer is also good. Keeps well in the fridge.

Beef bulgogi

  • Marinate: Mix all the beef marinade ingredients, except for the beef. Carefully mix in the thinly sliced beef (see above for tips) with the marinade ingredients. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  • Cook the beef: Cook the beef bulgogi in small batches on high heat. Add a little neutral oil to the pan. Focus on the meat (leave the onion stuff in the bowl), it needs only a couple of minutes in the pan. Set all the cooked beef aside and reduce the heat.
  • Cook the rest of the marinade: We can now cook the marinade; the onion and green onion and delicious sauce. This needs around 5 minutes on medium heat. Mix it with the cooked beef. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).

Serve

  • Serve with steamed rice and big leafy greens such as iceberg, little gem, or romaine lettuce. Also don’t forget either the mega quick pickle or kimchi!
  • Take one large leafy green, add 3-ish tbsp of steamed rice, top with beef bulgogi, kimchi or pickled carrots, sesame seeds and the green parts of the green onion. Enjoy as a wonderful lettuce wrap!

Notes

* Bulgogi is often served with kimchi, which is already really spicy. I would not add more than 1 tbsp if served with kimchi. More if served with carrots.
 
** Bulgogi is traditionally tenderized using Asian pear. This is a thing that is not easy to find in grocery stores, but you can easily use grated kiwi or onion instead.
 
*** It is easier if you half-freeze the meat before slicing. Wrap in cling foil and place in the freezer for an hour. If you use smaller steaks, 20-30 minutes would be enough. So when you take it out, it is a lot firmer and easier to slice!Also remember to cut the beef against the grain, this way the beef will be more tender.
 
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2 wraps
Servings Per Container 6

Amount Per Serving
Calories 231 Calories from Fat 84.6
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9.4g 14%
Saturated Fat 2.4g 12%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol 68mg 23%
Sodium 601mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 11.8g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1.2g 5%
Sugars 7.6g
Protein 24.3g 49%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
 
Only the beef calculated. Nutrition information is an estimate and is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any specific dietary concerns, please consult with your healthcare practitioner.



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