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Beef Bulgogi Recipe: Quick and Delicious Korean BBQ

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 Beef Bulgogi

Beef Bulgogi is a classic Korean dish that you can easily make at home. With a simple marinade made from soy sauce, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, and pepper, you can create tender and flavorful meat.

The key to great Bulgogi lies in choosing the right cut of beef and marinating it properly. You can serve this delicious dish with rice, lettuce cups, and a spicy gochujang sauce. Whether you’re cooking for a family dinner or a special occasion, this Beef Bulgogi recipe will impress everyone at the table.

Exact Ingredients (+ Possible Substitutes)

Main Ingredients

  • Beef: Use thinly sliced sirloin, ribeye, or tenderloin. Freezing the beef for 30 minutes makes it easier to slice.

Marinade Ingredients

  • Soy Sauce: Provides a salty and savory base. Substitute: Tamari for gluten-free.
  • Brown Sugar: Adds sweetness and helps caramelize the meat. Substitute: Honey or granulated sugar.
  • Sesame Oil: Gives a nutty flavor. Substitute: Olive oil, though it alters the taste.
  • Garlic: Fresh, minced garlic is best. Substitute: Garlic powder.
  • Ginger: Fresh, minced ginger is recommended. Substitute: Ground ginger (use sparingly).
  • Pear or Apple: Adds natural sweetness and helps tenderize. Substitute: Kiwi or pineapple (use less as they are stronger).

Optional Additions

  • Onions: Sliced thinly to add flavor and texture.
  • Green Onions: Chopped, for garnish.
  • Carrots: Julienned, for extra crunch.
  • Gochujang: Korean chili paste for a spicy kick. Substitute: Sriracha or another hot sauce.

Cooking Essentials

  • Rice: Serve with steamed white or brown rice.
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, bell peppers, or mushrooms are great additions.

By keeping these ingredients and possible substitutes in mind, you can customize your beef bulgogi to match your taste and what’s available in your kitchen. Enjoy making and eating this delicious Korean dish!


Step 1: Wrap your steak in plastic wrap and freeze it for 30 minutes. This makes slicing easier.

Step 2: Slice the chilled beef thinly, about 1/4-inch thick, across the grain.

Step 3: Make your marinade. In a medium bowl, mix together:

  • 1 pear (grated)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)

Step 4: Combine the beef slices with the marinade in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Make sure the beef is well coated. Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours for a richer flavor.

Step 5: Preheat your skillet or BBQ grill on medium-high heat. Add a little cooking oil and spread it around.

Step 6: Cook the beef and optionally add vegetables like sliced onions and mushrooms. Stir and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes until the beef reaches your desired doneness.

Step 7: Once cooked, sprinkle sesame seeds over the bulgogi and give it a quick stir.

Step 8: Serve hot with rice or noodles. You can garnish with chopped scallions for extra flavor. Enjoy your homemade beef bulgogi!

Tips, Tricks & Storing

Marinade Time:
Let the beef marinate for at least 30 minutes. If you can, marinate it overnight in the refrigerator to soak in all those delicious flavors.

Thin Slices:
For tender bulgogi, slice the beef as thinly as possible. Freezing the meat for 10-15 minutes before slicing can make this easier.

Use a high heat to sear the beef quickly. This helps to get that nice char without overcooking the meat.

Add mushrooms, scallions, or bell peppers for extra flavor and nutrition. Cook the veggies separately or with the beef, depending on your preference.

Store any leftover bulgogi in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Reheat leftovers in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through. Avoid using a microwave as it can make the beef chewy.

You can freeze marinated beef before cooking. Place it in a freezer bag and store for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking.

Serving Suggestions:
Serve your bulgogi with steamed rice, in lettuce wraps, or with noodles for a full meal. Add a side of kimchi or pickled vegetables for a traditional touch.

Recipe Variations & Serving Suggestions

For a twist on traditional beef bulgogi, try using different fruits in your marinade. Instead of mashed kiwi or pear, use pineapple or apple. These fruits help tenderize the meat and add a unique flavor.

Vegetarian Version: Swap out the beef for firm tofu or mushrooms. Marinate them the same way as the beef. You’ll get a delicious, plant-based option.

Spicy Kick: Add more gochujang (Korean red chili paste) or fresh chilies to your marinade for an extra spicy version. This will give your bulgogi a nice heat.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Rice: Serve the bulgogi over a bed of steamed white rice or brown rice.
  • Lettuce Wraps: Use lettuce leaves to wrap the bulgogi, adding a fresh, crunchy texture.
  • Noodles: Toss the cooked bulgogi with noodles and some broth for a comforting dish.

Quick Tip:

  • Sesame Seeds & Green Onions: Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions on top for added flavor and presentation.